Soho Special Policy Area
The new City plan – the Council’s planning framework which establishes how development happens in the City of Westminster – has been published. This is the latest iteration of the Plan that was first published late last year. It is open for consultation until the end of July.
Councillor Pancho Lewis is worried it appears to weaken protections previously provided to Soho in the ‘Soho Special Policy Area’. It waters down measures to stop large hotels being built in Soho (previously it specified there should be no more hotels larger than 2,500 sq metres – in the latest version this figure has been dropped). In addition, the latest version weakens protections to stop the amalgamation of units behind retained facades to protect spaces that are naturally more likely to be occupied by small businesses. Councillor Lewis asked the Cabinet Member for Planning at Full Council meeting on Wednesday a question on this issue. We will continue lobby the Council to do more to protect Soho’s character which is already under threat.
20th century Fox building, Soho Square
Developers are looking to demolish the iconic 20th century Fox building on Soho Square. Not only would be this destroy an integral part of Soho’s film heritage, it would cause further disruption for residents and the community at large. Councillor Pancho Lewis is working with the Soho community to oppose this demolition. We are asking that developers go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan that doesn’t involve demolition.
You can sign the petition here to oppose this plan:
Coach & Horses
It was heart-breaking to see the Coach & Horses pub on Greek Street close its doors recently. Fuller’s simply refused to listen to the community, even after thousands piled in by signing the petition to save the pub from being taken over by a pubco. We have written about the take-over of the Coach & Horses by Fuller’s here and what it means in the broader battle to stop big business taking over Soho:
Richmond Mews & Meard Street
“It would be great if you could write to the construction people doing the gym at the end of Richmond Mews/Meard Street. I believe they start making noise around 7.30am and it would just be great if they could hold off until 8am – I am not sure what has been agreed.”
We received this response from the developers:
“We have spoken to our contractors on site, and reemphasized that there should not be noise before 8am. The contractor has assured us that they do not start works before 8am and have agreed with tenants of Soho lofts that they will not commence works that directly adjoin the party wall until 9am.”
Earlier this month, residents wrote to us to say:
“I wonder if you could please provide an update on the work to fix the subsidence on Poland Street. It’s now been over 2 years since the collapse! Rubbish collects inside the part of the road that has been barrier off and it looks terrible. I really would appreciate an update as my neighbours and I feel forgotten.”
Since receiving this letter, works to repair the collapsed vaults have begun. However, this is having an impact on traffic including causing gridlock on Broadwick Street and elsewhere. We are pressing officers to ensure traffic is managed as best as possible in these circumstances. After some residents on Poland Street didn’t initially receive a letter explaining details about the works – how long they would last, etc. – we asked Council officers to send a letter to residents and they’ve agreed to do that.
D’Arblay Street collapsed vaults
We are continuing to press the Council to find out when works on the collapsed vaults will begin. It is unacceptable they should be taking so long to get started. By contrast with the Poland Street collapsed vault, this will not have a knock-on impact on traffic as the whole street is already closed off.
Homes on Airbnb & Booking.com
We have taken the following up with the Council’s short-lets and Anti-Social Behaviour team:
“It is not just Air B&B which is in the neighbourhood, but booking.com which the neighbours downstairs (below me) have been using regularly since they started renting below in December. They smoke when they are not allowed. They ring my doorbell nearly every day accidentally, or their friends do, and in the middle of the night. They have even left the front door on the street open. The fire alarm has gone off several times and they open and close these old sash windows with no regard for their history. I love and care where I live: my building, my street and my neighbourhood, and it is very upsetting to live very closely to people who abuse these sites, and also make money off it illegally. I have encountered around 50 different faces living below me in the last 4 months….Some stay for a day, some for 10.”
