News from Councillor Pancho Lewis and the West End Labour Action Team
Rubbish bags on the streets of Fitzrovia
Residents continue to raise concerns about rubbish bags on the streets of Fitzrovia. Council rules dictate that residents and businesses should put bags on the streets at specific times for them to be collected. But many feel the system isn’t working.
“By now I’m sure you’ve heard from other residents that Gosefield street issue regards bins/ rubbish is getting out of hands!
Our street is in terrible mess and is becoming a health and safety issue because we have no bins for the rubbish, rubbish is everywhere there’s mouse in the rubbish because is just left on the street!! It is also a tripping hazard as there’s so much rubbish!!”
“I was hoping that things might have improved as there has been more focus from the Council recently in trying to get the streets cleaner – they have a ‘SWAT’ team that has been focusing on Fitzrovia.
I think it would be good to convene another meeting in the new year to talk about how things can be improved for the future – this has gone on for too long now.”
“The west end rubbish [problem] continues!”
Councillor Pancho Lewis will be organising a public meeting to identify dumping hotspots and to put pressure to ensure the system for collecting rubbish bags works better. As it stands, it is not delivering for residents and the streets are not tidy or clean enough. The FitzWest Forum also have an update online here: http://fitzwest.org/
Councillor Lewis was very concerned to be notified of the following by Fitzrovia News:
“We are writing a news story about problems with security at 48a Mortimer Street. This is a block of social housing where the front door appears to have been smashed in and has not been repaired for at least two weeks. This is on a busy street in Fitzrovia central London and an area of high crime.
I spoke to two residents today who told me that the broken door has been reported to A2D but that nothing has been done. One resident told me that it has been broken for “about a month”. Another thought that it has been like this “since the beginning of the year”.
I noticed last week that the door was open and lying on its side in the hallway.”
Councillor Lewis has written to A2 Dominion demanding that an explanation be provided as to how the housing association could have taken so long to deal with fixing a basic problem that put residents at serious risk.
The door has now finally been repaired.
Riding House Street
We are continuing to monitor developments with respect to Riding House Street.
There are plans to pedestrianise the street with the Neighbourhood Forum, local school, and others in favour. However, residents living on Riding House St have expressed concerns for a number of reasons, including the worry that it would lead to increased anti-social behaviour.
Councillor Pancho Lewis is urging all relevant stakeholders to come together and listen to each others’ concerns to agree a way forward.
Soho Walk-in Centre
The Soho Walk In Centre is at threat of closure. Councillor Pancho Lewis is taking this issue up and campaigning for the walk in centre to be saved. It would be a devastating blow to the community if it closed.
Please can you reply with your experiences of the walk-in centre and why you believe it is an important community asset. Pancho will use any emails received as a way of lobbying the NHS body responsible (CLCCG). He wants to help mount a big, cross-party campaign to ensure decision-makers listen to the community about the importance of the centre.
The Soho Society have issued this statement:
“The Central London Clinical Commissioning Group are proposing to close the walk in centre on the ground floor of the Soho Square health centre on 31 March 2020.
There are two “engagement” meetings on 3 and 10 of February 2020 at 5.30 at the Hospital in Soho Square.
Here are the links.
Information on CLCCG website.
Register for 3 Feb.
Register for 10 Feb.
If you are concerned by the loss of the service please register, attend and let your views be known.
There maybe an option to upgrade to an Urgent Treatment Centre but the CLCCG, we suspect, want to close the service.
The Society thinks that the residential and working communities in Soho need this well-used service to be retained.”
Good news: Year-round heating at William Blake House, Dufour’s Place
It has been confirmed that next summer the heating will no longer be shut off for residents. This is great news. It follows a hard-fought campaign led by residents and Councillor Pancho Lewis and shows that by putting pressure on Westminster Housing we can deliver results.
In recent years, Westminster Housing had shut down heating during the summer period, despite strong resident opposition. Westminster Housing say:
“We have prepared for installing the new heat back for the summer period on site now and will not have a repeat of the issue next summer.”
“This is absolutely fantastic news…It’s a vindication of all we said and emailed.”
“Thank you very much for passing on the good news. Yes, it has taken time, but all of our efforts have finally paid off – thanks very much for your help with this.”
“Thank you, Pancho. You’re a godsend.”
90-104 Berwick Street development
We are very pleased that residents have been offered a full rent refund for Kemp House basement lockers. Residents have for many years been unable to use basement lockers due to the building works. More than a year ago, they raised this issue with Westminster Housing Services only to find their complaints were ignored.
Councillor Lewis recently took up the issue, urging Westminster Council to provide a full rent refund to residents. In December, residents were notified they would finally be offered a refund.
“Just to let you know, we had a letter from WHS saying that we would receive a rent refund for the basement storage lockers – backdated a couple of years. Success!
As I said, the sums involved in the shed rents are not huge and it was the easiest issue for WCC to deal with, but there is a sense of recognition and justice, which is wonderful. Thanks so much for your help with this.”
However, multiple challenges remain. In particular, there is an issue with the costs the Council is charging residents for a new communal boiler. In addition, we hope the deadline for the completion of the development does not continue to slip and it is finished quickly. We will remain vigilant.
Police operation around Cambridge Circus
The Council provided this update, below, in late December about a recent operation to tackle criminal activity around Cambridge Circus.
CouncillorLewis, together with Councillor Glanz, has urged the Council to ensure a follow up action plan is in place so that the problem doesn’t re-emerge once this operation is completed.
“You may well [have] see[n] some interest in the media regarding a significant number of arrests by Westminster Police for drug dealing. Over the past two days 18 people have now been arrested as a result of this operation and so far 11 persons have been charged with offences. 32 addressed outside of the Borough have been searched and cash and Class A drugs have been seized. The number of arrests and charges are due to increase as the operation progresses.
Detective Superintendent Nick Sumner, from the Met’s Central West Basic Command Unit, said:
“This operation is part of a longer term plan to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour within London’s West End. For months, officers have been building a vast network of intelligence and gathering evidence against those who seek to peddle illegal drugs in London. Without this planning and information we would not be able to have carried out these arrests. A total of 32 search warrants were executed at addresses across London over the two days; 27 in London, two in St Albans and Waltham Cross (Hertfordshire), one in Rushden (Northamptonshire), Chesham (Buckinghamshire) and Wolverhampton (West Midlands). Officers from the Met’s Central West BCU, Taskforce, Met Detention and Forensic Services along with colleagues from the CPS, Westminster City Council and drug diversion agencies were involved in the operation.”
Det Supt Sumner, added: “We will continue to work with partners, such as the CPS and Westminster City Council, to ensure that London’s West End is alieved of criminality and that local residents and business will not have to put up with drug dealers and ant-social behaviour on their doorstep.””
D’Arblay Street vault collapse
We are very disappointed that despite promise of action, D’Arblay Street remains closed and the collapsed vaults haven’t yet been repaired.
Late last year, the Council’s Highway Team promise that action would finally be taken to repair the collapsed vaults which had led to the closure of the street for more than two years. Councillor Pancho Lewis is lobbying the Highway Team to ensure the street is re-opened without delay.
“I wanted to take the opportunity to bring D’Arblay Styo your attention again. It seems we spoke too soon – absolutely nothing has happened with the collapsed vaults repair, works did not begin on 25 November, and no letters or emails of explanation from the council.”
“In your last mailing it was stated that work on the collapsed vaults would hopefully start before Christmas. Well hope is a fine thing but as you no doubt know the work hasn’t started.
Does the fact they haven’t mean someone will pay penalties? No.
You do a sterling job in highlighting the concerns of residents and businesses in Soho. Can you raise this again as it’s been over 2 years now?”
A local business owner has written to inform us of the passing of Dave Warrior.
“You may already know, but the Soho character that was Dave Warrior – some-time joint owner and landlord of Molly Moggs – and indeed quite a few other old haunts in and around the West End over the years has passed away. Many residents in Soho will have known him as indeed would those at St Anne’s.”
Farm Street/Berkeley Square
Working with local residents, Councillor Lewis has objected to plans to re-develop Berger House 36-38 Berkeley Square 19/09409/FULL). He wrote to the Council’s planning team. An extract of the letter is below.
“I share the concerns articulated about the timing of the consultation. I do not believe consultations should occur during the Christmas period; during this busy period, it is clearly significantly more difficult for residents and other stakeholders to find the time to submit make a submission, indeed if they find out about the application at all as many are away from home during the Christmas period. Barriers should not be erected which prevent residents, the community and others to put forward their concerns. This is not in the spirit of neighbourly development.
I am not content with the ambiguity of the application specifically in regard to “A1 and/or A3 use”. Applications should provide certainty. The fact that it leaves the door wide open for a very large restaurant to be put in place – and it is important to note it is of a very large size (875 sq. metres) – is not acceptable. Together with the large number of other restaurants around Berkeley Square, and others being proposed for Mount Street, it means that there is a serious risk of the cumulative impact of restaurants substantially eroding residential amenity. Add to this the proposed terrace overlooking Farm Street and it makes the erosion of amenity and quality of life more significant still.
Westminster Council has rightly declared a Climate Emergency, with a goal to become carbon neutral by 2040. To be successful this will require a Herculean effort and the Council will have to re-think every aspect of its planning, transport, and other policy areas. Demolition of buildings will have to become a last resort, not a first point of call, and developers will have to demonstrate that every single option outside of demolition has been considered before a decision is made to demolish; demolition on a large scale is simply not a sustainable approach.
