Westminster Labour welcomes London Mayor’s pressure for a ballot on Church Street Masterplan

Westminster Labour warmly welcomes the decision by the Mayor of London, Labour’s Sadiq Khan, that from now on any regeneration scheme that involves the demolition of social housing must have a resident ballot if it involves any money from City Hall.

It means that Westminster City Council now risks losing £23.5m of funding for the Church Street area regeneration, earmarked for buying out leaseholders that would enable the new Masterplan phase, unless it is willing to put that Masterplan to a public vote.

Westminster Labour is acutely aware of the massive shortage of new social and properly affordable homes in our City, the legacy of past failures of this Conservative Council. Given this legacy, the Council’s poor track record of getting affordable homes out of private developers and the limited amounts of available land it is imperative that any regeneration schemes on council land deliver the maximum amount of social and affordable homes they can to help our residents. Unlike the Conservatives Labour believes that local Church Street residents must have the final say over what happens to their homes and their communities in the new and much larger proposed phase of regeneration.

The ruling Conservatives should immediately commit that at the end of the consultation, once the Council has confirmed their preferred plan, that they will get confirmation of  resident support through a ballot to secure democratic legitimacy for the plans, as well as current and future City Hall funding to maximise provision of homes which local people can actually afford.

Church Street ward Councillor and Shadow Cabinet Member for Regeneration Cllr Matt Noble said “’Many residents simply no longer believe that their opinions on regeneration are actually being listened to. The Council needs to rebuild trust and prevent further disengagement by announcing a ballot for the new Church Street Masterplan without further delay, while giving residents real options in an improved consultation process.”

Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “Westminster has failed to apply for additional funding from the Mayor’s £4.8 Billion Building Council Homes for Londoners scheme because it has been looking to avoid residents ballots. The Mayor’s decision should encourage Westminster finally listen to residents and give them the final say on their future.

Given the council’s past failure’s to make private developers build their fair share of affordable housing it is essential that the Council maximizes opportunities on its own land. Having a ballot can unlock new Mayoral funding to improve the proportion of additional social and genuinely affordable homes proposed for Church Street. I call on the council to work with us, Church Street residents and the Mayor to deliver a scheme that local residents will support and that can make a bigger contribution to helping families in temporary accommodation and overcrowded homes, while providing new opportunities for those on low and average incomes.”

Advertisements
Posted in Church Street, Church Street Masterplan, Council housing, Futures Programme, House building, Housing | Leave a comment

Dolphin Square Gardens listed Grade II by Historic England

We are delighted that Dolphin Square Gardens have been listed as Grade II by Historic England, following consideration of representations by a number of parties, including local residents. Historic England say:

“The courtyard gardens at Dolphin Square meet the criteria for registration on the grounds of special historic interest, being a high-quality design from the interwar period, and as the work of a significant figure in the development of C20 landscape architecture. They are an important example of a landscape type, gardens to private housing estates, which have little representation on the Register, and survive largely intact. For these reasons, the courtyard gardens should be registered at Grade II

After examining all the records and other relevant information and having carefully considered the architectural and historic interest of this case, the criteria for registration are fulfilled. The courtyard gardens at Dolphin Square merit registration at Grade II.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION DECISION

The courtyard gardens at Dolphin Square, a mid-1930s landscape for a private housing development by Richard Sudell, are recommended for registration at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:

  • Design interest: as a high-quality landscaping scheme providing a series of garden environments, where small-scale intimate spaces contrast with open lawns, with an emphasis on geometry and balance, carefully integrated with the surrounding building;
  • Rarity: one of few surviving substantial interwar landscaping schemes to a private housing estate; Historic England Advice Report 13 July 2018 Page 4 of 9
  • Historic interest: one of a limited number of schemes known to survive by Richard Sudell, an important and influential figure in the development of mid-C20 landscape design, and a pioneering theorist, writer, and advocate of the profession;
  • Representative of Sudell’s design philosophy, and illustrative of the principles set out in his significant 1933 book, Landscape Gardening;
  • Illustrating the fashion of the period for themed gardens, incorporating designs inspired by several nations’ landscaping traditions;
  • Degree of survival: the overall structural layout survives very well, notwithstanding the reconfiguration of the former Spanish/Mexican garden and one of the western recessed gardens.”

