Asphalt tensions inflamed as resident groups are 'disinvited' from meeting
- Credit: Flavia Rittner
Tensions surrounding asphalt pavements in Brent have heightened after groups report being "disinvited" from a meeting and a Brondesbury road in a Conservation Area was de-slabbed.
The asphalting of Brondesbury Road took place on March 10, despite opposition by those living in and around the area.
Neighbours who were given two weeks notice that work would begin organised a petition that got more than 140 signatures.
However, a council-organised Zoom meeting on February 26 attended by Brent Council leader Cllr Muhammed Butt and Queen's Park councillors only served to inflame tensions after community representatives were "disinvited".
Brent's environment chief, Cllr Krupa Sheth, who was not at the meeting, said she was "sorry that others felt that they were excluded" but said there were other opportunities to discuss the subject.
Queen's Park Area Residents' Association (QPARA) chair Virginia Brand said the group was "invited then disinvited".
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She wrote to Cllr Butt to "protest most strongly at the council’s attempt to sideline QPARA’s involvement...by excluding our representatives from that urgent online meeting Friday last".
"The section of street to receive the asphalt treatment is within QPARA’ s area," she said.
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"We have previously had extensive dialogue with the council about the substitution of asphalt for paving slabs in our area.
"The most recent episode was last summer when we indicated it was better to not to do any extensive work on the west side of upper Salusbury than to use asphalt - and the council agreed not to proceed."
QPARA member Robin Sharp said: "QPARA reps were invited and then uninvited - first time ever we can recall."
He said QPARA's street representative for Brondesbury attended as a resident: "It was not an accident but an attempt to isolate the residents affected from colleagues who were familiar with the issue in depth. Unworthy and rather pathetic."
Keith Anderson liaises with QPARA on behalf of Kilburn Village Residents’ Association (KVRA), covering adjacent streets.
He said: “I and other KVRA residents were initially invited, and then told to stand down."
Sixty KVRA residents emailed Brent's operational director Chris Whyte on March 4 to register their objection to asphalt.
He added: "We are disappointed that this work was not completed as scheduled last July; at that time it appears that funding was available for slabs, since they were used for the very similar upgrading of the western section of Harvist Road last autumn.”
Brondesbury Road resident Flavia Rittner said Brent had "not produced costings" for re-using existing undamaged paving slabs.
"In these financially constrained times ‘make-do-and-mend’ would be better economically, environmentally and from a conservation perspective," she said.
"We have not received a clear rationale for why the council has repaved a stretch of Brondesbury Road east with slabs, yet in contradiction of its own policies relating to ‘consistency’ of materials, Brondesbury Road west is to receive black asphalt.
"The council pays lip-service to the climate emergency by preventing residents from using impermeable surfaces in their front gardens, but it persists in smothering the borough’s pavements with impermeable asphalt."
Cllr Sheth said: "The meeting in question was primarily for Brondesbury Road residents, and those that were in touch with the council had been invited to take part. That said, I am sorry that others felt that they were excluded, but would also point out that this was not the only opportunity to discuss these matters.
She said the council "paused the Brondesbury Road works to ensure it had taken all points into consideration".
"The fully recyclable nature of this asphalt, in addition to its other durable and flexible qualities, means that its whole life impact and cost-benefit is deemed superior to slabs in both affordability and climate emergency terms."
She said Brondesbury Road west is "quite a complicated combination of wide dropped kerb driveways, extensive mature trees and tree pits, many with visibly protruding roots, badly situated kerbstones, and a high prevalence of cracked and unstable slabs".
"All of this will be rectified and our in-house experts are confident that the end product will allay many people’s concerns, especially as less than a third of it will actually involve asphalt."