PIMLICO, SOHO, MARYLEBONE AND WEST END LABOUR ACTION REPORT – January 2021
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. You can read our latest news on https://www.westminsterlabour.org.uk
Please let us know if we can be of help or assistance on any local issues.
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NEWS AND ACTION
Darwin House and Balmoral Castle
Churchill Gardens residents have written to us to explain their opposition to the Council’s proposals for Darwin House and Balmoral Castle:
“It is not just the scale and location of the proposed new blocks to which we object. It is also the phasing of the works to accommodate the Darwin House residents’ desire to only move once. In consequence, the adjacent blocks are going to have a noisy, polluting building site next to them, affecting their quiet enjoyment of their properties, for far longer than would otherwise be necessary.
I also think that Councillor Robathan gave some general assurances to residents last year that the disruption to their lives would be kept to a minimum. It would appear, prima facie, that such assurances are about to be dishonoured.”
Residents also say:
“I agree that creating high rise development on the Churchill Gardens Estate is not a good a good idea. Urban canyoning causes a cold, dark, draughty environment. The same population density can be achieved in other ways.”
Chelsea Bridge Road
Following our enquiries over many months, we have received the following update from the Highways Team about the additional bus stop on Chelsea Bridge Road:
“I wanted to update you with regards to the new permanent bus stop and why it had not yet been installed. Our initial plan was to install lining and flag in November, however made sense to coordinate with RBKC proposed resurfacing works in December. Unfortunately, this resurfacing work has now been placed on hold so we have reverted back to plan ‘A’ and install markings/signage which is scheduled for January.”
Grosvenor Rail Bridge
We have again asked the Council to clear rubbish and graffiti from the area around the Grosvenor Rail Bridge. Residents say:
“I walked past the site last week and the rubbish is still there. Would it be also possible to push for some rubbish bins by the benches on the riverside further down the road? There’s often rubbish placed on the floor by the benches which could get blown into the river. There’s also quite a bit of graffiti around by the bridge too. “
Longleat House – heating
At the request of residents, we contacted the Housing Office about the inadequate heating at Longleat House. Residents say:
“The communal heating at Longleat House has been turned down to the bare minimum by Westminster Council, without any consolation or warning. This sudden, thoughtless and unkind move is completely unacceptable, especially at this time of year, especially with covid being present in the community and the threat of flu present. The correct level of heating needs to be returned to normal forthwith and if there is a problem with the heating system in general it also needs to be repaired.”
Following our enquiries, the Housing Office told us:
“The repairs team attended today and confirmed that there were issues with the TRVs (thermostatic radiator valves) in the home. They were freed and the heating is now working.”
We are also helping residents at Longleat House following a water leak which flooded a flat and the flats below.
We are supporting residents in West Mews who are opposing proposals to build a basement and add another storey to an existing house in the mews.
London Tree Walks features a walk entitled, ‘Architectural Utopias Among The Trees: A Pimlico Circular’, guides walkers through the Millbank and Churchill Gardens Estates. This blog from ‘Municipal Dreams’ looks at how trees have been used in planned housing developments since the end of the nineteenth century with particular focus on the Pimlico Estates.
Mozart Terrace/Cundy Street
Residents in Mozart Terrace living opposite the proposed redevelopment of Cundy Street Flats are very concerned about the development plans and their impact on their sunlight and daylight. You can read more here:
We are pleased that, following representations from residents and ourselves, the Planning Sub Committee refused consent to the application to remove the London plane from the rear garden of 27 Wilton Place.
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. This month we have reported long-outstanding repairs to a flat in Denbigh Place and a botched repair of a front door in St George’s Drive which required the Fire Brigade to attend to let residents out of the building. Residents say:
“I would like to thank you for your help with the entrance door at St. George’s Drive, which now has been fixed. We are waiting for the intercom to be connected, however, the big job is done. A huge thank you on behalf of all residents and myself.”
“What has been the cost of Covid for Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s?”, asks Joshua Neicho
Strand Aldwych project
The Council has issued an update on the proposals to make the Aldwych a “traffic-free public space”:
Swift action by West End Labour Councillor Pancho Lewis ensured that a potential health risk posed by a mass gathering of Patti Smith fans in Piccadilly Circus, to see a 10-minute virtual performance by the singer and her band on New Year’s Eve, did not go ahead.
Weekend closure of Regent Street to traffic
We urged the Council to take action to stop a repeat of the situation in Regent Street following the closure of Regent Street to traffic in early December when pictures like these were taken. There were also very significant issues with gridlock in Soho which was particularly worrying because it would be almost impossible for emergency vehicles to access Soho. Of course, we need to support businesses on Regent Street and elsewhere, but we need to ensure this does not create a serious risk of the virus transmission going up and access to Soho for emergency vehicles.
We are supporting the Soho Society’s response to this very unsatisfactory situation
Councillor Pancho Lewis has written to the Leader of the Council to repeat his call for an independent inquiry into the disastrous development in Berwick Street which has badly affected the lives of Kemp House residents and destroyed Berwick Street market. He says
“In autumn 2018, I ran a community-backed petition urging the Council to launch an independent and full review into the Berwick St development debacle. The Council said that a review would be carried out, but only once the development had been completed – the argument being that a review risked delaying completion of the development further. That seemed reasonable enough an argument, providing that there genuinely was the intention to carry one out in due course.
We now appear to be getting close to the end of the development, and residents are keen that plans are put together to so the review can happen soon in the new year. When can we expect to it to start please? The development deserves scrutiny and there are a lot of unanswered questions about why such a damaging development was allowed to go ahead.”