 

 

 

 

 

You can read the fulling listing decision here

http://services.historicengland.org.uk/webfiles/GetFiles.aspx?av=B51B3E55-70DC-4D7D-8CE1-442546BB8DA4&cn=C0C055E9-11E7-43D6-AF6C-AA33FDEA8B10

Posted in Dolphin Square, Pimlico, Tachbrook Ward | Tagged | 1 Comment

Ebury Bridge Estate: Westminster Labour continues call for full resident ballot following Council’s decision to demolish estate

Labour Councillors are calling on Westminster City Council to hold a residents’ ballot on Ebury Bridge Estate, after its Cabinet approved the proposal for full demolition of the 1930s-built, majority social housing, estate in London SW1.

At the Cabinet Meeting on Monday 9th July – attended by Churchill Ward Labour Councillors Shamim Talukder and Andrea Mann, and a number of Ebury Bridge Estate residents – Cllr Mann raised councillors’ and residents’ concerns about the proposed plan.

Chief among our concerns is that Westminster Council has failed to produce any data or statistics that show that the majority of Ebury residents support the proposed plan for their estate. Indeed, the only concrete numbers given in the Council Report about resident feedback is that, after months of engagement, only 59 people on an estate of 217 occupied households back the proposal. These include a mere 3 leaseholders; and doesn’t include non-secure tenants, as they have not been given a say at all.

Councillor Andrea Mann said:

“This lack of evidence of majority resident support for the Council’s proposed plan is one reason why Westminster Labour continue to ask for a full residents’ ballot on it – as per the Mayor of London’s recent guidelines on estate regeneration. As Westminster Council’s proposal for Ebury is full demolition and rebuild of the estate – everyone’s home will be demolished – we believe it would be entirely wrong not to give every household the right to have their say in a ballot before it goes ahead.

Many Ebury residents have also expressed their concerns to Councillors, to each other through resident-led surveys, and in interviews included in a recently published dissertation on Ebury Bridge Estate, about the Council’s consultation process on Ebury. Many of them have felt that the process has not been transparent or collaborative, nor that they have been able to shape the final decision in any meaningful way. A statement yesterday from a group of concerned residents (link to full statement below – ‘Ebury Bridge CommUNITY’), says it rejects the Council’s “deeply flawed process”, adding: “There has NOT been reasonable ongoing consultation and the views of the residents have not been sought, let alone “presented””. It points out that a survey carried out this month by residents found that 96% of residents surveyed do not feel represented by the (Council-established) Community Futures Group, 60% do not understand what ‘Scenario 7’ (the proposed plan/’Preferred Scenario’) is, 88% do not support it, and 84% do not feel fully informed about the Preferred Scenario or the regeneration in general. It is partly as a result of statistics like these that Westminster Labour is calling on the Council to now let the Ebury Bridge Residents Association – which unlike the CFG was set up by residents themselves, not the Council – to lead its liaising with residents.

Westminster City Council has been keen to trumpet the new social and affordable housing that will be created through this regeneration of Ebury. And while Labour will always welcome the building of more social and truly affordable housing, what the Council has failed to highlight about Ebury is that, in its proposal to increase the number of flats on the estate to 750, it is dramatically changing the makeup and character of the estate – reducing its current 59% social housing to a mere 38% or 34% (depending on which option the Council chooses in its execution of the proposal). Even if we add ‘intermediate’ to that, under the Council’s umbrella of ‘affordable’ housing, it still only brings the figure up to 45%. We believe that the current community and spirit of Ebury Bridge Estate is intrinsically linked to its mix of residents. Yet make no mistake: if the Council’s plan goes ahead as it is currently proposed, social tenants will go from being a majority on Ebury Bridge Estate to being the minority – and the makeup of its community will be forever changed.

Ebury Bridge Estate was first earmarked for regeneration in 2010 – meaning that for eight years, residents and retailers have been living with it hanging over them: causing incredible stress, anxiety and uncertainty. The estate has fallen into disrepair, and a staggering 35% of its flats are empty, covered in Sitex. What’s more, many of the residents are particularly vulnerable – nearly a quarter of the estate’s population are children, 10% are elderly and 8% have a long-term illness or disability. Westminster Labour Councillors ask the Council to immediately put in place all the necessary mental health and other specific support for all the residents on the estate.

Over the coming months and years on Ebury, a community of neighbours, friends, families and support networks are going to be separated – some for good. Residents are about to go through the biggest period yet of extreme stress and upheaval to their lives as they are decanted from the estate, with no guarantee or any details currently being given by the Council as to when they will have to move, where they will be moved to, or how long for.

Westminster Labour asks that if the Council truly cares about the community of residents on Ebury Bridge Estate, it should 1) offer all residents a concrete say on the regeneration proposal via a final ballot; 2) allow the Ebury Bridge Estate Residents Association to lead its liaising with residents; and 3) confirm a rebuild which creates the maximum amount of social housing possible. If it does anything less than the above, then it risks failing to gain the majority of residents’ support for this regeneration process, and it risks losing the community spirit of a beloved estate which it – rightly – claims is so special.”

Sample comments from Ebury Bridge Estate residents about the regeneration (see Ebury Bridge CommUNITY statement below for sources & more quotes)

“We are being told we want this regeneration. It is being imposed on us”

“They will just do what they want to do. It’s already decided. This is just a process, window dressing”

“I find it all really stressful. This is now going on for 8 years. Never knowing what’s happening. I can’t sleep at night”

“They are making it all rough & running it down & not fixing anything because they’re thinking, you know what? Even tenants like us will get to the point where we are fed up of living here, we will want to move & not come back. Or it encourages us to vote for the regeneration again because we are living in such a state”

“Everyone is going to be dispersed, we don’t know where, but the community we have will be gone”

“It’s like the rug has been pulled from underneath everyone who had that bit of security. It’s the people who bought a home a place to live for their family, and to leave something for their kids”

“…we will get rooted out from our community, God knows where, for somewhere probably in Hayes, even somewhere as far as that, you know? And it will be really unpleasant & will be a difficult journey”

The lift is always breaking & they are slow to fix it… They are just trying to fool us into giving up. They are trying to exhaust us”

“I can’t afford to lose more weight. I am diabetic type 2 & sometimes I feel so stressed I can’t eat. I am in tears every 5 minutes…”

“We are in our 80s old & feel too old for all this upset – can’t face any of it – not even the meetings”

“…in reality they are demolishing it because of the Chelsea Barracks…that’s exactly what started it”

We’re the wrong sort of people to be living here”

“I had one elderly resident say to me before she passed away, “I don’t want to go. Where will we go? This is all we have ever known”. She became ill and I think stress was part of it. That’s what she spent her final days doing, worrying about where she will go. Her life shouldn’t have revolved around her worrying if she was getting that letter telling her she had to move”

“At one point I thought, “bugger it I’ll just hang myself from the balcony. That will stop the bulldozers”

Ebury CommUNITY: We did not find any “positive momentum” whilst surveying our neighbours. We found anger, distress, fear, a feeling of helplessness & powerlessness. We found profound trepidation at the possibility of being displaced and up-rooted from a solid community.”

Links: 

Ebury Bridge CommUNITY statement in response to the Cabinet Report: https://www.scribd.com/document/383573386/Ebury-Bridge-CommUNITY-Statement

Ebury Bridge Renewal Cabinet Report:

http://committees.westminster.gov.uk/documents/s28600/Ebury%20Cabinet%20Report%20090718%20Final%20Report%201.pdf

Full text of Cllr Mann’s address to Cabinet Members: http://www.churchilllabour.co.uk/cabinet-meeting-july-2018-ebury-address/

Posted in Andrea Mann, Churchill Ward, Council housing, Council leaseholders, Ebury Bridge Estate, Regeneration, Westminster City Council | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

New Young Peoples’ Advice Surgery Dates

Councillor Hamza Taouzzale has organised a new Advice Surgery for Queen’s Park residents aged under 27 at the Avenues Youth Club on Droop Street on the Second Friday of every month at 6:30pm to around 8pm.

The first Advice Surgery is on Friday 13th July

No appointment is needed.

For further details contact Hamza at htaouzzale@westminster.gov.uk

Posted in Advice services, Hamza Taouzzale, Labour Councillors, Queen's Park, Young People | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Oxford Street – The Future?

In June, plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street were scrapped by Westminster Council.

However, the Council has said it still intends to make significant changes to Oxford Street. It has said that “doing nothing isn’t an option” and has announced it will be running a new consultation about the future of Oxford Street. The Council has said that it is looking at:

“Next steps to transform and future proof the Oxford St district so it retains its iconic status as the nation’s high street and offers the best visitor experience in a thriving and successful series of neighbourhoods.”

“Over the summer months the Council will develop a district wide solution for the area spanning Tottenham Court Road to Marble Arch and including the surrounding neighbourhoods. This will lead to a planned public consultation in November.”

“The Council is also looking closely at what pedestrian safety measures may be required in advance of the opening of the Elizabeth Line stations at Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street, currently scheduled for 9th December 2018.”

We are keen to hear the views of local people about what you would like to see for the future of Oxford Street.

  • Do you have any thoughts about what changes should be made to Oxford Street, if any?
  • If you had the power to determine the future of Oxford Street, what would you do?
  • What are the key issues that matter to you and what do you envisage for the future of one of London’s busiest shopping districts?

The full report the Council is currently considering can be found here.

In addition, TfL has published an updated Consultation Report setting out the outcomes of its consultation and a ‘Responses to issues raised’ document, which lists every single issue raised by respondents to the consultation, and provides our response to each.

In response to a question from GLA member Andrew Dismore, the Mayor said:

“Westminster City Council was a full partner and decision-maker in developing our joint proposals for transforming Oxford Street. It is extremely disappointing that the council leadership has pulled out of our partnership without any discussion or effort to compromise and reach agreement.

I have made clear that I will not walk away from Oxford Street. It is too important to the future of our city. Tackling the pressing problems and human costs of its poor road safety record, toxic air, substandard public realm and the very challenging retail environment needs leadership and real action. I am determined to deal with these problems and support businesses in making the most of the huge opportunity the Elizabeth line brings.

I will be urgently seeking to understand from Westminster what steps it intends to take in its “completely new proposals” for Oxford Street and how these will interact with the Elizabeth line stations. Transport for London will also be looking at any urgent steps it can take to support the West End, ahead of the significant improvement to air quality that Ultra Low Emission Zone will bring to the whole area from next year.”

On 6th July, the London Assembly agreed a motion calling on the Mayor of London to look at the costs and wider benefits of the pedestrianisation scheme already consulted on, seek to address the concerns of local residents and be robust in pursuing the scheme. The Assembly believes the Mayor should consider using powers within the Greater London Authority Act 1999 to pursue the pedestrianisation scheme if needed.

Posted in Fitzrovia, Marylebone, Mayfair, Oxford Street, Soho, South Westminster | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

My first month as a Councillor for Soho – by Pancho Lewis

My first month as a councillor for Soho”

Pancho Lewis – the first ever Labour councillor for West End Ward – describes his experience of being elected to represent Soho in the Westminster Council elections, held on May 3rd this year. Writing in the ‘Soho Clarion’, he says:

“My memory is blurred, but it was about 4am by the time we found out the result. I’d been up for almost 24 hours for an exhausting but also hugely exciting day of campaigning – from 5am the day before when the Labour campaign team began delivering leaflets right through to 9pm when we knocked on our last few doors. Now we were at the count in Pimlico watching officers meticulously go through each ballot, one by one. Finally, after hours of a painstaking process which seemed to go on for days, the result was announced. I learned I’d been elected to be a councillor for Soho, alongside two Conservatives – Timothy Barnes and Jonathan Glanz.

I was exhausted and could hardly process the results, but what I do remember is feeling a mixture of emotions. I was thrilled and honoured to have been elected but at the same time I was disappointed that my two Labour colleagues Patrick and Caroline who had also run to become West End councillors hadn’t been elected. The one thing I knew from the offset though was that I was determined to do the job justice and get the best deal for West End residents in my new role.

My first month as a councillor has given me the opportunity to get stuck in and begin to champion some of the issues that we focused on in our campaign. One of our key campaign pledges was to stand up to the big property developers and landlords whenever they undermine the interests of the local community. Of course, we should welcome the actions of developers and others when they contribute to the future sustainability of the community. But all too often it’s felt like the opposite has happened in Soho, especially in recent years.

So when two weeks ago it was revealed that the Gay Hussar – one of Greek Street’s iconic restaurants founded by the legendary Victor Sassie – was threatened with closure due to rent rises, I took publicly called for the restaurant’s landlords to reverse their decision to increase rents by 30%. I’m now in communication with the Goulash Co-operative, a group of donors who want to see the restaurant remain open, to offer my support in their bid to keep the restaurant open. We are yet to see what the outcome of this campaign will be but I hope we can do our best to save the restaurant from closure. There are numerous other challenges facing Soho as a result of decisions by developers and landlords to put making exorbitant profits over the interests of the community. Whenever that happens, I will work with the community to show that another way is possible which protects Soho’s character and unique identity.

Apart from being involved in local campaigns one critical role for a councillor is to always be in touch with residents and help them problems they face. Two weeks ago I held my first surgery in Danceworks in Mayfair and was pleased it was well attended. Residents spoke to me about the many problems they face, ranging from the unaffordability of housing, poor provision and management of social housing, the lack of community spaces in Soho, and issues with poor air quality. That has echoed the many issues that residents have written to me about by e-mail and post over the past month. Many of these are complex issues which take a long time to address. But my commitment is always to press hard to make sure that the concerns of residents are heard and that the local council and others responsible do their utmost to respond to resident’s concerns.

It’s been just one month and it’s been a steep learning curve, with a lot to learn and a lot to keep on top of. But I’ve enjoyed it a huge amount and I want to make sure that in my role as a councillor I can help make a difference, working alongside residents and the local community, so that we can keep Soho special and make sure it gets the attention and care it deserves.

The one thing I do always say to anyone I meet is please feel free to write to me and raise any issues I can help with. The best way to contact me is by e-mail on plewis@westminster.gov.uk”

https://www.thesohosociety.org.uk/soho-clarion/

Posted in Fitzrovia, Labour Councillors, Mayfair, Pancho Lewis, Soho, West End | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Labour calls for an end to CityWest Homes

After months of complaints by local residents and campaigning by Westminster Labour Councillors the Conservative Council have finally admitted there is a problem with the operation of CityWest Homes, the ‘Arms Length Management Organisation’ that manages the council’s housing. The Council have now announced a Council led review of CityWest’s operation and governance arrangements and that the Chief Executive of CWH will be leaving the organisation at the end of June.

While Labour welcomes the belated recognition by the Council that there is a problem, it is clear the problem is not about individual members of staff- it runs much deeper. Although there have been concerns about CWH performance for many years, particularly about the increasingly high handed way it dealt with local residents representatives, the decision to push through the disastrous ‘Altair Review’ reform package that closed estate offices and created a new, failing call centre was made by Westminster Council Cabinet Members, not CityWest alone. These changes have led to a dramatic reduction in service standards over the last year.

Labour argue that now is the time for the council to take back control of its housing management by scrapping CityWest Homes and bringing the service back in house. Such a move would not only increase democratic accountability but provide opportunities for more efficient collaboration with council officers. However irrespective of structure there must be a narrower focus on the quality of service to residents and leaseholders rather than previous efforts at ‘empire building’ to expand the organisation into new areas. Labour believes that any reformed housing service must:

  • Stop the council cuts to housing management budget
  • Restore more local housing officers with a clear connection to individual estates and areas
  • Reopen local estate offices in our communities to provide a base on the ground for staff and improve customer service
  • Overhaul still failing call centre
  • Hand more power and responsibility to local residents over the management of their homes

Westminster Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “Labour is pleased that the Council is finally reviewing the operation of CityWest Homes but it must not try to pin the blame onto outgoing members of CWH staff. The problems at CityWest are the result of wrongheaded Tory changes and cuts, combined with deeper structural issues.

The Council should bite the bullet use this opportunity to close CityWest and bring the service back in house, while reversing some of its disastrous changes by putting housing officers back on the ground in local communities.”

Posted in City West Homes, Council housing, Council leaseholders, Council rents | Tagged , | 1 Comment