Call for Santander bike hire to be extended to Queen’s Park

Queen’s Park Labour Councillors are supporting a petition organized by a local resident calling for Santander Hire Bikes to be located in the Queen’s Park area. You can sign the petition here

“We the undersigned petition Westminster City Council to expand Santander Cycles to Queen’s Park. With the major multi-million redevelopment of the Moberley Sports Centre now underway (not scheduled to open till 2018) and the sad loss announced of the Jubilee Sports Centre, now would seem to be a great time to root for some Santander Cycles in Queen’s Park to help keep us fit in the meantime. Cycling is one route to fitness, accessible to all ages. It has never been more popular. I have been a member of the scheme for several years and use the bikes at lunchtime and to go to meetings. I would love to cycle all the way home but my route from work in Pimlico stops well short of Queen’s Park. I can currently only cycle as far as the top of Ladbroke Grove or the bottom of Warwick Avenue. I then have to get the bus or tube to complete the journey – defeating the object of the bikes.

Westminster is spending thousands of pounds building cycle superhighways and more and more hire bikes are springing up in other parts of London. Yet Santander Cycles are not available to hire in an area where quieter roads are plentiful and there is clearly great interest in fitness with several gyms and yoga centres now flourishing. Please join me in this petition to ask for hire bikes in our area. “

Posted in Queen's Park, Santandedr cycles | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Westminster Labour backs community fight to save the Truscott Arms

Westminster Labour councillors were angered today by the announcement that the much-loved Truscott Arms pub has been forced to close because the unscrupulous owners of the building have decided to hike up the rent from £75,000 per year to a wildly over-inflated £250,000 per year.

Local residents are outraged that this well-loved and successful pub, home to the best roast lunches in Britain (according to a 2014 UK competition), has been driven out of business by what seems to be a transparent attempt to remove the existing tenant. The pub and its owners have played an active role in supporting the local community since it opened and many are residents now returning the favour to help save the Truscott Arms. With no pub likely to be able to pay anything close to £250,000 per year, residents understandably fear that despite the Truscott’s well deserved Asset of Community Value status this may be the start of an attempt by the pub’s owners to convert the building to luxury flats.

Upon hearing the news Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug wrote to Westminster Council’s Chief Executive Charlie Parker and Executive Director for Growth, Planning and Housing Ed Watson calling for urgent action by the local authority.

Cllr Hug added “In the few years since the Truscott Arms opened it has become a beloved fixture in our local community; it has hosted many happy family occasions in my life as it has for so many other residents, which is why we are so angry about the unscrupulous behaviour of the building’s owners. Westminster Council must come out quickly and clearly to reconfirm its support of the Asset of Community Value status and stand with residents who will resist any attempt to convert this wonderful pub into more unwanted luxury flats. Labour councillors will stand with local residents to fight this destructive act and try to save the Truscott Arms.”


The text of Cllr Hug’s message to council officers is as follows:

Dear Charlie and Ed

I’ve just been made aware of the enforced closure of one of Westminster’s best pubs- the Truscott Arms by the owners of the property who have jacked up the rents to punitive levels in order to be able to turn the pub into residential. The site has an ACV but given the value of the site it will be challenging to achieve a community purchase. Can we please have a strong and urgent public steer that the Council would not support a proposed change of use from pub to residential on this important site. Can we please add this to the agenda for my meeting with Charlie next week but can we please have an answer much more urgently than that. Best regards Adam

Posted in Little Venice, Shirland Road, Truscott Arms Pub, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Labour calls for a halt to plans to privatise Berwick Street Market

West End Labour Action Team members Patrick Lilley and Pancho Lewis have called on Westminster City Council to halt the planned privatisation of Berwick Street Market. In a letter to Council Leader Philippa Roe and Cabinet Member Daniel Astaire they say:

“We are writing to express our utmost concern about plans to privatise Berwick Street Market.

Berwick Street Market has been at the heart of community life in Soho for 300 years. Its traders – entrepreneurial, hard-working men and women – have over generations put their necks on the line to grow their business and serve the community, making the market the unique place it is today.

We are therefore extremely concerned that traders are now threatened with having their stall licenses terminated. This is a reckless and potentially very destructive move which could have deeply negative consequences for both traders and the community at large.

What makes matters worse is that there has been very little meaningful engagement and consultation of traders, whose livelihoods are now threatened. The Council has a duty to meaningfully engage and listen to local businesses before decisions are made which can have such a detrimental impact on them.

What is remarkable and so difficult to comprehend is why the Council would press ahead with these plans in the context of enormous disruption to the traders. As you are well aware, the market has suffered a great deal as a result of recent building
developments. On top of that, access to facilities like storage is almost non-existent, making day to day life of traders very challenging.

In this context – of massive disruption to traders, of a total lack of serious engagement and consultation, and of continued threat to the livelihoods of traders – we ask you to implement an immediate moratorium to privatisation plans without delay. This would give independent traders the confidence and security they need to continue to serve the community.

Crucially, a moratorium would afford the community and residents time to make representations to the council on improvements needed to facilities, and to consider their own bid to run the market as a not for profit community interest company.

At the meeting held on Tuesday 26 July the case for a moratorium was made – and made unanimously – by the traders themselves. The Labour West End Action Team attended that meeting and also backed calls for a moratorium. We repeat this call now for an immediate six-month delay to listen to the community.

We look forward to receiving your response.

Kind regards,

Pancho Lewis and Patrick Lilley 

West End Labour Action Team”

Posted in Berwick Street market, West End | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Labour calls on Westminster Council to come clean on its failure to start work on the long-delayed Marylebone Library

Labour Councillors have called on Westminster Council to come clean on why construction of the long-delayed Marylebone Library on Luxborough Street has yet to start. The new underground library was supposed to have been opened this summer but building work has yet to start.

Labour Councillors say that the Council has let down Marylebone residents as rumours abound that the current temporary library has been told to leave its Howard de Walden estate-owned premises in Beaumont Street and will be down-sized to a couple of shop units in New Cavendish Street until a permanent location can be found

According to Council documents, the new Marylebone library was supposed to be built and opened by ‘Spring 2015’; it was then revised to ‘Summer 2015’ and then ‘Late 2015’. The opening date was then further revised to ‘Early Summer 2016’ but, as of July 2016, work has still not started.

In addition, Labour say that the costs have soared from £12 million to £16.8 million and two contractors have departed from the project because of finance issues.

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Labour’s Built Environment spokesperson said:

“This monumental failure to start work on this long-delayed major project demonstrates the Council’s incompetence when it comes to rebuilding Westminster’s public services. A public library that should have been open this month is still just a dream. No work has started, not a brick has been laid and soon Marylebone Library will be homeless and will have to move from its temporary Beaumont Street premises.” 

Labour Councillors have asked repeated questions from Cabinet members and Council officers but have been given no information or details about why this project has been delayed, why the costs have increased and why there has been no public information. There needs to be a full inquiry in to the Council’s failures and the Council needs to come clean on what is happening to Marylebone Library and when a new permanent location will be found.”

The irony of the Council’s failure to build an underground Library in Luxborough Street is that, right from the start, it was a very unpopular location with many local residents. Now, by its sheer incompetence the Council has made some residents in Luxborough Street and elsewhere very pleased that the library will never be built!”

The Marylebone Library debacle – the full story

July 2012

In July 2012 plans were approved to give Marylebone Library a new permanent location in Luxborough Street after it was chosen over a site in Moxon Street, primarily because the former offered better value for money and can be delivered quicker. Westminster City Council cabinet member for community services councillor Lee Rowley said the views and suggestions offered up by the community had been taken on board:

“On balance, we feel Luxborough Street is the best option. This site is … more accessible, as it is closer to bus routes and stations”.

August 2012

The Council’s decision was not popular. The local press reported on 4th August 2012:

“Plans to “bury” Marylebone Library’s collection in a side-street basement have come under fire from residents and political opposition.

The Grade II-listed library in Marylebone Road is set to be sold to London Business School and relocated to Luxborough Street below a housing development.

A playground will have to be bulldozed for the 19 homes and subterranean reading room. This has sparked anger among campaigners who gathered more than 800 signatures to have the play area refurbished.

Yael Saunders, heading the campaign to save the playground, said: “It’s not just the playground, but also the library at stake here and I don’t see why we as a local community should have to put up with it.

“It seems a bonkers decision to put the library on a side-street where the access is very restricted and also when most of those consulted said they would prefer the library to be placed at the Moxon Street site.”

The temporary library, housed in the basement of Council House, will close in December and council bosses expect the new library – which officials say will be 75 per cent larger – will be ready in summer 2015.

The council’s cabinet opted for the Luxborough Street site over the larger and more popular Moxon Street site – currently a car park where a farmers market operates – because it will cost at least £3.3million less.

The borough’s Labour group has accused the Conservative-led council of trading in an iconic building for what will become a “second-class service” to save money.

Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg said: “Westminster Conservatives are short-changing Marylebone residents by burying the new library in a side-street hole in the ground, so that they can sell off the valuable Moxon Street site with no community facilities.

“This is a cynical and mean-minded proposal which devalues Westminster’s library service now and for the future.”

However, libraries boss Cllr Lee Rowley branded opponents as guilty of “cynical opportunism”.

He said: “This library will be in the heart of Marylebone, close to local amenities and it will be almost on Euston Road, only a few minutes’ walk from the current library. It will be much bigger with many more amenities and uses.”

August 2013

The Council issues a newsletter announcing that the existing Marylebone Library will move to temporary premises in Beaumont Street until the new Luxborough Street library is open in ‘late 2015’.

October 2013

In October 2013 a planning application for the new library was submitted jointly by Westminster Council and architects Child Graddon Lewis and Bisset Adams.

The £12m scheme would provide a much improved library, cafe, exhibition space and computer study areas on Luxborough Street in Marylebone, and would also include nine flats for private sale located on three storeys above the library.

According to the press:

“If planning permission is granted, the library would open its doors in Spring 2015, and would replace the current (temporary) Marylebone Library on Beaumont Street.”

January 2014

In January 2014, Westminster Council gave planning permission for the new library.

The Council says the new library will be significantly bigger than the previous library – an increase in useable area of up to 75 per cent – and will have a community café overlooking the park, an exhibition area, meeting rooms for hire and a state-of-the-art computer study area.

It will also have a large feature-staircase that will connect the ground and lower floor levels, drawing natural light downwards, and will provide residents with more books and more space for studying, events and activities.

The Council also said that, as a direct result of resident feedback, plans have been changed to incorporate better security for the building; creating an entrance to the library from the park; relocating cycle space to reduce impact on local residents and to ensure that residential balconies.

October 2014

However, in October 2014, the Council revealed that Marylebone’s library will not have a permanent home until at least 2016 after it came to light the council has asked its contractors to withdraw from the £12million project.

In answer to a question from Labour’s Finance spokesperson Councillor David Boothroyd, the Council revealed;

“The Marylebone library project has been delayed as the preferred bidder requested substantial changes to the Agreement for Lease and to the way they had proposed to finance the project. These changes were considered to be material in nature and such they created a procurement risk for the Council these that officers were unable to accept. As such the preferred bidder was asked to withdraw its tender, and this was formally received on 5 September, some seven months after the decision to award the contract. Officers are now engaged in retendering on a design and build basis, with the Council funding the scheme, which is considered more likely to be successful in the current market conditions. This has introduced a delay estimated at up to nine months in the project from the original anticipated completion date of October 2015 with a new timescale of early summer 2016 considered more achievable.”

Cllr Steve Summers, cabinet member for sports and leisure, said:

“The original development partner sought to amend the agreement in a way that would have meant we were unable to guarantee this, so in order to avoid further delays we are in the process of securing a new agreement and expect to make a positive announcement soon.”

“Our chief priority is to provide a state-of-the-art new library for local residents at a time when many libraries across the country are being closed.

“This has always been about protecting the interests of local residents and taxpayers by delivering a great new facility that represents value for money.”

The New Marylebone Library was set to open in October 2015 but the revised timetable envisaged that the library would be ready by the summer of 2016.

March 2015

On 30th March 2015 the Council made the following decisions:

  • The Cabinet Member for Finance, Corporate and Customer Services agreed to increase the Gross Capital budget to £16.8m (which is the cost of the development excluding the land cost) to fund the Design and Build of the new library and residential apartments.
  • The Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration, Business and Economic Development agreed the transfer of the land from the HRA to the General Fund for the sum of £5.8 million. This transfer will initially be funded by a debt transfer from the HRA to the General Fund but then will be refunded by open market sales receipts from the disposal of the homes to be developed on the site.
  • The Cabinet Member for Finance, Corporate and Customer Services agreed to enter into a Design & Build contract plus Development Management services, with Mace Ltd to deliver the new Marylebone Library and private housing on the site inLuxborough   The Cabinet Member for Finance, Corporate and Customer Services agreed to delegate agreeing the detailed terms of the contract with Mace to the Executive Director of Growth, Planning and Housing.

June 2016

On 7 June 2016, Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg asked Guy Slocombe, the Council’s Director of Property, Investment & Estates:

“What is the situation with the delayed Luxborough Street library and housing development?”

Mr Slocombe replied on 21 June 2016:

“The rationale behind the new Marylebone Library is determined by the Council’s desire to achieve the most appropriate balance between value for money and service to the community. We are working closely with Councillors to resolve the matter. Please address further enquiries on these matters to the appropriate Cabinet Member”

On 21st June 2016 Councillor Dimoldenberg wrote to Councillors David Harvey and Tim Mitchell

“I am being asked repeatedly by residents in Marylebone about the long delayed Luxborough Street library. The latest Marylebone Association report highlights the delays and asks when work will start. Please can I have an update from whoever is responsible as officers are clearly reluctant to let me know what is going on.

This is clearly a matter of great public interest and with rumours flying around about cost increases and alternative sites for the library it is only right that the situation is clarified now by the Cabinet members responsible. I look forward to hearing from you.”

July 2016

As of 26th July there has been no response from either Councillors David Harvey and Tim Mitchell.


Posted in Community facilities, Council finances, Labour Councillors, Library, Marylebone, Marylebone Library, Westminster City Council | 4 Comments

Extra neighbourhood policing welcomed by Westminster Labour Councillors

Westminster Labour Councillors have welcomed the news that every council ward in London will get a second dedicated police officer patrolling their streets under plans announced by Mayor Sadiq Khan. It means each of Westminster’s 20 local wards will have two devoted officers and a police community support officer by the end of next year.

Queen’s Park Councillor Patricia McAllister, Deputy Leader of Opposition, said:

“Local communities will welcome the news about an increased police presence in the streets. Having a visible Police presence is not only reassuring for the general public but will hopefully reduce crime.”

Mayor Sadiq Khan said:

“Our local officers should be known both to the community and by the community. Their local knowledge helps to prevent and detect crime, and they are the local eyes and ears of our security services. They are essential to improving trust and confidence in our police and keeping our communities safe.”


Posted in Labour Councillors, Mayor of London, Police | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Welcome for Low Emission Neighbourhood for Marylebone

Westminster Labour Councillors have welcomed the Mayor’s announcement of a Low Emission Neighbourhood (LEN) for Marylebone.

The LEN was one of eight announced by the Mayor and is funded by the Mayor’s Air Quality Fund with match funding with the relevant Borough. The application was developed with local amenity societies, Business Improvement Districts, neighbourhood forums and property estates.

Councillor Jason Williams, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Member for City Management and Sustainability said:

“We very much welcome the Mayor’s announcement of the Low Emission Network for Marylebone. The Mayor has made air quality a key priority in his Mayoralty and we also welcome that he has increased the number of LENs from two to five across London.

Marylebone suffers from very poor air quality and the LEN can play an important part in dealing with the air quality issues residents face. We have requested a meeting with the Mayor and Val Shawcross, Deputy Mayor for Transport, to ensure further issues both in Marylebone and Oxford Street are addressed.”

Posted in Air pollution, Labour Councillors, Low Emission Neighbourhood, Marylebone, Mayor of London, Oxford Street | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Westminster Labour Councillors raise residents’ concerns about Oxford Street pedestrianisation plans

Westminster Labour Councillors have called for a meeting with Mayor Sadiq Khan and Valerie Shawcross, Deputy mayor for Transport to raise concerns expressed by residents of Fitzrovia, Soho, north Mayfair and Marylebone about the local impact of plans  to pedestrianise Oxford Street by 2020.

Labour say that there are over 10,000 residents living in the busy and bustling streets north and south of Oxford Street. The population is primarily ordinary working people, many of whom have lived in the area for years, whose children attend the local schools and who work in local businesses. Many people live in social housing, or housing for the elderly and they cannot choose to move out of the area if it becomes even more congested and polluted by increased bus and taxi traffic.

Councillor Jason Williams, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Member for City Management and Sustainability said:

“While we believe there could be benefits from plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street, it is vital this is done in conjunction with a review of bus routes so as not to move traffic and pollution onto residential streets north and south of Oxford Street.”

“Real consultation with local residents needs to be an integral part of any plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street”

Posted in Fitzrovia, Labour Councillors, Marylebone, Mayfair, Mayor of London, Oxford Street, Soho, West End | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment