News from your Westminster Labour Councillors
We are living in very difficult times and we are doing all we can to help the local community and individual residents and their families. Over the last month residents in Marylebone, Pimlico, Soho and the West End have raised issues with us and this is a summary of the action we have been taking, together with an update on a number of local issues.
Please let us know if we can be of help or assistance on any local issues.
NEWS AND ACTION
Dolphin Square – update
AXA has bought Dolphin Square from Westbrook for £850 million. AXA is a major investor in rented residential assets in Ireland, Spain and Germany, but this is its first significant deal in the sector in the UK. The General Manager of Dolphin Square has issued this statement:
“AXA’s intention is to bring forward the gradual refurbishment and modernisation of the estate, over the long-term, in order to enhance its sustainability credentials and provide a contemporary environment for tenants to live and enjoy, without losing the heritage of the estate.
As part of the transaction, the planning application appeal for the redevelopment of Dolphin House and additional floor across the estate has been withdrawn.”
We also very pleased to receive this message from the Dolphin Square Preservation Society:
“The DSPS would like to record their thanks for the support which you have given to Dolphin Squarewith its tradition of providing housing at moderate rents for those working unsocial hours in London.This support goes back a very long way. In 2017, it was thanks to you in the Labour Party that thecampaign to save the Square was able to take off and develop. With your help, it continued andgrew to be a community effort involving so many people in Pimlico. Very many thanks for your vital support and for the support of all those who helped so valiantly to win the hard-fought fight”
Ebury Bridge Estate
You can read the latest on the ongoing story of the Council’s plans for the Ebury Bridge Estate
‘A community broken apart’ – How it feels living on a London housing estate that’s going to be demolished. Residents say ‘half’ the flats are boarded up and they fear for the future”
After years of it being broken and unsightly, the laundrette on Lupus Street has now finally fixed its signage – thanks to Labour’s Churchill Ward Councillors pressing the Council to take action on the issue.
We have also asked the Parking Team to take action to stop Tesco delivery lorries parking on the zig zag lines and blocking the road with metal crates to ‘reserve’ parking spaces.
Churchill Gardens Estate gardens
We are pleased that the gardens on Churchill Gardens Estate have now been registered as Grade II listed.
Chelsea Bridge Road
A missing street sign on Chelsea Bridge Road was replaced after a resident informed us this had not been actioned via Report It.
St George’s Square
A redundant and obstructive pole was removed from the pavement in St George’s Square after residents complained to us that this had not been dealt with.
You can read about the history of the Millbank Estate here
Gordon Hospital, Vauxhall Bridge Road
Westminster Labour is deeply concerned that Central and North West London NHS Trust (CNWL) is seeking to permanently close and not replace the Gordon Hospital, near Vincent Square in South Westminster creating a severe shortage of inpatient community mental health beds across Westminster and surrounding boroughs. The Gordon had been temporarily closed due to pressures of managing Covid-19 in the building, but it seems that CNWL’s proposed long-term solution is to provide no beds in Westminster at all rather than attempting to replace or improve it.
We are taking up this issue with Transport for London:
“The bus-stop outside 53 Millbank has been ‘temporarily’ moved to an island to leave space for a cycle lane (although some cyclists still use the car lane). We reported the danger for bus passengers attempting to reach the island by crossing the cycle lane, but it seems that this isolated bus stop is now being used by drug dealers,The police have already descended on it once and dispersed the drug dealers. The old bus stop was on the pavement and faced the house. The new one is on an island and faces across the river.”
A few days later, residents told us:
“I was out early this morning and noticed that the 87 bus-stop has been moved back onto the pavement to its original position”
We have received further concerns from residents in Denbigh Place about the failure of Sanctuary Housing to maintain their properties properly. Residents say there is:
“serious dampness in almost all basement flats and dangerously decaying facades and balconies that one day could kill a person, plants taking root in drains to become trees and causing huge deterioration of properties and which additionally causes serious water leakage into some properties whenever it rains (Months/years of neglect). Scaffolding at the back of a house in Denbigh Place that has been up for over a year (costing thousands) and yet no longer needed after a year +, many empty properties that have had no tenants for months (dire housing shortage), and so much more. Have been waiting for months and months for Sanctuary to do some essential maintenance work – still waiting and yet faulty air-vents still causes water to come into kitchen and bathroom whenever it rains (totally unhygienic), disruptive neighbours causing misery for whole street but no notice at all taken of these issues /occurrences, the list is endless.”
We are making enquiries about this recurring issue:
“We are really at our wits end in Abbey Orchard Street Estate with the noise day and night from helicopters. Our lives are being made a misery day and night by low flying helicopters. It is not only impossible to sleep but life during the day is terrible. I spoke to a policeman who had been drafted from Bexleyheath yesterday and was shocked at how much per minute it costs to run a helicopter. During these times of severe financial restraint, it is obscene that this is happening”
“In the past month or more the helicopters have been hovering directly above our homes day and night. On the local social media it has gone viral. People are appallingly disturbed whilst trying to sleep, work from home, in their sick beds or simply trying to make themselves heard to family members. It is outrageous.”
“The steadily increasing noise from helicopters day and night is quite unacceptable. They fly so low that the windows rattle and for me, among others, they are a threatening reminder of my childhood in WW2. We are supposed to have the right to the peaceful enjoyment of our properties, but apparently that excludes helicopters”
We are taking up this issue with the Planning Enforcement Team:
“The QPark conversion to offices was retrospectively granted permission in Feb 2019 along with a landscaping order. I had to repeatedly pursue them via Enforcement, but we still have no landscaping. The closest they came was to put up some small boxes (with what appeared to be plastic plants but not confirmed) and one fell down the next day. They removed them all, and nothing has been done since.”
Vic Keegan writes about the site of the Strand Palace Hotel
10pm pub curfew
We are concerned that the pub curfew creates a crush onto the streets and onto public transport at 10pm and this undermines the potential public health benefits of such a move. We are also concerned that local off-licenses are still able to sell alcohol which allows people to stay drinking on crowded streets.
At present, the 10pm curfew is creating further pressure on the hard-pressed hospitality industry without delivering the desired benefits for public health or for local residents. We would like to see more powers to manage the situation be devolved to local councils, including greater control over off-sales and premises closures to help manage the situation more effectively for all concerned.
West End businesses
Shaftesbury, one of the biggest landlords in the West End, has said it had received only 41% of the rent for the six months to 30 September. It is also struggling to re-let flats, with 20% of its 662 apartments currently empty. Shaftesbury said across the West End, many landlords who usually let out their flats on a short-term basis or to serviced apartment operators, were trying to find long-term tenants. “This has resulted in a near-term over-supply of apartments to let, causing some downward pressure on rents,” it said.
The Berwick Street Cloth Shop
We were very disappointed and sad to hear that the Berwick Street Cloth Shop has closed: https://twitter.com/BerW1ckStMarket/status/1313403538345799686
The Berwick Street Cloth Shop was an established local shop that had served Soho well for many years.
We have asked the Council to lobby the Government to be given additional powers to access private vaults below public highways when vaults collapse and owners refuse access. D’Arblay Street has been closed off for roughly three years now. The impact has been bad both for residents and businesses. Currently the process is very slow and we believe there should be emergency powers the Council can use to access private vaults when owners refuse access and where it is clearly in the public interests to make emergency repairs.
After a resident complained to us about a redundant street pole in Wardour Street, it has now come back into use as a Pedestrian Zone sign
The yellow box junction in Piccadilly near the Ritz Hotel is the most lucrative ‘earner’ in the country. In 2018/19 the junction was responsible for 4.595 fines (PCNs) raising £333,295 for the Council. The Council say:
“Our reason for enforcing this box junction is that there is consistently high levels of non-compliance with the moving traffic regulations at this location (i.e. vehicles stopping on the box junction). Vehicles stopping on box junctions can be hazardous, causes congestion, and increases journey time across London. Our goal is to reduce said non-compliance and the only effective tool we have at our disposal is traffic enforcement cameras. In the previous financial year, 2017/18, there were 6,416 PCNs issued to motorists at the junction. This drop in PCN volumes by approximately a third, when considering how busy this particular stretch of road is, implies that the strategy is having some effect on non-compliance at the location.”
A missing street sign has been replaced on Jermyn Street after this was not picked up on Report It. Another street sign has also been replaced in Victoria Street outside the Duke of York pub.
Vic Keegan writes about ‘the medieval city of vineyards’
The Grosvenor Estate has announced new proposals for Grosvenor Square “to transform it into a thriving place for people and nature” https://grosvenorsquare.org
We are continuing to assist tenants and leaseholders in Holcroft Court with various issues and concerns.
We have asked the Street Lighting Team to increase the number of lights in Wythburn Place where there have been many incidents of Anti-Social Behaviour and crime in the mews. The police believe that improved lighting will deter criminals and others intent on illegal activities.
We are helping residents in Knox Street who are concerned about the increase in traffic using the street as a ‘rat run’. Residents are also concerned that the plans to extend and refurbish the former BHS building will further increase traffic.
