WEST END WARD LABOUR ACTION TEAM
WEST END WARD LABOUR ACTION TEAM
WEST END WARD LABOUR ACTION REPORT FROM COUNCILLOR PANCHO LEWIS

SOHO

Beak Street pedestrianisation proposals – what do you think?

The Soho Society have issued this explanation about the proposals to pedestrianise a section of Beak Street:

“We understand that Westminster City Council is working in partnership with Shaftesbury plc on proposals to extend the Kingly Street / Carnaby Street pedestrianised shopping area further south to encompass Beak Street.  The pedestrianisation would extend along Beak Street from Warwick Street to Upper James Street.  All westbound traffic on Beak Street would be pushed down Upper James into Golden Square and then on to either Brewer Street or Denman Street and then Shaftesbury Avenue.  Alternatively the traffic could go down Bridle Lane or Great Pulteney Street (which are quite residential) on to Brewer and back round to Wardour.

Deliveries would take place between 7 am and 11 am in the morning – when traffic would flow, leaving the rest of the day (and night) from 11am to the following morning at 7 am for commercial activity – shopping and presumably tables and chairs on the highway and drinkers from the pub.

Marshall Street junction with Beak Street would also be closed thus routing all Broadwick street west bound traffic down Lexington. Traffic will be reversed on  Bridle Lane.

These proposals are intended to increase comfort for pedestrians and are based on a traffic survey provided by Shaftesbury itself and “generally support the modal shift to pedestrians in this area.”

Next steps are an informal consultation with the local community.  If there is “broad support” there will be an experimental traffic order and formal consultation.

In addition to the informal consultation that is coming from WCC you can also complete the Soho Society’s survey on our website and see more information here: www.thesohosociety.org.uk

There are different views in the community about these proposals. To date most local voices in the community express concern about these proposals – due to the impact on traffic but also because it would mean that Carnaby would effectively extend into Beak Street thereby further ‘sanitising’ Soho. Please do share your views.

Frith Street

We have reported a building which appears to be used entirely (and illegally) as Airbnb short-lets – the Council is investigating.

Berwick Street and Broadwick Street

It appears that a completion date for the Berwick Street development (90-104) is now the beginning (January) of next year. However, this constantly slips so we won’t be holding our breath. In the meantime, we’ll lobby the developers and Council Cabinet Members to hold PMB to account.

Complaints continue to be made about the development – in particular the lack of a clear point of communication in the Council. Conor Savage, community engagement manager for Soho and a Council officer, has now said he will be the main point of contact. If you have any issues contacting him or others (be it officers, CommComm, Interserve, or any other organisation) let Cllr Lewis know and he will put you in touch with the relevant person.

Once the development is completed, Labour will again push for a full, independent and comprehensive inquiry into the failures of the Berwick Street development debacle.

‘The future of Soho’ public conversation – what do you think?

What do you think of this idea?

Cllr Lewis would like to get residents and locals in Soho together and organise a public meeting to have a conversation about ‘the future of Soho’. He wants to do this in a non-partisan way, engaging other local councillors and others. There is more information here:

“At the Soho Society AGM, it occurred to me that whilst there’s plenty of concern (and rightly so!) articulated by the local community about what has been lost in terms of Soho’s past and heritage, there perhaps isn’t enough conversation which looks forward to what Soho will be like in the future, or better put, how we can shape things so that we can build the kind of Soho we want to see in the future.

On that basis, a thought I had is that it would be a good exercise to enable a conversation with residents and other locals about how they envisage the future for Soho. I’m aware that there’s been plenty of similar work done with the community about Soho’s future, not least the through the Neighbourhood Forum. But it seems to me there’s space to have a broader, facilitated and organised conversation – not just about planning, but indeed encapsulating everything which might then translate into different policies across the Council’s various departments. I’d be keen to do this on a cross-party basis, to ensure it’s not perceived as a party political thing, which indeed it isn’t.”

William Blake House, Ingestre Court

Residents have written to us about ongoing issues with heating. Residents say:

“It’s very cold in the flats now, specially at nights.  We should have the heating on all year-round as was confirmed in the previous meeting, and yet,  only now, have they started working on it and they’ve told  us that the heating will only be back on at the end of the month.

I’m cold and ill and I’m sure many of my neighbours who are older and more fragile than I are having an even worse time.

This is a total disregard to what was agreed on the previous meeting 3 months ago, and I wish to add my voice to our residents complaints.”

“Despite the pleasant daytime temperatures, it is really cold at night high up in this tower block with all the glass that makes it so vulnerable to outside conditions.

When are you going to accept the evidence given by residents at the Meeting chaired by Councillor Pancho Lewis, and keep the promise [to] restore the heating we used to have for so many years and truly need?

