MapRA Chair’s Annual Report 2021
It has been two years since our last AGM – and my last report – as last April we were in the grip of the first lockdown. It is quite hard to look back and remember what life was like before COVID-19, but my task is to try to highlight for you the main events and issues of the previous two years.
The 2019 AGM went very well and the elections went smoothly. We had lots of stalls, food and drink, and many attendees made useful connections and talked together. We were very excited about Brent being chosen to be the second London Borough of Culture and various ideas were floated about what we might do (more later). Cllr Muhammed Butt gave a brief talk on the council’s plans for Brent; he was one of the first to arrive at the hall and one of the last to leave, engaging with many members and contributing to many discussions throughout the evening.
Open Gardens Day
In June 2019 we had our Open Gardens Day with around 560 attendees; we admired beautiful gardens, chatted to friends and enjoyed our tea and cake! A special “thank you” to all those involved in the organising and the carrying out on the day; especially Maggie, Anne and helpers for tea garden, Claudia and team for the plant sale, and Jim for organising everything.
The Dell held their usual series of highly popular and well attended events throughout 2019.
The first was in June, when Mark Troop and I once again organised and presented an evening of opera in the Dell, but for the first time the weather was against us, and we singers had to wear our warm jumpers and Mark needed pegs to keep his music in place!
This was followed in July by the perennially wildly successful Wild Day, a fantastic family day out, with farmyard and exotic animals, games and stalls for all, plus wood fired pizzas and bar.
After another delightful evening with the Park Life Singers came the Back to School children’s party. The year finished with a magical evening of Christmas Carols, featuring the Salvation Army brass band and the St Gabriel’s Church Choir.
Mapesbury Garden Triangles
As Chair, I wanted to find something that we could do within Mapesbury to enhance our lives and I hit upon the idea of us improving the four garden triangles that Brent made to reduce the width at road crossings; they had become overgrown and neglected. I am an inexpert gardener, so was extremely grateful to Elayne Coakes for her thoughts on this. Before I took it to committee, we agreed that we not only had an opportunity to make these flowerbeds more beneficial for humans but also for fauna. The committee agreed that this was something worth putting time and effort into and committee member, Teresa Solomon, and Hester Coley, both members of the Gardens Sub-Committee, took on the task. Work started in October 2019 and a huge amount of work has been done ever since by a small, keen, socially-distanced team. We will continue to support this work. Thanks, also, to Brent Council for a grant of £500.
Brent Borough of Culture 2020 – MapRA contribution
Committee member, Jacqui Graham/Pelham, put in a successful bid on behalf of MapRA for the maximum grant of £10,000 to present a celebration of the life and work of Oliver Sacks (1933-2015), the neurologist, doctor, naturalist, historian of science and writer. The author of sixteen books, most famously The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Awakenings, Oliver was born and brought up at 37 Mapesbury Road, where his mother was one of the first female surgeons in England and his father was the local GP, running his practice in the house. 37 Mapesbury Road continued to be Oliver’s London base after he moved to the US until his father died in 1990.
“Oliver Sacks: Made in Mapesbury” was to be a series of local, live events at various locations, including 37 Mapesbury Road, running during September 2020. COVID-19 obviously made this impossible, but the grant has been extended until September 2021. Planning is now underway to move the events online, as this way we can be sure it can all go ahead. More details soon.
We have a brand new website which I hope will become our main information exchange in the future. Do visit at: https://mapra.org.uk/
There was an application to demolish Sheldon Lodge, 1A Sheldon Road, and build flats. The application was rejected as were the appeals.
During 2019 there was a long hard battle fought to save the Queensbury pub – an historic and original building at the boundary of the Mapesbury Conservation Area – and, indeed, to try and turn it into even more of a community resource than it was already. The battle was sadly lost and a block of flats will be built on the site, but we did manage to get the block reduced in height so that it will fit in better with the surrounding buildings. The pub was very popular locally and we have lost a valuable community resource.
Planning permission was granted for a house to be built on Lydford Road on the north side between Teignmouth Road and St Gabriel’s Road. The house that has been built does not comply with the plans and Brent has ordered the builder to demolish it. The builder is appealing and hoping to be granted retrospective approval for what has been built. We await the outcome.
There is a great need for social housing and Brent is quite advanced in its plans to double the number of bedrooms in Watling Gardens, the grounds of which run between Shoot-up Hill and Exeter Road. The plans propose building a new tall block close to Shoot-Up Hill, demolishing Claire Court and replacing it with new blocks, and building two new blocks, for elderly and vulnerable people close to Exeter Mansions and the first houses in Exeter Road; this will double the number of bedrooms on the estate. The plans put the latter very close to the fences of the houses in Exeter Road and we have expressed our concerns forcefully on this matter, and argued that the building should be moved onto the estate by a few metres.
We have also learned of plans to build two 8 storey blocks by Windmill Court on Mapesbury Road and Shoot-Up Hill. As yet, MapRA has been shown no plans but we will scrutinise them closely and look at the impact of increasing the number of residents in these adjoining estates by such large numbers.
Brent is committed to replacing or repairing the pavements of Dartmouth, Teignmouth and St Gabriel’s Roads. There has been much hot discussion over whether it is better to have completely new pavements of asphalt or whether to replace and repair the concrete paving slabs where they are broken.
Slightly further afield, there are major development plans, both residential and industrial, for Cricklewood Broadway, mostly in Barnet, some of which are very concerning. Details can be found on the NW2 Residents’ Association website https://www.northwesttwo.org.uk/
- Two book clubs, convened by Anne Aiken and Jenny Thomas continue on zoom.
- Bridge club organised by John Mann; has continued online for social play.
- Gardening club managed by Teresa Solomon; mostly work on Triangles but also regular news by email.
- Fruit Harvesting group. Convened by Gerry Weston; only one plum tree last year.
- Film Club started by Susie Songhurst currently discuss films available on television each week by email.
- Theatre group led by Jim Coakes has circulated details of online performances.
- The Dell gardening group, organised by Jill Rixon, has been working hard (socially distanced) throughout most of the pandemic to keep this Gold Award park beautiful.
- Walking group led and inspired by John Mann has had a bit of a rest during COVID!
Thank you to all the group convenors for keeping them active during the pandemic.
A special “thank you” to all the committee members and, especially, Gerry, who have worked so hard to support MapRA and Mapesbury during the last two years. And thank you, also, to our three councillors for all their support.
Brent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has been the body, since 1st April 2013, that has decided on what are the health priorities for the people of Brent, and commissioning and funding those services both in primary care (mostly through our GP’s) and secondary care (mostly through hospitals). The CCG boundaries have been co-terminus with those of the borough which has aided communication and understanding between Brent Council and Brent CCG. Since 1st April 2021 Brent has been merged into a supersized CCG with Central London, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow and West London CCGs. I have been involved with primary care planning at local and national level and whilst one may think that bigger is better and commissioning of services can be done more efficiently, the huge worry is that local differences and sensitivities will be lost. We know there is not just huge variation between these boroughs, but we know that even within Brent there are huge variations, and we are very concerned that we will get lost within this mighty behemoth and will no longer have a local council that has leverage with the new CCG.
We are all having our unique experiences of the pandemic. Some of us will have lost loved ones and/or friends. Some of us may be suffering from symptoms of “Long Covid” which may be life changing. Some of us have been trying to work from home while trying to home school our children. Some of us have sunk into poverty. Some of us have been going to work at high personal risk while others of us have been living in virtual isolation. Some of us may have been suffering mental anguish. And some of us have had much needed elective medical treatments endlessly postponed. We need to be looking out for each other at this time and for the foreseeable future, and, as part of this, MapRA has made donations to our COVID support group and Brent’s two food banks (see Financial Report for details). At the end of March Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer of Health for England, said; he thinks it will be another year before we will return to anything like (the new) normal. Second, COVID-19 will be with us for the rest of our lives.
Finally, I must mention the very sad death of David Gee. Many of you will have known David who was, for many years, a very active member of MapRA and a former highly efficient and enthusiastic Secretary of our association. In recent years he had to step back from much of his community work, due to ill health. Suffering from both a heart condition and leukaemia, he knew he would be vulnerable to COVID-19 and so had been incredibly careful about shielding. But somehow, somewhere, he came into contact with the virus and he sadly died on 17th January this year. David was a kind, thoughtful and generous man, and an exceptionally talented ceramicist – anyone who has seen and admired his ceramics will know just what a huge talent he had. We, at MapRA, send our deepest condolences to his widow, Gloria, his daughters, Alice and Lucy, and all his family and close friends.
Brent Mayor 2021/22
And, finally, something to celebrate. Our wonderful Mapesbury councillor and long time Mapesbury resident, Lia Colacicco, becomes Mayor of Brent this month. We send her our warmest congratulations and very much look forward to collaborating with her on her mayoral initiatives.
I am stepping down as Chair after three years in the role but will remain on the committee.
With warmest best wishes to you all.
Keep well, keep safe.