There is considerable and widespread local support to save The Queensbury. The pub is a viable, thriving business that serves the community in multiple significant ways. Fairview Homes’ planning application not only seeks to change the use of the buildings from a public house to residential accommodation, but also to demolish The Queensbury altogether. All this in a conservation area.
- Fairview Homes has ignored the important role of The Queensbury in local Willesden Green life
- The development threatens the integrity of the Mapesbury Conservation Area
- The development fails to meet, or actively contravenes, planning policies from Brent Council, the London Mayor’s policies and national government policies too
- Fairview Homes have failed to properly consult the local community
1. Fairview Homes has ignored the important role of The Queensbury in local Willesden Green life Back to top
The Queensbury is a vital community space, attracting people from Willesden Green and further afield in North West London. It is used not only for eating, drinking and socialising, but it also hosts daily courses, classes, networks and events for parents, children and families.
In its Planning Application, Fairview Homes refers to this site mainly as “110 Walm Lane”, only once identifying it as a “former Conservative club and public house” and makes NO REFERENCE AT ALL to any of The Queensbury’s community activities, or to the dependencies on the pub by other local businesses.
The Queensbury is a vibrant pub that is heavily used by the community. Every morning, Monday to Saturday, there are children and parent activities, such as those run by the Busy Rascals group www.busyrascals.com and the local National Childbirth Trust. Courses and classes include: child first-aid, weaning support, baby yoga and storytelling for children. These groups struggled for years to find a suitable venue in Willesden until they were welcomed by The Queensbury. The redevelopment threatens to make them homeless again, probably killing them entirely.
The Queensbury also plays a substantial role in supporting the wider community. In 2012 it sponsored local events such as food, drink and prizes at the Olive Road Jubilee Street Party.
The Queensbury is a responsible venue with a thriving restaurant and diverse clientele. The pub has been operating for over 10 years and has many years to run on its current lease.
The Queensbury pub has a sister business – The Queensbury Deli – with the same owner and management team. It is highly unlikely that the Deli will be able to survive without the pub. The Queensbury has played a leading role in helping to regenerate the Willesden Green area. Removing it will have a negative impact on the local economy and vibrancy of Willesden Green.
The social and economic cohesion of Willesden Green would be severely damaged by the loss of two thriving businesses (the pub and the deli) and several community groups (Busy Rascals and the NCT). Fairview Homes’ Planning Statement claims that the economic advantage of the scheme will be “increased spend within the local economy” but this should be challenged: there will be fewer places for people to go to spend their money. The development will see economic benefits accrue not to Willesden Green but to other areas.
2. The development threatens the integrity of the Mapesbury Conservation Area Back to top
The Queensbury and former Conservative Club are in a highly regulated Conservation Area. The loss of the existing building and its public house role is detrimental to the character of the conservation area. Fairview Homes states in its application that ”the demolition of the existing building will [therefore] not cause material harm to the character and appearance of the Mapesbury Conservation Area.” [source Fairview Homes Heritage Statement and Townscape and Visual Impact document, para 1.3]
The development is in direct contradiction of Brent’s policy to protect its conservation areas.
The Heritage Statement submitted in the planning application attempts to minimise the impact by referring to the conservation area as thus: “the level of harm to the significance of the whole conservation area….is so small as, arguably, not to be material” [source Fairview Homes Heritage Statement and Townscape and Visual Impact document, para 1.5]
Brent’s policy BE27 states that “consent will not be given for the demolition of a building, or alteration involving demolition of part of a building, in a conservation area unless the building, or part of the building, positively detracts from the character or appearance of the Conservation Area.” Granting permission to change use and enable demolition would be in direct contradiction of this policy. [BE27 is a ‘saved Unitary Development Plan Policy’ which Brent planners have to consider]
What’s more, Brent Core Strategy policy CP17 discourages taller buildings in suburban locations.
If Brent contravenes its own protection policies and approves this development, the current plan will have a significant visual impact on the Mapesbury Conservation Area and on the Grade II Listed building opposite (Willesden Green tube station). In planning terms, it will ruin the setting of the Conservation Area.
In addition, there will be a significant ‘loss of active frontage’. This is a term that planners use which, in plain English, means activity in the street. Active frontage helps people feel safer walking (especially in the dark). Without The Queensbury, its pub garden, and its sister business The Queensbury Deli, and instead with a large building, set back from the street, It will feel less safe on Walm Lane. This is important given the amount of people who pass by from the tube station and bus stops.
A building in a Conservation Area is in a Conservation Area, whether it is in the middle or at the edge. Claiming that it doesn’t matter because it’s on the fringes erodes the whole of the Conservation Area and sets an ominous precedent. The existing building is entirely consistent with the Mapesbury Conservation Area whereas the replacement tall glass tower block will not be. And the existing pub (and deli) provide active frontage that positively contributes to the safety and vibrancy of Willesden Green.