How do you explain the fact that last spring the Estate Office was besieged by the residents, all protesting and incredulous that they had, for the first time, had their heating shut down for the summer?”

The heating has recently been switched on again. We are determined to ensure next year this does not repeat itself. Cllr Lewis wrote to the Director of Housing for Westminster Housing, Neil Wightman, and still effective action wasn’t taken and residents continued to feel very cold when temperatures dipped. This can’t be allowed to continue and it’s imperative Westminster Housing officers ensure residents can keep warm all year round.

Gay Hussar, Greek Street.

Cllr Pancho Lewis wrote to the Leader of the Council, asking her to intervene to help save the Gay Hussar. His letter is below. She indicated she is considering this request.

“I’m working to try and get the Gay Hussar re-opened after it closed last year. You may recall this is a well-known Soho restaurant that’s been around since the 50s.

The Goulash Cooperative (supported by Tory and Labour politicians alike – including Andrew Mitchell, Lord Ashcroft, Neil Kinnock etc) have done a great job in putting together a business case to reopen the Gay Hussar – modernised, ready to meet contemporary consumer demands whilst maintaining the restaurant’s history. They’ve thought really carefully about it and would I’m sure make a great success of it.

I met with David King from Consulco, the agency working on behalf of the landowner who own the building where the Gay Hussar (now dilapidated) sits. He was open and honest with me – he’s said they have decided to go with another restaurant bidder, but he did say if this application fell through the Goulash Coop’s bid would be next in line.

I wonder whether you might be willing to send David a letter – perhaps to say that whilst you appreciate this is a private matter the Gay Hussar is an important and part of Soho’s heritage and history?”

Dean Street

We reported this instance of rubbish dumping and asked the Council to take action.

 

FITZROVIA

Rubbish collection in Fitzrovia

The Council’s SWAT team will soon be sent to focus on Fitzrovia. This is important as streets full of rubbish bags is a source of significant concern to many residents.

You can find out more about the SWAT team here on this link:
https://www.westminster.gov.uk/swat

There is some more information about SWAT here:

“The Street Waste Action Team (SWAT) has been formed to tackle problems around rubbish dumping, particularly around communal on-street bins. Achieving permanent behavioural change to improve the street scene will be of utmost importance. The aims of the project are:

·      to substantially reduce rubbish dumping on your streets

·      to ensure all residents are aware of how and when to dispose of their rubbish and recycling

·      to ensure residents understand the best ways to report problems to us so they can be tackled quickly and effectively”

Great Portland Street

We are in correspondence with residents about this issue:

“I’ve been living in Westminster for 6 years and during this time the noise pollution from construction and traffic has worsened. Despite being three floors above street level I am regularly woken by traffic noises at night (sirens, loud music, fast accelerating cars and motor bikes) and suffer regular nuisance during the day from construction noise and sirens. Surely this is a recurring across the borough, and I would like to know what we can do to reduce this. My initial thinking is that reducing noise may be much harder to achieve than insulating from noise. Would Westminster council help insulate constituents’ homes from noise pollution?”

Riding House Street

Councillor Pancho Lewis met with residents who live on Riding House Street to hear about their concerns about the current state of Riding House Street. These are summarised in the notes below.

The concerns are as follows:

“There is very regular traffic congestion. Vehicles travelling up north along Cleveland Street get stuck in traffic, with the result of honking and beeping. (It should be noted ambulances park on Cleveland Street as there is an NHS facility on the road, which can create a back log of traffic). Motorists, who get frustrated as a result of not being able to turn left along Riding House Street, seek the easiest escape, which means turning left onto Foley St even though it’s a one-way street moving in the opposite direction. Traffic congestion means cars end up looping around the block more regularly than they did previously, leading to increased emissions.

– Residents often feel unsafe. One resident described coming home one night, finding a group of people taking drugs openly on the street. Tents are erected and add to a feeling of lack of safety. There was an attempted burglary not long ago.
– The closure of Riding House Street has meant that bicycles mount the pavement. Residents feel unsafe; and children living the primary school have been escorted by adults to ensure bicycles don’t collide with them.
– There is more litter and rubbish. Teenagers use the bollards currently in place as a bench, sometimes to smoke/hang out – this can compound the issues of ASB.
– Riding House Street is home to a number of residents with mobility issues. Indeed, the building has been designed specifically for the purposes of meeting the needs of those with mobility problem. Ambulances can’t get through to the front door of the street as a result of the current closure.”

There are plans to pedestrianise Riding House Street – whilst the general principle of moving towards greener spaces (an important part of tackling climate change and air pollution) is a good thing, it’s important local residents are included in the conversation about how local streets are designed.

Street lighting

We are helping a resident with the following issues:

“I am concerned about the state of our street lighting. As a responsible resident I have previously been conscientious and had been reporting individual street lights which are faulty.  The worst of these is when they are on constantly 24 hours a day.

For many weeks now there are a spate of these from Oxford Street to the top of Great Portland Street, too numerous to mention individually.  They are in a number of Streets; Foley Street, Great Titchfield Street, Bolsover Street, Carburton Street, Riding House Street to name but a few.

This lack of maintenance reveals a visible disregard for the environment as surely daylight is sufficient.

Do please take this up with the Department responsible for maintaining the street lighting portfolio and let me know the response/action which is proposed.”

Rathbone Street

We have reported this problem:

“I made a report in July about the lack of a dropped kerb for this entrance at 29 Rathbone Street, W1. I received a reply – which I didn’t quite understand – but to date the dropped kerbs to allow wheelchairs, etc to continue along the pavement have still not been installed. I’d be grateful if you could push officers to deal with this asap.”

 

MAYFAIR

Peabody estate – Pedicabs and buskers

We are receiving many complaints from residents about the noise buskers and Pedicab drivers create and the disruption it causes for residents. Residents say:

“Residents from Marble Arch down to beyond Oxford Circus are affected by the buskers and pedicabs noise – it carries along the street and down the side streets. Pedicabs and some buskers use the side streets, not just Oxford Street.  Workers also suffer from the noise nuisance, and they are located all along Oxford Street.

Also buskers and pedicabs will be targeting the Crossrail station at Bond Street when it opens, and this is located in the side streets of this estate. It is essential that there is a ban on amplified noise over a wider area than just some spots along Oxford Street. A PSPO should be used.”

“YES Buskers are back again more amplified music it’s a joke!! Still putting up with this these buskers!!!!”

Cllr Lewis is campaigning for a ban on amplified music around the Bond Street Station area (in particular those that are close to residential streets like Balderton Street, Lumley Street, and Duke Street). Residents have the right to a certain degree of peace and quiet, no matter where they live.

Anti-social behaviour across Mayfair

Residents raise concerns about increasing levels of anti-social behaviour and at times aggressive and criminal behaviour across Mayfair:

“I would just like to draw to your attention a situation that I and many others find horrific. Whilst walking through Hanover Square this morning on my way to my dentist in Harley Street the garden Square was bristling with permanently erected tents with beggars (not homeless) sleeping in their new homes.

Interestingly the park attendant was clearing leaves with his machine but having to work around this, presumably because he chose not to be involved in altercations (for which I do not blame him). When I mentioned this to my dentist he told me that Howard de Walden had employed security to clear Harley Street of pavement beggars and he had seen vans dropping them off each morning with Pret a Manger bags holding a sandwich and coffee.

This situation in Westminster is certainly becoming more than a nuisance with organised crime gangs operating this and a definite rise in street robberies of watches, wallets and mobile phones with physical violence generally. I hope with the ‘soi disant’ new police policy declared by the Government matters can be speedily addressed as Westminster is a tourist draw that should not be damaged by these extraneous elements.”

A public meeting is being planned to co-ordinate efforts by the Council, police, the local community, and other stakeholders. If you are interested in attending please let Cllr Lewis know and he will keep you updated.

Planting trees in Mayfair

We have raised this with the Council’s environmental team:

“Although I attended a meeting many months ago about the Greening of Oxford street and the surrounding streets, nothing as yet has been done. I have lived just south of Oxford street for many years and it has (although MUCH more residential now!) become really tacky. Although I realise that  rubbish left on the streets will always be a problem I do think that as I have said in previous emails, that if an area looks well looked after, then people will be less inclined to drop litter. Planting trees is a priority, since they are permanent and absorb more oxygen, but hanging baskets are relatively easy to erect, so I suggest all the streets which connect to Oxford Street would benefit. Here are just a few suggestions:

·      The East side of North Audley Street

·      Green Street

·      Weighouse Street

·      Duke Street

·      North Row

·      Bond Street

·      Regent Street

·      South Audley Street

·      Brook Street”

Street light at intersection of Weighhouse and Binney Street

We have taken up this issue:

“Please can the lights be turned on here – Weighhouse with Binney Street – so the give way sign can be seen. There was an accident on this road junction not long ago I’m told.”

We received this response from the Council’s highway team:

“The sign should be working very soon”

What you say about Cllr Pancho Lewis and the Action Team

“Your support in this matter has been wonderful and I can’t thank you enough.”

“Hip- hip- hurray!!! The world needs so many more Panchos, but we are hugely grateful for this one.”

“You are such an amazing local councillor, great inspiration to many of us. Please keep up the good works. Cheers!”

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