PIMLICO, SOHO, MARYLEBONE AND WEST END LABOUR ACTION REPORT – April 2021
News from your Westminster Labour Councillors
As more people are getting vaccinated and the number of people testing positive for coronavirus is falling, we hope that the pandemic will soon be coming to an end. 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
We voted against the Westminster Council tax rise. Westminster Council will have to find savings of up to £43 million over the next three years. It comes after the pandemic has ravaged Council finances, from lost parking charges, business rates, unpaid council tax and rents. We believe the Government should provide the money to keep services going, not ask residents to pick up the bill.
At the same time….
Westminster City Council is sitting on £250 million in unspent developer contributions in the form of community infrastructure levy (CIL) and Section 106 payments, according to ‘Property Week’. This money is supposed to be spent on local infrastructure to mitigate the impact property development has on an area.
Liza Begum is Labour’s candidate for the Churchill Ward by-election – 6th May
Liza Begum has been selected Labour’s candidate for the Church ward by-election on the 6th May, at the same time as the London Mayoral Election. It comes following the sad resignation of Andrea Mann, for family care reasons. Liza has been a tireless and visible campaigner on local issues. Her campaign to save Walden House and Cundy Street Flats received national media attention and it resulted in a victory for residents: winning the right to return for long established local social housing residents.
You can read more about Liza here https://www.westminsterlabour.org.uk/westminster-news/2021/03/18/liza-begum-for-churchill/
Darwin House and Balmoral Castle proposals
Over 500 Churchill Gardens residents have signed a petition to Westminster Council opposing the redevelopment plans for Darwin House.
Liza Begum says:
“I am in support of Darwin House residents having new homes, but the scheme does not offer any additional council housing, which should be made a priority in any redevelopment especially since Westminster has over 4,000 people on their housing list. With many residents upset about the redevelopment, the sensible step for WCC would be to delay any decision. Under the pandemic we cannot guarantee that all residents can engage in a thorough and meaningful consultation, especially elderly residents that have found themselves digitally excluded under lockdown.
Residents have many concerns, for example the height of the proposed new block (for intermediate housing) means a loss of a riverside view for Shelley House residents and the impact on the conservation area. It is essential that any scheme meets the highest possible environmental standards and does not undermine Westminster’s aim to be Carbon Neutral by 2030. Residents have legitimate concerns and it is only right that the Council address those concerns before proceeding with the redevelopment.”
Chelsea Bridge Road
We have asked the Highways Team and the police to investigate the traffic situation on Chelsea Bridge Road. Residents have reported “excessive traffic noise from Chelsea Bridge Road, including revving engines, use of the car horns, music, sound of speeding vehicles.”
We are assisting a resident in Tintern House who has applied for a place in the bicycle hangar near where he lives. Following our enquiries, the Council told the resident, “Our team has already logged your application to this hangar and they will be in touch in due course regarding your application status and if successful, how to pay for the subscription service.”
We have asked the Council to investigate the condition of a Sanctuary Housing flat occupied by an elderly couple in Denbigh Place. The flat is riddled with damp and despite repeated requests for action, Sanctuary have done nothing.
We are continuing to assist residents in Longleat House who are experiencing problems with their heating.
We are continuing to press the Housing Department to clear a blocked drain at Stourhead House.
We are helping residents in Charlwood Street in their dealings with Sanctuary Housing. They say, “Thank you so much for helping us with this, and with so many other Sanctuary problems over a number of years. You have been a great help to us and our daughter”
The combined repair bill for Westminster, Lambeth and Vauxhall bridges over the next decade could be in the range of £85 million to £130 million, according to Transport for London.
Some £43 million of public money was spent on the Garden Bridge, the pet project of Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London. £24 million of that funding came from TfL while the rest was spent by the Department for Transport.
‘Passport to Pimlico’
You might be interested in the trailer for the late 1940’s film ‘Passport to Pimlico’
Local resident, Jennifer Kavanagh has written a book called Let Me Take You by the Hand, to be published in June. It makes parallels between Victorian London and the present, and cites Westminster as an example.
A permanent memorial to the five people who died on or near Westminster Bridge is being planned at the site of a terror attack when four people were killed, including PC Keith Palmer, and 50 were injured on 22 March 2017. Westminster City Council has applied to put up a bronze plaque displaying the names of those who were killed. Planning permission is needed as the bridge is Grade II* listed.