Residents posted images of people urinating on Hopkins Street. Councillor Pancho Lewis took this up with the Council and signs have been put up and better provision of toilets is being investigated. The City Inspectors told us:
“City Inspectors visited Hopkins Street early this morning and erected ‘No Urination’ signage in Ingestre Place, Hopkins Street and Peter Street at the junction of Greens Court. Hopkins Street is flushed as per Veolia’s cleansing schedule, however I’m also informed there may be a portable toilet facility placed in Peter Street just after the junction with Hopkins Street at weekends to combat urination.”
Someone of Soho exhibition
Councillor Pancho Lewis was included in Richard Piercy’s Someone of Soho 2.0 exhibition. Richard says:
“Whilst Crossrail delayed and dithered I was offered the opportunity to have a show at W1Curates on the Flannels building on the corner of Poland and Oxford St. I accepted immediately! There’s 100 images on display until 13th December.”
The Council has launched a new website for the ‘Oxford Street District’ https://osd.london/about/
Rathbone Place residents have seen their service charge increase by 270 per cent in a single year. You can read about it here
We are helping residents in Holcroft Court with long-standing repairs issues. We have also asked the Housing Office to remove stolen Santander bikes which have been dumped by the recycling bins.
A resident wrote to us with the following issue:
“On 07.10.20 I reported an abandoned bicycle in Foley Street. It’s still there, I’m sorry to say. It’s in the bike racks on Foley Street outside Almost Saturday cafe. A maroon bike with a basket on the front. Perhaps you can push this in the right direction?”
We took it up and, after following up more than once, the abandoned bicycle was finally removed. The resident reported back: “Success! The bike has been removed! Thanks very much for your help.”
Bikehangers in Fitzrovia
The Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Forum has called for bicycle parking hangars in Riding House Street, Langham Street, Hanson Street and Gosfield Street and we are supporting them. Council Transport officers told us:
“Your suggestions have been logged and we will review along our full cycle parking suggestions list for our next batch of cycle hangars roll-out.”
West End history
You can read a review of London’s West End: Creating the Pleasure District 1800-1914, by Rohan McWilliam here https://fitzrovianews.com/2020/12/01/a-history-of-londons-west-end-from-a-place-of-aristocratic-consumption-to-a-centre-of-popular-entertainment-and-expression/
‘Fitzrovia News’ includes an extended review of The Survey of London’s latest volume which is devoted to Oxford Street. “The Survey, founded in 1894, is a research project to produce a comprehensive architectural survey of central London and its suburbs. In this third look at the book, we focus on Oxford Street Nos. 134–162, from Wells Street to Winsley Street.”
Regent Street/Hanover Street
We have asked the Council to explain this issue
“Could you please ask the council why they have extended the pavements on the west side of Regent Street (from Hanover Street to Oxford Circus) only to place several large planters on the new part (even some of the old part) of the pavement. This renders additional social distancing impossible and further creates a low-level hazard for pedestrians which is not easily visible when crowds are large. It would be helpful to understand what seems like their irrational action. “
Abercrombie & Fitch will close its flagship Savile Row store by the end of January 2021, before its lease expires.
The Audley, Mount Street/South Audley Street
The Grosvenor Estate has issued the following update on The Audley:
“We’re delighted to announce that Artfarm, the independent hospitality company behind Somerset’s Roth Bar & Grill and The Fife Arms in Braemar, will now be running our beloved pub, The Audley. In Artfarm, we have a partner with clear sustainability and community values that match our own.
Built in 1888, The Audley was designed by Thomas Verity, the man who designed the exterior of the pavilion at Lord’s Cricket Ground. Luis Laplace, Argentinian architect is the architect for the project. Laplace is renovating the Grade II listed building, restoring many of the original historic features lost due to bomb damage in the Second World War. The renovation of the five-storey building is provisionally set to be completed in autumn 2022, with the pub re-opening to the community with the addition of a restaurant and rooms.”
Sue Blundell writes about meeting the goddess Hygeia on Hallam Street
Vic Keegan writes about ‘The Literary Legacy of Harley Street’
Vic Keegan writes about Edward Jenner, vaccination pioneer, whose statue is in Kensington Gardens
Fire Safety and removal of flammable cladding
According to the ‘Sunday Times’; “Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has joined campaigners in calling for housebuilders to pay to fix fire-risk flats via a national windfall tax. He has asked the Government for a one-off 10% tax – £3bn out of £30bn profits over the past 10 years – to relieve leaseholders of the burden of paying to put right safety defects such as flammable cladding uncovered in the wake of the Grenfell fire in 2017. It comes as thousands of homeowners are in danger of going bankrupt or falling into negative equity due to the bills involved. To protect the supply of affordable homes, the proposed national levy would apply to large firms that met a profit threshold, not to housing associations and small-to-medium-sized developers.”
Luxury Housing and money laundering
According to the press, “Luxury London homes are an “attractive method to launder illicit funds”, a government report has said as the National Crime Agency steps up its McMafia-style “dirty money” investigations into suspect funds flooding into the country. The national risk assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing 2020 has upgraded the risk level for the sector, saying: “Corrupt foreign elites continue to be attracted to the UK property market, especially in London, to disguise their corruption proceeds.”
The report, put together by the Treasury and the Home Office, said law enforcement agencies had seen increased overseas buyers and cash flows into the UK property market. “The high amounts of money that can be moved in one transaction and the appreciation in value, along with the enhanced lifestyle, makes them very attractive to criminals,” the report said.”
We are unhappy about the design of the new ‘big box’ bicycle hangars which are bulky and unattractive. We have called on the Council to replace the new hangars with the original Cyclehoop hangar which is smaller and much better designed.
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
‘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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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).
Coronavirus (Covid-19) UPDATE
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
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Please let us know if we can be of help or assistance on any local issues.
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Please keep safe, stay well and look after yourself and your neighbours.
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.