Chinatown tenants fight back against rent hikes

‘Property Week’ reports:

“Business owners in London’s Chinatown are banding together to fight back against rent rises amid fears the character of the area could be irredeemably changed as traditional restaurateurs are forced out and replaced by chains.

Around 40 tenants in Chinatown have signed up to an initiative to share rent information in a bid to empower tenants in their negotiations with landlords.

The initiative, driven by the West End Chinatown Tenants’ Association (WECTA), with support from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and occupiers agency DeVono Property, will see the creation of a shared digital database of rents in Chinatown, in a bid to improve transparency around rent levels.

“This is about starting a fight back against rent hikes which are forcing businesses to close and move out of the area,” said Jon Man, WECTA chair.

Man hopes that through strength in numbers tenants in he area will be able to force landlords – and in particular the dominant landlord Shaftesbury, which owns around 70 premises in Chinatown – into fairer negotiations with tenants.

Man has seen the rent on his restaurant in Wardour Street rise from £66,000 a year in 2000 to £244,000 – and he has another rent review due in two years.  He says he fears that he will be forced out of the area along with a host of other businesses.

“What we want is a fairer system – and we hope that by sharing information tenants will be more empowered in their negotiations,” said Man, adding that the database would also ensure new tenants to the area would not overpay.

“People coming into the area will be able to see the level of rents that are being charged, which is really important because when someone comes in and overpays that has an effect on the whole area.”

The WECTA is launching the initiative with an event at the Langham Hotel today, with more than 100 business owners from Chinatown expected to attend – and Man hopes the majority of those will commit to sharing their rent information on the database. “The more tenants we get the stronger the platform will be,” he added.

Sue Terpilowski, FSB London policy chairman said the initiative was the first of its kind in the UK and if it proved successful the FSB would look to adopt it as a model that could be rolled out to other areas of London, such as Shoreditch and Brick Lane, where small businesses are being hit by rapid rent hikes.

“Ultimately the aim is to replicate this across the UK as much as possible,” she added.

Adam Landau, of DeVono Property, said the agency already had a database of around 16,000 tenants across London which could feed into a wider shared platform to empower tenants in the capital.

“It’s a landlords’ market at the moment – but it won’t always be that way. If the economy dips landlords that have raised rent to unsustainable levels will find themselves without tenants,” he said.  “So the more we can do to create a fairer system the better for everyone.”

Shaftesbury has been contacted for comment.”

Posted in Chinatown, Small Businesses, Soho, West End | Tagged | Leave a comment

Labour calls for end to £160,000 private health care payments to Westminster Council staff

Labour Councillors have written to Westminster Council’s Chief Executive Charlie Parker to urge him to stop the current practice of paying £160,000 a year for Private Health Care for senior staff. In his letter, Councillor Adam Hug, Leader of the Labour Group, says:

Dear Charlie

As senior staff at Westminster are already well remunerated for the work that they do, in these financially straightened times it is shocking that Westminster is paying large sums of money to provide private medical cover for its senior management. The Daily Mail has quoted a figure for last year of £160,392- is this correct? Given the appalling scale of both planned and future cuts to services and jobs that Westminster is expecting, this unnecessary additional expenditure is absolutely unjustifiable. Can you please tell me what steps are being taken to remove such clauses from existing contracts and to ensure that such provisions are not included in the packages offered to new recruits.

Given the number of jobs that may be being lost, predominantly amongst already low paid or part time staff, in the youth and play services for example, I’m sure you must accept that it is not appropriate for you and other senior colleagues to receive such expensive and unnecessary perks. For reference please see below. I look forward to hearing from you about how the Senior Management Team can play its part in tackling the financial challenges ahead.

Best regards

Councillor Adam Hug
Leader of the Labour Group

According to the ‘Daily Mail’:

Westminster City Council has spent £409,639 since 2012 on private medical cover for more than 50 senior managers, £160,392 last year alone.

Benefits of its AXA PPP ‘corporate health plan’ include cover for consultations with therapists and complementary medicine. It also provides an ‘NHS cash benefit’ – so if bosses opt to have NHS treatment instead they are paid up to £250 per day. The cover can be extended to their families.

Westminster has announced £588,000 will be taken from children’s centres, play and youth services in the next two years. In June 2013, outgoing chief executive Mike More said cuts were unsustainable.

He said: ‘This level of cuts cannot be made without paying a price in terms of the quality of what we’re able to do.’ That year, his council spent £142,328 on private health cover for 60 officials.Julia Corkey, executive director of communications, was paid £158,000 in 2014/15. Her cover was said to cost £1,377.

Posted in Council cuts, Council finances, Council staff, Private Health Care for staff, Westminster City Council, Westminster Council waste | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Whiteleys plans unveiled – please let us know what you think

WhiteleysPlease let us know you views on proposals for Whiteleys announced by Meyer Bergman and Warrior Group, which they say “will transform Bayswater and Queensway through a mixed-use revitalisation of the landmark building”.

Meyer Bergman and Warrior Group say:

“A planning application has been submitted to Westminster City Council seeking to deliver a £1 billion redevelopment of the former Whiteleys department store in Bayswater.

The proposal involves the demolition of the 1980’s building behind the retained, historic Queensway façade to provide a residential-led, mixed-use development with a new retail and leisure offering. Detailed consideration has been made to the original design by John Belcher and John James Joass in 1911, to combine some of the impressive features with an exciting, contemporary design by Fosters & Partners, which will incorporate the iconic central dome. A careful refurbishment of the prominent façade will be undertaken to restore it to its former status as the window into an exciting new retail and leisure world.

The proposed plans include the construction of more than 100 homes, a mixture of apartments and townhouses. These will be arranged around an attractive inner courtyard with new retail units, a boutique hotel, gym and other enhanced leisure facilities, including a new cinema at basement level.

The scheme will open onto Queensway, which is planned to undergo a £50 million revamp scheduled to begin in early 2016, creating an active frontage for a revitalised retail offering and designed to draw the public into the inner courtyard.

The project seeks to give the historic Whiteleys building a new lease of life and to help restore Queensway to its former grandeur. The ambition of the JV partners is to make a lasting contribution to the community by creating an attractive destination in the heart of Bayswater where people will want to live and enjoy themselves”

For more information see

Posted in Bayswater, Planning Committee, Planning permission, Whiteleys | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Labour calls on Westminster to consult young people on youth provision

Labour Councillors are calling for Westminster City Council to seek the views of young people before making any decisions on the future of youth provision. In a motion to the Council meeting on Wednesday 11th November, Labour Councillors say:

“The Council notes the contracts for commissioned youth services are due for renewal in 2016.

The council believes in the value of comprehensive and accessible youth provision and the key role of a professionally co-ordinated youth service throughout the City, supported by statutory and voluntary youth facilities.

Members note that such provision supports government priorities in seeking a greater engagement with young people in cultural and sporting activities.

Members further note the value of investing in youth provision to help respond to the Prevent duty included in Section 26 of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 – underpinning initiatives that discourage gang activity, as well as tackling radicalisation.

The Council urges the Cabinet Member and the relevant Policy & Scrutiny Committee(s) to rapidly set up Westminster wide Task Group(s) to seek evidence from all interested stakeholders/residents and local young people; and to propose a set of recommendations on developing facilities for pre-teenage; 12 -18 year olds and post-secondary school age groups

Membership of the Task group(s) should look to accommodate existing/past members of Youth Centres; sports clubs, sixth formers and young people who have experience of current provision and support services (including employment and further education advice). RSLs and voluntary sector agencies investing in support for young people should also form part of any Task Group(s) . The task group should be asked to produce a report of their findings in early 2016, prior to any further changes to the commissioning of services.”

The motion will be moved by Councillor Tim Roca, Harrow Road Ward, and seconded by Councillor Rita Begum, Maida Vale Ward.

Posted in Council cuts, Council finances, Labour Councillors, Young People, Youth Services | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Betting shop plan for Prince of Wales pub on Harrow Road refused

POW demoA last night’s Planning Committee the proposed change of use of the Prince of Wales pub on the Harrow Road to a betting shop was unanimously refused.

Two separate petitions containing 768 signatures combined were collected and 80 individual objections were received by the Council. Officers recommended refusal as:

“…the loss of a public house and the proposed use will harm the retail vitality and viability of the Harrow Road District Shipping Centre.

A great victory for the local community!

Posted in Harrow Road, Planning Committee, Planning permission, Prince of Wales pub, Westminster North | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Parents left waiting as Westminster Council forgets its pledges to keep St Peter’s Primary school children safe

Almost two years ago Labour councillors for Westbourne and Harrow Road wards and Karen Buck MP convened two meetings for concerned parents from St Peter’s School and local residents with Westminster Council’s transport team calling for action on dangerous driving in Chippenham Mews and to stop it being used as a rat run. At these meetings the council pledged to parents and residents that by August 2014, they would:
• put planters in Chippenham Mews to slow down traffic
• put ‘no entry’ markers near the Chippenham Road exit to deter drivers going the wrong way
• build out the pavement and put school signs at the Maryland’s Road entrance to reduce speed when entering the Mews and
• contact local businesses to ask them to avoid deliveries at the start and finish of the school day.

As of October 2015, 22 months after the initial meeting, only the school signs have appeared, with no sign even of a simple letter to local businesses about their deliveries. Karen Buck MP and local Labour councillors are calling on the council to explain the massive delay in implementing these measures they promised local residents.

Councillor Adam Hug said;

“It is disappointing that the council promised parents it would act to help keep their children safe but has failed to deliver. Have they forgotten about these parents and residents? The Westminster Council transport team needs to get its act together and implement what they promised immediately.”

Karen Buck MP said:

“It is unacceptable that commitments made to parents and other concerned residents are allowed to simply drop of the radar. Westminster needs to follow through to make sure that when concerns are raised about safety, appropriate action is taken.”

Two public meetings were held on 6.12.2013 and 28.3.2014 with parents, residents, councillors, Karen Buck MP and representatives of Westminster Council’s transport team and local police.

Posted in Harrow Road, Karen Buck MP, Road Safety, Schools, Westbourne | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Pop Art portrait of Trees4Xmas Youth Group unveiled by Lord Mayor of Westminster

Tim StocksThe Lord Mayor of Westminster, Councillor Christabel Flight, unveiled a pop art portrait of the Paddington Youth Enterprise Trees4Xmas project group by the artist Tim Stocks on 19th October, at the food entrepreneurs enterprise Maida Hill Place in Fernhead Road W9 3ET.

Tim’s painting depicts the youth group using imagery from popular culture, advertising and news. “Pop art” often refers not as much to the art itself as to the attitudes behind the art – taking inspiration from material sometimes visually removed from its known context, isolated and/or combined with unrelated material.

The Lord Mayor had this to say about the painting;

“As someone who has worked for Sotheby’s I have maintained a real interest in paintings. Tim’s style is both unique and special. I recommend local people to visit Maida Hill Place to view the painting and take inspiration both from his art and the special contribution of local youth in their community enterprise”

Trees4Xmas  – The Trees4Xmas project is helped to be organised by Paddington Youth Enterprises Ltd – a local Social Enterprise company set up for youth. Trees4Xmas which has been in existence for four years and provides a complete service of cut and live Xmas trees – supply / delivery & recycling. In addition, it creates casual work for local youth and provides a Community contribution to St Luke’s Church, West Kilburn
Last year nine youth took part in the project – which was based at St Luke’s and on Maida Hill market place. The project supplied trees to individuals and local institutions – such as the Beethoven Centre / Paddington Academy / Westminster Academy local residential homes and even the GLA. This year they hope to play a part in ceremonies surrounding the Norwegian government gift of the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree – which has been taking place since the end of World War II.

Apart from the Lord Mayor, Leand Beqiri (a past pupil of Paddington Academy) was present at the unveiling, representing the youth. The 2014 tree group included contributions from the following youth: Ashiq Ali; Hamza Benkacem; Adi Beqiri; Leo Beqiri; Ira Bundy; Patrick Cairnes; Ryan Dalton; Cory George; Rustem Kasabaqui; Jamal Lewis; Gianni Paul; Cosmo Taylor; Danny Workeye and Tikquaan Walters.

Tim Stocks the Artist  – Tim kindly offered last year to produce an oil painting free of charge of last year’s team, in recognition of their community spirit. He subsequently produced a life size painting. Tim has a spiritual dimension to his work. He has created many portraits of international personalities and over 50 of his paintings have already been bought by private collectors. His style has been influenced by the artist German Dario Zwanik – whom he has met and admires. Tim has also exhibited his work locally and has visited Berlin to view similar works. Readers can view more of Tim’s work on the web at

Posted in Arts and Culture, Paddington, Social Enterprise, Young People | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment