PIMLICO, SOHO, MARYLEBONE AND WEST END LABOUR ACTION REPORT – December 2020
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.
If you know of anyone else who might like to receive this report, please send them this sign-up link http://bit.ly/signuplabnews
NEWS AND ACTION
Churchill Gardens – Darwin House and Balmoral Castle proposals
Westminster Council’s planning application for the redevelopment of Darwin House and the Balmoral Castle site on Churchill Gardens has now gone live on its planning portal. You can view the Council’s full proposals – and leave your views and comments about the plans – at www.westminster.gov.uk/planning, using the reference/search term 20/06899/COFUL.
Churchill Labour councillors have raised the concerns of Shelley House residents and others over the proposed height of the tallest block. We will always welcome the creation of any new social housing in Westminster, including the creation of improved and extra community supported housing – and we welcome a local lettings policy which will give Churchill Gardens residents priority on this scheme. But will we continue to reiterate to the Council that we believe all new housing built on Churchill Gardens should be social housing.
We are taking up the case of an elderly resident who was left without heating for 10 days. We have called on the Housing Department to take action on this catalogue of failures by the Council’s contractors:
“An upstairs flat burst a radiator pipe and water was pouring out over the balcony on 4th November. It took two days for Morgan Sindall to attend to this. Morgan Sindall came to the flats and turned the heating off to stop the water overflowing. Only because we demanded it they left two pathetic 2 kw fan heaters to heat a two bedroom Flat. They then left promising to fix everything.
They haven’t done anything to fix or turn back the heating on. On 16th November, I contacted the Council as it had been ten days without heat. It turned out that there was no record of any report or action planned to solve the issue of burst radiator/no heating. Another job requisition was made and Morgan Sindall said they would just turn the heating back on, despite the fact that the water would flow again.
Despite Morgan Sindall promising, at 6pm tonight there is still no heating and the out of hours customer services advisor has said that they visited the block but ‘needed to go away for a part’.”
Following our enquiries, we received this message: “My Mother just called me to let me know that the heating has just come back on. She asked me to thank you for helping her in making this happen so please accept this email as her thanks (and mine). It’s good to know we can rely on our conscientious Labour councillors to make sure WCC are held to account”
We have received the following update from the Parking Team about Tesco vans parking on the zig-zag lines by the zebra crossing on Lupus Street:
“Our Marshals can only issue PCNs if they are on-site when the vehicles are parked in contravention. Where necessary, they will also engage with delivery staff and management, reminding them to avoid parking on the Zig-Zag lines, at all times. The Store management are aware of the residents’ concerns and to operate without causing a nuisance.
Our recommendation to residents is to continue to highlight any instances. Report It; or 020 7641 2000 are the best methods of contact and we will continue to do everything possible to limit any further disruption.”
Ebury Food Surplus
Like many local people, we were concerned to hear of fears over the future of Ebury Food Surplus – the food bank run by volunteers from Ebury Bridge Estate which brings vital food and supplies to local residents and families in need. We raised these concerns with Westminster Council and asked for their commitment to continue supporting the vital work of Ebury Food Surplus.
We’re pleased that the Council has now underscored its support for the food bank, including assisting them with finding a new base (due to the building work on Ebury).
We will always stand up for vital local community services like food banks and do whatever we can to help safeguard their future. Thanks to Mike Smith and the team at Ebury Food Surplus for the brilliant work you do!
Pimlico Food Waste recycling
The Waste and Recycling Team is encouraging residents living in the following housing estates in Pimlico to encourage participation in the food waste recycling trial:
- Churchill Gardens Estate
- Lumley flats
- Peabody Avenue and Close
- Vauxhall Bridge Road Peabody Estate
- Tachbrook Estate
“It’s one year since our food waste recycling trial started on your estate and we wanted to thank you and give an update on the trial. We have collected over 270 tonnes of food to be recycled from all the properties included in the trial. Any food collected to be recycled is taken to an anaerobic digestion facility in Hertfordshire. This plant uses the food waste to produce biogas (used to generate electricity and heat) and bio-fertiliser which is used on local farmland.
Unfortunately, food is still being thrown out in the rubbish. Please recycle all of your food waste! Need more food waste liners or a silver kitchen bin? We provide these for free. Please email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org to order.”
We continue to be contacted by Sanctuary Housing tenants about the mismanagement of their flats and the failure to do essential repairs, upkeep and maintenance. We have called on the City Council to mount a full investigation of Sanctuary properties in the Pimlico area and to take all the necessary action to require Sanctuary to do outstanding repairs.
This month we reported appalling conditions in a house in St George’s Drive and asked for immediate action to undertake a long list of outstanding repairs. The Council’s Environmental Health team told us:
“A surveyor has been arranged to attend as a matter of urgency to measure the door and frame, with a view to fitting a replacement as soon as practicable. Sanctuary have also arranged a general survey of the building to report back on any other repairs and maintenance issues. Any identified works are due to be carried out as a matter of urgency. Sanctuary also advise that a deep clean to the building is been arranged and the local housing officer will be taking action to remove the items left on the terrace. Environmental Health will continue to request updates on these items of work as they are carried out. “
A Sanctuary tenant in Denbigh Place told us:
“Thank you for all of the updates I’m very pleased that the lighting has finally been fixed and that I can vouch for! Thank you so much for your assistance and support”
We have asked the Planning Department for an update on when the long-standing vacant properties in Castle Lane will be refurbished and brought back in to residential use for people in housing need. The Planners tell us:
“LandSec have now appointed Notting Hill Genesis as the Registered Provider for the 86 affordable units in 2-4 Castle Lane and for the 2 additional shared ownership affordable units in 45 Palace Street. That should now mean they move to the detailed design stage and discharging of conditions.”
Vic Keegan writes about The Gas Light and Coke Company at Horseferry Road
You can give your views on the Council’s proposals for Villiers Street
The Gentle Author writes about Henry Croft, “the man below Trafalgar Square”
‘My London’ reports:
“The last trader still standing on Soho’s historic Berwick Street Market has accused Westminster Council of trying to “get rid of us”. The 18th century food market has been hit by a double whammy of low footfall during the coronavirus pandemic, and an unexpected 20 per cent hike in pitch fees charged by the council. Robin Smith chairs the Berwick Street Traders’ Society and is a co-founder of the Soho Dairy stall which began trading in 2015. As of this week, his stall was the only one left out of 20 that usually trade in a part of central London usually populated by tourists and office workers.
“It’s a colossal impact but we’re determined to get through this,” said Mr Smith. “The fruit and veg stall closed last week and they’ve been here 60 years. It’s a terribly worrying sign.” He went on: “The council increased our pitch fees and backdated them by three months, from June. Legally, the council is only allowed to charge fees in order to cover its own costs, but we have no way of proving whether they’re charging too much. I think the only reason they would want to raise the fees in this instance is to get rid of us.”
You can read more here MyLondon
We are continuing to press the Council to U-turn on their decision to increase fees for Berwick Street market traders in the midst of a pandemic. However, decision-makers in the Council are determined to continue with their approach despite the harm it is doing. There is now only one stall left on Berwick Street.
Berwick Street – change of hours for cleansing vehicles
In the last Action Report, we reported that noisy street cleaning vehicles starting at 6am had stopped after we raised concerns about the impact it had on residents. A resident has written to say:
“So, it’s YOU who has been enabling me to sleep till 7.30 instead of being awoken at 6am by the rubbish trucks on Berwick Street! I had no idea why I have recently been able to sleep so much better, but your Newsheet made it clear. I am so grateful. Please keep it at 7.30.”
State of Soho
Andrew Murray, Soho resident, asks ‘Will the Tiers end in tears?”
We raised this issue with the Council’s neighbourhood coordinator for antisocial behaviour:
“There is an on-going problem with drug dealing and drug usage centred on Newman Passage which runs between Rathbone Street and Newman Street. I have had to make several reports to the police over the last few months. The police are limited in what they can do over the long term and have suggested that I contact the council.”
The following action has been taken:
“I have asked the local dedicated ward officer with patrol of they will be changing their shift to incorporate this patrol and monitoring of the area. Secondly the team will be investigating the lights to see if they are all in working order”.
The resident replied to say:
“Thanks for the update, those steps should certainly help. In the meantime, the good news is that I haven’t noticed any further dubious activity since the new lock-down started.”
‘Fitzrovia News’ carries an update report on residents’ two-year battle with their housing association A2 Dominion over design and maintenance problems at their new homes at Rathbone Square.
Two memorial plaques commemorating members of the Auxillary Fire Service have now been unveiled on the site of a former fire station in Rathbone Street, following a memorial service held earlier this year. You can read the story here:
Great Portland Street
The Great Portland Street post office is to remain ‘crown’ branch after the Post Office’s franchise plan is put on hold. You can read about this here https://fitzrovianews.com/2020/11/25/great-portland-street-post-office-to-remain-crown-branch-after-franchise-plan-put-on-hold/
Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Plan
According to ‘Fitzrovia News’, the Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum has been working on a number of fronts to bring about improvements to the area, despite delays caused by the two lockdowns. The neighbourhood plan was subject to a further round of consultation over the summer and is now being considered by an Examiner appointed by Westminster City Council. The Forum is in discussion with the Council’s planners to iron out any differences and to agree a ‘statement of common ground’. This will enable the Examiner to review the plan, recommend any further changes and enable the referendum to go ahead. As a result of the pandemic, this cannot happen before the 6 May 2021. You can read more in Fitzrovia News
Councillor Pancho Lewis raised this issue with Highways:
“As you may know Waverton Street is a one-way street exiting into South Street in front of the main entry/exit gates to St. Georges School, As you approach West Street there is a road traffic sign on the left hand side of Waveton Street that warns of children crossing the street. The sign is not fit for purpose as it faces the wrong way, it is facing towards West Street, it should be facing the opposite way towards the traffic coming up Waverton Street. For the safety of the children of St. Georges School please can you get the road sign turned so that it faces the right direction.”
The issue was fixed and residents responded with the following:
“The road traffic sign in Waverton Street that was facing the wrong way has now been turned and is facing the correct way. Many thanks to Pancho and the highways team for their speedy work in getting the sign sorted.”
Councillor Pancho Lewis took up this issue with the Council:
“I’ve checked my clock the last couple of nights and can confirm the dustbin truck tends to come between 4 – 430am to collect the bags from the spot marked yellow on this map below. It would be so good if we could make this happen at a more human hour.”
The time for collection has now been changed to 11am. The resident has written back to say:
“I just wanted to let you know that for the last three nights the dump truck has come to pick up from the bins at 11pm – with no other visits during the night. We are incredibly grateful.”
Dave Hill’s ‘On London’ blog has an article on Grosvenor Square’s US connections https://www.onlondon.co.uk/london-america-and-grosvenor-square-1968/
Marylebone High Street
We have asked the local Police Safer Neighbourhood Team to investigate reports from residents about anti-social behavior in Marylebone High Street.
Marylebone House, Marylebone Road
“We’re currently facing a new planning application from Beltane Assets to redevelop Marylebone House, 129-137 Marylebone Road, NW1 5QD (BHS as was). They want to convert it into a much larger office block and turn the 1960’s garage into an office. The size of the development is going to significantly change the nature of our local community by introducing more commercial space, traffic and pollution into Wyndham Street, York Street, Knox Street, Upper Montagu Street and Enford Street.
Unfortunately, WCC failed to send out the mandatory ‘consultation letters’ to residents in the area, leaving many people unaware that they had to register their views in a short space of time, if they wanted to change the development.
We are very grateful for the prompt action you took to ensure that a new consultation letter with a new objection date has been sent to notify residents of this planning application. Without your help, many residents would have remained unaware of the project, particularly those who are currently having to self-isolate. Thank you.”
The planning reference for this development is: 20/06929/FULL. For further details or to enter a comment, go to:
You can read about the sky-high £23,000 a year service charges residents are being asked to pay at the new flats at One Seymour Street
Please let us know if you have any similar experiences.
Work by Transport for London to introduce ‘green man’ crossings on side roads at the junction of Upper Berkeley Street, Connaught Street and Edgware Road started at the beginning of December 2020 and include the following safety improvements:
- New pedestrian crossings, with green and red man signals
- The addition of countdown timers to new crossings
- Providing new Advanced Stop Lines (cycle boxes) for cyclists.
The green man crossings are part of an extensive package of junction improvements along Edgware Road, announced in April 2019. To date new crossings have been introduced at junctions with Seymour Street, George Street/Kendal Street, Sussex Gardens and Harrow Road below the Marylebone Flyover.
We have asked the Council’s Refuse Team to investigate reports of rubbish dumping at the corner of Ivor Place and Gloucester Place.
Hyde Park Estate Low Traffic Neighbourhood
There are divided views on the Council’s proposals for a Low Traffic Neighbourhood for the Hyde Park Estate as this article reports https://londonnewsonline.co.uk/mixed-views-over-westminster-low-traffic-neighbourhood/
As a result, the Council says:
“There have been many comments from across the community and, while there is a recognition that the volume of traffic passing through the area is an issue, it is clear there is not a consensus in support of the proposed scheme. We acknowledge the concerns that have been raised, and we have made the decision not to progress with the proposed Low Traffic Neighbourhood.
What is clear from many of the comments received before and during the engagement, is that there is a problem with rat running through the Hyde Park Estate area, and that some intervention is needed to manage the through traffic. On that basis, we acknowledge that more work is needed to assess what measures might be possible, and acceptable. Therefore, we will continue to work with residents and local businesses to identify such measures to deliver improvements to the area.”
Tackling the Housing Crisis
West End Ward Councillor Pancho Lewis writes about ‘Tackling the Environmental and Housing Crisis: The Case for Green Homes’:
The NHS Blood and Transplant service is appealing for donations from people who have recovered from coronavirus to help save lives as London moves from “medium” to “high” alert. Donating blood plasma is a simple procedure and very similar to giving a normal blood donation but the red blood cells are returned to the patient and the process takes a little longer.
The nearest donor centre is at 26 Margaret Street, Fitzrovia. W1. Anyone who has had coronavirus, either a test result or the symptoms, can offer to donate by calling 0300 123 23 23 or visitinghttps://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk to arrange an appointment to donate.
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 residents and (2) get a training and employment experience to help prepare you for a career in the growing cycle industry.
‘Early Voting’ – Voting by post
Voting by post is an easy and convenient way of voting. Millions of people in the USA used a postal vote to vote early. You can do it, too. You can use this form to apply to vote by post
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
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).
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg has written a new book, Building the New Jerusalem: How Attlee’s Government Built 1 Million New Homes.
The book explains how Labour went about its task of building homes and fulfilling post-war housing aspirations; how it dealt with the post-war scarcity of materials and labour and how it dealt with the dire economic situation and other ‘events’. The book also includes suggestions as to how a future Labour Government might go about the task of rebuilding Britain’s housing infrastructure following the next General Election.
The book is available in paperback and Kindle format
All royalties from sales of the book will be donated to Foodbanks in Westminster.
Coronavirus (Covid-19) UPDATE
NHS Responders and Westminster Connects
Residents have raised with us that there is a shortage locally of NHS responders (volunteers) to support residents who are self-isolating with tasks such as picking up prescriptions from chemists. We were also told that Westminster Connects (the Westminster council service that supports residents during lockdown) was also not supporting residents with such tasks as they were thought to be the responsibility of NHS responders. However, after we raised this issue with them, Westminster Connects officers confirmed that their volunteer team would now pick up prescriptions for residents so there should not be any more difficulties in the future.
Test and Trace Support Payments
You may be entitled to a Test and Trace Support Payment of £500 if you are self-isolating because of COVID-19 and you are either employed or self-employed. The payment is to support people on low incomes who are unable to work from home if they are told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace and lose income as a result.
Westminster Council’s advice and response website:
Westminster Connects COVID-19 phone line – 020 7641 1222
Beware the Coronavirus scammers
Help and Advice for businesses
For details of how businesses can get access to Government financial assistance https://www.westminster.gov.uk/coronavirus-advice-businesses
Cundy Street development plans – what you say
“With all the uncertainties posed by the virus, is this really the best of times to think about uprooting communities as postulated in the Grosvenor Estate’s overall Planning proposals?”
What you say
“Thank you for your regular updates”
“Thank you for the Action Report. Congratulations to the Labour Party for electing a leader that does not cause terror to some of us.”
“Many thanks for another Newsletter full of important information, all achieved despite the difficulties of the lock down.”
“I am immensely grateful, as always, to receive your newsletters and to read of the enormous amount of work you are doing for residents throughout Pimlico, Marylebone, Soho and the West End.”
“I don’t know what we would do without the Labour Team, but I feel more and more as though Labour Councillors are battering on the closed doors of a Council who simply do what they like and to Hell with residents.”
“Thank you for your very useful newsletter and for the work you do on our behalf.”
“Thank you so much for the update which makes for a very interesting read. I am delighted that some meaningful progress is now at last being made at last thanks for your wonderful help and assistance.”
“Thank you so much! We couldn’t have done this without you.”
Please let us know if we can be of help or assistance on any local issues.
Please feel free to pass this report to your neighbours. If you know of anyone else who might like to receive this report, please send them this sign-up link http://bit.ly/signuplabnews
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
West End Ward – You can contact Councillor Pancho Lewis by email or telephone.