Jubilee Sports Centre demolition will cut the heart out of Queens Park

Westminster Conservatives’ decision to demolish the Jubilee Sports centre will cut the heart out of Queen’s Park, according to local residents and Labour Councillors.

jubilee meeting

Queen’s Park Labour Councillor Barrie Taylor said;

“Since July 2012, when we submitted over 5000 signatories, the single largest petition ever generated in Queens Park, we have called for improved consultation on the impact that the planned closure of Jubilee Sports Centre would have on the local community. We have continually stated that we are in support of improving the quality of local sports and leisure facilities, but this project will do the opposite”

“The closure of Jubilee is seen by local people as cutting the heart out of Queen’s Park. It was originally a replacement swimming and leisure facility for working people and its excellent reputation has continued to this day. One serious instance of the poor consultation is the redevelopment of the external football pitch at Moberly and moving the pitch to a site at St Augustine’s School, based in South Kilburn. We have regularly raised this obvious lack of understanding about youth and gang culture territories, but a decision was made to proceed. “

“Too many of our local sports facilities need to be booked and paid for – which freezes out many younger and poorer residents. Under the present plans the Basketball Court behind the Jubilee will disappear. We have strong messages from local parents that their children and youngsters need somewhere where they do not need to book or pay to play ball games. “

“72 new homes will be built on the site of the Jubilee for sale at open market prices. As nearby new build homes have been advertised for sale at £800 – £900,000 for 1 and 2 bed properties, these new flats and houses will be out-of-reach of most local people, and will do nothing to relieve housing need. Westminster Council has £100 million in its Housing Revenue Account, and we consider it can afford to make sure some of these homes are made available for social rent & low-cost ownership.”

Posted in Affordable Housing, Jubilee Sports Centre, Queen's Park, Save the Jubilee campaign, Sport, Westminster North, Young People | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Anger as Conservative councillors approve demolition of Jubilee Sports Centre

The ‘West End Extra’ reports tonight’s Westminster Council decision as sports centre in Queen’s Park faces a date with the bulldozer:

Save-the-Jubilee-

“CONTROVERSIAL plans to bulldoze a sports centre and replace it with luxury flats were rubber stamped by City Hall tonight (Tuesday).

There were heated scenes in the usually subdued committee meeting in Victoria as councillors and Queen’s Park residents struggled to contain their frustration with the decision to approve the demolition of the Jubilee Sports Centre.

The scheme will see the Caird Street site – which hosts a gym, swimming pool and several sports pitches – handed to Wilmott Dixxon to build 72 homes, including 20 town houses. In return for the site, developers have pledged to build a £17million sports facility in Kilburn Lane. This will replace the existing Moberly Sports Centre, which, although owned by Westminster, is on the other side of the Brent border.

The demolition has faced widespread opposition over the last two years, with more than 5,000 people signing a petition urging City Hall to scrap the scheme.

Council planning officials said tonight that several elements of the design of the new flats were “regrettable” including the loss of light to neighbouring properties, but said that overall it was of “strategic benefit”.

The council believe they will save £600,000 a year in running costs by combining the two sports centres on to one site.

The committee of three councillors heard objections from residents that the loss of the Jubilee centre would “rip the heart out of the community”.

But the councillors were supportive of consolidating sports facilities on one site and instead were faced with a decision about the design of the flats that would replace it.

Despite voicing concerns over the size and scale of a five-storey block in Caird Street, the committee decided to approve the design as it stands. They were told by council planning staff that they could either accept the plans, reject them outright or recommend a deferral with a suggestion to redesign the flats.

Queen’s Park residents who have campaigned against the plans for years shouted that it was “disgraceful” as they left the public gallery.

After the decision was finalised, Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg, who had made representations on behalf of residents, told the committee:

“it’s disgraceful. You should be ashamed of yourselves. That’s not democracy. You’ve heard all the comments. You’ve heard the design is inadequate and you won’t even have the decency to defer it to let the architects come back and come up with a more appropriate design. What’s wrong with asking them to go away and come back with a more appropriate design?”

Jubilee poster

Posted in Council cuts, Council finances, Jubilee Sports Centre, Queen's Park, Sport, Westminster Conservatives, Westminster North, Young People | Leave a comment

Labour’s Five Churchill Ward Pledges

Murad Gassanly, Shamim Takluder and Jason Thomas Williams, Labour’s three candidates for Churchill Ward, have announced their Five Churchill Ward Pledges;

Churchill team

1. Supporting local families and communities by campaigning to bring back the Family Quota for Council housing allocation and working for improved Youth provision and training

2. Ending Council waste such as the £200,000 spent on scaffolding for the empty Balmoral Castle pub, rather than using the building for community purposes

3. Campaigning for vital local services including keeping the Lupus Street Post Office open

4. Working for the rights of Ebury Bridge Estate residents during the redevelopment work

5. Being accountable to you and holding regular accessible advice surgeries

Printed and promoted by A. Whitley on behalf of Westminster Labour Party, 4g Shirland Mews, W9

Posted in Balmoral Castle, Churchill Gardens, Families, Pimlico, Post Office closures, Public Services, Young People | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Fight to save Lupus Street Post Office continues

Lupus St Alan Johnson

Alan Johnson MP, former Home Secretary and Leader of the Post Office workers’ union, will be joining Labour’s three Churchill ward candidates Murad Gassanly, Shamim Talukder and Jason Thomas Williams, at 2pm on Monday 12th May to renew the campaign to save Lupus Street Post Office from closure.

