This is what we sent as a group response to the consultation this Spring:
Transition Willesden is a local group offering a community-led response to the challenges of peak oil, climate change and the economic crisis. We are not a campaigning organisation, but wish to raise the following concerns in objection to the proposals:
Consultation and democracy
There has been little transparency as to why the existing building cannot be renovated rather than be demolished, and financial information as to why keeping the original 1894 building has been deemed ‘unviable’.
It is both wrong and misleading to state that the community have been consulted all along, when only 12 people attended focus groups, their views were NOT taken into account, and they were evidently NOT kept informed of progress of the scheme subsequently.
As a local community group, we have not been approached as a stakeholder group for our views.
The developers were obliged to hold a 2 day public exhibition, but have so far provided only two half days.
The consultation questionnaire provided at the exhibition was very limited – question 2 on proposals for a new public space around the cultural centre is very unclear.
There is NO affordable housing – the form of housing that is most needed in the area.
The density of units is high.
The majority of units are one and two bed, with only four three bed flats proposed - all meeting bare minimum standards in terms of size. This does little to encourage families into the area.
The housing is clearly not designed to be ‘whole of lifespan’ and as such the type of occupants it will attract are unlikely to stay long, feel part of, or contribute to the local community.
All flats are single aspect, which neither promote much sense of space nor encourage social interaction. It would be more like living in a barracks than a community. What are the heights of the flats?
The number of parking spaces provided for the flats is generous, compared to the amount provided for the cultural centre.
We oppose the loss of green space and very concerned about the impact the proposed development will have on both the local community and the environment.
Why is there no community food growing area within the public space?
What will happen to the two crab apple trees planted by the community at the Willesden Green wassail?
The loss of open space at the front of the building is not welcomed. It leaves no clear place for the end of the wassail – a local event that has been going for three years.
It is noted that a small orchard has been included in the plans as part of the outside space for the residential units. Given it would be maintained by non specialist contractors, without involvement of residents and access by the local community, this is likely to be a wasted resource. We understand this has been included to appease us, but we find it tokenistic.
Planting that attracts pollinating insects and encourages biodiversity, such as wild flower meadows, and other features such as bee and bug hotels should be included. These features also require less maintenance than traditional beds and cut grass.
· If this is being promoted as a building fit for the 21st century, why do the plans meet only grade 4 in the code for sustainable homes?
· Whilst we welcome the green roofs, what other water saving facilities are included in the plans, such as water butts, and use of grey water for flushing toilets?
· Are any solar panels or other renewable energy features included?
· What recycling facilities will be available on site – public and for residential units?
· Could a community composting scheme be included?
· How long is the new cultural centre designed to last? The current building was also deemed ‘state of the art’ when built, but is now dismissed as poorly designed.
· The scheme has come about due to the Council letting the current cultural centre run down. What guarantee is there that the new centre will be better managed and maintained in the future?
Impact on the local community
The library provision, in particular amount of study spaces is inadequate. Since the library is replacing seven closed local libraries in the Borough, it should be equal to or exceed existing provision in size.
Interim facilities are less than adequate and a cause for concern for local community.
The loss of the existing library, bookshop, meeting rooms and other facilities will have a damaging affect on community cohesion during the closure period.
Following the closure of other local libraries in the area, we do not consider that adequate interim facilities are being made available for local residents.
Will the new meeting rooms be affordable for local community groups? What charges are being proposed?
The Willesden bookshop is a key resource for the local community, and a valuable service for schools across the Borough and beyond. It should be included in the plans for the cultural centre. Whereas there are plenty of cafes in the area, there is no other bookshop. This should be taken into account.
The loss of Brent Artist Resource and the Irish Advice centre will also have a negative impact on the community.
The design of cultural centre is out of keeping with the Edwardian houses that surround it.
Thank you ! "The loss of open space at the front of the building is not welcomed. It leaves no clear place for the end of the wassail – a local event that has been going for three years."
Yes of course. This space is also a market space. Markets ( open air markets!) are something important for community life, and can't be hidden from the high road. These people have obviously no concern at all for community life and sustainability. :-(
Excellent letter, agreed wholeheartedly.