The Pavement Project

We are consulting on a proposal for greening the East side of Great Titchfield St between Clipstone St and Carburton St.

The project

We have ward funding to prepare and consult on a plan for the pavement on the East side of Great Titchfield St between Clipstone St and Carburton St. We want your views. This will not cost you anything. Images of the proposals can be found below

The consultation

To keep it simple, we are just asking four questions which are set out below. The deadline for responses is Thursday 29 March 2018.

How to respond

There are four ways to respond:

  • Complete our surveymonkey survey
  • Email us with your answers at gwilymharbottle@gmail.com
  • If you receive one of our flyers, complete it and leave it at the Fitzrovia Centre, 2 Foley St, London W1W 6DL
  • Come to our exhibition on 19 March 2018 at the Fitzrovia Centre, 2 Foley St, London W1W 6DL between 12 noon and 2pm and between 6pm and 8pm and fill in the form there

Here are links to images of the plans and a PowerPoint.

PowerPoint

The questions

These are the questions:

1. Are you in favour of turning the pavement on the East side of Great Titchfield St between Clipstone St and Carburton St into green space?

2. We’re not able to dig into the pavement so have used containers.  What do you think about our plan?

3. What is your name and are you a resident, business owner, worker?

4. Would you like to help with planting and maintenance of the green space?

All comments will be held by Fitzwest and may be made public. Your personal information, such as your postal and e-mail address will not be published, but your name and organisation (if relevant) will.

OXFORD STREET CONSULTATION: FITZWEST’S FINAL RESPONSE

Following the public meeting on 21 November and numerous discussions with local residents, workers and businesses, we have finalised our detailed response to the Oxford Street consultation: see the final response here. This was submitted to Transport for London on 1st January 2018.

People and businesses in Fitzwest are not against change but do believe that the consultation process involves a lost opportunity to transform the whole of Oxford Street and its surrounding area into a vibrant public realm.

The consensus is that the proposals as they stand are likely to have serious adverse consequences for Fitzwest in terms of increased traffic and congestion, increased air and noise pollution and reduced accessibility (not least because of the loss of bus routes and a failure to provide alternative cycle routes).

The response also includes detailed comments on how Oxford Street West would look and operate if the proposals were implemented.

The consultation can be found at https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/oxford-street/

New Collection Times for Rubbish and Recycling – Pilot Scheme Feedback

Here are the results from the online survey that Westminster Council (“WCC”) instigated to obtain feedback from residents in the pilot area. (Great Titchfield Street, New Cavendish Street, Gosfield Street, Langham Street, Hanson Street, Middleton Place, Riding House Street and Ogle Street).

After examining the results the executive at FitzWest Forum have made the following comments and recommendations to WCC:

  1. WCC should now proceed to the next stage, which is implementing the pilot permanently with the proviso that a further consultation should take place six months after this happens.
  2. Many people feel the collection times are too early in the day. Can these be adjusted to, for example, 8.00 a.m. on street?
  3. Temporary signage could now be made permanent, with the old signs removed. The presence of both signs is still causing confusion. Add more signs where necessary.
  4. Foley Street was excluded from the pilot by WCC despite running directly through the middle of the pilot area. It would be helpful for consistency and clarity if Foley Street was included in the permanent changes.
  5. Some residents have highlighted missed or late collections so can we make sure the new collection times are clearly understood by Veolia. And we will encourage residents to report any problems.

All missed collections etc can be reported via ‘Report It’ section on the Westminster website www.westminster.gov.uk/report-it or call 0207 641 2000.

Several residents requested the reinstatement of the large black bins. This has also been raised with the Forum directly by some residents and is the subject of a petition. We have passed on these views to WCC. The background to this is that late in 2015, almost two years before the pilot began, WCC removed almost all the black bins in the pilot area (and beyond) on the grounds that they encouraged dumping around them. WCC told us at that time that the very limited number of bins that remained would only be left if there was a proven need for them. This has remained WCC’s position.

Within this context, the aim of the pilot was to increase frequency and efficiency of collection of rubbish and recycling. Whatever decision WCC reaches with the black bins, our aim at the FitzWest Forum is to continue to support more frequent and efficient rubbish and recycling and to keep reminding WCC to be consistent and efficient with collections and street cleansing.

