Labour slams Westminster Council’s bizarre attempt to block its own cycle hangar scheme

Westminster Labour has reacted angrily to news that the Council’s planning department are recommending refusal of a planning application put forward by the council’s own transport team for the pilot installation of a secure Cyclehoop Bike Hangars on Ilbert Street in Queens Park.

Westminster’s planners claim that ‘Because of their size, location and appearance the proposed covered bicycle storage structures would fail to maintain or improve (preserve or enhance) the character and appearance of the Queen’s Park Estate Conservation Area. This would not meet S25 and S28 of Westminster’s City Plan (November 2016) and DES 1, DES 7 and DES 9 of our Unitary Development Plan that we adopted in January 2007.’

Labour councillors strongly support the proposed trial of secure cycle hangars. They have previously called on the council to ensure that during the pilot residents have the opportunity to register their interest in having a hanger in their neighbourhood and to explore placement options at the edge of large paved areas, home to the Council’s existing cycle stands, to reduce impact on parking spaces where feasible.

Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “Westminster is far behind a number of other boroughs in providing on street secure cycle parking and Labour have been pushing the council to move ahead with this pilot and quickly roll-out hangars to areas where residents want them. The planning committee must listen to residents of Queen’s Park and cyclists across those Westminster so that this cycle hanger trial can proceed.”

Queen’s Park Councillor Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg said “Providing bike hangars for local residents would be adding to local amenities and it is crazy that the Council’s Planners should use the Conservation Area status of Queen’s Park to refuse the Council’s own highways proposal. The Council now looks completely stupid with one part of the Council not knowing what another part is doing. It’s about time the Council tried some common sense”

For further information about the planning department’s bizarre recommendation please see here http://committees.westminster.gov.uk/documents/s21131/ITEM%2006%20-%2018%20ILBERT%20STREET%20LONDON%20W10%204QJ.pdf

To have your say on the scheme before the Committee makes its decision on Tuesday 31st January visit http://idoxpa.westminster.gov.uk/online-applications/ and look for 16/09622/COFUL

Posted in Cycling, Cyclists, Planning Committee, Planning permission, Queen's Park | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Garden Bridge must fully cover its costs before construction says Westminster Committee

Westminster Labour is delighted that the ‘call in’ process instigated by Labour councillors Cllr Adam Hug and Cllr Tim Roca, supported by Committee Chair Cllr Brian Connell, has led to a cross-party consensus that Westminster should require the Garden Bridge Trust to prove it is financially viable before the start of any construction.

The call in process led by Westminster’s Housing, Finance and Corporate Services Committee, has requested the Westminster Council Cabinet Members think again about their proposed decision. The Committee has called for a lease condition that prevents construction from getting underway before the Garden Bridge Trust is able to prove it has the required funds available (not as promissory notes) to cover the costs of building the bridge. The committee requested that the project’s level of contingency be reviewed with the current £30 million buffer for a £185 million project seen as a potential risk given the scale of the engineering project and the uncertain economic times. They also requested an assessment of the potential impact of 7 million visitors on local services, such as street cleaning, in the Temple area.

Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “I am delighted that the Committee has accepted the need for robust financial safeguards to be put in place to prevent the Garden Bridge construction beginning without the required funds being in place. No more public money should be spent on this project so it is essential to avoid the risk of a half built bridge where the tax payer is forced to pick up the tab to complete or remove it.”

Notes

  • Full information about the ‘call in’ is available on the Westminster Council website here: http://committees.westminster.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=326&MId=4299
  • The ‘call in’ process did not have the power to block the proposed acquisition of land near Temple tube station to facilitate the development of the Garden Bridge only to delay and refer the decision back for further deliberation.
  • Lord (Mervyn) Davies, Chairman of the Garden Bridge Trust has previously argued in a letter to the Financial Times that the bridge might begin construction without all funds being in place saying that ‘it is not unusual for projects that depend on donations to start without all of the money being in the bank’ https://www.ft.com/content/533fbaac-9c3b-11e6-8324-be63473ce146
  • The current discussions around a mayoral guarantee to underwrite costs only applies to potential operation and maintenance costs, not construction costs.
Posted in Garden Bridge TRust, Local Democracy, London, South Westminster | Tagged | Leave a comment

Nearly £30 Million spent on Ebury Bridge Estate regeneration plan without a brick being laid

ebury-bridge-estateQuestioning from Labour Councillors has revealed that an eye-watering £29 million has been spent on the Ebury Bridge Estate regeneration scheme before a brick has even been laid. Residents in the Ebury Bridge Estate in Pimlico have been waiting over 3 years for better housing after voting in favour of renewal plans in 2013 that would replace aging buildings, and provide 101 additional much needed homes.

However plans are many years behind schedule and it now appears over £29 million has been spent and a further £14.8 million will be spent (totalling £43.8 million) before work will even begin. The majority of the money has been spent on purchasing properties on the estate, but other costs include over £700,000 on Architects’ fees and Sitex security doors.

Councillor Jason Williams, Labour Churchill Ward Councillor said:

“Residents will be rightly concerned that so much money has been spent yet there is still a lack of clarity as to the final plans for the estate. There is an urgent need for the Council to outline their proposals and get on with providing the homes residents were promised over 4 years ago.”

Councillor Tim Roca, Labour Housing spokesperson said:

“This is a staggering sum of money to be spent with nothing show for it –  not even a final plan. In the meantime it raises even more questions about the bungled Council regeneration programme. The Council need to explain why at least some of the properties purchased have not been used for temporary accommodation, instead of sending families to outer boroughs where they may have no local connection. They also need to come clean about how much rent and council tax has been lost since the properties were vacated. What is clear is that the Council’s farcical record on housing continues.”

Residents voted in favour of the renewal plans in a week-long ballot in May 2013. The Council said in 2013: “The renewal plans for Ebury Bridge will provide high quality new homes and significant improvements to existing homes along with vastly improved public spaces, which will enhance the character and value of the area. In addition the plans will provide residents with improvements to the energy efficiency of their homes, improved community facilities and provide future job opportunities.”

The key elements of the plans are:

  • Eight blocks to be demolished and replaced with a series of new buildings ranging from 8-14 storeys with 4 storey breaks at key points to provide light and variety
  • Five blocks to be retained and improved
  • 101 additional homes created overall
  • New homes and estate improvements to the highest environmental standards
  • New central park with open lawns and play area and better connections with the surrounding area
  • New enlarged community facility at street level
  • New underground car park

But now, over 3 years later the Council has admitted that “there had been a muted response when soft market testing the planning consented scheme in the latter half of 2015 which did not generate sufficient interest from investment developers and traditional contractors. Complex delivery phasing, block/unit layouts requiring further value engineering and the costs and complexity of the refurbishment element are the main risks for developers/contractors.”

The Council say that officers are currently refining the existing consented scheme but a revised scheme is not yet finalised.

 

Posted in Churchill Ward, Ebury Bridge Estate, Housing, Pimlico, Regeneration, South Westminster | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Labour Councillors call for action on Health & Social Care in Westminster

Labour Councillors have called for action on Health & Social Care in Westminster and will be raising these issues at the next Council meeting on Wednesday 25th January at Porchester Hall.

Labour Councillors have tabled a motion to be moved by Councillor Barrie Taylor and seconded by Councillor Adam Hug:

“This Council notes the current critical state of health and social care services for Westminster residents and the respective Authorities plans to deal with ‘Winter Pressures’ and proposals aimed at tackling: 

  • Accident and Emergency / Mental Health waiting times / admissions and home discharges
  • The £35m social care deficit identified in the NW London STP

This Council believes there is a clear need for improved government investment in NHS and Adult Social care funding in Westminster.  For its part, Westminster Council resolves to assist the process by focusing on issues within its own remit: 

  • Take steps to lobby government to provide extra funding in the upcoming budget, in order to tackle the immense shortfall in social care – as identified by the STP
  • Introduce a dedicated year-on-year increase in Adult Social Care spend for Westminster residents, using the government’s Social Care Precept rules and ask Officers to include funding proposals in the budget report to Cabinet (20.2.17).
  • Dedicate CIL and Section 106 funds, particularly from health and social care development sites, to help develop the infrastructure for health and social care integration in Westminster and officers report thereon to the relevant Cabinet Member.
  • Press the government to provide Imperial Trust with up front capital at this stage – to be realised by future sales of NHS property locally (e.g. Samaritan Hospital)
  • Promote the development of Health and Wellbeing Centres, the retention of local GP practices and NHS plans to improve levels of GPs primary care services
  • Support Tri-borough partners Hammersmith and Fulham in their concerns about downgrading of A&E provision in West London.
  • In conjunction with the NHS & local Care Agencies, introduce & publish an Annual Winter Pressures each September to explain actions to overcome yearly pressures
  • Review consultation procedures for Westminster only residents to submit views and opinions on all NHS and Social care plans
  • In view of the arbitrary midyear cuts to Public Health budgets, to ensure Public Health proposals are open to public accountability in Westminster.”
Posted in A&E services, Adult Care, Advice services, Health, NHS, Social Care, Westminster City Council | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Westminster Labour slams new Tory plans ‘to send residents to Coventry’

Conservative led Westminster Council has announced plans that would see increasingly large numbers of Westminster residents who have lost their homes and are in need of temporary accommodation sent to properties in the Midlands, with hundreds being forced to take a private rented flat that would end any responsibility for Westminster to find them a permanent home. Rising homelessness in London is being driven by soaring rents and house prices, a long term fall in the availability of council housing and cuts in government housing support. Many homeless families have people who are in work (that could be at risk if moved to outer London or beyond), act as carers for elderly relatives or have other strong connections to the area.

The Council’s proposals show also show no recognition of the strength of local connections when deciding whether to house them locally (Band 1 for those with care needs), elsewhere in Greater London (Band 2 for those in long-term work or with children taking exams) or anywhere in the country (Band 3 for everyone else). According to the Council’s plans Coventry, Birmingham and Leicester apparently ‘offer the best opportunities’ for Westminster’s residents to be rehoused.

The Council aims to acquire 200 new Private Rented properties, which could see up to 40% of next year’s new applicants pushed into accepting a one-time offer of a private rented property thereby ending the council’s duty to provide them with social housing in the long-term.

Labour is further dismayed that the current plans do not ensure those with a longstanding local connection be prioritised for the right to stay locally compared to others in similar need.  Labour also has demanded a basic commitment that those with care needs, jobs in central London, children at local schools or a long-standing local connection must not be forced to accept a private rented sector offer that would end any option for Westminster to eventually supply them with permanent housing.

Labour group leader Cllr Adam Hug said:  “This council’s decades long atrocious record on building social and genuinely affordable homes combined with the Government’s insidious benefit changes have created a perfect storm for Westminster residents in desperate need for temporary accommodation.  This policy formalises and turbo-charges what has happened in recent years where Westminster residents in temporary accommodation are being sent further and further from home. It is essential that Westminster radically improves its council house building plans and challenges the divisive Government policies that underpin these worrying plans.”

Notes

Posted in Adam Hug, Affordable Housing, Council housing, Homeless Families, Housing, Housing Benefit, Temporary accommodation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Labour welcome that Garden Bridge land sale is to be ‘called in’

Westminster Labour have welcomed the decision by Housing, Finance and Corporate Services Committee Chair Cllr Brian Connell to join the request made in December by Labour Councillors Adam Hug and Tim Roca to ‘call-in’ Westminster Council’s plans to acquire and transfer open space and rights to light around Temple Tube station to the Garden Bridge Trust. This provided the 3 councillors required to trigger the process.

Labour welcome the chance for increased scrutiny around the proposed deal that the outgoing Conservative Administration (prior to the likely arrival of a new one led by Cllr Aiken who seems to have backed the efforts to ‘call in’ and re-assess the current cabinet’s decision) at Westminster looked to push through over the Christmas break.

Labour Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “We welcome the opportunity to properly assess the implications of Westminster’s proposed deal with the Garden Bridge Trust and ensure that the needs of local residents and tax payers are protected.”

Posted in Garden Bridge TRust, Westminster City Council, Westminster Conservatives | Leave a comment

Labour ask for ‘call in’ of Westminster Council decision to sell land at Temple Station to Garden Bridge Trust

Labour Councillors have asked for Westminster Council’s decision to dispose of open public space around Temple tube station to the Garden Bridge Trust to be ‘called in’. In order for the ‘call in’ request to succeed a Conservative Councillor needs to join Labour to request a ‘call in’.

According to the Thames Central Open Spaces campaign:

“It would cost the public at least £500,000 after legal fees, indemnity costs and premiums paid to London Underground Limited, for the GBT to acquire this desperately needed crucial land from Westminster City Council to build the bridge. The money to do this would be from the £60m public funding granted to the GBT by the Department of Transport and Transport for London.

So public money is being used to facilitate private developers i.e. Garden Bridge Trust, to acquire public land which we would lose all rights to – where’s the sense in that?

Questions also need to be asked about why Westminster council is allowing public money to be spent on a project that is not deliverable* and is currently undergoing a review by Dame Margaret Hodge for London mayor Sadiq Khan and is also in question by the chair of the Public Accounts Committee.

The GBT are burning up to £500k a month and are going nowhere. They don’t have implementable planning permissions: they don’t have land rights; they are between £55m-£70m short of cash; they don’t have a Port of London Authority licence or a public guarantee from Sadiq Khan”

Councillor Adam Hug, Leader of the Labour Group, said:

“Given that this entire scheme is currently under review by Dame Margaret Hodge and the Mayor of London, Westminster Council needs to be extremely cautious about its approach to this controversial scheme. It certainly should not be taking action that facilitates progress on the scheme without full local scrutiny of that decision. Therefore I ask that this proposal be called in for further discussion and assessment before any decision is taken. “

Posted in Garden Bridge TRust, Labour Councillors, Westminster City Council, Westminster Conservatives | Tagged , | 1 Comment