Residents have raised concerns about an application to build a hotel/hostel at 91/92 Dean Street that could accommodate up to 820 guests. We are supporting residents in conversations with the developers at the pre-application stage. You can write directly to the developers with your views at email@example.com.
Old Compton Street
Police officers from the West End team were called to Old Compton Street one Saturday night in March to investigate reports of a party. Officers arrested one person and reported 14 others for covid offences.
We have repeated our call to the Council to find a long-term solution to the lack of toilets in West End and across Westminster. We need more toilets and they also need to be above ground (in Soho, the toilets below ground can be magnets for ASB).
Al Fresco dining
The Council is bringing back the al fresco hospitality scheme until the end of September.
The Soho Society is doing an excellent job pressing the Council, including asking how the community will be involved in deciding the long-term future of al fresco (the Council have promised they will run a full consultation before any decision is made) and about the provision of toilets. Councillor Pancho Lewis is backing them in working to hold the Council to account.
We have also launched a petition urging the Council to listen to the community before rushing to any decisions about the long-term future of al fresco:
Finally, we got a commitment from the Chief Executive of Westminster Council that there will not be a repeat of the July 2020 Super Saturday this year.
The Oxford Street Art House
Thank you for your positive and helpful comments on our ideas for creating ‘The Oxford Street Art House’ in the empty Debenham’s building. Here are some of your comments:
“This is an excellent idea and something that has been long overdue in the discussions about the future of Oxford Street.”
“A great idea but perhaps also add a studio/performance/meeting space for theatre, music, talks etc.”
“Great idea, this is exactly the sort of thing future Oxford Street needs”
“The plans look really exciting and it will be a fantastic addition to Oxford Street.”
“I recently came across your fantastic initiative “Oxford Street Art House” and thought that our goals align so I wanted to reach out in case there might be some opportunity in the future to collaborate.”
“You certainly raise an interesting topic for discussion. The concept has some appeal. I asked around and found no outright opposition but a few additional ideas were presented – Tourist/Information centre, Police desk, NWEC contact point, Theatre ticket stand, a bookstore and an ice cream parlour. I’m sure that we will hear more about this over the coming months.”
“I read that you have been trying to find creative uses for large empty buildings on Oxford Street. This is very good news. I hope that your campaign is successful.”
“I read recently about your proposal to turn the Oxford Street site formerly occupied by Debenhams into an arts centre. I think it’s a really exciting idea and it would be fantastic to have something like this right in the heart of London.”
We are currently working with a not-for-profit Arts group to identify other shops and offices which can be used for medium/long-term use for artistic and cultural uses.
Jewish life in the West End
A group of former West Enders, working in association with the London Museum of Jewish Life, have recorded evocative memories of the social life they enjoyed during their formative years in the 1920s and 1930s. Dr Gerry Black has set their recollections in the perspective of the broader history of West End Jewry.
Fitzrovia Rubbish Action Committee (FRAC)
FRAC has been formed following community concerns about rubbish dumping and fly-tipping. The committee is composed of four residents and Councillor Pancho Lewis.
FRAC is open to considering a wide range of proposals to seek to tackle issues of persistent fly-tipping and rubbish dumping that continue to blight the Fitzrovia area. Various proposals are being considered including ‘greening’ measures, e.g. installing planters and green spaces, at specific sites to deter dumping as well as plans for a monthly bulky items collection service, together with clearer communication with residents about how rubbish is collected and when to leave bags outside.
Greening plans for Riding House Street
Councillor Pancho Lewis is working with Council officers and Fitzrovia residents to install planters on Riding House St,reet as part of a project to bring more greenery to the street directly outside All Souls Primary School. The planters will be watered by local community members.
We have dealt with a number of issues in Holcroft Court, including:
- reports of an illegal party and anti-social behaviour at one flat
- long-standing kitchen repairs to another flat
- repairs to a balcony door in another flat
The final instalment of the four-part review of The Survey of London volume devoted to Oxford Street, focuses on numbers 164 to 212 — the area between Winsley Street and Great Portland Street.
Edward Kellow and Sue Blundell write about the secrets of St John’s Lodge Garden
Councillor Pancho Lewis has launched a petition calling on the Council to take action to clamp down on the havoc caused by the Audley Square development. You can sign the petition here https://petitions.westminster.gov.uk/audleysquare/
16 Charles Street
We have received notification of an application for a “new fine-dining restaurant at 16 Charles Street, Mayfair.” We are encouraging residents to look closely at this proposal, especially given concerns about the increase of restaurants and decline of community services in Mayfair.
Mayfair Art Weekend
The Mayfair Art Weekend will take place from 25 – 27 June 2021. In 2020, Mayfair Art Weekend took place in the autumn and over 30 galleries participated. Mayfair Art Weekend invites art enthusiasts to explore a series of free exhibitions, tours, talks and site-specific installations across Mayfair’s world-class galleries. You can sign up for news alerts here https://www.mayfairartweekend.com/sign-up/
New Cavendish Street
We have asked the Parking Team to investigate this issue:
“Over the last few months, an unofficial “taxi rank” has developed for large parts of the day. At some periods of the day, this involves 20-30 cabs double-parking on New Cavendish Street from Marylebone High Street to Westmoreland Street. On Marylebone High Street the taxis are parking on a single yellow line along the west side of Marylebone High Street. The ‘taxi rank’ seems to be particularly bad from mid-afternoon onwards. This coincides with school collection time and is directly adjacent to a number of schools.”
Marks & Spencer, Oxford Street
Marks & Spencer have unveiled plans to redevelop their Oxford Street site at 458 Oxford Street to deliver a mixed-use building with retail space, including a new full-line Marks & Spencer Marble Arch store and offices. You can see the proposals here https://458oxfordstreet.co.uk/
New plans revealed by Marks & Spencer will take the amount of department store space on Oxford Street being converted to offices to more than 600,000 sq ft. John Lewis has planning permission to convert about half of its department store to offices which will add 300,000 sq ft of workspace. Publica Properties will convert 145,000 sq ft of the House of Fraser department store to offices. Debenhams is closing its Oxford Street location, and any conversion there could also see office space added. On Bond Street, Fenwicks is adding about 53,000 sq ft to its department store for office space.
Marble Arch Station
TfL will be carrying out escalator work at Marble Arch station from Monday 22 March until early July 2021. This means that there will be no down escalator service to the Central line. This maintenance work is essential to ensuring the continued safe operation of the escalators at Marble Arch station and will be completed within the shortest possible time frame.
Samaritan Hospital, Marylebone Road
There is a petition on the Council’s website calling on the Council to make better use of vacant land and buildings, including the Samaritan Hospital on Marylebone Road which could be turned into accommodation for essential workers.
We are delighted that, after a long campaign from local residents and Councillors, the Council has installed a zebra crossing on Rossmore Road. Councillor Aicha Less said:
“This was a long and hard campaign, as I know how it affected many residents on both sides of the street. Thanks to everyone involved to make the change happen.”
We have asked the Council to inspect a building site in Seymour Place after receiving this message from a resident:
“There are no Health & Safety measures in place, no protective hoarding around the site and power tools are being used whilst members of the public traverse along the pavement. At one stage the builders were mixing cement actually on the pavement. Building materials were being off loaded from trucks across the pavement.”
Marble Arch ‘Mound’
The Council says, “the current high-level indicative construction and operational costs for the mound are between £1.5 and £2m.” To put this into context, a few years ago the Council cut its entire youth budget – which was £2 million.
We asked the Environmental Health Team to inspect a growing pile of building material and rubble at the corner of Talbot Square and Sussex Gardens.
Edgware Road/Burrwood Place
We have asked the Council to fix a broken signpost at the junction of Edgware Road and Burrwood Place.
Tyburn Convent, Bayswater Road
We have written to the Prioress at the Tyburn Convent on Bayswater Road about the noise throughout the day from the cockerel which has been disturbing residents in St George’s Fields for some time.
A green plaque in honour of the life and legacy of iconic artist Halima Nałęcz is to be mounted at 5 Porchester Place, which was the site of one of her most renowned galleries, Drian. You can read about her here
Hyde Park Estate Residents – HyPER
HyPER, a new residents’ group has been established by Hyde Park Estate residents. For more details, visit https://hyper.uk/
Hyde Park Estate – Open Garden
The National Garden Scheme, Open Garden, will return on Saturday 17 April and five gardens on the Hyde Park Estate will be opened to the public for this special day. Gardens included are The Water Gardens, Coniston Court, Devonport, The Quadrangle, and Reflection 2020. Tickets for the event can be purchased in advance here.
For more information https://marble-arch.london/news/open-garden-2021/
We asked the Council to replace the missing top to a pavement duct outside 1 Junction Place which is causing a trip hazard for pedestrians. We also asked for a dumped bike chained to the railings on the corner of St Michael\s Place to be removed.
