Wembley residents are furious over plans that could see a library and art studio in a local park turned into shops and hotels. Brent Council has been accused of “paying lip service” to the community after more than 1,000 people signed a petition to protect the park from development.
Barham Park in Sudbury, Wembley, is managed by the council, on behalf of the people of Brent, through the Barham Park Trust. The five trustees of the charity are members of the council executive and headed by council leader, Cllr Muhammed Butt.
The trustees want to spend £3.2 million on “renovating and reconfiguring” a group of mock Tudor buildings in the park, which are currently occupied by community facilities including an art studio and library. They suggest the redevelopment will “improve facilities, safety, and longer-term sustainability [of the park]”.
According to the trustees, the works are needed to make them “more cost effective to run” and yield more revenue. Architectural plans, commissioned by the trustees and costing £25,000, suggest the buildings could be turned into a mixture of a hotel, Airbnb, offices, a café, and shops.
The plans state that the existing tenants would have to move out of the properties as the redevelopment would require a completely vacant site whilst the work is carried out. While there has been previous mention of a supermarket being lined up for the site, in a recent meeting of the Barham Park Trust Committee (September 5), the trustees claimed it is a “hypothetical report” and they “never considered a supermarket”. Instead they suggest it would be made up of social enterprise.
But the current tenants, alongside many local residents who attended the meeting, are furious with the plans and told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) they have “no intention” of vacating the site.
Director of the Friends of Barham Library – the library’s charitable trust – and councillor for Sudbury ward, Paul Lorber, said: “Our lease has another eight years to go and we have absolutely no intention of moving out. Barham Park [is] for the recreation of local people and not for hotels or Airbnb for visitors to Wembley Stadium or shops and supermarkets that no one has asked for.”
He added: “Friends of Barham Library will not be surrendering its lease. […] Brent Council pays lip service to community engagement. Barham Community Library serves our community and will continue to do so.”
The comments followed a tetchy exchange between another trustee of Friends of Barham Library and the council leader at the committee meeting. When Francis Henry attempted to question the plans, he was prevented from doing so by Cllr Butt.
Cllr Butt said: “[…] the offer was made to the people within that building to come here and talk about the work that they have done in the previous year leading up to today. I am not talking about the meeting. I am not talking about the agenda. I am not talking about the report. I am talking about the work you have done in the building as part of your trustee role.”
The current tenants want to know what will happen to them if the plans go ahead and have been left angered by what they see as a lack of consultation with them. The council’s director of environment and leisure, Chris Whyte, reiterated that the plans at this stage are “entirely hypothetical” and give an overview of “what might be possible at the site”.
He added: “It also gives a commitment about what is needed to fund such a development and whether that is possible. It also gives a true and meaningful commitment to undergo a proper consultation with tenants once it’s agreed that funding might be available and we have a valid project that we can take forward.”