Queensbury decision date confirmed

Planning officers are recommending that The Queensbury is demolished. A decision will be made on Weds 12th March.

If you submitted an objection to the planning application to demolish the Queensbury you will receive a letter (or may have already received one) from Brent Council. Unfortunately the recommendation of planning officers is to approve the plans – but this is just a recommendation, the final decision will be made by the elected councillors who sit on the Planning Committee. The planners’ report with its recommendation can be found here. Its a long report, we’re still reading and digesting it but there is plenty in it to challenge, so watch this space for our rebuttal.

There are 2 important dates:

Saturday 8 March: At approx 11.15am the Planning Committee will visit The Queensbury for a site visit. Your presence is also requested so that they see the strength of feeling in the community. This is not a demonstration (only one of us will be allowed to address the committee at the end of the visit) but home made signs and banners will be welcome. Be as creative as you like!

Weds 12 March: The decision will be made at the Planning Committee meeting which takes place at 7pm at Brent Civic Centre (directions here). Again your presence is needed.

Anyone wanting to travel together to the Planning Committee meeting on 12th March should meet at Willesden Green station at 6.15pm.

This is it folks, crunch time – see you there!

A month of contradictions

Fairview have submitted a positive change to the ground floor use plan, but also an appeal against The Queensbury’s listing as an Asset of Community Value.

Last we heard a planning decision is due on 12th March. Meanwhile a supplementary document was sent to planners, by Fairview earlier this week, “Ground Floor Use and Operation Statement.”  (Welcome to The Queensbury II.)

The document says that “there have been a number of responses to the planning application which has prompted Fairview Homes to produce this statement which outlines current position and to make sure the whole community is fully aware of the current proposals.” Clearly the 4,000 strong petition and 100s of objections have struck a nerve. “We have listened and now have a very good understanding of what the community want.” In the document is a summary of their discussions with the current pub operator and an outline of how the community space will work, opening hours etc. They say they’ll accept an obligation to fund the rehousing of Busy Rascals in the meantime, but the accompanying updated community facilities document is not even worthy of posting a link. There is reference to A4 (pub) but not A3 (cafe) in addition to D1 (community use) yet the entire application remains unchanged. Progress, but some distance away from the guarantees we are seeking if Brent decide to allow the building to be demolished.

Meanwhile a letter from Fairview’s lawyers dropped into the mailbox the same day…. they are appealing the community asset status, citing the proposed arrangements above as a reason to not list the pub as an asset. In other words if both parties agree to end the lease (in place till 2017) and there are plans to rehouse the community groups then hey Brent, why not just take the pub off your list? Brent Council are holding an oral hearing around 19th March and we have been invited to take part. Who’s up for a grilling?

The above begs a number of questions:

  • How can we trust Fairview to actually deliver what is in their amended plan when, afterall, they have also asked for cafe use in their application, which remains ‘live’ and unchanged?
  • Which Fairview do we believe, the one that says they’ll put in a great pub / community space or the one that continually objects to The Queensbury as an asset?
  • Why are Fairview so reluctant for the pub to be listed as an asset, if they claim to have listened? How can a planning decision possibly be taken on 12th March when the community asset status is appealed the following week?
  • The existing building still disappears and there are still plans for 10 storeys. If Fairview have genuinely listened and understand what the community wants, as they claim, then surely they would address one or both of these concerns?

Questions questions questions…

Speaking out for The Queensbury at the Willesden Green Wassail

Today we attended the 5th annual Willesden Green Wassail.

Wassailing is an ancient tradition that involves singing and drinking the health of trees in the hopes that they might better thrive. Local poet and story teller Rachel Rose Reid has adapted the custom to make it relevant to our urban setting in Willesden Green so we sang to local independent traders with the help of MCs and other spoken word artists. With the fate of The Queensbury still undecided, today was a good opportunity to show how much we value our high street.

Thanks to Wembley Matters for the video

4,000-strong petition presented to Brent Council

Petition3

Earlier today we handed in our paper petition to Brent Council, calling The Queensbury pub to be saved. The Queensbury is an Asset of Community Value, sitting in an historically significant building, in a designated Conservation area. The petition contains over 4,000 signatures which is a tremendous achievement and show of support. The size of the petition reflects public feeling towards not only the pub, but the historic building and the community groups that use it.

We are grateful to Cllr Pavey (Lead Member for Children) for accepting the petition on behalf of the Council, not in his formal capacity as a member of Brent’s Executive but as a Cllr who clearly appreciates the role of  community groups who operate from the building.

Thanks to Martin Francis of Wembley Matters for the picture.

A pub is proposed, why are we still objecting?

Just a brief update following Fairview Homes’ revised planning application to demolish The Queensbury pub. Comments will be taken until mid January so please register your views with the council (you can use this link).

It is clear from responses to Brent, comments to our group and via the local residents associations that in spite of revising their plans to potentially include a pub, what is proposed by Fairview remains deeply unpopular. Why?

1. When is a pub not a pub?

Fairview have applied for A3 and A4 use classes on the ground floor of the revised development and in spite of the current pub operators being involved in its layout there is no guarantee that a pub will remain on site. We simply do not trust Fairview Homes to deliver (see elsewhere on this site for reasons why).

An A3 use is a cafe – like Costa, Nest and the deli down the road. So whilst A3 remains on the plan there is the risk that the developer will downgrade a pub (A4) to a cafe (A3). No further permission is required to do this. A pub can serve coffee and cake but a cafe cannot serve beer and spirits – get the point? Plus… the pub (not the entire building) is purely A4 and has be accepted by Brent Council as an “Asset of Community Value”. We believe that demolishing it (and not replacing it with a direct A4 substitute) is wrong.

2. Conservation

Anyone looking for a computer generated image of the development taken within the Mapesbury conservation area will be disappointed. We can’t find any, which leads us to conclude that the protected vistas and cherished preservation of Mapesbury will be over-shadowed by the tallest building for miles. Brent declared this as a conservation area so any replacement building should at least try to fit in. This one stands out.

3. It’s just too high

Height is a major concern. Even those who welcome a pub / cafe / wine bar / community space still recoil at the sheer height of the proposed tower. It dwarfs the local church spire (the Vicar of which is also opposed), stands above Erin Court (the block over Sainsburys) and is almost twice that of its next door neighbour.

4. Community use

Having spent much of 2013 declaring that Busy Rascals, NCT and FieldtoFork were all operating without permission from the pub, the community services statement submitted goes even further and declares this activity as “unlawful”.

We maintain that a modern pub has to diversify to survive and The Queensbury has done an excellent job in doing just that during very difficult economic times. The current pub operators should be applauded for welcoming these groups under its roof. Again, how can Fairview Homes be trusted to deliver on a space that works for the community and not just one that works for them, commercially?

Happy New Year?

All in all, some on our group accept that a development can take place on the site but not at all costs. Others are heartened that the current pub operators are involved but are sceptical. Some people just want to see the building saved. What we all agree on is that we simply have no confidence or evidence that what is proposed is anywhere near an acceptable replacement for The Queensbury and the existing building.

It’s official – The Queensbury IS an Asset of Community Value!

And so, eventually, our persistence to have The Queensbury pub recognised as an Asset of Community Value has paid off. Brent Council finally confirmed today to accept the pub on their list, at the third time of asking. It joins Kensal Rise library as the only two buildings in Brent to be nominated and accepted as providing a significant role in their communities. Hearty thanks to the NW2 Residents Association for fronting the nomination on behalf of the Save The Queensbury campaign and to the pub for being so much a part of our community.

Why is this important? Being on the list means that if the building is sold, the clock stops for six months to enable the community to bid to buy it. More importantly for us, we will be pressing very hard to have the pub’s community status featuring prominently as a “material planning matter” when Brent considers the plans for The Queensbury early next year. Kensal Rise library set the precedent when plans for development were considered and there are other examples across the country where ACV status has played a major role in the planning process.

Plans have been submitted to demolish the pub. Sadly, Brent Council chose to decline our request to wait before formally consulting on the plans and went ahead regardless. We will now write to planners, asking them to send out further letters to consultees, noting the building’s status and extend the consultation period accordingly.

Meanwhile, ensure you mention the community asset status when you object to the current planning application.

 

 

New plans submitted

Fairview Homes have submitted their new plans to demolish The Queensbury. You can find them online here. The main documents are the Design and Access Statement and the ground floor plan.

The proposals still involve a tower block but do include a mixed use space on the ground floor with drinking establishment/restaurant/community use (A3/A4/D1 in planning jargon).

We are disappointed that Brent Council has chosen to consult on this proposal while the Asset of Community Value application is still outstanding; any consultation should be carried out with the full knowledge of the Queensbury’s status.

We will meet at the The Queensbury on Wednesday 4 December at 7.30pm to discuss our response. Please take a look at the plans and come and give your views.

What do we want from Brent Council’s “Willesden Week of Action”?

This is Brent Council’s “Week of Action” in Willesden Green.

This is the week when graffiti gets removed and potholes fixed, as the Council dedicates some attention to our neighbourhood. It’s our turn in the spotlight, whoopee!

We are encouraged to tell Brent what’s important to us and to get in touch with them: LINK

So please do: we want to send a message, loud and clear, that we want the Council to support our campaign to save The Queensbury.

We want ACTUAL action and for this council to PROTECT our assets in whatever way they can. Other local authorities are protecting their assets by listing them as “Assets of Community Value” yet Brent have twice declined our attempts to list the pub as such.

We want Councillors to show some leadership. We want the Council to use the power it has and stand up for us, not property developers after a quick buck.

Write to your Councillor, talk to your friends and neighbours and tweet Brent Council using the #willesdenwoa hashtag. Tell them: we want action and we want it now.

 

Happy anniversary!

It’s a year since the plans to demolish the Queensbury Pub were first lodged.

On 3rd October 2012 Brent Council received plans to demolish The Queensbury pub.

It soon became clear that a tower block was not wanted or needed and this campaign was born. 95% of people responding to Brent Council’s consultation objected to the plans.

We campaigned for Fairview Homes to rethink. Plans were withdrawn with tails between legs.

The latest “exhibition” in July was a shambolic attempt to provide a community facility, in a bid to get this unpopular scheme accepted. We monitored attendance (given Fairview’s earlier lies) and objection increased to 96%.

Fairview cannot buy the community off with a token gesture “space” and cafe. We do not need more cafes in Willesden but we do need community hubs and a quality pub/restaurant as The Queensbury clearly is. What Fairview offered was a poor substitute – nothing like a replacement.

Fairview’s PR machine has tried all summer to court Councillors. They are also claiming finding some agreement with the Busy Rascals baby & toddler group. At the same time their legal machine continues to send the lawyers in to discredit Busy Rascals, via the Asset of Community Value process. (Busy Rascals are, incidentally, on the nominating group to secure ACV status – they are not convinced by Fairview or bullied and have not entertained a conversation with them either). It is very poor behaviour on Fairview’s part to claim otherwise.

Two Asset of Community Value nominations have been made, both met with lengthy legal representation forom Fairview’s lawyers – but we are timing our third attempt to go in very soon. This may not save the pub in its own right but it will give it the status it deserves. Expect another battle!

Thank you for your support. The pub’s management are in a difficult position (Fairview Homes are their landlord) but they are incredibly appreciative of our efforts. It is a long haul but we are going from strength to strength. Without your support the bulldozers would be moving from the Library to The Queensbury.

So let’s keep going until Fairview get the message. Pubs are threatened all over the country and we’ve been contacted by so many who’ve fought the same battle and have won.

Fairview Homes: you bought a pub, and a valued one at that. It’s a historic building, in a conservation area. It was a speculative gamble on your part but has it really paid off? We do not think it has.

It is a large plot. All we ask is that you build around our community, do not trash it.