We asked the Refuse Collection team to remove a dumped washing machine and other household material from Bouverie Place.
Royal Exchange, Sale Place
We are delighted to hear that the Royal Exchange pub will soon be back open. A recent tweet said: “Plenty of lovely neighbours have poked their head in and said hello but thought we’d let the world know. This pub will not be flats! Plenty of work to be done, but we’ll be opening up as soon as we can. See you soon for a beer.”
We have asked the Council to take action to stop the unauthorized taxi rank outside the Hilton Hotel on Praed Street. Residents say:
“I have noticed that with the removal of the ‘pavement widening’ scheme in Praed Street outside the Hilton Hotel, the black cabs are back waiting for customers on the double yellow line. As usual, blocking a lane in Praed Street, increasing local congestion, making it more difficult to cycle and polluting with their idling engines – de-facto turning the street in a taxi rank – when there is a perfectly adequate taxi rank for Paddington station.”
The Head of Highways told us: “I’ve tasked parking to attend and action as appropriate. I’ve also asked TfL to look at enforcing as they license the black cabs.”
We have asked the Highways Team to investigate a long-standing problem with a blocked gully on Chapel Street outside Hyde Park Mansions.
You can see a short video of the new Crossrail Station at Paddington Station here
You might like Jago Hazzard’s YouTube video called “Too Many Edgware Roads’
Travis Perkins site
We are supporting residents in Sheldon Square who are concerned about the proposal to build a 900-bed student hostel on the Travis Perkins site. We attended a Q&A webinar where we raised a number of issues. Read here for more details
For details of the Travis Perkins proposals visit https://www.balticwharfpaddington.co.uk
Leaseholders in a number of blocks in Hyde Park ward have been badly hit by the cladding scandal and we were very disappointed when Government MPs recently voted down a proposal to protect leaseholders from the crippling costs involved.
This article in ‘Which?’ sets out the financial issues residents have had to deal with
And an article in the Guardian looking at the political impact
We have again asked the Council’s Parking Team to investigate the need for additional residents parking. There has been an increase in the number of residents living in the area which should be reflected in the amount of residents parking on adjacent streets.
Mayoral Election on 6th May – Voting by post
The London Mayoral and GLA elections are on 6th May 2021.
Some people may be concerned about going to the polling stations in person, having to wear a mask and waiting in a socially-distanced queue.
It will be much easier, quicker and safer to vote by post.
You can use this form to apply for a postal vote
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.
Rita Begum is Labour’s candidate for West Central in the GLA Elections
You can visit Rita’s website at https://www.ritabegum.com/
There is a petition calling on the Council to install acoustic traffic cameras to reduce noisy vehicles https://petitions.westminster.gov.uk/stop-noisy-cars/
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, W1. Anyone who has had coronavirus, either a test result or the symptoms, can offer to donate by calling 0300 123 23 23 or visiting https://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk to arrange an appointment to donate.
You can 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. This link tells you 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: https://www.westminster.gov.uk/a-z-recycling
You can report dumped rubbish, broken pavements, defective street lights and more on the Report It service. https://www.westminster.gov.uk/report-it
Coronavirus (Covid-19) UPDATE
Dispelling the vaccination myths
Here is the link to a video featuring Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic celebrities dispelling myths about the vaccine and encouraging people to have the vaccination
You can see the latest data for your area here
What you say
“Thank you so much for the latest newsletter which, as always, leaves me so impressed with all Labour do to help with problems throughout Westminster.”
“I must say thank you so much for my newsletter, it is my link to my area, and I am always excited to see it and makes me feel a real resident of the area with someone to turn to when in need.”
“I found the film on Pimlico in the 1970s very interesting. I know the Churchill Gardens and Lillington Gardens Estate but still learned from it.”
“We can’t thank you enough for all the help you have given us with this, and over the years.”
“Thank you for your email and for all your help with this problem. It is due to your intervention that the Council began to take the matter seriously.”
“I am glad to hear, as a resident, that you are supporting us”
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.
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg
Labour City Management spokesperson
Westminster City Council
Your Labour Councillors can be contacted as follows
Churchill Ward – For full details of ways to contact Councillor Shamim Talukder, please see the Churchill Labour website
West End Ward – You can contact Councillor Pancho Lewis by email or telephone.