Regent's Park Labour Action Report - February 2018

News from Hussain Ahmed, Janet Seale and Liam Taggart, your Regent’s Park Labour Action Team. 


Along with Karen Buck MP, Labour Councillors take up individual cases, as well as issues of concern in St John’s Wood and across Westminster North generally. Below are some of the issues we have been taking up recently, many as a result of residents’ responses to our regular newsletters. Let us know if we can take up a local issue in your area.

Abercorn Place Estate
 
More national press coverage of the sale of the Abercorn Place estate
 
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5254469/Council-sold-land-expensive-street-14k.html
 
Charlbert Street
 
We have asked the Council to deal with this long-standing issue:
 
“There is an abandoned bike chained to a tree in Charlbert Street. I have lived here 9 years and it has been there all that time! It is chained to a small tree on the pavement and as the pavement is narrow and it is not a good idea. I noticed a Westminster notice attached to the bike at the beginning of December 2017 saying that bike was presumed abandoned and would be removed in 48 hours. The bike is still there.”
 
A few days later, the resident wrote:
 
“Thank you so much for taking this up for me. It was a pleasure to walk up the street last Friday and see that the old bicycle had been removed at last and it was far easier to walk on the narrow pavement.”
 
Elm Tree Road
 
We have asked the Council to remove the road signs and barriers left on the pavement following completion of work in Elm Tree Road. They have been there for a month despite residents reporting this problem. The Council say:
 
“I am now informed that the equipment has been removed. It had been left behind by our own contractors following completion of a job. They have been spoken to about their failure to properly complete this as they should.”
 
Also, residents have suggested a number of potential locations for extra residents’ parking, to which the Council has said: “At least one of the three locations in Elm Tree Road has potential for additional residents parking and I will arrange a site visit/meeting over the coming weeks to take measurements and draft up a new scheme.”
 
St John’s Wood Terrace
 
We are making enquiries about a number of long-term vacant houses in St John’s Wood Terrace.
 
St John’s Wood Station area
 
We have asked the Council to again investigate the drains around the station. Residents say:
 
“I was at St John’s Wood station yesterday in the pouring rain and there was only a puddle on the opposite side of Finchley Road outside what used to be the branch of HSBC. I see there is a drain which must have been cleared since I wrote to you. But the drain must block easily as the lake accumulates whenever there is heavy rain. I don’t know whether anything can be done to keep it clear. And if there appears to be a blockage, is there someone one can contact to get it cleared promptly?”
 
The Council say:
 
“I have received feedback from TfL as to why the ponding outside (and near) St John’s Wood Station on Wellington Road (TfL’s network to maintain) has not been fixed. “There is an issue at that location in that we cannot excavate due to an underground Thames Water Leak preventing us back-filling any repair as it will get washed away under the surface.” TfL report that due to the above they are working with TW to get the leak scheduled in for repair so they can then undertake their works.”
 
Circus Road/Acacia Road
 
We have asked the Council to repair this stretch of road way/pavement:
 
“I would draw your attention again to the enormous puddles that form outside the uneven driveway St Johns/Elizabeth hospital by the bus stop. Everyone gets drenched as traffic goes past. Also there are broken and uneven small square paving stones outside St Johns Wood Station, Last week an elderly and disabled person tripped & nearly had a bad fall!”
 
Grove End Road
 
We have asked the Council to ensure Thames Water fixes this leak:
 
“Just checking if you’re aware of the ‘leak’ in Grove End, opposite the synagogue? It’s a significant leak that has been pouring out water for about a week now - I have yet to see anyone trying to repair it. With all the news about Thames Water’s problems with water leakage, this feels particularly outrageous. It’s an appalling waste of water. “
 
The Council say:
 
“The reason for the delay is that the leak is to a 6” main in the carriageway but unfortunately Thames Water had difficulty locating the correct valve to enable the repair. To facilitate this now they are going to have to interrupt water supplies to around 1,000-1,500 properties- and this requires 5 days’ notice. The interruption of supply is scheduled for 5th Feb and affected properties have been notified. Assuming all goes to plan the entire scheme will then be completed (with the highway reinstated) by the end of the 7th February. Whilst it may look like there is no one out there, we along with Thames are monitoring the site very closely to ensure that everything is kept safe, tidy and clean.”
 
Blenheim Terrace
 
Karen Buck MP has criticized the sale of a former Blenheim Terrace NHS building which has now been developed for luxury housing.
http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/sale-of-blenheim-terrace-nhs-site-blasted-by-new-economics-foundation-report-1-5350815
 
Queen’s Terrace
 
We have asked the local City Inspector to look in to this issue:
 
“I have also noticed the amount of food and drink refuse accumulating here and have frequently seen groups of men waiting around at the far corner of the road during the day.  I have no idea if this is the reason for the refuse, but a bin in the corner might help. “
 
Abercorn Place parking bays – update
 
Following our enquiries about the future of the former doctor’s parking bays on Abercorn Place, the Parking Department has told us:
 
“We still plan to convert these bays to Electric Vehicle bays and a planning application has been submitted and is currently working its way through the planning process. In the interim we will suspend these bays for Residents’ use.  A suspension sign will be put up on street confirming this and residents will be able to use these 2 spaces until we have a confirmed installation date for the EV charging points.”
 
Lord’s 
 
The MCC has announced that the next phase of development at Lord’s will be led by architects, WilkinsonEyre.  The rebuilding of the Compton and Edrich Stands is the next phase of the MCC Updated Masterplan. Detailed work on the design will begin immediately. MCC hope that, subject to the appropriate consent being obtained from Westminster City Council, construction work will commence after Lord’s hosts the final of the men’s ICC Cricket World Cup in the summer of 2019.
 
City West Homes ‘Nightmare Stories’

We have published a dossier of ’20 nightmare stories’ from City West Homes’, based on the experiences of CWH tenants and leaseholders over the past few months across Westminster. All have been reported to CWH for action and some problems have now been resolved – but only after a Labour Councillor had intervened. 

This is not the way to run an organisation responsible for 12,500 tenants and 10,000 leaseholders. How many more similar stories of incompetence and neglect go unreported because the tenant or leaseholder has not been able escalate the problem by reporting it to a Labour Councillor? City West Homes is in need of a radical overhaul and Labour is pledged to do this following the May Council elections.

To see the report go to https://labourwestminster.wordpress.com/2018/01/24/westminster-labour-launches-dossier-of-20-nightmare-stories-from-city-west-homes/
 
Please let us know if you are having problems with City West Homes.
 
St John’s Wood Memories
 
We came across this interesting local website recently.
 
http://www.stjohnswoodmemories.org.uk/
 
Rubbish Dumping
 
In response to the regular concerns expressed by residents, we have put forward the following ideas:

  • Reinstate a free service for standard household bulky refuse collections and introduce a paid-for service for express bulky refuse collections
  • Use mobile cameras to help enforcement at fly-tipping ‘hotspots’.
  •  Increase fines for dumping.
  • Consult residents to decide where extra bins might be of assistance and improve signage and communication with residents
  • Offer residents the chance to report dumping via Twitter, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger
  • Target Council inspections and waste collection to the worst-affected areas to tackle the scourge of fly-tipping.

What do you think?
 
Dealing with Airbnb

Research by the Residential Landlords Association published in December 2017 found the number of Airbnb rentals in London has increased by 187% since 2015. Karen Buck MP (Labour) said the number of properties advertised in Westminster North on Airbnb has more than doubled - from 1,603 in 2015 to 3,621 in 2017.

"In blocks of flats, long-term residents find themselves living in a hotel but without the services to support it, like staff and security. They have to deal with constant comings and goings, security concerns, noise, rubbish. These properties turn over every few days so you feel you aren't living in a residential community."

Karen Buck said short-term lets were also contributing to housing shortages. 

"The original concept of Airbnb was you rent your flat out when you're away or your spare room. That still happens and that's absolutely fine. But what's also happened is professional landlords have moved in, who in many cases own multiple properties."

Research by Westminster City Council found that renting a one-bedroom flat in the area will make £495 a week for an ordinary tenancy, but £1,561 a week on a nightly basis. 

Two years ago, the law changed to allow London properties to be let for up to 90 days a year without permission from the council. In January 2017, Airbnb introduced a block on London hosts renting out homes for more than 90 days a year, to ensure users complied with the law. 

But some landlords are finding ways around the rules, including re-listing a property under a slightly different address or advertising a whole flat as a single room, which is not covered by the 90-day limit. People also advertise on alternative platforms to get around the cap. 

Karen Buck said it was difficult for councils to enforce the 90-day limit and has put forward a bill to Parliament calling for all short-term lets to be registered

"It's difficult to monitor. Local authorities have to spend a lot of time and money trying to catch the people breaking the rules. My suggestion is very light touch. People who are staying within the law are fine and just need to spend 30 seconds registering their property online. There's no question of denying permission. But for people that are breaking the rules, we have a means of bringing them to justice.”.
 
Tesco Bags of Help - Community Grant Scheme
 
Bags of Help is Tesco’s local community grant scheme where the money raised by the 10p Bag for Life charge in Tesco stores is being used to fund community projects that benefit the local community. Following a public vote, three projects in each Tesco region will receive an award every two months, with first place receiving up to £4,000, second place up to £2,000 and third place up to £1,000. 

  • Who can apply? Grants will be awarded to voluntary or community organisations, schools, Parish Councils, local authorities and social housing providers. 
  • What kind of projects will Bags of Help fund? Projects that benefit the local community are eligible for funding – from improving community buildings and developing outdoor spaces to buying new kit or equipment, training coaches or volunteers, and hosting community events or activities. 
  • How to Apply - For more information and to apply visit the website: http://www.groundwork.org.uk/Sites/tescocommunityscheme

If you need any further advice or support - including talking through some project ideas or finding out how to make a project eligible - contact Paige Matthews, Community Project Officer, Groundwork London Phone: 020 8762 0321 E-mail: paige.matthews@groundwork.org.uk
 
What you say
 
“Many thanks as always for your informative and helpful letter which is a real benefit and asset to the community”
 
“Thank you for this comprehensive email”
 
“Thanks for welcome reports!”
 
“Thanks for update”
 
“Thanks as always for your dedication and support”
 
Please let us know if we can be of help or assistance on any local issues.

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Regards

 
Hussain Ahmed, Janet Seale and Liam Taggart
Your Regent’s Park Ward Labour Action Team 
regentsparklabour@gmail.com