3. The development fails to meet, or actively contravenes, planning policies of Brent Council, the London Plan and national government Back to top
As part of its Planning Application, Fairview Homes has applied to change the classification of The Queensbury, but it has overlooked several important regional and national policies that protect the buildings.
The Queensbury at 110 Walm Lane is classed as A4 (drinking establishment) but also, importantly, as non-residential.
Under the London Plan 2011 consent has been refused previously for the loss of public houses at Hackney (the Wenlock Arms) and Lewisham (The Lord Clyde) on the basis that the proposal would result in the unacceptable loss of an operational public house which performs an important role providing a valuable amenity as a social and cultural centre for the local community.
As such, demolishing The Queensbury would be contrary to London Plan policies 3.1 (Ensuring Equal Life Chances for All), 3.16 (Protection and Enhancement of Social Infrastructure), 4.8 (Supporting a successful and diverse retail sector) and 7.1 (Building London’s neighbourhoods and communities).
As highlighted above, Brent’s policy BE27 states that “consent will not be given for the demolition of a building, or alteration involving demolition of part of a building, in a conservation area unless the building, or part of the building, positively detracts from the character or appearance of the Conservation Area.” Granting permission to change use and enable demolition would be in direct contradiction of this policy.
In addition, Brent Core Strategy policy CP17 discourages taller buildings in suburban locations. The tall replacement building, by virtue of its overwhelming height, massing and appearance fails to preserve and does not enhance the conservation area or its settting. This is contrary to the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, part 72 and local plan policies.
Policy CP23 of Brent’s Core Strategy recognizes the importance of community and cultural facilities. “In order to ensure that the continuing needs of Brent’s diverse community are met, existing community and cultural facilities, that support community participation and development will be protected, or their loss mitigated where necessary.”
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is planning guidance from central Government that Local Authorities must adhere to. NPPF paragraph 70 specifically mentions the need to protect pubs.
The Queensbury is officially recognized as a valued community facility which meets the day-to-day needs of the local community. Fairview Homes’ application should therefore be refused on the grounds that it contravenes local, regional and national planning policies.
4. Fairview Homes has failed to properly consult the local community Back to top
The removal of an important social space affects the whole community. Fairview Homes has not consulted with those groups who use the premises, and has not been fair in its minimal consultations with residents of the Mapesbury Conservation Area.
In finding out the truth, it is telling that the community’s response has been significantly and overwhelmingly one of objection to the plans. This is evident in the number of signatories to online and paper-based petitions, and support on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Hundreds of objections have been lodged online on Brent’s planning portal and many of these are thoughtful and considered responses, such is the weight and strength of feeling in the community.
The consultation carried out on behalf of Fairview Homes did not even mention that The Queensbury pub was part of the site and was to be demolished. Two letters sent to some addresses in the Mapesbury Conservation Area made no reference at all to The Queensbury and merely referred to the “former Conservative Club site.” The consultation submitted to Brent Council in support of the development makes just one reference in the 28 pages of text to The Queensbury pub.
In those consultations it did do, Fairview Homes failed to make it clear that the current premises at 110 Walm Lane is used for social purposes, is a thriving pub, and that the development therefore involves a change of use to residential.
The development is in postcode NW2, yet the NW2 Residents Association were not included in any consultation. The Association opposes plans to demolish The Queensbury.
Some residents living closest to The Queensbury have not been consulted at all.
Groups operating from The Queensbury and those who socialise there have not been consulted on the plan to demolish The Queensbury.
The consultations carried out by Fairview Homes did not make it clear that these groups use the venue, nor explain the effect that demolishing The Queensbury will have on the community.
Just 54 people attended an exhibition held by Fairview Homes in June. This event was not widely publicised (not mentioned at all in The Queensbury) and did not take place at 110 Walm Lane. Such a low level of engagement with a limited community is not sufficient for a development of this magnitude.
This ‘partial consultation’ by Fairview Homes makes reference to 22 comments on the application made by residents. This low level of response is not significant. In addition, Fairview Homes has not told Brent Planning Department what those comments were, or even if they were in opposition or in favour.
The application form submitted states that “ongoing positive discussions regarding development quantum, mix and detailed design” have taken place with the local authority. The community asks that planners and Councillors listen to community views too.
The Equality Act 2010 requires public bodies to consider how the decisions that they make, and the services they deliver, affect people who share different protected characteristics. Brent Council is a public body and will have to satisfy itself it is taking this decision consistent with the duty, which cover a series of “protected characteristics.” One significant and relevant protected group is “pregnancy and maternity” Given that National Childbirth Trust NWLondon currently operates from the social space at The Queensbury the impact of approving Change of Use of this premises will directly impact on this protected group.
Consultation on Fairview Homes’ proposals, submitted to the council as ‘comprehensive’ are anything but, and should be disregarded by Brent Planning Committee.