West End Ward Labour Action Team
West End Ward Labour Action Team

News from Councillor Pancho Lewis and the West End Labour Action Team

SOHO

20th Century Fox building

Councillor Pancho Lewis is supporting a campaign The Soho Society is running to stop the building being demolished.

Demolishing the iconic 20th century Fox building would rob Soho of another part of its cultural heritage. This would be unacceptable – especially after everything Soho has gone through as a result of Robert Davis’ policies, which were designed to meet the interests of big developers.

You can sign a petition to stop the building being demolished here and there’s more information about the campaign here.

Soho Neighbourhood Plan

The Soho Neighbourhood Forum is running a final consultation on the draft Neighbourhood Plan. This is a plan written by the community which will eventually form part of the planning framework once it’s adopted. Make sure you take part. You can read more about it here: https://planforsoho.org/2019/07/17/final-consultation-on-the-draft-soho-neighbourhood-plan-starts-2/

Bridle Lane – what you think

In our June newsletter, we raised the idea of breathing life into Bridle Lane by adopting Canada’s Laneway Project concept and implementing it in Soho. So far reception has been positive.

Residents say:

“I raised this [with other residents] and they were very supportive.  There’s a section in Soho Neighbourhood Plan relating to back streets [which is relevant].”

As a reminder, the concept is as follows:

“One of Toronto’s defining features is its vast network of alleyways: there are about 2,400 weaving through the city. In recent years the Laneway Project has been helping the public get more out of these oft-overlooked spaces by partnering with communities to reimagine them as gardens, concert venues or farmers’ markets. Today the advocacy group officially launches a “toolkit” for making better use of the backstreets. The online interactive map will show residents where a laneway is being brought to life and offer guidance on how the public can get involved. It’s a novel approach to a much-maligned feature of our urban realm; other cities should follow Toronto’s lead.”

Berwick Street

The 90-104 Berwick Street development continues and the deadline for completion seems to continually be pushed back. Recently, falling debris from the site narrowly missed a passer-by and Interserve – the construction company – irresponsibly used a product on site which causes a toxic smell, can cause headaches and can have other damaging health effects. We are lobbying the Council and the developers when these issues arise and continue to make the case for a full, independent and public inquiry into the development debacle. We believe there should be financially compensated for those affected and we are lobbying the Council on that front.

We are also helping residents with this problem:

“I have just discovered that planning permission has been granted (18/09085/FULL) for the redevelopment of 70 Berwick Street.

The development will have a detrimental impact on my property. Neither myself or my neighbours in the building were notified – in Central Planning told me the computer had sent something out….. ! 

This is not the first time it has happened, but somehow we never seem to have any problems receiving Council Tax demands !!

It also interesting to see that no other properties which will be affected by this made a comment, which suggest either no one cares, or WCC are not notifying people – which we know from experience happens.

So please could one of you tell me what’s going on?”

The Gay Hussar, Greek Street

Councillor Pancho Lewis is working with the Goulash Co-operative to attempt to re-open the restaurant (albeit in a revamped form) on the former Greek Street site. Pancho has written the following letter to agents managing the property:

David King

Consulco Real Estate Ltd

22 Soho Square, 4th Floor

London

W1D 4NS

 

Dear David, 

I understand that the Goulash Co-operative has written to you requesting that you and your team meet with them to discuss their proposal to acquire a lease at 2 Greek Street. They would like to re-open the Gay Hussar, albeit in a modern and revamped form. I am writing to you as a councillor for Soho asking that you please take every step possible to not only engage with the Co-operative but also give their proposal priority attention.

As you know, the Gay Hussar has a special and important place in Soho’s cultural heritage. It has served, and until its recent close last year has continued to serve, as a meeting place for politicians, pundits, writers and artists meeting to discuss the latest in Westminster politics and London cultural life. These have included politicians from across the political spectrum – it is a unique representation of the pluralism and diversity that Soho embodies and is renowned for. It is also much loved by the local community.

Soho’s heritage is special and fragile. It is fragile because rapid changes threaten to undermine what has been built over centuries in what we call the Soho village. The community and as its representatives wish to protect and enhance what is special about Soho, whilst also balancing this against necessary and inevitable change and market demands. In the context of the restaurant scene, change must of mean evolving to understand and meet the demands of modern consumer behaviour. The proposals for a new Gay Hussar precisely achieve that balance between preservation and change. 