Closure of roads in Soho
We wrote to Highways Officers to highlight that there have been many road closures in recent weeks, urging them to better manage road traffic in Soho. We received this letter from the key Highways officer overseeing works in Soho:
“I agree that there are a substantial amount of works in progress or planned-in to start in the Soho area at the moment. What with building developments, public realm activities and new service connections, the impact on the area is certainly greater than we would hope for. As I’m sure you can appreciate the area in itself can be extremely challenging to manage, however my team work diligently to try and mitigate the impact of works wherever possible, through co-ordination or in as many cases as possible through collaborative working.
Statutory undertakers, such as Thames Water and UKPN, have a legal right to access their apparatus, and residents/businesses have a right to new connections. While we exercise our network management duty, and have some capacity through co-ordination, we are not in a position to postpone works indefinitely. The noticeable increase in volume you’ve experience recently is linked to the upcoming closure of Poland Street by FM Conway, to facilitate the repair of the collapsed vault that’s been causing issues in the area for quite some time. Given the expected duration of this repair, we have been expediting the usual notice period to get known works completed in advance of this works being in place.”
Wardour Street contraflow cycle lane
We have received news that the contraflow cycle lane previously planned for Wardour Street has now been abandoned. We think this is a good development.
Bridle Lane – what do you think of this plan?
“I am the leaseholder of 52 Brewer St on the corner of Bridle Lane, Soho. I have a keen interest in cleaning up and revitalising this unloved but magnificent laneway by simply activating it with vibrant and neighbourly commerce – think hole in the wall style brilliant coffee, niche florists etc
Many of the buildings that front Bridle have their primary or main entry focus to Golden Sq and Great Poulteney respectively contributing to the forgotten and neglected narrative of Bridle. I want to approach these building owners with a proposal to take control of their rear and largely boarded up faces with the idea of installing new shopfronts with a specific Bridle Lane focus. The initiative will provide utility to currently largely redundant / 2nd quality space, a commercial return to the owner/tenant and additional business rate income to council.
More importantly this vibrant activity will deliver amenity to local residents and elevate the space into an attractive and interesting thoroughfare – despatching the current unsocial activity as a simple by-product of the uplift.”
Example of smart streets: https://www.thelanewayproject.ca
We have written to Soho Estate’s agents with the following:
“I often walk along Manette Street and it is often very, very dirty along the street and it smells – people use it as a urinal. The layout of the perimeter wall running along the building site means people can urinate without being seen by a lot of people. There’s also often a lot of rubbish along the street, and there is a lack of proper lighting at night which can make the area feel unsafe. Please can these issues be addressed and steps taken so Manette Street is properly managed?”
Residents have written to us about the noise caused by the delivery of kegs early in the morning by the local pub on the corner with Middleton Place. Residents say:
“I am a resident of Langham Street. Following your discussions with the Middleton Place Residents Association and Richard Brown of the Licensing Advice Project for Citizens Advice Westminster last year, I would like to draw your attention to the unacceptable timing of deliveries that have taken place in the recent weeks at the Yorkshire Grove pub.
11/05/2019 – 05:12 am (Saturday am)
17/05/2019 – 06:53 am
03/06/2019 – 05:40 am
We have checked with Westminster City Council as well as our ward members and they have confirmed that deliveries at these times are not acceptable. Recent local licence applications from Roast Restaurants (ref: 18/07245/LIPN) and University of Westminster (ref: 18/07713/LIPN) set a precedent for the area.”
We are supporting residents in pressing the pub to deliver kegs at a more sociable hour.
Rubbish in Fitzrovia
Residents continue to write to us about rubbish bags piling up in residential parts of Fitzrovia. One resident said:
“The rubbish again this morning was pretty bad again too! Didn’t have time to take photos as rushing to work but it’s always pretty horrendous! I notice Westminster council seem to be able to provide residential wheely bins to the private flats opposite by the mews unless are for the workmen but then they disappear! Think they are perhaps kept in their underground car park! Think I most definitely need to also discuss the rubbish situation with One Housing association my landlord as perhaps they maybe able to organise us rubbish disposal bins so that our rubbish bags are not sprawled across the streets however my argument is we pay council tax for a rubbish collection service and it’s not being provided properly. We have no bottle bank, no recycling bins nothing in the area!”
Hanson Street idling
We are supporting residents with the following issue:
“Just noticed another Oakray van with engine running, second day running, in Hanson Street. They are outrageous. Can you connect me with the person who manages the don’t be idle pages. I’d like to speak to the person who monitors the reports that I have been making! If there is such a person. I’ve tried to find a way to speak to them on the website but it’s not obvious.”
Newman Street planning objection
We are supporting residents with a very problematic planning application that has been submitted to Westminster’s planning department. Residents say:
“This property will be approximately 3-4 metres from the side of the proposed extension. According to the Daylight and Sunlight statement from the applicants (on the WCC website), they are likely to lose up to 40% daylight at the rear of their flats. This planning application has generated at least 10 objections from local residents so if you can take this up with members on the planning committee and officers, it would be greatly appreciated.”
Pedicabs & buskers
We continue to receive correspondence about the loud noise caused by Pedicabs & buskers in the Bond Street area. This is enormously disruptive to residents who live in the northern bit of Mayfair, especially around the Peabody buildings. We will be delivering leaflets to try to collect ideas about how to tackle this prevalent issue.
We wrote to the Highways team:
“On Saturday I saw a taxi hurtling down Binney Street, Mayfair. This is a residential street. I’ve asked previously that speed bumps or other speed reducing measures be put in place to discourage vehicles racing down Binney St, but action hasn’t been taken. Is it possible to look at installing one? “
We are working with residents to press for measures that will reduce traffic on Binney Street.
Residents have written to us with the following problem which we are taking up:
“I need to raise with you the concerns I have about traffic and especially about parking around Selfridges. Recent road and pavement works have changed drastically the appearance of the pavement areas in-front of Selfridges on Duke Street and have also affected the flow of traffic. The pavement has been widened considerably and a couple of lay-by areas were created onto the pavement, marked by double yellow lines (onto the pavement itself!), in addition to (pre-existing) but smaller lay-by areas for taxis and disabled vehicles.
The situation that troubles me is this: These lay-bys (including disabled) have essentially become free car-park areas for luxury private-hire vehicles and privately owned vehicles that drop off customers at Selfridges. In spite of the double yellow lines, I have noticed that routinely and throughout the day drivers park in these lay-bys (as well as in the adjacent disabled parking) for long periods of time, sometimes waiting in their cars often with engines idling, and sometimes just parking and gone into Selfridges. A similar problem also persists on the opposite side of Duke Street (that has single and double yellow lines), as well as in the surrounding streets. Pay-for, residents and disabled parking bays as well as single yellow line areas are routinely occupied for long periods of time (illegally) by such vehicles. Traffic wardens, in general, are nowhere to be seen. “
We have taken up this issue:
“In Farm Street Mayfair cleaners are unmonitored by their principals (commercial and private) and put out bags of rubbish for collection either during the day for collection the following morning or on a Friday afternoon so it sits in the open all weekend and is exposed to attack by rodents, birds and urban foxes to scatter the rubbish. Please could enforcement officers inspect to resolve this problem and enforce the rules for early morning putting out for collection during the morning of weekdays.”
“I just walked past the Porsche showroom on the corner of Mount St & Davies Street and the car is parked on the pavement and adjacent to the pedestrian slope for crossing which makes walking along the pavement dangerous especially if your pushing a wheel chair or even a baby buggy. I don’t believe this behaviour should be allowed.”
We are speaking to Council officers to ask them to take action.
What you say about Councillor Pancho Lewis & the Action Team
“Many thanks for the update – keep up the good work!”
“Great to talk to you I have cc’d Pancho into this email he was fantastic in helping me”
“As ever, thank you for your informative newsletter.”
Councillor Pancho Lewis and the West End Labour Action Team
You can contact Pancho on: