WEST END WARD LABOUR ACTION REPORT – November 2018
News from Councillor Pancho Lewis and the Labour Action Team in Soho, Fitzrovia and Mayfair
Success for West End Labour: Westminster Council proposes Soho ‘Special Policy Area’
Westminster Council is bringing forward policies to conserve Soho’s character that were first proposed by West End Labour. These include a Soho ‘Special Policy Area’ (SPA). In future, when applications are made to the Council, planners will have to consider whether they contribute to or undermine Soho’s character in determining whether to grant applications approval.
This is a major campaign win for Labour Councillor Pancho Lewis and the West End Action Team. During the local election campaign in May, Labour pledged to bring forward a SPA for Soho. Labour argued this would provide the Council with the tools to keep Soho special and prevent the erosion of Soho’s unique identity.
Other proposals put forward by Labour which have been included in the revised City Plan include:
- A commitment that “new hotels of more than 2,500 sq m will not be permitted”. The Labour Action Team campaigned to oppose controversial developmentslike the Film House hotel, which is displacing businesses in the film industry which are integral to Soho’s social fabric. Labour therefore welcomes this change but we believe that restriction may need to go further.
- Plans to “limit the cumulative impact of new restaurant/café uses or drinking establishments on the character of Soho’s streets and their mix of uses will be given particular attention in decision-making, in order to prevent the clustering of such uses.”Labour has been arguing that residential amenity in particular needs to be protected, after a number of applications and liquor licenses have been approved that erode quality of life for residents.
Councillor Pancho Lewis said:
“This is a big win for us. Soho’s community has suffered an inordinate amount as a result of endless planning approvals that have eroded Soho’s character and heritage. That’s why we proposed a Special Policy Area and I’m pleased that the Council have changed their mind and agreed to bring one forward. We need to make sure these measures are implemented properly and look at what else can be done to keep Soho special. I’ll continue to work with the community to be a strong voice for locals – so that the planning process works for the community, not just developers.”
Councillor Pancho Lewis, West End Ward has called for a Council investigation into the development at 90-104 Berwick Street to:
- Uncover why the Council so severely underestimated how long building works would last, and what measures will be put in place to hold developers to account so the project is finished as quickly as possible
- Uncover what compensation the local community is entitled to.
- Examine any financial links between developers and their agents and public authorities. The investigation should achieve full transparency and consider whether there has been any improper behaviour or conduct.
- Put the views and concerns of the local community at the forefront of the investigation by engaging them from the outset
You can sign the petition here http://petitions.westminster.gov.uk/Berwick-Street/
‘Building’ magazine carries an update on the long-running saga of the Berwick Street construction site that has made life a misery for so many people
We are taking up this issue with the Council:
“There are now at least 3 places in Soho which blare out very loud music, sufficiently loud to be heard from four or five premises away – one in particular in Brewer Street. Surely this counts as broadcasting or something equivalent? It is very annoying for those who live near and almost as bad for those who just have to walk past on a frequent basis. Maybe a polite request to turn the noise down would be sufficient, but frankly I doubt it – and anyway it would be better to know the legal/license position before starting to take them on.”
William Blake House, Dufour’s Place
We have written to CWH asking them to give us cast iron assurances that whenever heating breaks down it will be fixed on the same day during the winter months:
“I want to put my deep concerns on record as I was told firmly and clearly last night when I called at 9pm [following a resident reporting that heating had broken down in their flat] that GEM would go that evening to sort the problem out. It goes without saying yesterday evening was very cold day. Making sure there is heating during the winter months is absolutely critical. The consequences otherwise could be very bad.
Can I given please cast iron assurances that if something as serious as heating breaks done that residents repairs happen immediately during the winter months?”
We also asked for the lights to be repaired in the stairwell after we saw they were switched off.
Following our enquiries about the defective street lights in Manette Street the Council says:
“I can confirm that our service provider has repaired the accessible columns, as you may be aware there are development works currently ongoing on this site.”
Marshall Street and Broadwick Street
We are helping residents with this issue:
“The curious phenomenon and plague of massive queues to buy a limited edition T-shirts or whatever, has come to Marshall Street and is causing noise, nuisance and obstruction at Stirling Court. We could hardly exit our front door this morning. It has happened before too and the shop has only been open a few weeks. Why are they not lined up along Broadwick Street into Carnaby Street or along the front of the Inko restaurant? “
The legendary Bag O’Nails venue in Soho where Jimi Hendrix performed and the Beatles socialised is to be transformed into a private members’ club.
Silver Place and Ingestre Place
We are continuing to help residents in Silver Place and Ingestre Place. They face problems with anti social behaviour and repair works on the street that have been going on for many months.
We are helping residents who have experienced disruption for a decade as a result of the Crossrail works claim compensation.
Great Portland Street – Roast restaurant application
We’re pleased that significant restrictions have been placed on the application to open a new branch of Roast restaurant on Great Portland Street. Whilst there are areas in the West End which are ideal locations for restaurants and other food outlets, this is not one of them. We hope the conditions will help ensure residential amenity is protected. We worked with residents and with Conservative councillors to achieve this result.
Great Portland Street (south end)
The phone boxes on the southern end of Great Portland Street (close to Oxford Street) are often full of rubbish – including abandoned trolleys, sleeping bags, and pieces of cardboard. We’ve contacted BT to encourage them to clean them.
Riding House Street – anti-social behaviour
We have been helping parents whose children attend All Soul’s School who have found that there is increased anti-social behaviour outside the school gates, believed to be caused by street homeless people.
Riding House Street – bin removal
The Council has launched a pilot whereby they have removed the large bins on Riding House Street. They say that it has become a dumping hotspot and removing the bins will help reduce this problem. However, we have received correspondence from residents raising concerns about the removal of the bin. We are pressing the Council to pay close attention to what residents are saying and make sure the area is cleaned regularly. We’re arguing communication with residents has to improve – many weren’t aware of the bins being removed. If you’d like to keep updated about this issue specifically, write to us and we will loop you in on further correspondence with the Council.
Roadworks in Fitzrovia
There have been roadworks which have caused traffic congestion in Fitzrovia. We raised this with the Council and received the following response:
“there are emergency works that have closed on streets (such as Little Tichfield Street) or put traffic lights on Great Portland Street. As you know where utilities have such issues they are entitled to start work without our permission (they have to notify us within 2 hours) and we can’t stop them from working as their statutory right extends to making repairs without unreasonable obstruction. This can make avoiding congestion very difficult as we don’t have full control.
A good source of information for you is www.Roadworks.org. This is updated on a nightly basis (so anything that was urgent/emergency will not appear on their until the next day) but shows works taking place on the highway. It is not perfect but it is generally reliable and a useful tool open to all. You can use this to see works taking place and can set up areas of interest if you wish to notify you of new works. There is a simple user guide here: https://www.elgin.org.uk/sites/default/files/roadworks_org_user_guide.pdf.
We are taking this issue up with the Council:
“We have an endemic problem with fly-tipping in our mews that has now been going on for at least 3 years, with rubbish being dumped in the street practically every week. in the last 6 months or so the council have also stopped picking up their own refuse bags, which in turn encourages further fly-tipping by residents and / or Airbnb guests and their cleaners. As of this moment there are 3 separate large piles of rubbish rotting in the street that have been there for over a week. As well as being disgusting and unsightly this is a significant heath hazard and will encourage rats.”
We have written to the Chief Executive of KP Waste, with the following:
I’m writing to set out my concerns about KP Waste refuse collection vehicles operating in the early hours in Mayfair, the neighbourhood I represent as an elected representative.
I have been informed that it is very common that early in the mornings, at times between 4am and 5:30am, refuse collection vehicles pick up rubbish for business based on Lansdowne Row (pedestrian road), just at the intersection of Fitzmaurice Place and Curzon Street. This is enormously disruptive to many residents in the area with residents being woken up very early in the morning and that impacting on their ability to get enough sleep. In particular, the most disturbing thing about it is listening to glass bottles being emptied from containers, which as you can imagine create huge disturbance.
Hanover Square trees
We have taken this up with the Council:
“Many local residents remain vey concerned about the plans to chop down some of the trees in Hanover Square. We know that some new trees will be planted but what is baffling is the absence of any coherent explanation as to why any of the original trees should have to be removed. The two trees by the Pitt statue would be a particular loss. Anything that you can do to help get a sensible explanation for the planned course of action regarding these trees would be greatly appreciated by local people.”
South Audley Street
We are making an enquiry about this:
“Since the north east corner of Grosvenor Chapel [was narrowed], queues have built up. However, the main letter box on the corner has been ‘boarded up’, and out of action since then. Can we have our post box back in action please?
We made an enquiry about this:
“Can you tell me why the parking in the bottom end of Berkeley Square has been allowed to be suspended for so long please? The green fencing seems to expand rather than contract as time goes on. It’s unsightly and makes crossing the road on that corner to the pedestrian crossing at the end of Charles Street a nightmare as well as taking up valuable parking spaces.”
To which the Council replied with this:
“There are currently 9 parking bays suspended for the site compound, which has been in place for 18 months and was previously used for storing materials for the Bond Street scheme. Currently the compound is being used mainly for the Berkeley Square scheme and is used for storage of materials and welfare facilities for the site work force. There is approximately 3908m2 of footway paving material required for the Berkeley Square scheme which requires the amount of space currently taken. The compound is also being used to store some material needed for the Bond Street scheme which will be installed in January.
I have attended site and the compound doesn’t impend on pedestrian movements around the footpath, as it doesn’t block the footway and two lanes of traffic are still permitted to pass the compound. The zebra crossing is approximately 50m away and traffic exiting the square at Fitzmaurice Place is not obstructed from view for pedestrians on the crossing. The photos attached show the space required for deliveries including the two extra parking bays for temp storage.
I have asked FM Conway to ensure the compound area doesn’t extend beyond the space currently taken, to ensure the barriers are kept in good order and to reduce the size of the compound while works progress and material is being installed on site.”
Hyde Park corner underpass
Street homeless people take refuse in the underpass just north of Hyde Park. Residents have contacted us to express their concern about their safety and well-being. We’re working with the Council’s Integrated Street Engagement Unit to encourage them to engage these people so they can re-build their lives off the streets.
WEST END WIDE ISSUES
The Council is running a consultation on the future of Oxford Street. You can see the plans and submit your views here:https://osd.london/
Councillor Geoff Brraclough has told how he was nearly struck by a speeding rickshaw, as pressure grows on the Government to clamp down on the unregulated rides. The Labour councillor said he was walking through the pedestrianised south side of Leicester Square in September when a pedicab came within inches of him. Cllr Barraclough backed the growing cross-party call for pedicabs to be regulated, including that the drivers be licensed and insured like black cab drivers.
Tackling illegal short term lets
Labour has called for more powers for local authorities to deal with the menace that is turning so many of our homes into hotels.
Hate preachers in Oxford Street
We have again asked the Council and the Police to take action against the hate preachers who congregate along Oxford Street.
Cleaning up the Planning system in Westminster – what you say
We received the following correspondence from a resident. It underscores why it is so important to allow residents to speak at planning committees – the Conservatives have now finally agreed to this after we campaigned for years.
“With regard to Westminster Council’s attitude to planning permissions, a friend of mine lives nearby in a small group of Soho Housing flats which, as is often the case, only begins at about the third storey above ground level. To the residents’ horror, permision was applied for to extend the opening hours of a bar right underneath them, which would have meant revellers and all concommitent noise going on into the middle of the night. My friend and his neighbours are very good at banding together, and opposed this, but when a group of them attended a meeting held regarding the matter they were told by an official that they had no right to speak!!!”
City West Homes – what you say
“The list of CWH horrors is absolutely typical, and I would like to endorse the remarks made by a resident of Ingestre Court, when he refers to how things used to be before the loss of the local Estate Office. The managers there whom he names were well known to me, and could always be relied on to help in any emergency. The people we have now have absolutely no knowledge of the conditions we have been used to, and it is beyond belief that those in authority over them should have managed to “lose” all the records relating to our having had year-round heating for years.”
What you say
“I am so grateful for the latest very detailed Report, which leaves me, as always, immeasurably grateful for all you are doing to help us and so many others across Westminster.I am so grateful for all the hard work Labour Councillors are doing on our behalf, and do not know what on earth we would do without you.”
“Pancho, I think you have done more than anyone to help [us in Soho] many thanks for that”
“I can not thank you enough for your hard work Pancho. I’m confident that without your involvement things would not have moved at all. Also, your dealing with people on my behalf has helped to shield me from my mental health deteriorating more than it has. Sent with the warmest regards and respect.”
“Thanking you for all your superb support”
“Please thank your colleague who wrote initially on my behalf and thank you for your help also. I am sure if you hadn’t intervened I would have been stuck with this notice and wasted even more time in trying to fight it. Most grateful.”
Councillor Pancho Lewis and the West End Ward Labour Action Team
You can contact Pancho at firstname.lastname@example.org