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  • Wed, June 02, 2021 8:58 AM | Anonymous

    This month Julie Redmond interviews Brett Wolstencroff, who co-founded the Daunt Books at its flagship Marylebone shop in 1990 with James Daunt. Find out how he began and how he is finding trade through the present crisis.


    Where did Daunt books begin?

    I joined Daunt Books Marylebone 30 years ago when it opened its doors in 1990.

    The high street was far less vibrant than it is today, it was a forgotten but elegant backwater.

    It got worse for a few years; it certainly did not have the village feel like it has today. Then it changed a lot, it became more residential, and Gap arrived and then The Conran Shop and Waitrose and Daunt Books at the heart.


    Q. How has the last year been for you?

    Retail is struggling to pay rent and rates have gone up.

    Despite what you hear, book shops have struggled. It has been difficult as we have not been able to provide service and people cannot browse. Since reopening it is like we are back in the 1990s, we have no tourists coming, no office workers and people who would have previously come to London and come to Daunt as a destination shopping experience do not anymore.


    Q. What is the most popular section in Daunt Books Marylebone at present?

    We have a big travel section and guidebooks have always been popular but now it is all about

    British guidebooks. Escapism books have been popular, books on fiction. It is a rich moment where people have rediscovered the pleasure of reading.


    Q. What book are you currently reading?

    Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead, a New York Times best seller, a historical book and unforgettable story of a daredevil female aviator determined to chart her own course in life.


    Q. Tell me about the authors/books in the window?

    Natalia Ginzberg, an Italian author, is fantastic. We publish her. Her work explores family relationships, politics during and after the fascist years and World War 2, and philosophy. The Dry Heart and The Road to the city are in the window today. She has been hugely successful.

    A lot of authors have written about her.

    Then there is Bear, written by Canadian author Marian Engel. We also publish her work. The story tells of a lonely librarian in Northern Ontario who enters a sexual relationship with a bear.


  • Wed, June 02, 2021 8:46 AM | Anonymous

    Another policy relaxation that has caused some issues is the encouragement of the night-time or hospitality economy by allowing easy licensing of outside eating and drinking and the closure of some roads, in particular in Soho but also within Marylebone. This seems to have been moderately successful for those businesses lucky enough to be situated in fortunate locations but has not necessarily been a great experience for nearby residents.


    We have been anticipating a slew of applications from licensed premises for temporary extensions of hours beyond Westminster’s definition of Core Hours. In reality this is most likely to occur in Soho and Covent Garden, but we have collaborated with the other Westminster amenity societies affected and drafted a joint policy of the West End Community Network on this matter.


    Our stance is that, despite the obvious need for businesses to be supported wherever possible, this should never be at the expense of those living or even working in a neighbourhood. The Licensing Acts are designed to protect citizens from the negative aspects of alcohol consumption and the policy on hours adopted by Westminster – their Core Hours Policy – has been instrumental in a very civilised compromise between the needs of those who want evening entertainment - and those who want to sleep.


    Consequently, we will be opposing any applications for even temporary extensions of hours beyond ‘Core’ even if based on the need to rebuild profitability after difficulties resulting from Covid regulations. To read WECN draft policy in detail click here.

    To see all the latest licensing applications in our area:


    New Applications


    Ottolenghi. 63-65 Marylebone Lane

    https://idoxpa.westminster.gov.uk/online-applications/licencingApplicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=QS7ZOLRPG4C00

    Application for a new café closing at 22:00 nightly. Consultation closed.


    Chameleon Inc. 1 Marylebone Road

    https://idoxpa.westminster.gov.uk/online-applications/licencingApplicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=QO0CUARPKBX00

    Application for a new members-only club and restaurant closing at 3:30am daily. Consultation closed. Hearing 9th June 2021.

    Portman Village Association and The White House Hotel have some concerns over this application due to the late hours and the challenging location in the middle of the one-way system opposite Great Portland Street station.


    Outstanding Applications

    Koj Lease Ltd. 43 Chiltern Street

    https://idoxpa.westminster.gov.uk/online-applications/licencingApplicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=QKLUXMRPI3100

    Application for restaurant and ancillary bar. Applicant has asked for a delay in proceedings.

    On the site of a small ‘Indian’ restaurant now closed. Previously only on one floor the new proposal is for ground and basement floors with a terrace at the rear of the building in the light well of the block. Hours requested are 00:30. We have expressed concerns about noise issues possible from departing customers in the early hours in Chiltern Street in a location with many residents.


    Cumberland Food & Wine. 11 Great Cumberland Place

    https://idoxpa.westminster.gov.uk/online-applications/licencingApplicationDetails.do?keyVal=QQFL8HRPGGJ00&activeTab=summary

    Application to allow off-sales until midnight 6 days a week.

    This establishment seems to have an ambition to be able to sell alcohol 24/7. Over the years it has submitted multiple applications requesting incremental changes moving towards that end goal. The previous application to this was asking for 24 hour sales but was then amended during the licensing process to sales until midnight temporarily until September 2021. This application seeks to make this permanent.

    Awaiting a hearing date.


    Cumberland Hotel Great Cumberland Place

    https://idoxpa.westminster.gov.uk/online-applications/licencingApplicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=QTNTEPRPMSU00

    Application to open one hour earlier on Sundays.


    Selfridges

    https://idoxpa.westminster.gov.uk/online-applications/licencingApplicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=QTGP66RPIRS00

    Selfridges are beginning to use their outside space to the rear of the building in Edward’s Mews – you may have seen their spin classes. Activity in this application ends at 21:30 so no comments from us.


  • Fri, May 21, 2021 11:03 AM | Anonymous

    The consultation has started for the future of the 334 Oxford Street site, the whole city block formerly occupied by Debenhams.

    Visit https://334oxfordstreetconsultation.co.uk/ to find out details about the proposals for the future of the site;

    summarise the consultation process; and

    enable you  to submit feedback to help shape the redevelopment, as well as asking any questions you may have.

    The consultation is running from 19th May to 4th June 2021. On the ‘Have Your Say’ section of the website, you can view our virtual exhibition boards to find out more about our proposals for the site. Once you have reviewed the plans please fill in the feedback form that is available on the same page. The will then review the feedback received ahead of submitting a planning application to Westminster City Council later in the year.

    The feedback received by the team will also inform a Statement of Community Involvement to be submitted as part of a planning application for 334 Oxford Street, W1C 1JG.


  • Sun, May 02, 2021 7:19 AM | Anonymous

    As normality slowly returns to London, 2021 will see the city face some of its biggest challenges since the war. At this critical point, the Marylebone Association thought it would be interesting to speak to candidates for London Mayor to find out a bit more about their motivations for standing and their key concerns for London over the next few years. The London Mayoral and Assembly Election is on Thursday May 6th. The MA has been trying to interview as many candidates as possible over the run-up to find out why they want to be Mayor of London and how their policies may affect us.

    Shaun Bailey Conservative

    What has brought you to this place? Personal experiences etc.

    London needs a fresh start. I am a Londoner born and bred in West London and I was born in the old Paddington Hospital before it was knocked down to a single parent mother with my brother. My mother is an incredibly positive person and an inspiration. She taught me how to overcome adversity and that you are at your best when you serve others. I joined the army cadets, and I am an honorary Colonel for the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. I did gymnastics for twenty-two years and it taught me the notion that small continuous improvement gives results and working on yourself. I was a team captain for a long time. I have links with Marylebone. I got married in the St Mary's church at Bryanston Square and my children went to St Mary's School, Bryanston Square. I lived in Marylebone for 15 years.

    What are the biggest challenges ahead for London?

    Rebuilding Relationships-Not being at school has been difficult for our children and our families and not seeing grandparents.

    Rebuilding our city-London thrives on people and furlough has been brilliant. However, we need to get people back in safely. This will include cleaning the Tube, helping the hospitality industry giving them the space and tactics. We have lost 22million visitors. However, we the people will restart it and I am extremely optimistic. We have natural advantages, and we have strength of community, but we need strong leadership now. The pandemic has given us the opportunity to speak to all the people of the boroughs of London. I was a youth worker; I have been homeless, and I was unemployed. However, these experiences have taught me we can overcome anything. I want to give people opportunities.

    What are your ambitions for London? Build back better?

    I will make our streets safer; we will hire 8000. more police and reopen 38 police stations including west end central and Belgravia. With a new youth centre in every borough and 4000 new youth workers we will help young people to get out of gangs and into work. We will have a better transport network and clean up London’s air and we will reverse the 10% council tax hike. The only political party I care about is the party of London. I am not a hard party-political person. I believe London needs a Mayor with a strong voice and presence. I want to see people move forward and be safe. What is happening on the streets between crime and housing is letting London down.

    London needs a fresh start. If you live in a place like Marylebone which effectively is circled by some of the busiest roads in Europe, they need to be moving and that is what makes a difference to your community.

    If you were Mayor for one day what would you do?

    On day one, I will make London Safer, I will let people own their own homes, make London a much cleaner, greener place. My life has been anchored by strong women, my mother, my wife and my 14-year-old daughter and I would love to invite my mother to City Hall!


    Luisa Porritt Lib Dems

    What has brought you to this place? Personal experiences etc.

    I have lived in London all my life and I am a big fan of the Marylebone area. I still go there often to get my eyebrows done and usually have a look around the shops and grab a bite to eat while I am there. I have also worked in the area in the past, which meant I could enjoy the great bars and restaurants around there after work.

    What are the biggest challenges ahead for London?

    The economic recovery from the pandemic is key. I am the only candidate with a plan for some of the big changes that have been accelerated by the pandemic.

    The rise of online shopping and the shift to homeworking will hit Marylebone particularly hard if we do not act now. We have also got to play our part in tackling the global climate emergency and our city is of course strongly impacted by Brexit too.

    What are your ambitions for London and Marylebone?

    My plan to Take London Forward is all about embracing change. It has a clear focus on Londoners’ basic needs: Jobs, Homes and Clean Air.

    We need to reinvent the high street for the future and ensure that the centre of London continues to be a thriving place to both live and work. We can convert some of the empty office space coming back onto the market into quality, affordable homes. And we need to make it easier for people to make greener choices, by encouraging more walking and cycling and investing in clean, green public transport.

    If you were Mayor for one day, what would you do?

    I hope to be Mayor for more than one day! But If it was just for one, I’d get more done than Sadiq Khan has in the past five years and finally open Crossrail!


    Here is the full list of 20 candidates in the order they will appear on the ballot paper (alphabetical) with their chosen party or independent description.

    BAILEY Shaun - Conservative Party

    BALAYEV Kam - Renew

    BERRY Sian - Green Party

    BINFACE Count - Count Binface for Mayor of London

    CORBYN Piers - Let London Live

    FOSH Max - Independent

    FOX Laurence - The Reclaim Party

    GAMMONS Peter - UKIP

    HEWISON Richard - Rejoin EU

    HUDSON Vanessa - Animal Welfare Party – People, Animals, Environment

    KELLEHER Steve - Social Democratic Party

    KHAN Sadiq - Labour Party

    KURTEN David - Heritage Party

    LONDON Farah - Independent

    BROWN Valerie - The Burning Pink Party

    OBUNGE Nims - Independent

    OMILANA Niko - Independent

    PORRITT Luisa - Liberal Democrats

    REID Mandu - Vote Women’s Equality Party on orange

    ROSE Brian - London Real Party


  • Thu, March 11, 2021 2:11 PM | Anonymous

    To view full details on their proposals please visit the Virtual Exhibition section of their website. This includes sections focused on The Existing Buildings & Public Realm, The Existing Store, A Vibrant New Destination, The Future of Retail, Creating A Healthy & Wellbeing Led Workplace, Transformed Public Realm, Sustainability, Scale and Massing, Materiality and Elevations, Traffic and Servicing.

    They are keen to hear your thoughts as well as those of the local community more widely on our proposals, whilst also capturing your ideas on how the site can benefit the surrounding area. Therefore, feedback questions are available throughout the virtual exhibition section of the website and they encourage you to complete these once you have reviewed our plans for the site.

    If you have any further questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact us via the details provided.

    https://458oxfordstreet.co.uk/

  • Mon, March 01, 2021 9:08 AM | Anonymous


    Interview: with Marcos Fernández Pardo, Managing Director Iberica Restaurant Marylebone

    Q. Tell me a little bit about the origin of Iberica Restaurants?

    Iberica Restaurants was born in 2008 in Great Portland Street. The project was founded by me as MD as Nacho Manzano, a chef from Asturias in Spain who holds a total of three Michelin starts and has his own collection of restaurants. We have focused on showcasing the spanish gastronomy in a sophisticated but informal setting, designed by one of the most reputable resigners in the world, Lazaro Rosa Violan.

    Iberico has hosted all of the top chefs and top producers in the country and is considered an embassy to spanish gastronomy. Within these, in Marylebone we had one day alone over 40 Michelin Stars, as we hosted the after party of the 50 best.

    Iberica has opened other restaurants in Leeds, Canary Wharf, Victoria and Farringdon.

    Q. How have things changed with the pandemic and how have you adapted?

    After the problems caused by cashflows and balance sheets where resolved, the real problem is always how can we keep on serving our customers safely. This is what we have focused on from before lockdown. It also took an interesting turn, not only we looked at what has to be done in the restaurants, but an exciting new avenue opened, how could we reach our customers at home.

    In the restaurant:

    Iberica started putting measures to tackle COVID as early as January 2020, introducing new cleaning schedules, changing our operating procedures, new training, etc. You could already see hand sanitisers in January 2020.

    However, we also started from an advantageous position. Our restaurants have always been ample, There was already over a meter between tables, We had high ceilings, wide corridors and not only air-conditioning, but air renovation systems, which exchanged all the air in the restaurants over 15 times an hour.

    After the first lock down we readjusted our restaurants to increase the space between tables, but did not loose many covers in the process. We did also apply to new outside seating which compensated. More stringent cross-contamination and hugeness measures where introduced, something which is easy as we have sophisticated training and administrative systems. We wore masks from June 2020 throughout all the time. We wanted to make sure our customers know we are specially safe.

    At home:

    An exciting new project was born from this pandemic, Iberica At Home.

    We have successfully launched delivery services directly through our website and logistics partners, as well as in the main platforms, Deliveroo, supper, etc

    We launched four distinct product lines.

    1. Ready to eat delivery from our menu, which constantly evolves as the restaurant did, with its specials.

    2. Pre-cooked finish at home special boxes.

    3. Delicatessen and Wine store of our award winning producers. Our wine is delivered straight from our cellars in perfect state for consumption.

    4. Zoom events with leading chefs and producers, following those that happen in our restaurants.

    Q. What is your favourite dish?

    My favourite dish is our croquettes, for which Nacho Manzano is renowned in Spain. They are hand made delicacies. We have also launched a home version of them which we deliver frozen with 6 flavours which are fantastic.


  • Tue, February 23, 2021 10:40 AM | Anonymous

    Berkeley are pleased to present updated plans to deliver homes and much improved public realm at the former Paddington Green Police Station.

    Following our initial consultation late last year, we received valuable feedback from the local community. From this, we have heard what local residents currently value and what the hopes for the scheme would be. This has helped inform our updated proposals which includes a reduction in building heights, an enlarged community provision to be provided as afordable workspace and further work on enhancing the public realm throughout the scheme and beyond our ownership boundary.

    We are keen to understand your views on our updated proposals and encourage you to visit our consultation website to leave feedback for the project team.

    You can access the website by visiting: yoursay.online/paddington-green-police-station As part of the consultation we will also be hosting a webinar on 25th February and

    3rd March at 6pm - 7pm. Find out more and sign up to attend by visiting our website.

    We encourage you to visit the website and leave your feedback by
    5pm on 12th March. If you are unable to access the website and require printed copies of the consultation materials, please get in touch using the contact details below.

  • Sun, January 31, 2021 11:00 AM | Anonymous

    After working over the last few months as a Health Champion for Westminster City Council, Marylebone Association Committee Member Julie Redmond felt she really needed to do more. After watching her colleagues from afar working on COVID-19 hospital wards and losing their colleagues and patients to COVID-19 as if this was a normal everyday occurrence she decided to help out too Home-schooling in March last year was not for me and my poor child who at six was expecting mummy to know all the answers, would completely agree with me! Our third London Lockdown took us all by surprise just before Christmas and we have gone deeper and deeper into the abyss since then. I have friends and colleagues messaging me daily telling me how depressed and full of anxiety they are. Usually, I am the one with all the answers and advice, but I do not have any.

    I joined the COVID-19 NHS vaccination Programme; little did I know what I was getting myself into. Forty online assessments later, I was getting ready at 6am to go to Lords Cricket Ground. I eat my normal breakfast: a bowl of porridge with cinnamon and honey and a strong cup of coffee along with a good dose of Vitamin D, C, and zinc vitamins.

    7.30am I arrive on site to Lords Cricket Ground in the rain and do my Lateral Flow Test. I wait for 45mins, it is negative. I look at my watch and it is 8.30am. First patients arrive... It is exciting to be part of the vaccine roll out, but in the back of my mind I am hoping it works. Everyone gets briefed then I go and set up my pod. My adrenaline is pumping. There is an anaphylaxis protocol on the back of my chair. There are eight vaccinators, and each vaccinator has admin support. We start drawing up syringe after syringe of 0.3ml of Pfizer vaccine and 0.5ml of the AstraZeneca vaccine. People with allergies get the AstraZeneca vaccine. We all take it in turns to have a 10min break for a coffee. The question I am faced with all morning is ‘can I hug my grandchild now’? with tears in their eyes and ‘when do we get our second dose’? and the funniest comment from a fit ninety-year-old ‘I have never seen so many old people in one place’! I tell anyone who has received the Pfizer vaccine to wait 15mins before leaving the building. When we run low, we have people drawing up the vaccine for us. It is a production  line, a highly organised one where everyone has their own job. I am really impressed and humbled. Every second person thanks me.

    Lunch is at 1pm and pizzas are donated. The NHS team I am working with all know each other, from the tech support, admin support, managers and doctors and nurses. Their team spirit is contagious.

    1.45pm We start back in and we work solidly for the afternoon.

    By 3pm there are queues of elderly people lining up in the rain and it is getting dark, my heart breaks but this has nothing to do with the organisation, people are just turning up without an appointment and then some are early. I see my neighbour with his walking stick, and I vaccinate a retired Harley street surgeon who asks me what job I normally do? He then offers me his business card. By 4pm, I feel like I am a Duracell bunny. We vaccinated a total of 1500 that day. I think my count was 150. I met some amazing people that day, full of spirit and inner strength.

    7pm I drive home and realise my back is stiff and into an Epsom salt bath I go with a large glass of wine. The beginning of the end…

    Julie Redmond RGN.NIP

    Before getting your vaccine-Tips

    • wear warm clothes in case of queues outside or you may receive the vaccine in the out door pod 
    • wear loose clothing. No long sleeve shirts. The vaccinator needs to roll up your sleeve to reach your deltoid muscle where the vaccine is administered.
    • you may have side effects from the vaccine the next day or sore arm for a few days
    • your GP will contact you in two weeks with your next dose appointment date after you get your first vaccine
    • wear your mask and social distance



  • Fri, January 01, 2021 11:57 AM | Anonymous

    The events of the last 12 months have brought the relationship between the individual and the state into sharp focus. Whether imposing restrictions on personal freedoms or offering protection to tenants to prevent evictions, the government has been at the centre of the Covid 19 conversation. To better understand what has gone on, the Marylebone Association is speaking to some of the key political figures who will help determine Marylebone's future. We will also have conversations with our residents and business owners in the community to hear about their personal thoughts and journeys.

    Q&As with MP Nickie Aiken

    What has your year been like?  

    I was not expecting to deal with a pandemic in my first year in parliament and it has been hard not having my team of five and half people around me as they are working in different parts of the country. Learning about the process in parliament as well as juggling the tsunami the pandemic has brought has been tough. I feel a responsibility to the community, and I set up weekly meetings and it has brought positivity during this dark time. Coming together as a community I have listened, and I have been able to push through issues to no 10 and the relevant ministers. I have enjoyed keeping in touch with people around the City of London, not many MPs have that connection.

     

    What are your priorities going forward?

    Dealing with the fallout of the pandemic and a recession. London will be the last out as there are no workers and tourists around and this will not change until Spring at the earliest. 

    I will be supporting local business. We are facing a real economic depression in central London. Another priority is rough sleeping, working with partners on campaigning to have the Vagrancy Act repealed and a more modern up to date legislation in its place. I am positive and optimistic about the future and we need to keep motoring on and with Brexit we will secure as many trade deals as possible. 

    What are your thoughts on the cycle lanes and road closures?

    Like life there is always balance. I am not a cyclist, but my family are. I want as safe cycling as possible however I recognise what traffic is on our roads and we need traffic flow.

    I questioned the Mayor over his traffic measures as there was no consultation. People will embrace change; I welcome more cycling and more walking but there is a better way about what the Mayor has done.

    There seems a lot more criminal gangs and crime in the area? 

    Yes, I have also seen this in my local area of Pimlico. I believe in the broken windows theory. We need to stop it now before it takes hold.

    I would urge the residents to speak to local police and councillors and Marylebone policing forum. The government is putting in 20,000 new police officers. They come to Westminster first, we must ensure a zero-tolerance approach to this.

    What are your thoughts on the future of Oxford Street and the potential pedestrianisation of it?

    I took on Sadiq Khan and stopped it. I think we must do something in response to Covid. What is now needed is a new look for Oxford Street. Covid has accelerated this, Retail is changing anyway. It is more experience led. John Lewis, Debenhams etc would not need the same floor plan as pre Covid and whether that means more hotels, gyms or residential. We need to look at the whole district plan. However, it is not my say anymore.

     

    What would you say to residents of Marylebone to boost morale over the next six months?

    Brilliant community spirit which is at the heart of Marylebone and you can see that with the Marylebone Association and other groups in the area. There is great passion and love of the area and that has seen us through and that is going to see us through next year and we need it to. We are all facing tougher times. There is light at the end of the tunnel and I am convinced we will get through it together. Places evolve all the time. After this is over, we will have a slightly different place to live. Out of all disasters come opportunities.



  • Tue, December 01, 2020 6:05 AM | Anonymous

    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. 

    continues from newsletter ---

    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.



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