Mr Johnson’s visit is part of a Day of Action organised by the Communications Workers Union. Labour say that the closure process is likely to start again after the May Council elections after the Post Office cynically put their plans ‘on hold’ after running in to unprecedented local opposition from residents and local businesses in 2013.

Labour say that the only way to guarantee a strong campaign against the renewed Post Office plans to close the Lupus Street post office is to elect three Labour Councillors for Churchill Ward on 22nd May.

Churchill team

The Day of Action will also include a Public Meeting at 6.30pm at the Churchill Gardens Community Centre at which Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, will be arguing for the Post Office to remain open.

Labour say that the case against closure is overwhelming;

• Residents face a 20 minutes’ walk to the nearest alternative post offices in Vauxhall Bridge Road and Ebury Street with no direct bus links. This is of particular concern to older, infirm and disabled residents.
• The queues at Vauxhall Bridge Road post office are already regularly stretched outside on the pavement.
• The Post Office in Vauxhall Bridge Road does not have access for disabled customers with wheelchairs.
• The use of Lupus Street post office for Council-related transactions is the highest in Westminster and if this post office is closed residents will have nowhere where they can pay their rent and rates or renew their parking permit in person now that the Council has closed all its One Stop shops
• Lupus Street traders use the Post Office banking facilities and if this post office were to close, local businesses would lose this important business facility, as well as having the increased worry of having to carry cash some distance to banks elsewhere
• Experience elsewhere shows that when post offices close down the surrounding local businesses suffer badly, leading to more empty shops, to the detriment of the wider community.

Councill Paul Dimoldenberg said;

“Local residents and businesses are totally unanimous in their opposition to the closure of the Lupus Street post office. The Lupus Street post office has been at the heart of the community for decades and its closure would not only hit residents hard, but would lead to a loss of business for local shops.”

“We are delighted that Alan Johnson will be again joining the Lupus Street post office campaign and shows that Labour ois leading the community to save this valuable local facility. The only way to guarantee a strong campaign against the renewed Post Office plans to close Lupus Street post office is to elect three Labour Councillors for Churchill Ward on 22nd May.”

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St John’s Wood pensioner plays postwoman after TNT Post service let down

The ‘Wood & Vale’ reports;

“A pensioner has been forced to turn postwoman after the professionals failed to do the one thing required of the role – deliver letters to the right address.

Marilyn Blum decided to take matters into her own hands after noticing TNT Post had pushed letters for a neighbouring street through her door in the heart of St John’s Wood.

Mrs Blum picked up the post herself, and headed off to to deliver it to the right addresses.

Her anger with the company – a private operation which works in opposition to the Royal Mail – was compounded by the discovery that a friend living in nearby Townsend Road found her letters had been left in the communal area of her block.

Mrs Blum, 78, fears leaving the post – which mainly comes from big businesses, like Barclays Bank – out in the open, leaves her friend open to theft and fraud.

She said: “Her mail could have been lying there for three days for all she knows. The problem is they employ people who do not know the area.”

And it seems these are not the only problems TNT Post has had since starting up their operation in St John’s Wood and other parts of the capital.

Jim Kirwan, CWU London regional secretary, said: “This isn’t the first issue that’s come about since TNT Post has been operating in central London. It’s important to hold all postal companies to the same standards.

“TNT seem to want a race to the bottom over employment standards whereas we feel that if staff are treated fairly and paid a decent wage then it’s unlikely incidents such as this will occur.”

But TNT Post defended themselves against the allegations.

A spokesman said they were “of course disappointed by these reported cases of mis-delivery”, adding: “Complaints of this nature are rare and when issues do occur we will make every effort to rectify them.

“In terms of service quality, we make every effort to deliver mail on the first attempt.

“However, sometimes despite our best efforts, human nature means that we cannot always live up to the standards we set ourselves.

“Sadly, other mail delivery companies also experience problems with their operatives who deliver mail.”

Posted in Postal services, Public Services, St John's Wood | Tagged | Leave a comment

Westminster top of league for parking fines raking in £24m

The ‘Wood & Vale’ reports;

Parking attendant

“Westminster has again been revealed as the country’s number one parking fine hotspot after new data shows the council issued penalties to drivers worth almost £24million last year.

Figures released this week show the borough issued about 455,000 penalty charge notices in 2013, the equivalent of every Westminster resident receiving about two tickets each.

Westminster came top of the table – and ahead of any other local UK authority which provided information to insurance company Churchill – for both the number of fines given and amount of revenue collected.

Westminster’s Labour group leader Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg said it is an “absolute scandal” the council appears to be exploiting motorists to boost its coffers.

“Westminster raises more money from drivers through parking charges or parking fines than it does from collecting council tax,” he said. “It’s completely idiotic that the council’s finances should be so dependent on people breaking the law.

“It can’t make sense and it’s completely unsustainable, and, more importantly, it generates a view among residents that the parking regulations are rigged against the driver.”

The research, compiled using Freedom of Information requests, found 187 councils issued parking tickets worth £255m last year.

Ten London boroughs came top of the table for the highest revenues from parking fines, with Barnet in second position behind Westminster, issuing tickets to the value of just more than £9m over the same period.

Westminster Council said revenue from parking fines is used to fund parking services or transport infrastructure projects, and compared with 10 years ago it issued half the number of penalties.

Leith Penny, the council’s strategic director of city management, said: “Westminster Council is always looking to make parking safer, easier and fairer.

“In a matter of weeks we will introduce parking sensors to help drivers find a parking space.

“Later this year, traffic marshals will take the place of wardens with a brief to help motorists and, having reduced the number of fixed CCTV cameras from 179 to 50 last year, we are conducting another review to see if they’re the best – and fairest – way to manage parking.

“Put simply, when it comes to parking not all local authorities are the same.”

Posted in Council finances, Parking, Parking charges, Westminster Conservatives | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Labour cries foul in ‘back-to-the-days-of-Porter’ row over newsletter sent to 5,000

The ‘West End Extra’ reports;

churchill gardens

“CITY Hall has been accused of using public money to promote Conservative “propaganda” just weeks before a highly contested election and in breach of government regulations.

A newsletter outlining improvements that are being considered for the area was sent to about 5,000 homes in Churchill ward, Pimlico, which is likely to be one of the closest fought in local elections next month.

But it was immediately slammed as “blatant electioneering” and “a return to the bad old days of Shirley Porter” – the disgraced former council leader was found guilty of gerrymandering and eventually paid £12million to settle the surcharge imposed on her following the “homes for votes” scandal.

A formal complaint was made to chief executive Charlie Parker this week and Labour group leader Paul Dimoldenberg, who wrote the book The Westminster Whistleblowers about his dogged pursuit of Lady Porter, said: “You know full well that the aim of the newsletter is to persuade residents that, after years of council neglect, something is now happening in Churchill Gardens. This is certainly giving assistance to Conservative attempts to shore up support for their candidates who are facing widespread and increasing criticism for the years of council neglect.”

Mr Parker rejected the claims in a letter to Cllr Dimoldenberg and said: “The content is not political, making no reference to elected members.” He said the newsletter was signed off by the council’s legal team, adding: “With regard to your concerns that this impacts on election matters, I believe that it does not – a position confirmed by the head of legal services.”

Labour believe they have a good chance of stealing a seat in the Churchill ward and they said the newsletter was intended to convince locals that the Tory-run council had not forgotten them.

Cllr Dimoldenberg said: “This is the use of council money and council staff to support the Conservatives’ election efforts. It is an absolute disgrace and it looks like both Westminster Conservatives and Westminster Council have reverted back to the bad old days of Shirley Porter.”

While not mentioning the Conservative party or their councillors by name, the leaflets bore the “Better City, Better Lives” branding that has become synonymous with the Tory leadership.

Council leader Philippa Roe has described the catchphrase as her “vision for Westminster” and the phrase is a regular motif in her public addresses.

Murad Gassanly

Murad Gassanly, who lives in Churchill Gardens and is standing as a Labour candidate, was part of the early consultations on the regeneration work, branded “Team Churchill” by City Hall.

He likened the newsletter to “propaganda” and questioned why it had been rushed out to residents in the days before the election and said the issues that were being tackled had been a problem for residents of the estate for many years.

“Why haven’t they done something before this election?

“Why suddenly start this now and send out a newsletter weeks before the election?

“We’ve been talking about these issues for years and the fact they are happening now is so blatant electioneering, coming weeks before the election. This is the most marginal ward in Westminster, clearly they are very concerned,” he said.

Among the issues that the newsletter identifies is the Balmoral Castle, which has been lying empty since 2006, while £20,000 is spent each year on scaffolding to support the building.

It also highlighted problems with drugs and anti-social behaviour on the estate and a lack of facilities for young people.

Tom Ball, a former architect who has lived on the estate for more than 30 years, said he was concerned that the architectural firm Levit Bernstein had been appointed to the project while it was still unknown what works would be carried out.

He said: “They [the council] have refused to tell me. It is a simple, straightforward, request. What are these architects briefed to do? Now I’m even more alarmed when I hear it being described as the regeneration of Churchill Gardens estate. I fear there’s something sinister behind all of this.”

A copy of the newsletter is here Churchill_Gardens_Newsletter

Posted in Churchill Gardens, Labour Councillors, Pimlico, Shirley Porter, South Westminster, Westminster Conservatives | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment