Four months ago, the people of Westminster had their say in the hardest fought local election for many years. I am delighted and humbled that they overwhelmingly chose to put their trust once again in the local Conservatives to run their council.
I believe that as Leader of the Council I should report back to you on how we are succeeding on the pledges we made during the election. This is the first of a series of regular “Leader’s Updates” I will be sharing with you over the years ahead to keep you fully informed on how we are doing, our achievements to date and what we are continuing to strive to achieve. Please share this with family, friends and work colleagues.
We have the lowest Council Tax in the county. Over the next four years we promised to continue to provide outstanding services:
Like you, I live in Westminster. Whether or not you support the Conservatives at election time, I want to explain what the Council is doing on your behalf and highlight some of the first major decisions we have made.
Oxford Street – improving air quality & protecting our neighbourhoods
Our first major decision was to no longer support the Mayor of London’s plan to pedestrianise Oxford Street. The Council had initially been a partner working on the proposals as we thought it was important that Westminster’s residents and businesses had a voice at the table to influence the plans. However, the more we heard from local people regarding their genuine concerns about the proposals, the more convinced we became that there had to be a better solution to improve air quality, pedestrian safety and future-proof retail along this world-famous High Street. So we made the decision to pull out at the beginning of June. Our announcement had mixed reactions: local people and businesses in the main were delighted. Many from outside our City - and the Mayor of London himself - were furious.
Since then we have been working hard on our own Oxford Street District Improvement Scheme, which covers a much wider area and is taking a long term view of how the area might change. Westminster is working closely with local councillors, local people and businesses and we aim to unveil our scheme by the end of October to go out to formal consultation the following month. To ensure we have a world-class plan, which protects our iconic neighbourhoods such as Soho, Fitzrovia and Marylebone, we are investing £150million over the next three years into the scheme. We hope that other partners, including the Mayor of London, will invest too.
Protecting our Streets and Neighbourhoods
Many of you will be aware of the fierce campaign we led to save Belgravia Police Station. Sadly we were unsuccessful but our offer to house local neighbourhood police teams at City Hall in Victoria Street is still on the table.
Worryingly we have seen a drastic increase in drug dealing, drug taking, and anti-social behaviour across Westminster. I have held meetings with senior police and council officers to understand why we are seeing such concerning criminal activity.
Many local people share my belief that we are not seeing enough police officers on patrol. I remain worried about the Met’s new Borough Command Unit, amalgamating Westminster alongside Hammersmith & Fulham and with Kensington & Chelsea. We are set to lose a further 200 police officers by February. This is unacceptable and I have written to Commissioner Cressida Dick expressing my deep concerns about the future of Neighbourhood Policing across the city.
Westminster Council has responded to the growing issue of open drug using, begging and anti-social behaviour by launching our Integrated Street Engagement Unit. It is already making a difference having worked with 100 people on the street to help support change their lives around and secures the help they urgently need.
Building More Homes For Westminster Families
Our largest house-building programme for a generation is on track. Work has started building the nearly 2,000 new council and genuinely affordable home we’ve promised across the city by 2023. We approved the next stage of the Church Street Master Plan, our ambitious programme to build 1,700 new homes in the Church Street area, near Marylebone, over the next 15-20 years. Thirty five per cent of all new homes will be affordable and existing council tenanted homes will be replaced and re-provided at social rent. In addition to the new homes, our plan also looks to create a greener environment, boost the economy and employment opportunities, and improve access throughout the Church Street area by balancing the relationship between pedestrians, cars and bicycles.
In Pimlico, we are also moving forward with our renewal plans for the Ebury Bridge Estate, building 750 new homes, 342 of which will be affordable and social rent homes. It’s vital that we create and preserve our mixed neighbourhoods. This is why we are committed to ensuring that many of the new affordable homes on this estate will be at intermediate rent available to those on moderate incomes including the key public sector workers who keep our City safe and running smoothly.
City West Homes – Time for Change
I know that over recent times Westminster’s housing arm’s length management organisation, City West Homes, has provided often woeful service to its clients. This is simply not acceptable. Having heard so many appalling reports from local people frustrated with City West Homes, it was clear action was required.
At the start of this year I commissioned an independent report into the running of City West Homes, seeking recommendations on how it could be improved for benefit of everyone involved.
We then hit the election period and plans had to be put on hold as we went into purdah, when legally we are prevented from making such decisions in the run-up to polling day.
With the election over, my new Housing Cabinet Member, Cllr Andrew Smith and I were able to take action. We commissioned a second report into the governance of City West Homes and an independent cross-party Scrutiny Task Group was also set up to investigate. The clear conclusion from this work was that fundamental change was required. Having reviewed all the evidence we have decided that the best option is to bring the service back under direct council control. We are now working with residents and staff to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.
Schools Clean Air Fund Launched – Tackling Poor Air Quality
Tackling poor air quality remains a top priority. We were proud to launch our Green Manifesto during the election. I was therefore, delighted that one of our first initiatives once returned to City Hall was to launch our £1m Schools Clean Air Fund.
Aimed at primary schools, the fund is to help tackle poor air quality across the city. Schools will be able to apply to the Fund to create “no pollution zones”. These new zones will introduce a range of measures to help reduce harmful emissions in the air surrounding schools.
The new Fund is funded from the diesel surcharge Westminster introduced last year in Marylebone, which has seen an overall reduction of 14 per cent in the number of the most polluting vehicles entering the area.
Our priorities over the coming months include unveiling our plans to completely overhaul our Planning System, giving both local councillors and residents a greater say at an earlier stage and a stronger voice at Planning Committees. We will also be launching our new City Plan, which will outline for discussion our future key planning policies, which will shape our City for years ahead.
Too often, people say they only hear from politicians at election times. I hope you have found this brief taste of the work we have started since the elections in May of interest and given you confidence that we are determined to keep the promises we made. Your Conservative-run council is determined to continue to work with you to safeguard Westminster as a safe, pleasant and vibrant place to live, work and visit.
From Hell Island To Hay Fever
On 28 November 1941, QSMV Dominion Monarch arrived at Singapore at the end of a two-month voyage from Liverpool. On board were 35 doctors from the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), a number of Army nurses and 1700 men of the Royal Artillery. The RAMC group included 29-year-old Captain A. W. ‘Bill’ Frankland. He had qualified from St Mary’s Hospital in 1938 and had joined the Army two days before the declaration of war, in September 1939. The plan for the RAMC contingent was to form a General Hospital at Johor Bahru. However, four days after landing this changed and their fate was unclear. Bill Frankland, along with another new arrival, Captain R. L. Parkinson RAMC, was summoned to a meeting with a senior officer. There were two positions to be filled: one at Tanglin Military Hospital, working primarily in VD and dermatology, and the other as an anaesthetist in the newly opened Alexandra Military Hospital, a facility which Bill later described as ‘like Buckingham Palace’. Bill’s preference was Tanglin, as was Captain Parkinson’s; neither relished the prospect of administering anaesthetics. The senior officer broke the stalemate in a time-honoured way. A coin was spun: ‘You call, Frankland’ was the instruction. ‘Heads, Sir’. It was. Bill was sent to Tanglin and Captain Parkinson to Alexandra Military Hospital.
Four days later Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbour, Singapore and Hong Kong. Over the ensuing months Tanglin came under heavy attack. During this time Bill treated many allied casualties and was also responsible for treating a small number of Japanese casualties taken prisoner. In addition he served as ‘prisoner’s friend’ to Captain Patrick Heenan, the ‘Traitor of Singapore’, who had been found guilty of treason.
On 11 February 1942, with Japanese troops no more than 500 metres away, Bill evacuated the hospital to the Victoria Theatre in Singapore City. Two days later, on Black Friday, he assisted British nurses, who had assembled at Singapore Cricket Club, to make their way to Keppel Harbour. He oversaw their passage onto small vessels which took them to the waiting SS Kuala. This was the last group of nurses to leave Singapore; many having worked at Alexandra Military Hospital. Reaching the gangway of Kuala they were greeted by Australian deserters armed with rifles, who allowed the nurses to board but told Bill that he could not. His reply was simple: ‘I do not intend to, I have plenty of work to be done back on land’.
Saturday 14 February stands out as one of the darkest days in the history of Singapore. On that day, Japanese troops surrounded Alexandra Military Hospital, and despite Red Cross flags being draped over the building, proceeded to attack. On seeing the situation unfolding Lieutenant W.F.J. Weston RAMC, walked out of the hospital towards the advancing troops, waving a large sheet as a white flag. He was immediately bayoneted and killed; he was 27 years old. His headstone poignantly reads ‘Greater love hath no man than this.’ Soon the Japanese entered the hospital creating unimaginable mayhem. Anaesthetised patients were bayoneted them as they lay on operating tables. Medical staff were also attacked. Captain T. B. Smiley, a surgeon with the RAMC, was bayoneted in the chest, but the blade was deflected by his cigarette case (a gift from his fiancée). Nearby, Captain Parkinson was anaesthetising Corporal Holden – both were killed.
Few patients survived the massacre and overall, more than 200 men lost their lives. Had it not been for the toss of coin in late 1941, Captain Bill Frankland would most certainly have been one of them. Now aged 106, the biography of Dr Bill Frankland is to be published on 16 October. Entitled ‘From Hell Island to Hay Fever’, it details the remarkable and long life of Britain’s oldest doctor. It describes several occasions when Bill Frankland has been next to death, both in war and peace. The book provides unique insight into the remarkable medical career of a man who survived incarceration by the Japanese, worked for Sir Alexander Fleming, developed the pollen count and treated Saddam Hussein – it will be of interest to many and is available to pre-order now from Amazon.
WLM are taking the first step into transforming Seymour Place into a community centre. You can find out the details and support this amazing project here: https://www.spacehive.com/wlm
WLM has been helping homeless people for over 40 years. Every day, around 100 homeless people come to their doors. Last year they helped 242 people into accommodation! Seymore Place is an amazing building but it is showing signs of ageing and is in real need of renovation.
WLM have a vision of using the building much more than they currently do. As well as continuing to support homeless people to come off the streets, they want to transform it into a thriving hub for the whole community. WLM have an opportunity here to address needs that have not yet been met, including supporting gambling addicts, facilitating women's groups and tackling long-term unemployment.
They will bring together local residents, schools, churches, businesses through our creative, dynamic hub, offering events with wide engagement. WLM will develop into a more effective platform for getting people off the streets with more training and employment avenues for rough sleepers through our pop cafe.
Seymour Place used to be home to Emma Cons, founder of the South London Dwellings Company and the Old Vic. Emma worked to help disadvantaged people in the Victorian Era. WLM will restore this unique mix of philanthropy, heritage and the arts to Marylebone once again!
The first stage is to conduct a feasibility study at a cost of £71,435. This research will assess the changes that can be made to the listed building, scope building costs, prepare architectural drawings and engage the community.
How you can help
WLM are calling on local residents and businesses to pledge their support via Crowdfund London. Launched by the Mayor of London, successful campaigns are backed by a donation of up to £50,000 from the Mayor. The success of a campaign is demonstrated by the amount of support received in the first few weeks following its launch. WLM have between now and 8 October to demonstrate to The Mayor, Sadiq Khan, the support they have for their idea, so they need a lot of backers. If £71,435 has not been raised by 17 December, all funds will be returned to the donors so time is of the essence!
Here are the ways that you can support Seymour Place Community Hub:
Donate – Whatever you can spare! We all believe in this vision, let’s put our money where our mouths are and donate to this page. Ask you friends, family, hairdressers, personal trainers to donate too.
The High Court today ruled in favour of Westminster City Council, deciding that Transport for London (TfL) attempted to carry out the installation of Cycle Super Highway (CS11) at Swiss Cottage without complying with its legal obligations to affected local authorities.
In court, the Council argued that despite multiple requests, it had not received the necessary traffic modelling and mitigation measures it required from TfL to make an informed decision on the installation of CS11 in Westminster.
Many residents also opposed CS11 due to the potential implications on local traffic flow and air quality, a concern raised with TfL during its consultation between February and March 2016.
Cllr Tim Mitchell, Cabinet Member for Environment and City Management, said “Westminster City Council supports improving cycling infrastructure, but as part of the planning process all traffic and air quality impacts must be properly assessed before a decision is made to construct.
“It’s clear from today’s outcome, TfL have not completed the due diligence that our residents deserve and the current CS11 proposals need to be assessed in more detail. TfL must consider the effects of the entire route before an informed decision can be made.
“As a result, we’re happy with the judge’s decision and call on TfL to work collaboratively with us and other stakeholders to ensure all impacts of CS11 and similar projects are fully assessed for the benefit of everyone, including residents, before they go ahead.”
Westminster City Council held regular meetings with TfL on CS11 since the consultation process in 2016, however as the council never received the modelling it requested, it was unable to make an informed decision on whether the scheme would be acceptable in Westminster.
In May 2018, TfL said construction would commence at Swiss Cottage on 30 July. This announcement left the Council with no further option but to take TfL to court.
The High Court ruled on 26 July that there was sufficient evidence for a Judicial Review of TfL’s decision to be held, and granted an injunction delaying commencement of CS11 works at Swiss Cottage until the case was heard in court.
The full hearing of the Judicial Review was held on Thursday 6 September 2018, and judgement in the Council’s favour was handed down at the High Court this morning.
Would you sleep out of your comfort zone?
WLM has been helping homeless people for 130 years and is calling for volunteers willing to sleep out for one night to raise awareness and funds for our work. On 26th October, we are looking for 50-60 people willing to brave the cold and Sleep Out so that others don’t have to.
WLM empowers people affected by homelessness, poverty and trauma to live more fulfilling lives. Their service at Seymour Place, helps those who are sleeping rough and offers them both immediate respite care and long-term housing solutions. They provide hot breakfasts, showers, laundry, clothing store, haircuts, luggage storage, health care and mail collection as well housing advice service. Last year they helped 249 people off the streets and into safe accommodation. They rely on donations to make sure our vital work can continue as we don’t receive any government funding.
Homelessness continues to be a growing problem. Since 2010, numbers of rough sleepers in London have increased by 170%. One of their clients, Nick, was sleeping rough since 2012 when he decided to leave his property due to domestic abuse by his wife and children and ended up on the streets. When he came to WLM Seymour Place, WLM project workers did their best to find accommodation and work for him – ‘WLM helped me to find a kitchen porter job and my project worker went with me to the interview. After my two weeks training they hired me. I currently live in the night shelter that WLM co-ordinates, where I have been able to save money for rented accommodation’.
WLM invite you to join our annual Sleep Out on Friday 26th October and help them support homeless people off the streets, into work, accommodation and onto a better chapter in their lives. WLM's Sleep Out is an opportunity for everyone to be sponsored by their friends, family and contacts, sleeping out for just one night in the secure gardens of St James's Church Piccadilly, so that others don't have to.
Can you help us transform more homeless people’s lives in London this year?
You can find more information about our Sleep Out 2018 on WLM’s website www.wlm.org.uk
Event enquiries: Grace Hunt – WLM Sleep Out coordinator
T: 020 7569 5915
West London Mission - Central office: 19 Thayer Street, London, W1U 2QJ. T: 020 7935 6179 - F: 020 7487 3965. Charity Number 1133739 | www.wlm.org.uk
TfL have decided to make the following changes to bus services.
Route 10 will be withdrawn, but will amend Route 23 to run between Westbourne Park and Hammersmith. The amended route 23 will continue to run between Westbourne Park and Marble Arch, but will then follow the existing route 10 from Marble Arch to Hammersmith. TfL plan to implement these changes in November 2018.
TfL intend to withdraw routes 113 and 159 between Oxford Circus and Marble Arch at all times. Route 94 between Piccadilly Circus and North Row will be withdrawn during the day. These changes will be made in line with the phased opening of the Elizabeth line or in response to wider bus network changes. Night bus services on route 94 will continue to operate to Piccadilly Circus.
The changes to route 94 would require some minor changes to roads managed by Westminster City Council. TfL will discuss these changes with the Council shortly. The changes to route 94 would take place only once the necessary highway works have been completed.
Routes 7, 98, 139 and 390 will all continue to operate along Oxford Street.
Westminster City Council is seeking views on the development of Luxborough Street play space, W1U 5BF. This site of approximately 0.069 ha (0.17 acres).
In 2012, the Luxborough Street development site had previously been identified as the new location of the permanent Marylebone Library. The proposed scheme received planning permission in 2014. However, the council says the site is no longer required for this purpose as the library is now being relocated to Seymour Leisure Centre.
The Council would like feedback on two potential development options for the site, as well as your opinion on what you believe is important for them to consider as part of this project.
Option 1 - 100% residential 15-20 one, two and three bedroom flats over five floors
Option 2 - ground floor to be designated for community use, 9-14 one, two and three bedroom flats over five floors
Please provide feedback before Friday 7th September to WCC and don't forget to let us know your views too.
A survey is available to complete online by using the link or the full name:
Next steps for the consultation process for the project:
1. Engagement with residents/businesses/stakeholder groups – early October*
During a two-week period in October, we plan to host two exhibition events on, or close to, the site to present high-level proposals of the development. The outcome of the feedback will be analysed into a report, which will be used to influence the consultation stage.
2. Consultation with residents/businesses/stakeholder groups – November*
Formal consultation is planned to take place over three-weeks with three exhibition events. At this stage, detailed visuals of the proposals will be presented requesting feedback on the materials, colours, style and overall concept of the building and landscaping.
A consultation analysis report will follow to inform and accompany the Planning Application submission in January 2019.*
*These are planned dates, subject to change.
You can review the plans for the Portman Hotel here Major Applications
Westminster has one of the highest levels of EV car ownership. In order to provide sufficient charging facilities in Marylebone Westminster City Council is producing an EV Charging Strategy that will address the type of chargers to be provided along with gaining information on potential locations and other related issues.
The City Council website currently provides the opportunities for groups and individuals to submit responses on EV charging through a survey. The survey (https://www.westminster.gov.uk/electric-vehicles) will finish on 24th August so any response would be appreciated before this date. With the current growth in EV use it is important that the infrastructure is planned for in the short term.
Westminster are happy to receive other formal responses by the close of business on 31st August so if you care to comment to EVCharging@westminster.gov.uk it would be appreciated .
The Marylebone Association
229 Great Portland Street, London, W1W 5PN