Marylebone House, Marylebone Road
Beltane Assets have posted up their second stage of online consultation for the redevelopment of Marylebone House and are inviting comments on their proposal. It runs until the 21 October: http://marylebonehouse.co.uk. If you have any further comments on the proposals, they invite you to share them via the ‘Have Your Say’ section of the website, or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Any feedback will be considered before they submit their planning application to WCC. One of the main issues of concerns for residents is that the increased size of the new building will lead to an unsustainable level of traffic in the area.
Following our enquiries about the Installation of and internally illuminated fascia sign and projecting sign at 14 Melcombe Street, the Planning Enforcement Team tell us:
“An inspection of the property and an examination of the City Council’s planning records revealed that internally illuminated advertisements were being displayed at the property without express advertisement consent from the City Council, and was therefore unauthorised. An application submitted for the retention of the two signs was refused advertisement consent on 23rd March 2020. The owner has provided written verification that the illumination to both signs had been disconnected and would no longer be used, and it was verified at a site inspection on 11th August 2020 that the signs were not illuminated”
Edgware Road begging
We have asked the Council to investigate this continuing issue:
“I often go to the Waitrose on Edgware Road opposite the Water Gardens, at 8am on Saturdays. On the west side of the road is an encampment, or rather two, who start packing up just before 8am. There must be 10 or 12 of them sleeping rough. They are clearly a gang as I encounter them begging along different stretches of Edgware Road.
These are not homeless people, but a gang. I watched one of them carry a mattress down Burwood Place, turn left into Park West Place and dump it on the corner. I challenged him as he returned, but he ignored me. I’ve twice seen one of the women walk down Burwood Place and turn right into Norfolk Crescent and dumping something behind a wall.
This has been going on all year, and probably longer. Apart from the fact that they are probably up to no good, they put people off donating to the genuinely homeless people who lie in doorways along Edgware Road. There must be hygiene issues too. I am no xenophobe, but don’t understand how these gangs can get away with anti-social behaviour over many months.”
Water Gardens, Hyde Park Estate
We are pleased that the Water Gardens on the Hyde Park Estate have now been registered as Grade II listed.
We continue to support the Paddington Walk leaseholders and their campaign to end the cladding scandal. It is time for the Government to keep their promise to leaseholders and provide the necessary financial help.
Montgomery House, Paddington Basin
Following our enquiries to the Parking Team about confusing parking bay markings, the Parking Team tell us “it is agreed that the bays markings are not clearly defined and work will now be undertaken to correct these as soon as possible. Both PCNs have now been cancelled”.
We are supporting residents who want to stop the felling of a plane tree in the rear garden of a property in Wilton Place. The tree has been there for many years and residents say “I have known this tree for over 30 years and it seriously does lead a majesty and a beauty to the street & the neighbourhood”.
Warm Homes Discount Scheme
You could get £140 off your electricity bill for winter 2020 to 2021 under the Warm Home Discount Scheme. The Warm Home Discount Scheme for winter 2020 to 2021 will open on 12 October 2020. The money is a one-off discount on your electricity bill, between September and March. See here for more details https://www.gov.uk/the-warm-home-discount-scheme
Jobs and Skills
Microsoft and LinkedIn have produced a free programme to help those looking for a job and learn new skills
If you’re between 18-24 and looking at building a new skill that is in high demand, Westminster Wheels offers a paid six-month programme in cycle mechanics. By joining the project, you will be able to (1) learn how to refurbish unwanted bikes and provide affordable high-quality bikes for Westminster residentsand (2) get a training and employment experience to help prepare you for a career in the growing cycle industry.
Bus and Tube fares
We have started a petition to call for the reinstatement of free travel for under 18s https://action.labour.org.uk/page/s/keep-free-travel
We are making enquiries with the Council about this issue:
“When walking down Oxford Street and nearby streets, I am becoming scared of the number of ‘near-misses‘ with cyclists/electric scooters. They are weaving in and out of pedestrians on the pavement, riding the wrong way up one-way streets, going through red lights at speed – I just worry that it will not always be a near miss. I have never seen a policeman stop a cyclist/electric scooter for dangerous riding.”
Voting by post
Voting by post is an easy and convenient way of voting. You can use this form to apply to vote
You can email your completed form to email@example.com or post it to Electoral Services, Westminster City Council, 14th Floor City Hall, 64 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 6QP.
You can now read the ‘Westminster Extra’ online https://edition.pagesuite.com/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?pubname=&pubid=09649383-4dbb-4a3d-b164-9d26398578f3
Refuse collection and Recycling collection times
Recycling bags can be ordered from https://webforms.westminster.gov.uk/order-recycling-bags/
Bags will be delivered within approximately 48 hours of order.
You can check when refuse and recycling is collected from your street here http://transact.westminster.gov.uk/env/streetsearch.aspx
The doorstep recycling service concentrates on the recyclable materials most commonly produced by houses so that these can be easily separated into the different material types. The link below summarises what can be put in recycling bags
Lots of other materials can be recycled but not through the doorstep collection service. The A-Z list below gives details of what and where items can be recycled or re-used:
Also, here are details of 9 companies that reward you for donating unwanted things, from H&M to M&S https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/worklife/g15049323/brands-reward-throwing-things-away/
You can report dumped rubbish, broken pavements, defective street lights and more on the Report It service. https://www.westminster.gov.uk/report-it
You can register here https://www.fixmystreet.com/alert for alerts of everything reported in your area (just use your post code and it will offer you options).
Coronavirus (Covid-19) UPDATE
Volunteer to help find the vaccine for COVID-19
You can be part of the fightback against the virus by volunteering to be contacted by researchers to take part in COVID-19 vaccine research. There are a number of vaccines being identified and safety-tested at the moment, but only large-scale studies can give researchers the information needed about how effective they are.
The NIHR is working with the NHS and aims to recruit half a million people onto the registry by October, which will allow people to be put in touch with the vaccine studies in the coming months. Researchers are looking for people from all backgrounds, ages and parts of the UK – including both people with or without existing health conditions – to take part in vaccine studies, to make sure that any vaccines developed will work for everyone.
The service is available to anyone aged 18 or over, living in the UK. There is no obligation to join in any study, if you are contacted. But by taking part, you could help researchers find vaccines to protect us all more quickly – which in turn could help the NHS and save lives. You can sign up here https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/research/coronavirus-vaccine-research/
Westminster Council’s advice and response website:
Westminster Connects COVID-19 phone line – 020 7641 1222
Beware the Coronavirus scammers
Help for small businesses
For details of how small businesses can get access to Government financial assistance.
Hyde Park road closures – what you say
“I think the new scheme for Hyde Park road closures is completely nonsensical. All it actually accomplishes is extra pollution and too much traffic. Cyclists and walkers are not going to cycle or walk on the roads. Cyclists have their dedicated lanes and walkers can walk on the pavements or through the park – which is usually quicker and more pleasant. There is absolutely no need for these closures other than to discourage motorists from driving. The government can’t expect people to return to work and school if it is difficult to access work and school. As much as I too would like to discourage the unnecessary use of cars this is not the time to do so. “
“Please don’t let them close the Hyde Park roads to cars. Whenever this happens there is a terrible back up in Knightsbridge particularly causing completely unnecessary fumes and frustration.”
“It is not only on weekends that South Carriage Drive is being shut but also during the week as well. There seems to be no reason for this”
Sirens – what you say
“I would concur with the ambulances with their sirens blasting at 3am. Just behind Millbank Estate, tucked in where the gas works used to be, there is an ambulance station and the nightly sound of sirens has plagued us for many years as they drive through the estate and down John Islip Street and start their sirens. The roads are empty of traffic. Getting the noise team out would not work. So, thank you for taking this up for us.”
What you say
“Thank you for the wide coverage of topics and best wishes”
“Thanks for another excellent newsletter!”
“Thanks for your newsy newsletter. It must take a great deal of work.”
“I always look forward to reading your email newsletter”
“Keep up the good work”
“Thank you for such a good and full newsletter. The Labour Party is doing so much work for its residents in this area it’s much appreciated”
“Thank you for the newsletter which I always read to see what’s going on for other residents around Westminster”
“I read (as always, with gratitude) the latest Newsletter and all that you and the whole Labour Team have been doing to help people and causes.”
“Delighted to see that you are addressing the future in your newsletter rather than most who seem to be pretending nothing has/will change. Like you, I think there’s a huge opportunity to repurpose empty space to encourage a more local economy and provide essential, affordable housing for front line workers. I’m a big fan of Hildago’s vision for a ‘fifteen-minute city’ and have been discussing with others how that might work in London”
“Thankyou also for your newsletter – I really appreciate the time you take both to address issues raised and to keep us all posted on on-going local issues”
“Thank you so much for everything you do”
“You do get things done, impressive. Thank you”
Please let us know if we can be of help or assistance on any local issues.
Please keep safe, stay well and look after yourself and your neighbours.
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg
Labour City Management spokesperson
Westminster City Council
Labour Councillors can be contacted as follows
Churchill Ward – For full details of ways to contact Councillor Andrea Mann and Councillor Shamim Talukder, please see the Churchill Labour website
You can read Andrea and Shamim’s latest news here
West End Ward – You can contact Councillor Pancho Lewis by email or telephone.