Westminster Council has recently placed much emphasis on increased community involvement in the planning process, and indeed, several improvements have been introduced, such as the right to be heard at Planning Committee meetings. The document, “A New Dawn for Planning” (agreed by Cabinet on 25 October 2018) further gave an undertaking that planning decisions will be more closely related to residents’ views.
A good test of this aspiration then was how it would measure up against one of Marylebone's most heavily contested issues in recent years, the future of the Luxborough Towers Play Space. WCC themselves conceded that this had sometime ago become a space open to the community and it was listed as a Protected Open Space in the Westminster City Plan therefore any application was to be considered against the relevant policies relating to loss of community space and open space.
This site had been for years a valuable and much needed kick about space for young people in the local area before it was boarded up in 2015 and designated for the new Marylebone Library (still unresolved 12 years from its closure and various relocations to ever smaller temporary spaces). This plan was abandoned in 2016, apparently due to difficulties in procurement of a contractor. But it remained boarded up and its future use remained a matter of great local interest and concern. A concern that was not alleviated by the commencement of site clearing works and groundworks last December - and the removal of wrought iron railings without any consents being in place.
Considering the background to this, Westminster Council should have been exceptionally careful to be seen to be as objective as possible in deciding whether to award itself planning permission for the development of this site. It needed to act, not as a developer would, but rather as an arbiter of community opinion, in order to overcome the hurdle of conflict of interest that this posed.
However the Council’s Planning Committee decision to approve its own application for a 14 flat affordable housing residential development with some form of community use at ground level has not looked at all objective, it has in fact caused a great deal of local anger and bemusement.
It was widely felt that the consultation process was flawed. Its conclusions were based on very few responses from poorly attended meetings; the questions posed were loaded in favour of the application and it ignored the much greater weight of evidence of public anxiety about the scheme. The figures gleaned were then professionally presented with a variety of charts by way of percentages to give the appearance of community approval for a project that, in reality, had almost none.
Further, there was substantial stakeholder resistance to the scheme; 839 people signed a petition against it; it was in breach of a large number of its own open space policies; it was in breach of various policies in the London Plan and also National Policy on open spaces. Also the Diocese of London complained about WCC’s failure to consult in spite of them raising substantial legal objections based on their ownership of the surrounding land. Finally the development would need the removal of a large protected London Plane tree.
It is therefore of interest to see how Westminster in the face of all this managed to reach the decision they did.
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In order to satisfy its own guidelines and national ones, WCC needed to show that there had been a model of community engagement as required by the National Planning Policy Framework (Paragraph 39) with “early …and comprehensive engagement, much pre-application discussion”. And indeed WCC, or at least their agents, were involved in a great number of meetings, including; those with ward councillors, the Marylebone Association, the Marylebone Forum, Marylebone Mums and Dads, the St Marylebone Society, the Church Rector, several public consultations and engagements. Plenty of discussion and engagement therefore - but was any of it actually listened to?
While there was some support for the scheme, and general support for more affordable housing in the right context, a considerable number of objections were received, including the 800 plus signatory petition. Other objections, of which there were very many, related to the impact of the development upon the amenity of neighbouring residential properties; the height, bulk and design of the new building and its impact on the streetscape; the impact of building works. Did all this not have considerable weight?
It would appear not, but what was given considerable weight were the 2 public engagement sessions that were held by WCC agents, Peter Brett Associates, who were instructed by Westminster City Council to prepare their Statement of Community Involvement in support of the application.
The first round of public events took place in October 2018 and a summary of their analysis showed that respondents who attended the public events were mainly in favour of a wholly residential development. But this was based on forms filled out by just 13 of the 28 people who attended, and only 79% of them were for the scheme, i.e. around 10 people. The online responses received were predominantly in favour of returning the Application Site to its former use as a kickabout space and objected to a fully residential scheme.
The second round of public engagement events took place in June 2019. The events were attended by 27 individuals. Of those that responded, 64% supported the revised proposals with 36% objecting to the proposals. Of those that were sent by email only, 14% supported the proposals, with 72% against them.
However, out of the 27 individuals who attended, only 11 feedback forms were received (and 11, mainly against, emails at a later date). This meant that the figure produced supporting the Council proposals, which was later relied on so heavily to push the scheme through was based on 8 positive responses on this event and 10 on the first- a total of 18, and a number of those would have been the same individuals attending both engagement events.
Could this be in any way regarded as adequate? Yes, according to Peter Brett Associates - “In conclusion, the approach to pre-application engagement by the Applicant accords with relevant NPPF policies and local planning policies on engagements.”
This, then, was a very small cohort in favour- approximately 18, in the face of all those who had petitioned against the scheme, further online submissions and emails against, and the many stakeholder responses, either against, or with strong reservations about various aspects of the development.
The case clearly demonstrates the dangers - and the limitations of community engagements, which can be, and frequently are, used to obtain the desired outcome rather than seeking to obtain the actual views of the community engaged with, and act on them. They appear to be there to satisfy a necessary part of the process, rather than to offer real and meaningful dialogue with the community.
However, this is only half the story. Not only was this decision made contrary to the wishes of the overwhelming majority of locals, but also in the face of at least 7 of WCC’s own policies that specifically protect open spaces. Such as Policy S34 of the City Plan “… to protect all social and community floorspace (including external space), except where existing provision is being reconfigured.”…Or again, City Plan Policy S35, “the Council will seek to address existing public open space deficiencies, including active play space deficiency, and current and future open space needs by protecting all open spaces and their quality, heritage and ecological value, tranquillity and amenity”.
It was also directly contrary to at least 4 of the London Plan Policies seeking to protect open space - and National Policy which clearly states, “that existing open space/land used for sport should not be built on- unless an equivalent is found elsewhere...”(NPPF para. 97).
Nonetheless, having duly considered all of the above, the WCC Director of Development’s report to Cabinet acknowledged that, while the proposal would be strictly contrary to City Plan Policy S35, this needed to be weighed up against the potential benefits of an alternative use of the site and “...on balance, .....the potential benefits of the scheme, notably the delivery of new homes including affordable homes, may substantially outweigh the policy conflict with regards to protecting open space”.
But does it? In what is already a densely occupied residential area, what we do already have is a significant amount of new homes, including affordable, in the immediate area. Close by the Play Area are 60 new flats on the site of the former Chiltern Street car park, 55 new flats in former International House, on the south side of Paddington Street, and presently being built are 79 flats (28 family-sized units) on the Moxon Street car park site. Whilst what we do not have is the open space to go with these homes and especially play space for ball games for older children and adults - and at a time when good physical health is of critical importance to us all.
The objections however did not end there. WCC faced a substantial legal challenge to the viability of carrying out any works from the Rector of St Marylebone Parish Church. He advised that the works in Paddington Street Gardens would require the approval of the Diocese of London. The Diocese considered that issues remain “unresolved” with respect to physical boundaries and that any works should be agreed between the parties.
The Church claimed that Westminster City Council has a legal duty, whatever its decision, to seek permission under ecclesiastical law. The law requires this because the works border and encroach into consecrated land. These concerns were voiced throughout the application process and at the Planning Committee meeting, but appear to have been ignored: “The Council’s failure to seek such an approval is disappointing, as is the lack of consultation undertaken with Church bodies to understand the impact of both the design and the implementation of works on the consecrated open space. We hope that a satisfactory agreement can be reached and will do all we can to ensure one is found.” Rev Dr Cannon Stephen Evans Rector of St Marylebone Parish Church.
Further, the development of the site would involve the potential loss of an old and well established London Plane Tree, which in normal circumstances would in itself preempt any planning development in the immediate area.
We also understand that the Council have failed to procure the required party wall agreement with the residents of the adjoining Newcastle House.
However, in the face of all of this, the Planning Committee went on to reach the same conclusion as the WCC Director of Developments had suggested could be reached: “..on balance, ...the potential benefits of the scheme, notably the delivery of new homes including affordable homes, substantially outweigh the policy conflict with regards to proceeding with the scheme”.
All this leads one to ask - just how many local objectors, policies, trees, churches and general conflicts of interest would need to have lined up against this application in order to outweigh the desirability of affordable housing - and just where the “New Dawn for Planning” is leading to in Marylebone.
Statement by the Rector of St Marylebone on Luxborough Street development.
The decision by Westminster City Council’s Planning Committee to approve the Luxborough Street development application has caused a great deal of local anger, both within the congregation of St Marylebone and in the community more widely.
We urgently need new and affordable housing, but housing must be of good quality, including safeguarding adequate outdoor space for all residents, not just those lucky enough to afford a garden or access to a private square.
The Church’s objections, which I have voiced throughout the application process and at the most recent Planning Committee meeting, also relate to the fact that Westminster City Council has a legal duty, whatever its decision, to seek permission under ecclesiastical law. The law requires this because the works border – and encroach into – consecrated land.
The Council’s failure to seek such an approval is disappointing, as is the lack of consultation undertaken with Church bodies to understand the impact of both the design and the implementation of works on the consecrated open space. We hope that a satisfactory agreement can be reached and will do all we can to ensure one is found.
I very much hope that, as I have tried to encourage from the very outset of this project some years ago, the Council will now take seriously the advice of the Council’s legal officer that it engages in timely and constructive dialogue with me and the diocesan authorities with regard to the very real concerns relating to the site.
The Revd Canon Dr Stephen Evans
Rector of St Marylebone
We would like to take the opportunity to introduce ourselves as the point of contact for Kier Regional Building London & South East who have been appointed to undertake the construction of Marylebone Square.
The works at Marylebone consist of constructing a collection of both high-end and affordable apartments over 5 storey, carefully chosen boutiques and restaurants, and a versatile community hall.
Progress update - October:
Works will commence along St Vincent Street on 26.10.2020
Main works will be installation of Kingposts walls around the perimeter of site to enable the basement to be constructed.
Main construction works due to start in November 2020
There will be various hoarding changes occurring during the initial period before a permanent hoarding is installed. Deliveries will be met at the southside of Aybrook Street prior to entering site.
The next community liaison group meeting will take place next Wednesday 21st October 17:30 to 18:30 via zoom. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm attendance.
Residents are invited to participate in the short online survey, where they have the opportunity to share their main reasons for using Edgware Road, views on how it serves their needs and any desired changes they would like to see. Participants will be asked if they want to opt into further research to take part in a more detailed telephone interview with one of the Pragma team. The findings from both elements will be used to inform Pragma’s research and recommendations to the BID. The survey will be live until the close of business on 15 October. https://survey.euro.confirmit.com/wix/p732711550624.aspx
Marble Arch BID appointed Pragma to undertake the Edgware Road Insights Study recently. https://marble-arch.london/news/edgware-road-insights-study/.
NBIM and British Land want to refurbish and redevelop part of the site that forms a 1970s office and retail building in Oxford Street, to provide additional and more efficient office floorspace whilst retaining circa 60% of the existing structure. They say that: "the proposals will also introduce a new high-quality façade, reconnecting the building to the surrounding area. At the same time, the entrance to the Bond Street station and retail outlets in the first, ground and basement floors will remain open while any development is taking place. We are keen to hear your feedback which will help to shape our proposals before we return for a further round of consultation in the autumn."
The first round of consultations will run from Tuesday 18th August to Friday 11thSeptember. https://westoneconsultation.co.uk/have-your-say/
Chandos House is a Grade I listed building and is currently empty after the Royal Society of Medicine vacated the property in June 2020. The owner has identified an opportunity to ensure long-term investment in Chandos House and has so far discussed these with Westminster City Council and Historic England.
Key to this will be the introduction of The John Collection, a collection of of memorabilia relating to Battle of Britain aircrew which includes medals, logbooks and photographs. It is the leading such collection worldwide.
As is the case with so many museums, delivering this vision is reliant on cross-subsidy. In this instance this is achievable by housing other activities at lower ground, second and third floors, which are the least sensitive parts of the building with respect to heritage. This will include office space at lower ground level and a cosmetic clinic to the second and third floors.
The proposals to achieve this have been carefully designed to have as little impact as possible on the historic fabric of the building.
This online consultation aims to ensure the local community is able to have their say in advance of a planning application being submitted to Westminster City Council.
You can view our online exhibition boards detailing the proposals by clicking the link below.
Once you have viewed the boards, please let us have your feedback by clicking the ‘Have Your Say’ tab below.
Virtual exhibition for the emerging ideas for the proposed extensive refurbishment of Marylebone House, 129 -137 Marylebone Road, NW1.
Following meetings with a number of our neighbours in recent weeks, this first stage of consultation is taking place ‘at-a-distance’ in light of government guidelines around social distancing. Using a range of different feedback tools, we are committed to engaging widely and making sure everyone has an opportunity to have their say in a way that suits them.
You can provide your feedback on the information set out in these boards by clicking on the ‘Feedback Form’ on the ‘Have Your Say’ section on our website. You can also provide your feedback via post. Alternatively, if you would like to arrange a virtual presentation with a member of the project team, please contact us at email@example.com
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THE NEXT ERA OF ENTERPRISE
From Illness to Wellness: A New Era of Health
Thursday 30th of April, 12pm via Zoom
Even before the outbreak of Covid-19, our society has become more health aware than ever before. While the pharmaceutical industry's growth is declining, medical cannabis, and other natural and alternative remedies and practices are skyrocketing. Join Clemens Böninger, co-founder of TheDrug.Store, for a discussion on the future of health, and learn how his business not only pioneered the niche of premium CBD products but evolved into a holistic physical and mental health online platform.
Monday 11th May, 6pm – 7pm via Zoom
Have you got what it takes? Our popular pitching event ‘Crocodile Lair’ is back. The Startup Funding Club is a leading early-stage investment firm providing seed capital and support to promising British companies. Join the award-winning Angel Network and Seed Investment Fund for an evening of innovation and meet disruptive companies pitching for investment.
Why We Don’t Think
The Way We Think We Think
Behavioural Economics and its Power
Webinar with Anthony Tasgal
Wednesday 13th May, 7pm – 8pm via Zoom
All business depends on selling or marketing to human beings. Anything that helps us better understand how and why people buy things must, therefore, improve our chances of commercial success. Behavioural Economics [aka “nudge theory”] offers a new model for understanding the basis of human behavioural change, and this webinar will introduce you to some of the key concepts and practices. And have some fun on the way uncovering your own unconscious biases…..
Join Trainer, Strategist, Lecturer and Author, Anthony ‘Tas’ Tasgal, and learn how to see emotions in a new light, apply them to create distinctiveness and cut through for your brands and comms. Discover how to apply the insights of priming, social norms, heuristics [mental shortcuts] and re-framing to change how you see your marketing, sales, positioning and communications.
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Soul Sundays – Sundays 10am, weekly throughout May
Soothe Your Soul and Nurture Your Mind.
Experience a Sound Healing Meditation with our In-House Meditation Mentor Elizabeth Martin.
We all need peace, we all need to feel safe, we all need connection. In these unprecedented times experience these tranquil sessions will bring your energy into balance and harmony. Boost your immune system and gently sink into the comfort of stillness.
Meditation has been scientifically proven to improve your health, boost your immune system, increase your vitality, flood your mind with an oxytocin lift and protect your energy against negativity. Sound Healing regulates your heart rate, balances your central nervous system, reduces anxiety and lifts your vibration
Stress Detox – Thursdays 8am throughout May
Join our weekly only sessions with meditation expert Elizabeth Martin to relieve stress in these unprecedented times.
Experience gentle mindfulness and meditation techniques you can use every day to find your inner peace. Feel nurtured and soothed with increased energy, reduce anxiety, improve your wellbeing and feel supported. Give your immune system a gentle boost and experience a Soul Radiance Sound Healing Meditation.
Love in Lockdown with the Millionaire Matchmaker
The Dos and Don’ts of Online Dating
DATE: Thu 30th April 2020
TIME: 7:00 pm to 7:30 pm
Feeling overwhelmed by the world of internet dating? Love it or hate it, people are using apps and online dating platforms more than ever before. Whilst we keep wondering why we haven’t heard back from that recent match and find ourselves deleting the app once again, why give up on the chance to find love (or adventure) online altogether? Join us as the team of the infamous Millionaire Matchmaker will reveal the Dos and Don’ts of online dating. Learn where you might have made mistakes in the past and where you might be making mistakes now. This is a fun high energy interactive session that we focus on:
There will also be time for a Q&A where the host will answer any questions you may have on dating, love or relationships. Questions can be asked anonymously to the host only via the chat function.
Dynamic Vinyasa Flow with Joanna
DATE: Mon 4th May 2020
TIME: 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Focus your mind and build strength and flexibility in this Dynamic Vinyasa yoga session with our Home Grown Yoga Teacher Joanna Voudouris. Using movement and breath in sync to flow from one posture to another, build strength and flexibility. Connect body and mind by linking the movement to your breath, allowing you to forget about everything else and focus on your practice, looking inward. Whether you are advanced in Yoga or a complete novice, Joanna will lead the class so that everyone can take part at their level.
Sleep and Mental Resilience with Peak Health
DATE: Tue 5th May 2020
TIME: 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Are you struggling to sleep and lacking concentration during the day? Our diet has a profound impact on our quality of sleep as well as our concentration levels and productivity. Join us as Peak Health consultant and nutritionist Sarah Carolides discusses blood-sugar balance, looking after your gut, the gut-brain axis, and how these two subjects can impact your sleep quality, sleep effectiveness, mental clarity, and resilience to daily stressors.
Palm Reading with the Fun Fortune Teller
DATE: Thu 7th May 2020
Join Amelie Appleby, the Fun Fortune Teller, for a light-hearted Q&A about her unique experiences as a quirky Comedy Psychic Entertainer.
Amelie will show you how to do a mini palm reading on yourself and others, share secrets and stories from her intriguing adventures and answer your burning questions on fortune telling.
Palm reading, or Palmistry, is the art using the palms of the hands to learn more about a person or tell their future. While it has roots deep within India’s past, the practice is found all over the world, with numerous cultural variations.
Are you affected by Coronavirus ?
Do you have a problem getting out, or are you having to self isolate?
If so and you need some assistance - we have a number of local volunteers who are here to help
Our volunteers can email or phone to check what is needed- maybe help with a little extra shopping alongside their own, collect a prescription or post letters etc. Or if you would just like to have someone to chat with on the phone - we can arrange this also contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you do not have access to email, phone and leave a message on 07950 472916 with your phone number and we will get back to you
The Marylebone Association
229 Great Portland Street, London, W1W 5PN