Archive for February 2011

West End Ward Budget

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As we come to the end of the financial year, here is an update on what the current year’s West End Ward budget has been spent on.

1. We spent £9,856 supporting the Soho Business Crime Reduction Partnership by the purchase of radio handsets for the Scheme on behalf of the Metropolitan Police. The Scheme is supported by both the MPS and Westminster City Council but runs independently from them under a board of management which I chair.

The objective of the Scheme is to provide a radio scheme and intranet to businesses both during the day time and night time economy to help fight business crime in Soho.

2. The West End Community Network. A grant of £5,000 was made from the Ward fund to support a project coordinator for six months to help establish and coordinate the work of local amenity societies working in and around the Ward. Support was also given by the London Borough of Camden.

The group has now been formed and has commenced its role in working with others, including The Council to represent the views of residents.

3. Soho Caring Agencies Forum were granted £6,700 as part of the companionship plus scheme to encourage participation among groups of older residents in the Ward who do not usually attend social events. They have been encouraged to take part in board games and other activities as the photo shows.

A further award of £1,852 has been made to the Soho Caring Agencies Forum which is an organisation which seeks to coordinate the various caring agencies which operate in and around the Ward. This has been to fund a part time administrator to coordinate meetings going forward and was on the basis of matched funding by the agency themselves.

4. £499 was spent providing children’s entertainment including magic tricks and a parrot!

5. We spent £3,060 providing hanging basket brackets for the Meard Street and Dean Street Association as part of the project of providing hanging baskets in and around Soho. Soho lacks open space and the colour and greenery provided by the hanging baskets has been welcomed by all.

6. We spent £4,655 providing complementary therapies via The Munro Health Cooperative on the basis that only those over 60 and who are in receipt of state benefits or on a low income would qualify.
7. We spent £1,955.55 to cover a one years cost of the Soho Community Centre Trust's minibus to ensure that it was available to take local people on day trips, short break holidays and to and from hospital.

8. We spent £781.50 to allow pupils in years 3 and 4 to go on a trip to Highclere Castle (used as Downton Abbey in the recent television series) to look at the exhibition of the life of Lord Carnarvon and his work in Egypt.

9. We spent approximately £3,000 in relation to contribution to further tree planting in Fitztrovia as part of the W1W Tree Initiative. Although it has proved difficult to find suitable sites for planting in West End Ward, 14 trees were supported via this route, working together with the Westminster Tree Trust and the Westminster’s City Council Arboricultural Department.

There are a number of other projects under act and consideration and on the assumption that the Ward budget will continue next year, there is room for further ideas. If you have any suggestions for other ideas or projects which can be covered by the budget, particularly if they are different from the ones already supported, please let us know. However, it is unlikely that further grants will be made to support the cost of providing funding for specific employments.

Regent Street - Planned Night Works

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West One working on behalf of Westminster City Council has been carrying out streetscape improvement works in Regent Street and Hanover Street at the junctions with Maddox Street and Great Marlborough Street.

A series of night works are planned to repair and resurface the carriageway are due to start this Sunday night, 27 February for a period of four weeks. As a result of the works, parts of the carriageway will be closed to vehicular traffic and vehicles will be required to follow diversions around the work site in Regent Street and neighbouring streets. Details of the works site and diversions are shown on below. The footway and access to properties will be maintained at all times.


Westminster Wardens

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Last year Westminster reorganised its on street staff by creating the Westminster Wardens service.
The West End Ward team, led by Franco, have successfully dealt with a number of issues causing problems for local residents and businesses including ensuring the introduction of measures in GoslettYard dealing with commercial waste collections from the Tottenham Court Road Crossrail redevelopment.

They have also dealt with issues concerning commercial waste in Duck Lane, relating to illegal dumping and enforcement action is being taken against offenders.

The Wardens have been enforcing against commercial occupiers who have failed to purchase commercial waste disposal bags from the Council or any other authorised provider. These people are thereby effectively stealing from the Council by expecting there commercial waste to be disposed of for nothing whereas legitimate businesses make the appropriate contribution.

In Fitzrovia action is being taken in Riding House Street and Foley Street to tackle commercial waste bins being left out on the highway to ensure compliance with the appropriate waste procedures.

Problems have also occurred in Mayfair, including regular dumping in Grosvenor Street where the culprit has been identified and enforcement action is being taken.

The Wardens also work with the licensing and illegal street trading scheme; this includes work on unlicensed chairs and tables on the highway where a number of premises throughout the ward have been issued advice as to how to ensure compliance.

The Wardens have also worked with the Safer Neighbourhoods Teams in tackling illegal street traders in Oxford Street. They are also liaising with NWEC and SMC concerning complaints of the same issues.
Problems in Sackville Street and Piccadilly with advertising boarding’s illegally placed on the public highways have also been addressed, as have boards in Greens Court (Soho).

Working with the local highways inspectors the Wardens have identified skips, particularly in Mayfair which are unlicensed. These include two sites in Berkeley Street and Savile Row and another outside the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel on Brick Street which was removed. Signage in respect of road works has been undertaken in New Bond Street and highway faults identified for action.

Residents' Complaints:
Current work includes working with residents and others to resolve the issues of dumped waste in and around Hanson Street and to upgrade signage to inform people of when and where the waste should be removed properly.

Likewise the Hare Krishna Temple on Soho Street is now complying with proper waster disposal arrangements as a result of their input.

Ongoing problems with street urination on Manette Street have been addressed, but this is a very difficult matter to enforce upon because literally, as soon as the Wardens back’s are turned the problem reoccurs.

Persistent problems are occurring on Hollen Street with street urination, defecation and drug taking being identified. Working with the Police and the NCRO, progress has been made including improving the flushing schedule.

The Wardens service can be contacted on 020 7641 2000 or by email at wardens@westminster.gov.uk

Mayfair - Oxford Street - Park House Redevelopment

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The redevelopment of Park House is moving with remarkable pace and the picture below shows the progress made so far.

Transport - Oxford Street - Bus Diversions

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Above: Bus Turning into Welbeck St.
Below: Works on Oxford St.

Oxford Street bus diversions were introduced on Monday and the road was closed to allow for the utility works to be undertaken.

The worst fears of gridlock caused by the bus diversions along the routes to the north of Oxford Street did not transpire and the Council, TfL and I have inspected these routes on a number of occasions of all hours of the day and have found them to be free flowing without major holdups.

Further monitoring will be take place at the weekend particularly, on Sunday when parking restrictions are relaxed to ensure that the buses can still pass.
However, the routes upon which the buses have now been diverted were not originally designed for bus movement and some of those have proved difficult as the pictures show. A build up of buses has occurred which has caused the occasional traffic snarl-up.

These routes may have been the only feasible ones available during the utilities diversions but, they must not be allowed as a precedent for permanent displacement of buses from Oxford Street either to the north or the south when the works have been completed.

Public Realm – Problems with Utility Companies

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Argyll Street
We  have all seen examples of newly laid Public Realm destroyed by the thoughtless actions of utility companies who dig up surfaces, in some cases within days or weeks of their having been laid.

The solution to this requires national legislation as large numbers of statutory utility companies have the right to dig up the road. It also requires input from the Mayor's office who is attempting to introduce more stringent conditions and the co-operation of the utilitiy companies themselves. By way of recent example, the flagship Oxford Circus diagonals scheme has been dug up  and instead of making good with the same quality materials which were a feature of that scheme patches of tarmac have now appeared . Once the integrity of the scheme is broken it is more difficult to maintain it.

Unfortunately even if we can establish from the licence application records which utility and which contractors were responsible for this work, they have up to six months in order to ‘make good’. That means for that that period of time, the temporary reinstatement cannot be improved upon.

Recently Argyll Street has been dug up several times in order to accommodate the requirement to liven up the new lampposts by UK Power (formerly EDF). This is extremely disappointing as they have been asked on many occasions to ensure that this work was done prior to the high quality surfaces, in this case Yorkstone originally being laid.

Oxford Circus
Unbelievably the Mount Street flagship scheme instigated by the Grosvenor Estate and their contractors and laid  out in the highest quality Yorkstone was dug up within a week of completion to facilitate British Telecom ‘emergency works’. Luckily those works have now been made good, to a standard whereby it is difficult to see where they have occurred.

It is important to stay vigilant on these matters so that if unauthorised work (i.e. works which do not show a licence number and a date for its expected completion and the name of the party on whose behalf the work is being done) can be identified and reported to the enforcement department within the Council.

There are a number of other high profile Public Realm Schemes currently being undertaken in West End Ward and within the limited parameters that the law provides, we must try and ensure that they are not destroyed or compromised once the work is done and these much needed improvements look good for years to come..

Police Crime Statistics - Don't Panic!

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On patrol with Soho Police
Nationally the police have recently introduced access to an information system which allows you to enter in your postcode enabling you to look at details of crimes which have taken place near to your home. Please follow the link here.

Having tried this myself some pretty high numbers occur in relation to some of the crime which is of concern to local residents and businesses. Consequently some of the streets are amongst the highest crime levels registered within the country.

Whilst we are all working to minimise crime, antisocial behaviour and its effects on residents and businesses it should be borne in mind that the West End is not an ordinary area for crime, nor do its statistics compare on a like-for-like basis with other areas.

Every Friday and Saturday evening there are up to half a million visitors that come into the West End for the shopping, leisure facilities and the night time economy. During the day large numbers of people work in the West End and may experience crime as may some of the hundreds of thousands of daily visitors. Crime statistics are often prepared on the basis of resident population figures of five or six thousand who live in Soho or Mayfair and we are effectively being compared with the crime levels that would be expected in a small country town,whereas the actual numbers here on a weeekend night are comparable with  a city the size of Leicester or Bristol.

Furthermore, the people that visit the West End are not the same people coming in week in week out and repeated messages on crime prevention relating to bag and telephone theft are difficult to disseminate.

The police work hard to get the message across, both to residents and visitors to prevent and deal with the consequences of crime. However, they need the communitiy's support and on this blog you will see links to the six SNTs which cover various areas of West End Ward. Those SNTs set the priority for the police at a local level and you are able to get involved and influence that decision by attending those meetings and making your views felt.

Licensing – Court of Appeal Victory – The Endurance and Sunset Strip

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The Endurance
The Court Appeal found in favour of Westminster’s licensing policy at a hearing which took place recently and was reported last week
.
The owners of The Endurance pub had appealed against conditions which had been placed on the licence to the pub to prevent noise nuisance from taking place. The conditions mean that there is to be no outside drinking from 6:00pm in the evening.
The owners of Sunset Strip had also appealed against conditions placed on the licence by Westminster in order to maintain public safety and residential amenity.

Sunset Strip

These cases have been viewed by the licensed trade as a test case and a victory in the Court of Appeal supporting the position of the Council, its policy and the ways in which the individual licences are determined by the sub-committees mean that views of residents can be taken into account.

Everybody (including those hearing licensing cases) understands that this is about a balance between legitimate commercial activity and residential amenity. However, when that balance becomes out of kilter it is important that the Council has the ability to address the concerns of residents and put it right for the benefit of all.

Mayfair - Oxford Street - Park House Redevelopment

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In spite of the difficult weather conditions and various holidays progress is being made on the construction at a significant pace.

The latest newsletter setting out details attached.



Park House Newsletter - Feb 2011 -

Oxford Street Buses - Concerns

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Westminster has been working with other stakeholders and in particular the New West End Company to see an overall reduction of bus numbers passing through Oxford Street.

Although these buses serve the whole of London many of them pass through Oxford Street with low occupancy and what is required is a reduction and consolidation of the number of buses, and the number of routes which pass through Oxford Circus. 

TfL have committed to a 10% reduction last year and a further 10% reduction this year to the number of buses. Leaving aside the complications caused by the utilities works undertaken at the east end of Oxford Street last year and those to be undertaken at the western end of Oxford Street later this year this permanent reduction should continue.

One of the approaches by TfL is to curtail some of the routes at Tottenham Court Road, Marble Arch or more worryingly at Oxford Circus. The way in which this is done is to re-route the buses in and around Oxford Circus so that some of them are being displaced into the side streets in a way which is totally unsuitable for their construction and traffic.

You will see from the video below the trouble that this has caused for the curtailed route 15, which now passes down Conduit Street, along Savile Row and rejoins Regent Street via New Burlington Street. Because of the weight of traffic during the day it is often impossible for the bus to do so, consequently the road is blocked and cars are taking to driving on the pavement. This is unacceptable in terms of safety and clearly shows why it is not a good idea to put these buses in the side streets.

TfL are now consulting on re-routing the 25, 55, and 8 in order to improve their circulation but the clear implications are that these will be re-routed to the north of Oxford Street with possible similar consequences.

Whilst I support the reduction of buses it needs to be a genuine reduction and not just a displacement into streets which are not suitable for buses. This may allow TfL to claim that it has reduced buses, but in reality it has increased the problems in and around Oxford Street rather than reducing them.

I am maintaining a dialogue with TfL to see how to address these issues in a proper way and taking into account the needs of residents and businesses affected.


Oxford Street - Closure & Bus Alterations

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From Monday 14th February until November 2011 the eastbound closure of Oxford Street will cause changes to bus routes and stopping arrangements. For further detailed information on how this could affect you, please view the PDF provided below.



Oxford Street Closure-FEB -