I would urge you therefore to take every step possible to reach out to the Goulash Co-operative and prioritise their proposal before choosing to go with any other proposal.

I look forward to receiving your response.

Regards

Cllr Pancho Lewis

Old Compton Street

The Admiral Duncan has applied for a late license until 3 am which we will be opposing given the precedent this would set. It currently operates until half 11.

St Anne’s Gardens

Residents wrote to us with the following:

“Dear All, 

The discovery of three syringes, two complete with needles, lying in St Anne’s gardens on Saturday morning has prompted this email, which could have been written on a number of occasions in recent months. 

I am really concerned about the gardens. Whilst we are not quite facing the levels of anti-social behaviour of a couple of years ago, the present situation is really not great and so I am appealing to you to suggest ways we can address some of the issues I will outline as briefly possible: 

  1. Use of the gardens for defecating.
  1. Use of the entrance, when the gates are closed, as a urinal.
  1. Drug taking: in addition to the needles (see attached) people are regularly and openly smoking marijuana in the gardens.
  2. 4.Groups of homeless people. 
  1. Use as a shopping outlet. It is no exaggeration to say that at times it is taken over by hoards of youths re-selling their purchases from skating shop Supreme. For several hours at a time it becomes like a street market. 
  1. Notices. The notice boards in the gardens are contradictory (one notice says “no dogs” and opposite is a notice that says “dogs on leads”.) and in part out of date so as to invite being treated with derision: “no radios or tape machines”. Other rules such as the prohibition on alcohol are consistently flouted.
  2. Misuse of the gardens is usually unchallenged. The effect of this is that those who ignore the law, the council’s regulations or who don’t care about others have the upper hand and claim the space as their own to behave in as they wish. I believe this is quite contrary to the Council’s desire,the law of the land (in respect of drug use), and what the community have a right to expect or put up with. Calling the police has not yielded a quick enough response ( for which I do not blame the police themselves) and I believe that , for their own safety, the park keepers have been told not to intervene ( which, to some extent, I understand).”

We have recently received reports that many of these issues are improving as there has been more police intervention and resource provided by the Council.

FITZROVIA

Hanson Street

We are working with residents to try to tackle the persistent issue of idling on Hanson Street. It is outrage that Council sub-contractors should be the ones who leave their engines on idling! Councillor Lewis wrote to the Leader of the Council with the following:

“I have received a number of emails from residents in Fitzrovia about Oakray, despite being a Council sub-contractor, idling on residential streets – as per this tweet  https://twitter.com/edwardkellow/status/1151129921328050177

Edward Kellow on Twitter

“⁦@OakrayLimited⁩ are possibly the worst offenders in terms of texting and engine idling ⁦@CityWestminster⁩ ⁦@MayorofLondon⁩ As a council contractor why are they not signed up to #dontbeidle ⁦@pancho_lewis⁩”

I do find it confusing that they should be doing this – I wrote to an officer who said the Council had no power to take action, but again this seems counter-intuitive to me. Please can this be looked into?”

The Leader responded:

“Very disappointing. Will certainly look into it. As you know we are lobbying the Government to give us more powers and [they] has been very positive and supportive.”

Newman Street

Councillor Pancho Lewis is opposing an application that would impact residential amenity. Together with local residents, he wrote the following to the Leader of Westminster Council and the Cabinet Member for Planning:

“We write to express very strong concerns about the planning application with reference number 19/02326/FULL, which involves a major redevelopment and expansion of the rear part of the building for office use in Fitzrovia.

If approved in its current form, the proposals would have a very significant impact on residents on Newman Street as well as those who reside on the corner of Newman and Goodge Street, specifically residents at 36-39 Newman Street, 45 Newman Street, 59 and 61 Goodge Street as well as some on Charlotte Place. All these properties are residential above ground floor level and back onto the rear of FKS House or are immediately adjacent. It is in effect a proposal that would lead to over-development of what is an already cramped site with unacceptable environmental impacts for residents.  

There would primarily be two consequences – loss of sunlight and daylight levels, and noise pollution.

First, the proposals plan to expand the fourth, fifth and sixth floors of the building at its rear. This would affect both those on 45 Newman Street and 61 Goodge Street, with a loss of sunlight of up to 40%. We note that the new draft City Plan contains the following guidance, set out below in italics. Whilst we appreciate the new City Plan isn’t yet formal planning policy, there are also measures in the current City Plan and elsewhere in the planning framework protecting residents’ right to daylight and sunlight. We deem these principles to be self-evident and clearly set out the current definition of good planning practice in respect of residential amenity:  

7.3 / Negative effects on amenity should be minimised as they can impact on quality of life. Provision of good indoor daylight and sunlight levels is important for health and well-being and to decrease energy consumption through reduced need for artificial heating and lighting. Overshadowing affects the quality or operation of adjacent buildings and can negatively impact on the use of public and private open space for recreation, rest and play. Positioning, scale and orientation of buildings as well as the incorporation of design measures should be considered to minimise overshadowing and overlooking and ensure adequate levels of privacy. Even when there may be no material loss of daylight or sunlight, new developments should prevent unacceptable increases in the sense of enclosure. [page 50, para 7.3)

In our view, the proposed application directly contravenes these principles as a result of the loss of daylight and sunlight to adjoining residents that the applicants themselves note in their Daylight & Sunlight Statement. 

We’re also very concerned about the plan to install a plant room on the sixth floor. This will create additional noise for residents particularly if it is running 24hrs/7 days a week. We would like to have absolute confidence that there will be complete soundproofing of any proposed plant – indeed, we know from past experience, measures are promised but they often aren’t implemented properly in practice, and enforcement after that can be very slow. We do not want to fall victim to that. 

We also note that these alterations are being carried out on an unlisted building of merit in a Conservation Area, whereby its architectural integrity would be lost if this application is approved. Windows at the rear were also planned which would overlook a rear terrace at no.59 Goodge Street, although these have now been removed in part.

An objector from Lancaster Court (36-39 Newman Street) notes on the WCC website under this application:

  1. The building at 40-44 Newman Street is also an unlisted building of merit, built around 1905 and designed by local architect E. Keynes Purchase. When the existing rear extensions were added (date unknown but likely to be pre-War) the design was careful to minimise the impact on the surrounding residential occupiers; the present stepped nature of the building at the rear ensures that light passes to the windows of the flats on the north side of Lancaster Court (and indeed, to other neighbouring properties such as Goodge Street and Charlotte Place). The proposed development will destroy this existing design feature by substantially increasing the height and massing at the rear of the building. 

Our request is simple – either the applicants are asked to revise the proposal and to remove the additional floors at the rear so that the above objections are no longer valid, or the application is refused. The proposed plant room should be sound insulated and be limited by a condition to use only during normal working hours.”

Mortimer Street

We have raised this issue with the Council’s graffiti team:

“I own a property Mortimer Street W1. The Pavements on all the aforementioned Streets are covered with Painted Arrows/Numerals/Letters/Numbers. They appeared several months ago and I thought at first that they were marked for Utility Companies, but am now of the view that they might be the work of a Street Artist/Graffiti. Could you Investigate and Confirm when the Council will remove them. Many Thanks”

The Council have said:

“I have tasked my team to investigate and raise the relevant request. There will probably be a short delay as the graffiti team are now dealing with the post Notting Hill Carnival clean up.”

Riding House Street

Councillor Pancho Lewis is meeting residents concerned about plans to pedestrianise Riding House Street or convert it into a ‘play street’. In recent years, as a result of works happening on the street, Riding House Street hasn’t had traffic going through it – while some have welcome this, others aren’t so keen on plans to permanently change Riding House Street’s make-up. We believe we should encourage more spaces for pedestrians and cyclists, and get more cars off roads, but that any changes need to be carried out sensitively and need to take into account the concerns of residents.

They say: 

“Since the closure of the road, cyclists and motorcyclists are using the pavement as an alternative creating an unsafe and dangerous environment for all pedestrians in general and for children in particular and facing their verbal abuse and threatening attitude if a sign of disapproval is manifested. The only access to 60 Riding building where many vulnerable people live is made very inconvenient for them. they are now forced to suffer more by covering a large distance to get to their places. The ambulance which is frequently requested in our building may lose some vital minutes to save people’s lives as they cannot park closer to the access. The road becomes an attractive hotspot for antisocial behaviour. Alcohool and food consumption by groups of people are very common which is creating an unsafe environment for the locals

Burglars may have taken this opportunity to monitor the movements of the residents which may have been the cause of a burglary attempt on one of the flats of 60 Riding House Street. During night, young motorcyclists rear their motorcycles and ride at high speed on the road and pavement as well, creating a very dangerous and intimidating atmosphere. An incresed number of robberies has been reported. As a consequence of the road closure, our car journeys to or from our places have become longer and involuntarily increasing the level of pollution. Many homeless people are now attraced to Riding House street , poluting the area with their excrement and rubbish left on the pavement

We understand, the motivation behind the closure proposal of the road is to secure the safety of school children but, we strongly believe that the closure has created the opposite impact. The road is narrow and already designed to a high level of safety to the school children. however, the pavement is now more dangerous than the road and it constitutes a real danger for pedestrians and for the school children when trying to get to the small Hall opposite the school which is only occasionly used

Although and as mentioned above the road is already very safe, other options can be explored to make the road even safer without having to close the road and leaving the whole local community suffering and enduring various safety, security and health issues. For instance, bumps can be added to the road, installing Green man lights, restricting access during school hours only.”

Foley Street, Hanson Street and Gosfield Street

We received notification of issues with drug-taking in some of these streets and have notified the local Anti-Social Behaviour Co-ordinator, asking her to take action and involve the police.

MAYFAIR 

Peabody estate – Pedicabs & buskers

We received notice of this issue:

“[A resident] wishes to complain about the intensity of noise coming from buskers near where he lives. The buskers start at 10am and finish around 11.30pm invariably every night. He has reported the issue many times to Westminster City Council but is not getting a satisfactory response from them. He has tried talking to the buskers but said he was abused by them when he tried to ask them to leave. He called the Council three times on Thursday but nothing happened and the buskers were still playing at 8.30/9pm at night. He says he and the other residents are not trained as Environmental Health Officers and so need the Council to intervene on this issue…He says RBKC have an exclusion order for buskers and cannot understand why WCC doesn’t have the same system in place.”

We have raised this with the Council officers and will prioritise it as a lobbying effort.

Peabody estate – security

We raised the following issue with Peabody, after residents wrote to us:

“We have been trying with the assistance of Peabody to get security gates on the remaining blocks that don’t have this facility as well as having the height of the surrounding railings raised to stop people coming into our courtyards for all manner of things from stashing goods and other substances to eating their food from the many fast food outlets in the area to using our courtyards as toilets or changing areas for their babies.  This can only get worse with the increased footfall from Crossrail which opens right up outside our doorsteps.

Grosvenor appear to be unwilling to consider this request although the Marriott Hotel has higher railings than the rest of the area.  He has said that he will revisit it if other’s from Westminster are happy to write letter’s of support.  …Obviously this is something we all feel passionate about as we very much feel like sitting ducks with no security measures in place to safeguard us.”

We are pleased that since raising the issue, Peabody have agreed to install security gates, albeit not the size of gates the community had asked for. This is a step forward, and further pressure needs to be applied to get full and proper security.

Farm Street

Residents wrote to us with the following:

“I wonder if you are able to update me about the council’s refuse depot development in Farm Street, it seems that work on the site has stopped for a while and I wondered if you had any information about why this might be?”

The Council have said the following:

“I would like to update you further regarding contractual matters at Farm Street. This morning Caudwell have confirmed that they have terminated their contract with Chase construction.  Caudwell are in advanced negotiations to appoint a new main contractor, they will appoint the contractor under a Pre Contract Services Agreement (PCSA)  for 10 weeks whilst they conclude negotiations.  The PCSA approach will allow them to progress matters such as further intrusive surveys, design and procurement without having to wait until the negotiations are concluded. There will be some limited activity on site during this period. 

I will update you again, once Caudwell have confirmed which of the two shortlisted contractors they are going forwards with.”

Lumley Street

We are taking up this issue:

“Conroy, one of Westminster’s large contractors are telling their staff, contractors and sub contractors, that they can start these works at 7.30 am which is before the 8 am start time set by Westminster Council.  This morning residents were woken at 7.30 by loud drilling in Lumley St. When I spoke to the perpetrators they told me that have specific permission, from Conroy, to start at that time. If Conroy are not adhering to the regulations, then can you make sure that Westminster inform them of the correct times, and they, in turn, inform their Contractors. Could you send me an email that clarifies the situation so that I can show to the perpetrators of any future out of hours disturbances what the regulations are.”

The Council say:

“We have now determined that this was part of our lighting maintenance works. While works out of normal hours may be agreed with Noise colleagues we can see no reason why works so early would have been needed here. No requests for approval were made and none would have been given. The team undertaking the work have been firmly spoken to and this will not happen again.”

Berkeley Square

We raised the following issue with local police:

“I am sorry to raise issues but I would like to bring to your attention an increasing security risk that does not appear to be addressed by the Police Force. My wife and I took a walk across Berkeley Square and down Berkeley Street to Piccadilly on Sunday and attempted to stop at Barclays Bank to withdraw some money. Along the length of the journey we had to negotiate professional foreign beggars sitting across the pavement with their feet towards the curb (pretty much every 100 yards) accosting passers by in an intimidatory way, and we watched two young similar foreign scruffy persons attending each one of them to remove any funds they had collected.  When we arrived at Barclays Bank a beggar was seated below the ATM machine and we declined to use it in those circumstances. This…street behaviour cannot be right and must be illegal and something should be done to remove this element and bring safety back to our streets for both our Tourists (who we should value) and the local and transient population. I would emphasise these are not genuine homeless people with whom I empathise and require help, but professional criminals having no place on our streets.”

The Council say:

“In May, we organised a series of operations with Police to tackle the begging and associated activity in Berkley Square and surrounding. This resulted in 5 Community Protection Warnings and 7 Community Protection Notices being issued. The reported increase could be due to the sheer amount of work done recently on Cavendish and Marble Arch/ Park Lane with similar issues. I will make the Police and CI teams aware and see if we can re-run an operation and keep you updated.”

WEST END WIDE ISSUES 

Pedicabs

Councillor Pancho Lewis and Steven Saxby, candidate for MP for your area, wrote to the then Secretary of State for Transport about introducing a bill to regulate Pedicabs. We will follow up with the new Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps.

“Dear Chris Grayling,

We write to express our concerns about the continued delay with introducing legislation to allow for Pedicabs to be regulated in London.

The Mayor of London has been calling for Pedicabs to be regulated for years now and so have Council leaders in central London boroughs. There is cross-party unity that legislation should be introduced as a matter of urgency. 

We believe the delay in the introduction of this legislation is unacceptable – every day that the legislation is delayed further, residents in the City of Westminster and elsewhere continue to suffer as a result of the very significant noise pollution Pedicab drivers cause for them and their families In addition, tourists are regularly over-charged when they use a Pedicab because there is no regulated pricing regime – it makes tourists wonder how on earth a city as renowned the world over as London fails to protect their interests when they visit us as guests.

We call on the Government to commit to dealing with the problem now. We look forward to hearing what timescale you suggest to end the issue once and for all. 

Kind regards,

Cllr Pancho Lewis (Westminster Council) & Steven Saxby (PPC for the Labour party, Cities of Westminster & London)”

Public toilets

Councillor Pancho Lewishas written to senior Westminster Council officers demanding that Carlisle – the private organisation part-owned by Conservative donor Lord Ashcroft which runs pubic toilets in the City of Westminster – is held to account for its poor performance.

Councillor Lewis says there are many failures which have been documented recently. Toilets in Westminster are regularly closed without notice. Some days, toilets might be closed the whole day, shut early, or not opened up until late – even though it specifies clearly in Carlisle’s contract that they must remain open during agreed stated hours.

The toilets are often left in a very dirty condition, deterring the public from using them. They often aren’t maintained properly.

In Broadwick Street toilets are regularly closed without notice. This has an impact because this part of Soho is heavily visited by members of the public, and market traders on Berwick Street have to use private premises to use toilets.

Access to toilets is a public good and a public right. In effect, under current provision, you often have to pay to use a toilet, by entering a pub or a cafe. Vulnerable groups, like street homeless people, are left without access to toilets.

Climate emergency

We will be submitting a motion to Westminster Council urging the Council to declare a state of climate emergency and set an ambitious goal by which to become carbon neutral. We also have a petition which you can sign.

The petition reads: 

“We the undersigned support the call by Westminster Labour for Westminster City Council to declare a Climate Emergency at the Council Meeting on 18 September 2019.  

The Council must set out a Plan of Action which is both ambitious and deliverable to show how our City can make a real difference in the urgent fight against climate change. 

Cutting carbon emissions must be at the heart of the decisions the Council makes including on planning, house building, energy supply, procurement, freight consolidation, investments, transport and green spaces.”

You can sign here:

http://bit.ly/climate-emerg

What you say about Councillor Pancho Lewis & the Action Team

“Seriously you’re a star, i am thinking wish we had more of your personality as a councilor in every ward, then everything would be so different. Really thankful for every effort your making.”

“Thank you so much, Pancho, for addressing issues of concern, and sharing all this information.” 

“Dear Pancho, thanks for another terrific and informative newsletter, and for all your work for Soho.”

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