I appreciate the applicant and Kanda Consulting made efforts to find time to meet with me and set out their proposal. But I was very clear from the off-set that any proposal needs the backing of the local community to be successful. This is a matter of principle and especially important in a context where many changes to Mayfair are being imposed on the community, not being brought forward through a process of negotiation and compromise as should be the case. The letter from David Cooper & Co. is a case in point that there is not backing for – in fact there is opposition to – this application.
I believe the best way forward would be to withdraw the application and enter into full conversation with residents and other stakeholders to find a way forward which can meet everyone’s interests and aspirations for the future of Farm Street, Berkeley Square and Mayfair as a whole.”
Busking in Oxford Street
North Mayfair residents – specifically those living in Peabody flats around Brown Hart Gardens and neighbouring areas – continue to raise complaints about buskers performing in very close proximity to their homes.
Councillor Lewis is lobbying the Council to do more to protect residents’ right to peace and quiet. In the long-term, the Council’s busking consultation provides an opportunity to fix the issue. It is encouraging designated spots are being considered in Oxford St to prevent buskers simply performing wherever they choose and that a licensing scheme is being considered. (Concerns remain about the location of some of these designated spots – some of them are still too close to people’s homes.)
In the short-term we are urging City Inspectors to continue to clamp down on those who cause noise nuisance.
We were very alarmed to receive the following and have taken it up directly with Adidas:
“I am emailing to send you the link to a video I took of a recent WCC recycling collection attempt at Adidas side door in Lumley Street. YouTube video link : https://youtu.be/irRTFj-Uw30
We were woken up before 7am on Sunday 29 December by the reversing alarm and engine noise of this WCC recycling vehicle coming along Lumley Street, even though we do not sleep on the Lumley Street side of our flat. There was no-one around at Adidas to let them in to collect the recycling bins, so they waited for over 15 minutes with the engine roaring, before leaving.
There was more than one of these vehicles in our residential side streets before 7am on that Sunday morning. The noise went on for a long while.
Westminster council has decided that our estate is to be the serving bay for Oxford Street businesses, and have placed an unbroken row of bus stops along the section of Oxford Street opposite Selfridges. This means servicing vehicles cannot park by the stores, and have to use the residential streets instead. This is despite local residents and the RA asking WCC to for once protect residential amenity here, and ensure that servicing takes place between 8am and 8pm, or takes place on Oxford Street.
Given that this is unlikely to change, please could Adidas switch to one of the other two companies that do their daily waste/recycling collections in Lumley street, such as First Mile who have daily collections at around 5pm.”
The issue is being investigated and we hope that it resolved. We will continue to press Council officers on this.
Mount Street/Davies Street junction
We have taken up the issue raised by a resident:
“I was amazed on Monday when the new junction of Mount St with Davies St on the north west corner of Berkeley Square was unveiled, that there were no zebra crossings. All there is, is a change of road surface, which gives the pedestrian absolutely no priorities, only the car.
As I waited to cross the road, I and my fellow pedestrians wondered in disbelief how WCC have spent all this money and provided a situation which is actually worse for the pedestrian than before! It does seem remarkably incompetent.
I do hope that this is a temporary matter and zebra crossings will follow, otherwise the pedestrian will be left waiting for a gap in the traffic, as there is no requirement for a vehicle to stop. This can’t be right. It will lead pedestrians to risk a crossing that could be dangerous. I have to say it is breathtaking that this “improvement” has been made, which does not improve the lot of pedestrians.”
The Council say:
“Thank you for your email regarding your constituent’s concern for pedestrians using the new Mount Street/Davies Street junction.
The new junction was opened to all road users on Saturday 16th November and on Monday 18th November a Stage 3 Road Safety Audit was carried out. We are currently waiting on the full report however, on site, the Road Safety Auditor had only one concern; the parking on Davies Street and associated sight lines for traffic turning out of Mount Street. They recommended that the parking on Davies Street stop short of the junction on the western kerb line (the Mount Street side).
The pedestrian crossings are currently working well. The reduced size of the junction encourages vehicles to reduce speeds and minimal road markings encourage vehicles to approach the junction with caution. Therefore, this requires all road users to be aware of each other and to give way to each other. This design is a new approach for WCC and as a result we have installed a duct loop around the junction which would allow traffic signals to be installed if required.”
What you say about Councillor Pancho Lewis & the Action Team
“You are an amazing man and I wish I was in your ward so I could vote for you. I’m greatly in your debt.”
“I just wanted to say thank you again for so thoughtfully sorting out the noise issue on Wardour Street. It has made a vast improvement on the quality of my home life and I am so grateful.”
“Thanks for all your good work Pancho!”
Councillor Pancho Lewis and the West End Labour Action Team
You can contact Pancho on: