Councillor Pancho Lewis and the West End Labour Action Team
Councillor Pancho Lewis and the West End Labour Action Team
West End Ward Labour Action Report – June 2020

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

SOHO

Council plans for temporary closure of roads

The Council has published its second iteration of its plans to close streets in Soho. These can be viewed online here:
https://www.westminster.gov.uk/reopening-westminsters-hospitality-sector

These plans will begin on Saturday 4 July and are intended to support hospitality businesses to reopen.

I will continue to pick up local issues and make local Council officers and the Council’s Executive aware of local problems, so do continue raising these with me.

With this second iteration, it has made a number of alterations including bringing back the timing of road closures on weekends to midday (instead of starting in the late afternoon as was planned before) and adding some streets to the plan for temporary closure (including all of D’Arblay St. and a section of Brewer St.).

There are a number of areas that concern me:

  • No toilet provision – there are still no plans for additional toilet provision. This is becoming a nightmare for residents who have already found that people who have purchased alcohol from off-licenses are drinking on streets and then with nowhere to go peeing on people’s doorways and elsewhere. Extra toilet provision is desperately needed and we’re calling for that.
  • There is no detail on enforcement – very little with regards to how the Council intends to tackle anti-social behaviour.
  • Residents have called for a one day break when road closures aren’t permitted – but these haven’t been included.

Resources for enforcement: Letter to Soho Estates

I have written a letter to John James, Managing Director of Soho Estates Ltd, regarding the West End Recovery proposals. We are also asking the Council to bring forward ensure there is a plan to ensure the rules are enforced. There are serious concerns there could be high levels of anti-social behaviour as a result of a lack of enforcement.

https://www.westminsterlabour.org.uk/ward-news/2020/06/23/west-end-recovery-plans-our-letter-to-soho-estates/

Concerns from the community about anti-social behaviour as off-license premises have begun to reopen:

Residents have raised multiple concern about anti-social behaviour as large crowds of people have gathered to drink outside premises selling alcohol:

“Social distancing is clearly already a nonsense even before you start opening everything up. If you can’t control one street on a sunny afternoon, could you please explain how you intend to manage several pedestrianised blocks when the ‘festival’ is in full swing and what contingencies you have in place for an inevitable local infection spike.”

“[People peeing] in the middle of the pavement at 5pm on a Saturday, literally..is this the message soho wants to give out? Westminster Council sort this out”

“What a delight Soho is tonight. 14 people urinating on the street in the last hour… Westminster you seriously need to deal with this.”

We are taking these issues up. One simple solution we’ve taken up is to put in place additional toilet provision:

“I think we quite desperately need some stand up, removable urinals – like the one they have on the corner of Wardour St & Old Compton St – put in place close to the Soho hotspots where people congregate these days. I’ve seen endless of video and photo footage of punters going to the toilet on people’s doorways, in streets, etc. Can this be organised? What would the process for sign off needed be?”

Other measures like being able to carefully move on large crowds who are causing noise nuisance are needed too.

Berwick Street Market Traders

The decision has been taken by the Council to increase the fees that market traders on Berwick Street pay despite the enormous downfall in customer footfall. I am lobbying the Council to reverse this decision.

Market traders say:

“I cannot stress enough how important it is for us as traders to get support immediately when we have lost our livelihoods due to COVID-19.

I feel it is only reasonable to review the decisions made considering we are held in abeyance pending further resolution regarding this pandemic.

I would like to also mention that the road works on Berwick Street certainly don’t make the market any more attractive and it doesn’t help especially at this time.  I’m sure you all agree.”

Fundraising campaign for Soho Parish School – please consider donating

You can donate here:
https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-soho-parish

“Save the only school in Soho. Soho Parish is a creative, innovative and forward-thinking school in the heart of London.  Our Victorian ‘village school’ building with its tiny classrooms limits our class sizes to 25.

Schools are funded ‘per pupil’, which means once we’ve paid our staff there is nothing left.  This leads to a shortfall of around £100,000 per year; a gap our parents and staff work hard to fill with fundraising.  The Soho Food Feast, generously supported by local restaurants, is our biggest fundraiser, bringing in £40,000 each year and filling bellies and hearts as it does so.

This year, the coronavirus pandemic has wiped out our essential fundraising.   We had to cancel the Food Feast and have lost considerable income from letting our building and providing after school care.

We need help.  Without our usual income we will struggle to buy the most basic supplies and will be forced to make further redundancies.  With SEN pupils at twice the national percentage, we really need our teaching assistants and will do everything we can to retain them. To survive and maintain our excellent pastoral and academic provision, we need to raise £500 per pupil and anything you can donate towards this will help.”

 

MAYFAIR

Council plans for temporary closure of some roads

The Council has published its second iteration of its plans to close a small number of streets in Mayfair and some just north of Mayfair in south Marylebone. These can be viewed online here:
https://www.westminster.gov.uk/reopening-westminsters-hospitality-sector

These plans will begin on Saturday 4 July and are intended to support hospitality businesses to reopen.

The plans include:

  • Shepherd Market: Temporary extension of outdoor seating area and the timed closure of Trebeck Street and Shepherds Street from 11am-11pm – more restaurant and bar seating across empty units or inactive frontages provided.
  • North Audley Street: Temporary widening of footway – Extension of scheme already in place to accommodate
    outside seating and tables associated with cafes or restaurants
  • Heddon Street: Temporary extension of outdoor seating area (extend private licences) – more restaurant and
    bar seating across empty units or inactive frontages provided.

I will continue to pick up local issues and make local Council officers and the Council’s Executive aware of local problems, so do continue raising these with me.

Pedicabs and buskers in north Mayfair

Residents say:

“Yesterday retailers reopened on Oxford Street. And along came pedicabs, and a busker, the latter causing high levels of noise nuisance, a woman singer with amplifier and music. She was on the Selfridges curtilege, both yesterday and today.

This part of Oxford Street is supposed to be one of the locations where busking is not permitted, as the acoustics here sends the noise straight into the residential side streets. And what makes the situation worse is that some residents are working from home, and the noise is a major disruption.”

Several other residents have written to raise concerns. We have taken this up with the Council’s City Inspector team and local police.

LAPADA festival

We have received an updae to say that this year’s LAPADA festival has been cancelled. The plans are that it will next take place in September next year.

Mount Street Gardens

We have taken this issue up with the Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment:

“There are four gym operatives conducting private fitness lessons in the Gardens every day. They bring in their equipment via trolleys into the Garden.

As I said before, the use of indoor equipment in the Gardens is one of the sticking points for me, not only will it bring long-term damage to the grass over time, but it just seems to contradictory to the very ethos of the Garden. No-one is going to object to exercise in the gardens, but bringing in equipment and doing it in such a systematic fashion, is wrong.

It also prejudices other businesses who may like to sell ice creams, conducted fashion shows in the Garden etc. all of which require licences and permissions, which have not been granted. So it is one rule for some, and another for others. In general, it is a slippery slope move towards the commercialisation of our Parks.”

Summer Concerts abandoned in Hyde Park

We have received this message from the Royal Parks:

“We have been liaising with all our major events organisers and key partner agencies during Covid-19, and following Government guidance closely. It is with great sadness that our partner and promoter, AEG presents, has made the incredibly difficult decision to cancel this year’s British Summer Time Hyde Park 2020. This decision has been made to protect the safety of fans, staff and guests.

In addition to the Government enforcing a prolonged period of social isolation, the event would not want to place any additional strain on the emergency services, who we are fortunate to have working alongside us at our events.

It should also be noted that we are not taking further bookings for any small events or filming shoots for the foreseeable future. Those booked in for May have now been cancelled.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and follow the Government’s guidance, with the hope that we can still deliver the events that occur in the latter part of the year. We will update you about these events when we have the necessary information to do so.

I am sure you will appreciate that the safety, health and wellbeing of everyone is our sole priority, and I would like to thank you for your support and patience at this time”.

Amazonica licensing hearing – Berkeley Square

Earlier this month there was a Licensing hearing about an application by a bar, Amazonica, on Berkeley Square to extend operating hours until 3 am.

I spoke at the hearing and updated residents with the following information after the Licensing Committee’s decision was announced:

“I am very pleased to say that we succeeded in preventing the extension of operating hours (which were proposed until very late, 3am, Wednessay to Saturday). The Licensing Sub-Committee decided this was not acceptable given the impact it would be expected to have on the area and on residents. This is significant because it helps prevent the establishment of precedent in future hearings and helps stem, at least in the meantime, the extension of many of the issues we’ve seen on Berkeley St further into Berkeley Sq.

Having said that, it’s clear that attempting to establish the Hadfield report as part of the licensing framework is going to be crucial so I’m going to be taking this forward and make representations about how we can advance this.

There is one outcome which was less agreeable. The Committee agreed to grant permission for the sale of alcohol in the external area at ground floor level, but with a limit of 12 people sitting there.

Overall though, I believe this is a good outcome and thank you to everyone who took part in making representations – it’s due to these efforts that we were able to prevent the proposed extension of hours.”

 

FITZROVIA

Council plans for temporary closure of some roads
The Council has published its second iteration of its plans to support hospitality businesses in Fitzrovia. These can be viewed online here:
https://www.westminster.gov.uk/reopening-westminsters-hospitality-sector

These plans will begin on Saturday 4 July and are intended to support hospitality businesses to reopen.

The plans include:

  • Temporary widening of footway on Charlotte Street
  • A timed daily closure of Market Place

Concerns have been raised about the proposals for Charlotte Street on traffic displacement. Please do raise any issues and I will take them up.

Air quality petition

We have launched this petition:

“Lockdown has led to a dramatic improvement in air quality in Fitzrovia and the West End. Westminster Council has a unique opportunity to build on this and avoid toxic air quality returning to our streets. Measures should be brought forward to prevent rat-running through residential streets. Other measures like greening streets, widening pavements, among others also need to be looked at. We call on the Council to engage with local people and hear our views about how to make these improvements.”

You can sign it here https://www.westminsterlabour.org.uk/uncategorised/2020/06/18/petition-to-westminster-council-on-behalf-of-fitzrovia-residents/?fbclid=IwAR0U0lMTi40LHcUQmEi8i95DIkhu6z1fF8i55YLdwWSJWTrpJWFD8uWLyaY

Proposals to improve air quality in streets – Tell us your views

Fitzrovia residents have put together plans to reduce through traffic and rat running in Fitzrovia. We are asking the Council to consider these proposals and engage local people so they can have their voice heard. You can read about these proposals here:

https://news.fitzrovia.org.uk/2020/05/15/help-us-improve-the-streets-for-walking-and-cycling-in-fitzrovia-west/

What do you think about these proposals?

Portland Place

Residents say:

“I feel it necessary to raise a complaint regarding the condition of both the paving stones and the re-surfaced roads following works by Conway, who as you know, have large contracts in this particular area.

Some of their work is up to scratch but their lack of clearing up and tidying the areas once works are completed, is almost non-existent. I’m happy to send some photographic examples if you require them. Conway’s standards have definitely dropped throughout the West End of late, and I would appreciate you looking into it on my behalf.”

We took this up with the Council’s Highway team who replied:

“We have discussed this issue with our contractor who then immediately cleaned up the area where the works were located.

We have highlighted our disappointment this was not done at the time and have reiterated the importance that jobs are completed to the highest standard, which includes the final clean up. Our contractors have confirmed they are in complete agreement and have reminded their teams that all jobs should be cleaned up fully before leaving site.”

Great Titchfield Street

We have taken this up with the Council’s Licensing Team:

“Every Saturday, the Riding House Cafe (which is now styling itself as a “food store” – The Riding House Local Store) sets up and holds a Saturday afternoon BBQ with a commercial catering kitchen size BBQ grill set up in the open street (on the pavement outside their demised premises) selling hot food and drinks (including alcohol, both on a retail basis and also in open glasses etc. as if in a bar or pub).  This is all consumed outside the premises on the neighbouring streets and public highways as all restaurants are required to be closed at the moment. This started on Saturday 24 May and is advertised to be a regular affair on their social media.  On the first occasion, they had tables and chairs set up as if they were just a restaurant on the street. I understand from the staff that they are deliberately trying to inculcate an outside party atmosphere with lots of shouting and music.  It has encouraged dozens of people to attend with all the noise and risk associated with crowds for the local residents in the current public health emergency.

The commercial BBQ grills on the open street are billowing out smoke and paraffin fuel fumes – no attempt has been made to try and capture the smoke or fumes as would be the case with a normal restaurant.  In addition, there are extensive food cooking smells and smoke blowing into neighbouring local residential flats, such as mine.  During Lockdown, local residents have no escape from this and we have to close our windows.  It is intolerable for us to have to endure no ventilation during a heatwave as the licensed premises across the street has set up an unauthorised BBQ grill on a commercial scale in the open street and is acting like an outdoor bar-restaurant as if Lockdown had never happened.”

Rathbone Square

We have raised strong concerns about the managing agents for Rathbone Square who appear to be refusing to comply with planning conditions that dictate that the square should remain open to the public. Back in May it wasn’t open at all. Residents say:

“I was disappointed though unsurprised to discover that Great Portland Estates have closed Rathbone Square 24 hours a day.  … This is a breach of their planning consent which requires the Square to be open between 6am and 10pm each day.  Clearly these are extraordinary times and leeway needs to be given.  However, the priority now more than ever should be the public interest.  Many of us without outdoor space are cooped up for long hours.  Such tiny bits of green in the area such as Soho Square are prone to crowding and loss of social distancing and each lost bit of green space increases this prospect and/or reduces opportunities for the residents of Soho and Fitzrovia.

Whilst GPE are the private owners of this square, they nevertheless relied on its public space for planning consent, the space is subject to Council control through operation of planning rules and the space bears the proud emblem of Westminster’s elected body on its signs, also in my picture.   Accordingly, the square’s public use needs to be prioritised at this critical time and if leeway is required then it should be to allow them to keep it open overnight rather than to close it during the day.

Please would you contact GPE on behalf of residents and tell them to open the square to the public as they should?   You may need to remind them of some or all of the above.

I look forward to hearing from you and to the return of this small but — in the developers’ own approach — important public space to its intended use urgently.”

More recently it has been reopened, but planning conditions still aren’t being fully met.

 

WEST END WIDE 

Business and Planning Bill

The Soho Society and many other resident groups have raised concerns about a bill passing through Parliament that would automatically give all premises the permission to sell alcohol off-license.

I am working with local residents to lobby law-makers to amend this potentially very damaging piece of legislation.

Pedicabs

There is a bill going through Parliament that the local MP has introduced. This would provide increased scope to regulate Pedicabs. We are supporting the Bill and saying it is about time a law was introduced. You can support our petition here:

https://www.westminsterlabour.org.uk/petition-time-to-clamp-down-on-pedicabs/?fbclid=IwAR1m1914dxPbjBPjwIT6JPLB9gfVllMDKwYGQbAIbQtlenVKORw59JNHVZU

20 mph

After lobbying for this change for years, we have welcomed Westminster Council’s decision to introduce a 20mph speed limit on all roads, following recent consultation when two thirds of the respondents supported the proposal. The 20mph speed limit comes after there were 3 deaths and 269 seriously injured casualties on Westminster’s roads in 2018 – the highest of any London Borough.

Ward budget

If you or someone in the area you know is running a community or other project in need of funding it might be eligible for funding from the West End Ward budget. Find out more here:

https://www.westminster.gov.uk/ward-budgets

Our vision to help rebuild the West End

Westminster Labour councillors are calling for the Council to embrace its role as a custodian of the West End and help pro-actively rebuild communities, businesses and the arts sector.

An excerpt of Councillor Geoff Barraclough’s speech is below and it can be read in full here:

https://www.westminsterlabour.org.uk/westminster-news/2020/06/25/we-are-all-custodians-of-londons-west-end/

What you say about Councillor Pancho Lewis and the West End Labour Action Team

“Pancho, you are indefatigable!”

“I cannot tell you how grateful I am for your intervention. I was beginning to despair. Thank you so much.”

“Helpful and informative as ever. Keep up the great work.”

“Thank you for all you always do and continue to do.”

“I am writing to thank you for your kind intervention without which I am sure I would still be struggling. Thank you once again”

Regards

Councillor Pancho Lewis

You can contact Pancho on:
plewis@westminster.gov.uk

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, who also helps with the Action Team, can be contacted on: pdimoldenberg@westminster.gov.uk

 

Link to Instagram Link to Twitter Link to YouTube Link to Facebook Link to LinkedIn Link to Snapchat Close Fax Website Location Phone Email Calendar Building Search