Waste Collection in Fitzrovia – Survey Closed

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to fill out the survey. The results are currently being collated by Westminster Council and we will post the results once they are available.

Waste collection in Fitzrovia

As you will be aware the Council has introduced new rubbish and recycling collection times in your street.

We are looking for feedback on this scheme and would appreciate your responses to the survey below, including any further thoughts and comments you may have concerning the scheme.

To take part in the survey please click here.

Pilot Scheme – Recycling and Rubbish Improvements

Everyone in Fitzrovia has noticed the rubbish and dumping that unfortunately seems to have become a daily blight on our streets.

One of the significant problems identified by residents is that there is a general confusion on collection times and days and signage is inconsistent with what happens in reality. As a result of this confusion many residents have a become accustomed to putting our rubbish out at any time which has led to the rubbish-strewn streets. Also there has been a more general call for the number of recycling collections to be increased.

The Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum, in consultation with local residents, has worked with Westminster City Council over the last two years to agree simplifications and improvements to recycling and rubbish collection times. These are now being trialled in a limited area of Fitzrovia as part of the pilot.   A map of the pilot area is below.

The pilot improves and simplifies the collection arrangements, including an increase in recycling for all streets and an increase in rubbish collection in some streets. Our area is fortunate, unlike our neighbours Camden and other London Boroughs where refuse and recycling is often only once a week (with reviews in hand to move this back to fortnightly) we will see an increase in general and recycling collection.

It is acknowledged that restaurants and businesses contribute to the rubbish problem and they also have been informed of new collection times in order to reduce the amount of time rubbish sacks are on the streets.

People have complained about dumping, especially by builders and house clearers.  Westminster hopes to place more officers on the street during the pilot period, to enforce this and other contraventions.

As a part of the Neighbourhood Forum, we as residents and local businesses can all work together for the greater good of our environment. We do want to make sure that all residents understand the pilot arrangements and the new and improved collection times and days. The Council is contacting all households to explain the new arrangements first and providing letters to identify collection times in the particular streets in the pilot area.

We are all looking forward to seeing cleaner streets as the pilot progresses.

We would very much like to hear residents’ feedback to the pilot and the improvements to the service.

Please comment below or contact us by email at info@fitzwest.org. Feedback can also be provided to Tom Walsh at Westminster City Council His email address is:

twalsh@westminster.gov.uk

Details of the pilot

From Monday 4th September 2017 please put out your recycling and rubbish for collection at the following times:

Please leave your tied recycling and rubbish directly outside your property for collection. Apart from pedestrianised streets such as Middleton Place rubbish and recycling is not to be piled up at the ends of streets.

Please do not leave recycling and rubbish out on the street outside of these times or overnight. This is considered to be fly tipping and you could be fined by Westminster Council.  It also encourages seagulls, pigeons, rats, mice and other vermin.

How to put out your recycling and rubbish:

For recycled waste please use the clear recycling bags provided by Westminster City Council. You can order recycling bags online via: westminster.gov.uk/recycling-bags

Please put your normal rubbish out in appropriately tied bags, such as black bin bags.

Look for the new signs on your street for exact timings.

 

Bulky waste collections

For items such as fridges, mattresses and tables, etc., please arrange online via:westminster.gov.uk/residential-bulky-waste Please be aware that leaving bulky waste items on street is illegal and can lead to substantial fines. Feedback from our consultation reveals that many residents consider this to be a major anti-social issue. The Council will be inspecting streets to enforce against illegal street dumping.

For further information about Westminster City Council’s waste services, please visit: www.westminster.gov.uk/recycling

Comments

Please do let your neighbours know about these important changes and please look at your local street notices.  The pilot is being arrnaged by WCC and they are responsible for the details.

Working together we can improve our streets; stop fly-tipping and street dumping and reduce the amount of rubbish left on the streets. The increase in recycling provision will also help the environment.

Please comment below or contact us by email at info@fitzwest.org. Feedback can also be provided to Tom Walsh at Westminster City Council His email address is: twalsh@westminster.gov.uk  Because of holidays please bear with us if you do not see your feedback here for a few days.  Rest assured we will be monitoring daily after 5th September.

 

54-62, 66 And 68 Oxford Street And 51-58 Rathbone Place Our planning objections

 

 

 

 

 

 

Application Summary

Address: Proposed Development Site At 54-62, 66 And 68 Oxford Street And 51-58 Rathbone Place, W1
Proposal: Demolition and redevelopment behind retained facades of Nos 54-62 Oxford Street and 51-58 Rathbone Place, including a two storey roof extension and redevelopment of Nos 66 & 68 Oxford Street to provide retail use (A1) and office use (B1) at part basement, part ground and part first floors, and flexible dual use retail (A1) and / or Office (B1) uses on floors two to seven, and associated works. (Linked application – 17/05284/LBC)
Case Officer: Josephine Palmer
Click for further information

Customer Details
Name: Mr Nick Bailey on behalf of Fitzrovia neighbourhood Forum
 

Comments Details
Commenter Type: Local Group
Stance: Customer objects to the Planning Application
Reasons for comment:
Comments: These comments are submitted in my role as secretary of the Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum. This application was discussed at our meeting on 4 July 2017.

We wish to object to the application for the following reasons:

Listed Building
Redevelopment behind the façade of a listed building (grade II). This is an important early work by Percy Adams and Charles Holden and we are concerned that the integrity of the listed building will be lost if redevelopment occurs. This site was designed and has evolved with a series of out-buildings and an internal courtyard in 54-62 Oxford Street which would be lost if redevelopment occurs. This pattern of development is typical of Fitzrovia and enables a variety of businesses to locate in this and similar locations. While the front façade and external appearance will be retained the character of the building and its architectural integrity would be completely lost.
In our view the redevelopment of 66-68 Oxford Street and the insertion of 8 floors above ground level and 4 below ground represents overdevelopment (with a net gain in floorspace of almost 11,000 sq.m.) in relation to the original, human scale of the Hanway Street Conservation Area, as well as degrading the coherence of the listed building.

Loss of 66 Oxford Street
No. 66 Oxford Street is very important in the streetscape of Oxford Street and pre-dates the Holden building. It is also recorded as an ‘unlisted building of merit’ in the Hanway Street Conservation Area Audit and therefore ought to be retained as a whole (and not just the façade).

We note in particular that Historic England say in their evidence that the loss of No. 66 ‘would cause serious harm’.

New Replacement for 66-68 Oxford Street
We particularly object to the 8 storey ‘modern’ development replacing no’s 66 and 68 which we feel bears no relationship to the listed building in terms of overall height, floor heights and window alignment or materials and would be visually intrusive from both east and west perspectives down Oxford Street.

Land Uses
In terms of the proposed uses, we do not object to retail and/or offices in principle but feel that the additional floorspace will introduce a large number of additional visitors and employees which will create further of congestion on surrounding pavements.

The redevelopment will also further reduce the provision for small shops along Oxford Street and accommodation for small businesses which have traditionally occupied buildings on this site and in Fitzrovia as a whole.

Our Neighbourhood Plan will include policies to protect existing floorspace for small business users and to ensure it is replaced in redevelopment proposals.

We welcome the fact that no car parking is provided in the new development and the provision of PV panels on the roof. But why not go further and create a genuinely green roof which could be accessed by shoppers and/or employees?

Conclusions
In our view this application raises important principles about the treatment of listed buildings and buildings of merit in a conservation area. We do not find that the applicants make a convincing case for such radical alteration to a listed building, its setting and the wider conservation area. What value is left in the building after such radical surgery even if the façade appears the same?

In particular we do not feel that an acceptable case has been made in relation to policy S25:

Recognising Westminster’s wider historic environment, its extensive heritage assets will be conserved, including its listed buildings, conservation areas, Westminster’s World Heritage Site, its historic parks including five Royal Parks, squares, gardens and other open spaces, their settings, and its archaeological heritage. Historic and other important buildings should be upgraded sensitively, to improve their environmental performance and make them easily accessible.

While the uses may be appropriate to the West End and Oxford Street, the proposed development replaces many small units with one or a combination of major A1/B1 uses including courtyards for loading and unloading which are of particular value to small business users.

For these reasons the application and LBC should be refused.

Ultra Low Emissions Zone

New consultation has emerged from Transport for London regarding central London Ultra Low Emissions Zone:

They would like to hear your views on  proposals to:

  • Introduce ULEZ (and the residents’ sunset period) 17 months earlier in central London
  • Strengthen the emissions standard to also cover Particulate Matter (PM) emissions from diesel vehicles

Please take some time to fill in the online survey and provide your views:

The online survey, https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/environment/air-quality-consultation-phase-2/?intcmp=47032,

It should only take 10 to 15 minutes. Please complete the survey before midnight on 25 June 2017.

Here is FitzWest Response

To Alex Williams
Director of City Planning
Transport for London

Dear Mr Williams,

Thank you for inviting the Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum to provide views on the proposed changes to the Ultra Low Emissions Zone in central London (ULEZ)

We support the zone because we wish to rid ourselves of the polluted air we have to breathe every day in central London.  We, who live and/or work here, know the niggling discomfort of ‘The London Cough’ which seems to effect all of us, which is never documented in pollution statistics. We are also aware of the needless deaths that occur from air pollution and that this level of air pollution is illegal under European Legislation.  We trust that even though we may sever some ties with our European neighbours that will not mean that we relax our standards on air pollution.

Residents and businesses who own diesel vehicles:
The new proposals will have a financial impact to local residents with older diesel cars. We would be particularly concerned if central government proposals to introduce a diesel scrappage scheme do not come forward.  If that were to be the case then we feel that TFL should introduce its own scrappage system for residents and small businesses within the ULEZ zone.  We would support such a scheme even if it were means tested.  There ought to be some low cost means of supporting residents and businesses of modest means to purchase a better vehicle for their personal use.  We have a lot of elderly and disabled residents living in this area for whom a car is still important.  Our small businesses are the life blood of the area.

Increasing need for private transport in central London:
In the light of bus service reductions in central London, (which we don’t support) the we must assume that resident car use will increase.

Need for Low Emissions Public Transport:
We trust that buses and taxis will also be subject to these stringent rules in central London and that TFL will lead by example, introducing zero emissions buses before long.

Emissions are not the full story:
While we support the reduction of exhaust emissions that does not contribute to any reduction in particulate matter, which we understand is caused by tire wear on uneven roads. What is being done about this?  In addition we expect to see similar London wide planning legislation to reduce the use of carbon fuels like gas as a means of heating and air conditioning.  The urban heat island effect is well documented as an added factor in central London, yet the ULEZ policies will do nothing to alleviate these problems.  We understand that emissions from gas boilers constitutes about 35% of the NO2 in central London.

Pedestrians first:
The healthiest and lowest emission form of movement around central London is on foot, yet funding to improve pedestrian ways is very limited.  Another way to improve air quality in central London is to encourage walking and cycling.  We trust that wider TFL/GLA schemes are considering such  improvements to complement planned reduction in polluting traffic.

Wendy Shillam
Chair FitzWest Neighbourhood Forum Executive

Oxford Street

PEDESTRIANISATION OF OXFORD STREET

COPY OF RESPONSE FROM Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum

I represent Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum.  Our forum is a 200 strong group that represents both residents and businesses in Fitzrovia. Our mailing list covers a further 500 small, medium and large businesses in the area.   In our area both residents and businesses are united in wishing to improve the environment, making it a pleasant place to live work and visit.

We have already been in touch with Val Shawcross, officers from TFL and our local councillors to share our concerns for an unbridled pedestrianisation scheme that we feel would put far too much pressure on adjoining streets and communities.

We were gratified to learn that a simplistic approach was unlikely to be pursued and that any scheme that comes forward would consider the whole of the West End and not simply Oxford Street.

We support the careful consultation that TFL/WCC are establishing. Our chairman, Wendy Shillam and treasurer Yoram Blumann have been invited to attend meetings so that the views of local people and local businesses can be included in the work.  However we recognise that these meetings are convened by Westminster’s PR department and we are concerned that consultation should continue to be just that – dialogue.

CONSULTATION RESPONSE

We have a number of concerns that we wish to raise:

  1. Phasing of the work – reducing the range of the modelling system
  2. Coordinating with neighbourhood plans and ambitions for the wider West End including:

a). Linking Oxford Street improvements to improvements in the Oxford Street hinterland,
b). Great Titchfield Street/Mortimer Street local hub and
c). Closing the Great Portland Street gyratory

  1. Impact on congestion and road safety
  2. Servicing the West End
  3. Impact on local movements (occasioned by reduction/redirection of buses)
  4. Pollution

A detailed response can be downloaded here:

170506 FITZWEST OXFORD STREET CONSULTATION RESPONSE

 

OUR IDEAS
We do not wish to be purely negative about the prospect of improvements to the West End.  We would like to work more closely with your engineers and transport planners to achieve a better result.  We feel that we have knowledge and ideas that could help.  We truly hope that this consultation isn’t hiding a foregone conclusion and that genuine dialogue can occur before decisions are made.  Thus we also include, at the end of our consultation response some ideas that we believe should be entertained.

LINK TO OXFORD STREET EXEMPLAR

CONSULTATION RESPONSE

  1. Phasing of works – reducing the range of the modelling system

Since the pedestrianisation was first announced, we now understand that it is to be made in two sections, from Orchard Street to Oxford Circus and then from Oxford Circus to Tottenham Court Road.  We think phase 1 will adversely effect Fitzrovia, tending to push all vehicular access to this end of Oxford Street. We are also concerned that phase two might simply happen on the back of phase one, without the careful work that needs to be done to establish an integrated solution.

For example, we understand that no detailed junction traffic modelling for phase 1 will be done east of Portland Place and Regent Street.  Thus, there will no way of knowing what the impact of phase 1 will be on major junctions in Fitzrovia or in Soho.

  1. Improvement of The Oxford Street Hinterland
    One crucial aspect of our neighbourhood plan, triggered by strong public support, is to improve the streets where we live and work. There is no public green space in our area, little sitting-out space and hardly any pedestrian streets. We suffer from some of the worst pollution of any residential area in Europe.  Pollution is influenced by traffic, by an intensity of carbon based heating and ventilation systems (we have a lot of development around here) and by the urban heat island effect, which intensifies pollution in the area and works to restrict the dissipation of bad air.

    FitzWest Strategy Diagram – highlights certain streets and spaces to be traffic calmed, where we wish to see better pedestrian facilities, more green space and fewer traffic movements.

    We support the intention to design for improved pedestrian access to side streets, but we are concerned that new bus routes, taxi routes and delivery routes will break the camel’s back.   WQe have heard of no proposals to tackle these important issues:

    • Deliveries
    • Pedestrian movement
    • Parking and Servicing
    • Road safety
    • Improving pedestrian crossings
    • Cycle routes and cycle parking

    So far FitzWest public consultation has strongly prioritised the greening of streets, the reduction and calming of traffic and the improvement of arrangements for pedestrians.  We see three key areas:

    a). The Oxford Street Hinterland – this is the zone of streets and alleyways between Market Place and East Castle Street and Oxford Street itself.  Many of these streets have great potential to provide services that Oxford Street itself cannot offer, like cafes, smaller shops, sitting out space and services like banks, stationers and copy shops.  But in order for these streets to become attractive they would need improving.  We support a grid of pedestrian streets running off Oxford Street and we are prepared to supply the necessary detailed planning policy in order to allow such streets to thrive and take some of the pressure from Oxford Street itself.

    b). As we move further north into Fitzrovia West we come to the Great Titchfield Street/Mortimer Street local hub.  This is a critically important part of our area offering local shops and services to the businesses and residents around us.   This has become a dynamic focus for local and specialist shops, small businesses and provides the area’s vitality.  But it is already stymied by the fact that Mortimer Street is used as an emergency bus by-pass street for Oxford Street.  We are very concerned that current plans for phase 1 will increase traffic in our streets and that a phase 2 would sign the death knell for Fitzrovia.

    c). In addition we have identified the area around Great Portland Street Underground Station as one where improvements and traffic calming could be made.  A lot of people live in this northern sector and there are two hospitals (Portland Hospital and The Royal Orthopedic Clinic) both of which require good pedestrian access)

    We would hope that in deciding on new access streets for public transport and taxis something can be done to close down the Great Portland Street tube gyratory, thereby reducing the conflict between pedestrians and traffic turning south into Fitzrovia.

    1. Impact on congestion and road safety

    Fitzrovia has a much higher population density than other parts of the West End. There are over 4000 people living in very dense flats in FitzWest alone.  We understand this represents approximately half of the population of the West End   Our population is not dominated by West End Wealthy, but by ordinary people, many of whom have lived in the area for years, whose children attend the local schools and who work in local businesses.  Many people live in social housing, or housing for the elderly.  They cannot choose to move out of the area if it becomes even more devastated by traffic and pollution.

    This week’s announcement that pedestrianisation in Oxford Street shall go ahead leads us to fear the implications for our area, especially Mortimer Street and Newman Street.  While the cross rail project has gone ahead we have had several long term bus diversions through our area, along Mortimer and Newman Street.  This has resulted in lines of jammed busses belching out exhaust.  I enclose a photograph of Newman Street, taken during one of those diversions, to indicate how unpleasant those short term diversions were

    If the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street results in a permanent diversion of taxis, delivery vehicles and bus routes along these streets it would be devastating for the area.

    1. Servicing the West End
      There is a growing problem in this area associated with deliveries, development vehicles, servicing, rubbish collection and public transport. For example rubbish collections have collapsed, the amount of uncontrolled rubbish bags and dumped rubbish has become embarrassing. If we are also to suffer more service traffic the continual degradation of our pavements will be exacerbated.  Despite this our streets are already choked with rubbish collection vehicles, white vans, motorcycle messengers and cycle delivery.  This is all completely unmanaged and unplanned.  Night time deliveries are not the answer in our area because of the prevalence of residential buildings right down to the boundary of Oxford Street.
    2. Impact on local movements (occasioned by reduction/redirection of buses)

    Despite many of us who complained about the proposed reduction in bus services, especially the C2,  these have gone ahead, unaltered. Further pedestrianisation will further reduce bus services.  Cross rail does NOT take the place of local cross West End trips. We do not support the reduction of bus services in the West End. People who live and work here use buses to get about the West End.  We use the bus to do our food shopping, to take our children to the doctors and to hospital appointments, to go to work and to visit our Council Offices on Victoria Street.  We need hop-on, hop-off services which cannot be supplied by tube or Crossrail.  Tourists need this even more than locals.

    We have a high proportion of elderly and disabled people living round here and they cannot use the underground so easily (if at all).  Local bus services are equally important for visitors to the area.  No-one in their right minds would entertain a journey for example from Tottenham Court Road to John Lewis by underground.  So we need some form of local bus system along Oxford Street.

    We support the hopper fares and we support the intention to electrify (de-carbonise) Central London buses and taxis.

    1. Pollution

    We think a diffuse public transport system could work very well, as long as buses are smaller and less polluting (which means changing engines and wheel formats to reduce both NO2 and particulate pollution.)  Trams, guided by rails are, we understand less likely to cause accidents – pedestrians know where they are!  A light rail system running from one end of Oxford Street to the other – running along Oxford Street is the no-brainer solution.  For public transport to work it must be able to deliver passengers closer to the destination than they can travel by private car.  By pushing the busses out and by reducing their number the effect would be counterproductive.  It would mean that a visit to the West End would become more convenient by private car – not less so!  This is especially true as the Congestion Charge (and parking fees) do not apply on late night shopping nights, or throughout the weekends.  Thus during late nights and on Sundays there is nothing limiting private car trips into the West End, for shopping or any other function.

    Unfortunately it is not just Oxford Street that subjects the population of Fitzrovia to life threatening pollution.  The diagram below (taken from the Kings College Model commissioned, as I understand it, by the GLA) identifies Mortimer Street and New Cavendish Street as highly polluted as well.  This pollution is exacerbated in the centre of London because of the urban heat island effect, which can trap a bubble of polluted air, stopping it dissipating, as it might do in greener parts of the capital.  I am sure that enlightened traffic engineers in the GLA have already considered these limitations and are proposing alternatives.  For example a bus hub at Tottenham Court Road and a further hub at Hyde Park Corner would be well supported by our community. (As long as there is some way of getting to them)

    We are especially concerend that All Soul’s Primary School,  our excellent local primary school,  which lies only yards from the Mortimer Street/Newman Street junction.  The prospect of diverting transport onto a minor road and increasing pollution levels so close to an area where children are taught, is not worthy of the new GLA administration.

Tall Buildings Consultation

Westminster City Council has launched a wide-ranging public consultation to identify the best way forward to manage the future growth of Westminster entitled, ‘Building height: Getting the right kind of growth for Westminster is seeking the views of all those that live, work and visit the City.’

The feedback received during the course of the consultation, which will run for eight weeks, will help inform Westminster City Council’s future plans for the City which will be set out during the statutory consultation on the City Plan later this year. As part of this consultation there will be a series of public events taking place across the City.

There is a questionnaire on the internet which we encourage members and friends to complete.

Here is FitzWest response to the consultation:

Dear Sirs,
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to respond to your consultation regarding building heights.  We welcome the fact that you publish a wide ranging consultation before bringing out a draft policy.

  • We do not think that Fitzrovia, in fact any part of the Central Activities Zone, can or should be expected to support major growth in heights or bulk.
  • We consider it a fallacy to suggest that economic growth goes hand in hand with increased density and/or height.
  • In fact we consider the opposite is true – that small businesses are the life-blood of the central London economy and would only be damaged by whole scale redevelopment or intensification.
  • We should seek an intensification of quality not quantity.
  • We should respect the height, scale and massing of the conservation areas.
  • We should respect the amenity and qualities of living that current business and residents possess.  It should not be made worse by bulky overshadowing buildings.
  • That the complexity of servicing and managing such diverse uses as exist here is already beyond the capacity of Westminster City Council (in their current economic travails) and that no intensification should be considered, because it is not serviceable.
  • That high rise buildings are not environmentally sustainable.

The premise that growth and tall buildings are one and the same

Economic growth is often equated to growth in construction or density.  Yet in the centre of a capital city there is no evidence to suggest that this is so.  In fact cities like Bangkok, that have undergone uncontrolled growth in recent years, have seen a dramatic fall in economic activity as environmental quality has plummeted.  What happens is that instead of the city thriving, it starts to die. People decide to re-locate to greener and more pleasant suburbs.(i)

Westminster, being located almost entirely in the Central Activities Zone, should not be seen as a place for construction growth, but instead as a place for economic growth.  Economic growth will not occur if Westminster becomes overcrowded with unnecessarily tall and over-bulky buildings.

Pollution in Bangkok Source Bangkokscoop.com

Function of the Central Activities Zone (CAZ) and its Core

The Core CAZ, in general and Fitzrovia in particular, are areas of extraordinary diversity.  Planning policy tends to have seen the Core CAZ as simply a retail hub.  It is not now and given the rise in internet shopping, it is unlikely to become so in the foreseeable future.

It is this diversity that contributes to the economic dynamism of The City of Westminster and to London as a whole.  The diversity includes institutions, educational establishments, smaller offices, hi-tech businesses, residential, specialist retail and cafes.  Most of these uses would leave if the area were redeveloped to a larger scale.

Westminster’s own study (ii) indicate that a majority of Westminster’s businesses are small businesses, with 85% of VAT registered businesses having less than ten employees (IDBR, 2010).  These small businesses are the life-blood of Fitzrovia.

The Centre for Cities states in a recent report;

Small firms trading with other firms in London, nationally and internationally (small B2B firms), are concentrated in two areas: London’s core and to the west, near Heathrow and national motorway links. These firms account for just 18 per cent of all London’s small firms but have the greatest potential to make a significant contribution to future jobs growth. (iii)

A growth policy should be aimed at retaining and supporting this cohort of small businesses.  They do not require tall buildings, or large floor-plates.  In fact, such businesses rarely locate to new buildings, which they cannot afford.  They are far more likely to seek space within the buildings that Fitzrovia already possesses.   They locate to be near one-another – so redevelopment has a negative effect in forcing out small business and bringing into the area larger, less economically dynamic business.

In most cities large floor-plate and high rise offices are located on the outskirts and useful transport hubs.  Compare Montparnasse in Paris and Paddington in Westminster.

Tottenham Court Road (within Westminster and within Fitzrovia) is not a tabula rasa.  Its is not a blank canvas onto which high-rise can or should be foisted.  It is in fact one of the most historic parts of the City of Westminster, being very ancient indeed and thus should be a candidate for conservation, not annihilation.

Housing in Fitzrovia

There may be some individual sites, on the boundaries of Fitzrovia where higher rise housing is relevant and can be built to redress the gathering imbalance of housing types  and tenures in our city centre.  We have identified sites in our emerging Neighbourhood Plan. But because there is densely packed housing here already the capacity of sites to come forward that would not overshadow and over-bear existing dwelling is extremely limited.

The population of Westminster is said by Westminster City Council to have been underestimated at the last census by 10%.  It is not satisfactory to say (as has been argued in recent planning applications) that people who live in the centre of a city should put up with increasing density, even if their habitable windows are obliterated from daylight.

Conservation Areas

The majority of Fitzrovia West (and in fact the whole of the central core) is located within a series of conservation areas.  It already has a very high residential population, made higher by the inclusion of a very rich mix of activities.  The general building height of 60ft in residential buildings and 80ft in ‘factories’, which comes from the London Building Acts of the 1880s and 90s, is still valid in this area and should not be compromised.

View across the rooftops of Great Titchfield Street looking towards Soho and Mayfair. The consistency of roof-line is remarkable.

Most historic urban centres have a cap to heights.  Oxford is one example.  Paris is another.  Westminster should have its own height cap.  This should not be seen as a restriction to growth, but in fact one of the reasons why the historic centre will always be more attractive than the outskirts. Dynamic, highly profitable, discerning businesses wish to locate here.

Access

The perceived wisdom is that areas of high public transport provision should be the location of high-rise.  That is how Centre Point received planning permission originally.  But in Central London that logic is wrong.  It is a fallacy, because it assumes that there is capacity on the ground already.  But in Central London we would question whether the imminent improvements in public transport are not simply running to catch up.  That the new Cross Rail stations, balanced by reduction in private car trips and bus services may only just cover the current needs, let alone natural growth.  What evidence do we have that such systems will have capacity to support major growth in residential or working populations in the centre?

In addition there is already a lack of cycle parking and disabled parking.  How could large intensive uses occasioned by high rise be supported unless there was large areas of cycle parking and disabled parking around them?

The Servicing of Taller Buildings

The consultation paper does not consider the servicing of taller buildings.  The centre of Westminster can not cope with the servicing it already has.  Rubbish collection, deliveries and street cleaning have all failed in this area.  The level of vermin and mess is embarrassing.

Servicing of tall buildings requires far more hinterland and larger carriageways than is possible in Fitzrovia.  It requires large service bays and a regular stream of heavy vehicles.  We do not think it is appropriate in central London and in Fitzrovia in particular where the densities are already extremely high.

Emergency Servicing

Since the Kings Cross disaster, when the fire brigade is called in Fitzrovia, regardless of the scale of the fire,  four fire engines turn up, from two different locations.  That is because of the impossibility of ensuring a traffic free access for emergency vehicles. Yet the potential for emergency access to larger buildings is never considered in planning policy.  It is taken for granted that the city can cope. We don’t think that Fitzrovia (or other parts of the core CAZ) can cope.  Any further increase in the critical mass of servicing in this part of the centre of London is not sustainable.  This has impacts on the pleasantness of our streets but in these times of terrorism could contribute to a major disaster if left unresolved.

Environmentally Sustainability

High rise buildings are expensive to heat, cool and service.  They use powered systems that are alien to the essentially Georgian structure of our current city, that does not need gas guzzling, air conditioning or complex heating systems.  Any increase in carbon emissions or heat supply from building exhausts will turn an already polluted area into a danger zone.  Unless a large building can show a reduction in such impacts it should not be considered.

Greening

There is a suggestion that a few extra floors on any building might be tolerable.  But we would maintain that the flat rooves of many of the buildings in this area should be used as amenity space.  That means planted and accessible roofs.  Modest increases may be acceptable if such an increase provides much needed public or semi-public amenity space.

i) ‘The increasing density of population (due to population growth and migration) and disorderly urban settlements and together with the rapid economic development have brought an exceeding demand of infrastructure, public utilities and public services, which is unfortunately beyond the capacity of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), the city administration of Bangkok, to handle alone. This results in the deterioration of urban environment, urban services and also urban quality of life.’  Report by Suganya Boonprasirt, Policy and Planning Department, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, City Hall of Bangkok Metropolis. http://www.gef.or.jp/20club/E/bangkok.htm

ii) Westminster’s Economy Developing Westminster’s City Plan, file:///C:/Users/Wendy%20Shillam/Downloads/westminster’s%20economy%20CM%20Version1.pdf

iii) The Centre for Cities, Size matters: The importance of small firms in London’s economy Rachel Smith, Dmitry Sivaev and Paul Swinney December 2012 ize matters: The importance of small firms in London’s economy Rachel Smith, Dmitry Sivaev and Paul Swinney December