West End Matters January 2017

Working In The Aftermath Of The Soho Blackout

West End Ward Councillor Jonathan Glanz is working hard for residents and businesses following the latest Soho blackout at the end of last year.

Cllr Glanz said: "I was carrying out my monthly surgery at St. Anne's Church, Soho, when the blackout started, so I have first-hand experience of what happened.

Since the blackout I have been working to help ensure the problem does not occur again. The failure of the Carnaby Street substation caused both inconvenience and significant financial losses on a busy Friday evening just before Christmas.

I have now met with Council officers, residents and UK Power Networks (UKPN), who manage the network to impress upon them the need to improve both the supply systems and prevent further outages.

This may not be the last blackout we experience but I have also been working to ensure there is better communication between UKPN and residents and businesses in the event of future issues.

I have called for UKPN to compensate residents and businesses affected for the losses and inconvenience suffered”.

Sophisticats Strip Club Licensing

One of the most significant licensing applications for the future of Soho recently came to committee and Councillors Roberts and Glanz both spoke in support of concerned residents.

The hearing was to determine the future of Sophisticats, the new operators of the old Shadow Lounge site on the corner of Rupert Street and Brewer Street who wanted full nudity till 6 in the morning.

The application perfectly demonstrated the conflict between the old and the new Soho. The area which used to be the hub of the sex and drug trade is now beginning to fill up with residents including families with children. When current developments are finished there will be many more as well as some upmarket restaurants.

Many residents spoke at the hearing pleading to be able to continue the 9-5 lifestyle of working families without being interrupted by rowdy comings and goings throughout the night. In this they were fully supported by the police who are well aware of the need to keep this particular area clean and orderly.

It was a difficult decision for the chairman, Council leader in waiting Nickie Aiken whose hands were tied by previous decisions, nevertheless she was able to curb licensed activities at 3 am.

Councillor Roberts says 'The hearing demonstrated the importance of residents becoming involved in decisions which  stand to affect their lifestyle. We all want a vibrant Soho but too often it is forgotten that as well as a nighttime destination it is home to some 2000 residents living for the most part in old buildings that were not designed with modern decibel levels in mind'.

Any licensing applications require a response to licensing-reps@westminster.gov.uk within 28 days of validation by law. Every response will be taken into account.

The club has now decided to appeal in the hope of getting later opening so it is even more important that residents get involved to plead their case before the licensing committee.

Business Rate Changes

 

Following the announcement by the Government of a change in business rates policy, local West End Ward resident and Councillor, Paul Church, met with the Secretary of State for Business, The Rt. Hon. Greg Clark MP, to highlight the very special nature of the West End’s small, independent businesses and to urge his Department to take special measures to protect them.

He also called for a West End ‘gold standard’, asking businesses to do more to protect residential amenity through such measures as freight consolidation and ensuring that collection and delivery times are adjusted to only taking place during sociable hours.

Councillor Church had previously been instrumental in securing a business rate reduction for small businesses in Berwick Street during ongoing development works.  His letter to the Valuation Office resulted in a reduction in local rates to assist Soho businesses during public realm maintenance and development works.

Councillor Church said: “The West End is a tapestry of residents, community groups and small, medium, large and global businesses. We have to ensure that this very special balance is protected”.

West End Tree Watch

The sad loss of a much loved tree in Waverton Street Mayfair has highlighted the need to be ever vigilant where Westminsters greenery is concerned.

This particular specimen, which had been planted in memory of one of the taxi drivers who used to use the Waverton stand, fell foul of the developers of the Audley Square site.

Although legitimately felled by the Council following a planning application, its disappearance has demonstrated how easy it is for tree applications to be overlooked by residents already trying to comprehend page upon page of intricate development details expounded by property professionals. 

Though decisions often include requirements to replace trees, the new ones take a long time to achieve the aesthetic proportions of the ones that are felled to ease the passage of developers lorries.

The removal of this particular tree as well as ones around Stirling Court in Soho and the potential loss around the American embassy has led Mayfair residents to ask Councillor Roberts to call for the formation of a new West End Tree Watch group.

The purpose of the group would be to be extra vigilant where the loss of any greenery is threatened,  including the overuse of parks and squares for commercial events.

Trees are living things that contribute to the personality of a neighbourhood and their loss actually changes the face of London. They also greatly ease the stress of life in the concrete jungle. We live in a city where it is a priority to improve air quality. One of the easiest ways of doing this is to plant more trees and cherish the ones we have.

If you would be interested in joining West End Tree Watch please email groberts@westminster,gov.uk  

Double Triumph for Fitzrovia School

All Souls Primary School triumphed for the third year running in Councillor Paul Church’s Christmas Card Competition for local West End schools, with the winning design by Diana Lopez-Chavez, aged 10, featured on Councillor Church’s Christmas Card.  Councillor Church attended the school’s carol concert to award Diana her certificate and prize, as well as popping into St. George’s Hanover Square in Mayfair and Soho Parish School to meet runners-up and present them with their prizes.

In the same week, All Souls test results were announced as being among the best in the country, with 87% of children meeting or exceeding standards for literacy and numeracy. 

Councillor Paul Church, who is a governor at All Souls and the Borough’s Deputy Cabinet Member for Children & Young People said: “I love working with our local schools and am very proud to see the next generation of West Enders doing so well.  All three West End schools are thriving and particular congratulations must go to All Souls on their wonderful achievements”.