Gestation Jan 2013 – September 2013
The legislation pertaining to Neighbourhood Forums was passed in late 2011. During 2012 some of Westminster’s Amenity Societies started to discuss setting up Neighbourhood Forums, but unfortunately these discussions were not widely publicised. Societies spoke to societies, rather than to the residents and businesses that made up their area. By the time people of Fitzrovia became aware of the situation an extremely large Marylebone focused forum was being proposed.
After discussions with the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association (FNA), a cross border Fitzrovia bid was launched. Several of our current steering group were involved in that bid. Once it became clear that there was likely to be some opposition to the cross border proposal, the Fitzrovia group decided to split into two, a Camden side and a Westminster side.
Early discussions were held before applications were sent in, with as many local organisations as possible, including the FNA.
In addition, informal discussions were held with our neighbours and local businesses.
Two points emerged from that discussion.
- That there was great interest in a Fitzrovia West Forum
- That people in our area, had not heard about the Marylebone bid and did not support it.
Launching the bid – September 26th September 2013
Once we had a clear indication that there would be support for a Fitzrovia West area, a small steering group was established and a proposal submitted. (Document 1)
The consultation period commenced almost at once and the steering group set about ensuring that consultation on the proposal was widespread and that stakeholders were well informed. Initially a small public meeting was arranged and individuals who we thought might want to take a more active role were invited.
On 30th September, our local newspaper, Fitzrovia News, announced the Fitzrovia West application on its social media network; https://twitter.com/FitzroviaNews/status/384720367845384192
On 9th October Fitzrovia News published an article about the application and the public meeting;
First Public Meeting
The first public meeting was held on 8th October, hosted by The Fitzrovia Community Centre, and attracted at least 40 people. (Document 2)
The steering group, at that time, Barbara Corr, Nick Bailey, Wesley Skow and Wendy Shillam presented the issues. The meeting was chaired by an independent person, Griff Rhys Jones, President of Civic Voice.
A show of hands revealed that there was a considerable majority in favour of pursuing a FitzWest application, though some people regretted that a Camden/Westminster joint neighbourhood forum seemed unlikely. There was no support for merging Fitzrovia with the Marylebone proposal.
We were pleased that two Westminster City Councillors, Cllr Glanz and Cllr Roberts also attended our meeting and were able to gauge for themselves the strength of feeling in the community.
Representatives of FNA were present at the meeting.
A lively discussion was held around what we liked about Fitzrovia and what made it different. This discussion helped crystallise people’s ideas about the extent and nature of their area and some of the issues that Fitzrovia West should address.
The meeting concluded with three priorities:
- Discuss suitable boundaries with our neighbours, especially Marylebone Association.
- Invite Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association (FNA) to hold a separate meeting or combine in a joint meeting. (The Fitzrovia Community Centre offered their premises and the Fitzrovia West Steering Group offered their help and support to set up the meeting.)
- Request a meeting with Cllr Davis, the portfolio holder and decision maker in this matter, so that the various permutations could be discussed and a mutually agreeable solution developed.
Drew Stevenson offered to join the steering group and that offer was accepted.
Expansion of membership and reach
Boyed by the success of the first meeting, the steering group immediately set about the tasks it had been given.
The steering group immediately wrote to Marylebone Forum requesting a meeting. But they declined to meet us until FNA had made a decision.
Final Email from Marylebone Association
18th November 2013
Copy to, Michael Bolt, Linus Rees, Barbara Corr, Wesley Skow, Simon Loomes, Andrew Wilson, Paul Neville, Keith Evans, Stephen Quinn, Drew Stevenson, Nick Bailey, Peter Anwyl, Kerstin Bowers, Mark Gazaleh, Mark Adams.
I am writing as a follow-up to your e-mail below regarding a possible meet-up with Michael Bolt re: The Two Forum submissions. I believe the letter to you from Michael was meant to be a private letter to you suggesting you have a telephone chat to discuss some of the issues raised concerning Michael’s article before you put anything in writing regarding it that might be unduly provocative and force us into responding on a more official basis.
It is now our feeling that things are getting contentious and there is a growing antagonism developing which is neither helpful or constructive. The fact that so many people were copied into your e-mail response makes any discussions regarding the Forums difficult and a potential problem for the Marylebone Forum steering committee as we have already said we are working with the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association, as I mentioned during the open meeting last week.
Accordingly we think it would be best for things to cool down a bit and do not see any point at this stage in meeting to discuss the Forum submissions before December 13th. Therefore we suggest we do not meet until the consultation period is over and the WCC decides on the way forward for our mutual Forum submissions. Once the Forum submissions are accepted by the Council we will know where all stand and will meet to discuss how we can best work together.
Kevin Coyne BA MA FCMI
Dean of Students
International Students House
[And Hon Sec Marylebone Association]
However we resolved to discuss the Fitzrovia West proposal with our other neighbouring amenity societies, namely the Portland Village Association and Soho Society, and the emerging neighbouring forums – including the Fitzrovia East Neighbourhood Group and the Soho Neighbourhood. Although the Marylebone Association and the acting Chair of the Marylebone Forum both refused to entertain any discussion, members of our steering group have had cordial and productive meetings with individual members of the shadow Marylebone Forum. From this a new and slightly different set of boundary consideration became apparent. We resolved to discuss those at our next public meeting.
We wrote to FNA requesting a meeting with their trustees. However no meeting was ever scheduled that had the forum as an agenda item. But members of the steering group, who are also active members of FNA, held cordial meetings and discussions with trustees of FNA and the chair, Shafu Khanom.
Up until 12th December that situation has not changed. However we have attempted to continue to discuss with FNA where and how we can. Our offer to help and support them in calling a public meeting or attending a trustees meeting remained.
Prior to the conclusion of the consultation period we wrote to FNA, reiterating our positive intentions.
We received a reply on 12th December, stating that FNA had withdrawn from the Marylebone proposal.
Received 12 December 2013
My FNA colleagues have discussed your email as you requested.
We thank for the invitation to participate in the Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum. We regret that we are not able to take up your offer to join the Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum.
While we welcome the City Council’s encouragement of Neighbourhood Planning we recognise that it is no small amount of work. As a charity we have many charitable commitments during a time of diminishing resources. We value and take a pride in the work we do as one of Westminster’s Amenity Societies and we wish to concentrate on this work (and our other charitable activities) rather than get involved with Neighbourhood Planning and the large amount of work that it requires.
It is for this reason that we have chosen not to support either the Marylebone Forum and their application, or the Fitzrovia West Forum and their application. Both these organisations clearly have resources to support their applications and we wish them both success in their negotiations with each other and developing their forums and plans.
Director and trustee, Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association
Meet with Cllr Davis
A meeting has now been set up for January 6th 2014. This will provide us with an opportunity to present our credentials and to respond to any queries he may have.
The group felt that widening the reach of publicity was paramount. In particular we were keen to engage in exemplary public consultation, a feature that we felt had been missing from other proposals.
The group were mindful of adopted City Council consultation policies including:
- Westminster City Council Statement of Community Involvement
- The Westminster Compact
In addition to the steps agreed at the public meeting the steering group decided to follow a comprehensive consultation strategy, led by those techniques recommended by the City Council.
The City Council has, through its Statement of Community Involvement, set out
a comprehensive schedule of consultation and engagement techniques which are;
Informing stakeholders by;
- Coverage through the media such as local newspapers and radio
- Posters, leaflets and information
- The internet
Consulting stakeholders via;
- Public meetings
- Discussion groups
Fitzrovia West has achieved the following:
- Set up a website that has received over 650 unique hits in its first month of operation
- Attracted over 150 subscribers to sign up as supporters
- Regularly updated the website with information
- Undertaken a survey of residents and businesses
- Contacted as many residents and local businesses as possible via a whole area leaflet drop, and individual approaches
- Placed advertisement posters in local shops, cafes, business and residential block noticeboards
- Continued discussions and negotiations with neighbouring groups and amenity societies
- Held two public meetings
- Issued articles and information to the local news-sheet and internet news providers
- Printed consultation postcards, with a blank response zone, to encourage people to take part in the consultation
For a group that was only formally established in August 2013, this comprehensive level of consultation has been a remarkable achievement. It has only been possible because as we started to spread the word, we found more and more people agreed with us, wanted to join the group and, most gratifyingly, wanted to become involved in spreading the word, so we had good support with leaflet distribution, helping with meetings etc.
Activities September – October 2013
On 2nd November we set up a website www.fitzwest.org/wordpress and a subscription system that would allow us to maintain contact with our supporters. This has been an invaluable way of keeping in touch with people. It has already become a trusted source of information that the press, our supporters and our neighbours all apply to for information.
We also published, early on a set of values that we adhere to. These include:
- We are transparent, democratic and inclusive
- We deal constructively with everyone
- We recognise that we may not agree with everyone and every organisation, but that should not stop us working with them
- We welcome business, residential members and representatives of institutions and organisations
- The facts are important to us
In the first month of operation the website attracted over 9000 individual hits, from 650 unique visitors. Visits to the site are steadily growing, indicating that we have attracted a lot of interest and that people are returning to the site, as we regularly update, for more information.
On the strength of this we were able to increase our recruitment of supporters and four more joined the steering group, Alison Matthews, Mark Adams and Edward Kellow and Daniel Castle.
Spreading the word
On 4th November we started to circulate leaflets (Document 6) to residential addresses and businesses within the area, and to place posters in prominent locations. Our aim was total coverage, within our boundaries. We printed 2850 leaflets and steering group members delivered them by hand. These leaflets advertised our two day old website, invited people to a bigger public meeting, and invited them to take part in the survey.
We also directly emailed about 60 people, including the neighbouring amenity societies and other emerging forums.
On 3rd November the Fitzrovia News published an e’newsletter to their subscribers informing people of the 13th November public meeting at University of Westminster: http://eepurl.com/H84Cj
On the morning of 13th November they circulated a further article ahead of that evening’s meeting;
Second Public Meeting
This meeting was held in a lecture theatre of Westminster University. Upwards of eighty people attended. Link to meeting notes page.
At this meeting, just like at the first meeting, a show of hands was taken. Only one person, who lived or worked in the area, out of out of over eighty people present, expressed the view that they would like to consider the Marylebone proposal, while the rest wanted to pursue the Fitzrovia West proposal.
Paul Church, prospective Conservative candidate for West End Ward, which covers Soho, Mayfair and Fitzrovia West, strongly supported the initiative, which he felt would bring Fitzrovia West in line with Soho and Mayfair, who each have their own forums.
A lot of time was spent at the meeting in discussion of the boundary. About twenty people who lived close to the boundary were present. The conclusion of this discussion was that the Fitzrovia West application should go up to the edge of the Marylebone Association Boundary, as defined by their constitution; http://www.marylebone.org/images/docs/Marylebone_Association_Constitution.pdf
The meeting also agreed to ratify the boundary recommendations that had been discussed with landowners and the Soho Society/Forum i.e. that Oxford Street should form the Southern boundary, and that the south western boundary should leave out the Regent Street Conservation area. We understand this is coterminous with the holdings of the Crown Estates.
The final proposal map was published on our website the day after it had been agreed at the public meeting.
However, an incorrect map that had been published on the Marylebone Association website prior to our public meeting and circulated to its membership after we had published the final map on our website, was only removed a week later.
We therefore invite the City Council to bear this in mind, should they receive any critical comments concerning the boundary from members of the Marylebone Association.
The aim of our survey, was to foster discussion in the area, to identify what people valued about Fitzrovia and to establish some key issues. Full results of the survey are enclosed. Link to survey results.
One argument for a separate neighbourhood forum for Fitzrovia, lies in the fact that Fitzrovia has a very different character to Marylebone. We wanted to find out whether that character could be more closely defined.
In addition, discussions with some of the members of the Marylebone Forum elicited the views that issues relating to Fitzrovia seemed very different from those that Marylebone wished to discuss.
Though this can only be a snapshot of opinions, we received 30 responses, we were struck by the consistency of views, between the surveys and with views expressed during public meetings and on the response postcards.
The character of the area
For residents and businesses, Fitzrovia is defined by its atmosphere as much as its built form. Again and again people mentioned the friendliness of the area. They liked the mixed use, the variety, as well as the qualities of independent shops and cafes. People also mentioned the rich mix of small business. It is considered by many to be village-like and quiet (not adjectives that one would immediately think to attach to the centre of a world city). Several people emphasised how long they had lived in the area, indicating that in Fitzrovia the predominance of rental properties is not a great as in Marylebone. The pleasant aspects of walking and cycling around the area were also mentioned.
We had anticipated a number of concerns. People rated them thus:
- Pressure for development
- Space for small business
- State of streets and pavements
- Cost of housing
- Impact of Crossrail
Pressure for development is extremely high in Fitzrovia. It has already been subject to a series of very large and high density, planning applications. Local people recognise this and want to be involved in helping to get good outcomes out of future applications. Other issues mentioned were the rubbish collections, and noise issues. Only two respondents mentioned parking issues. One respondent felt satisfied with services.
We were pleased that so many Fitzrovians valued their neighbourhood. Most respondents recognised that Fitzrovia would be subjected to change. The future was not viewed negatively, neither was change considered unacceptable. Instead people expressed a wish to get involved in managing that change.
From this we conclude that there is some very real and important work to be done by a neighbourhood forum focused upon Fitzrovia. The pressure of Crossrail and the intensity of potential development sites are all quite different to other parts of London. The things that people value in Fitzrovia are also unique to the area.
Though this is only a small sample it took views from people living and working right across the area. The consistency of views and concerns is marked.
The survey provides yet another very powerful reason for Fitzrovia to have its own forum, rather than being amalgamated with areas that do not share the values and challenges of the Fitzrovia neighbourhood.
Our group encouraged people to respond to the City Council consultation. This has been done in two ways.
- Via the website
The website provides a lot of information on the issues and the rationale behind our proposal. A page links to the Westminster City Council neighbourhood consultation website and we also provided an email link.
- Meetings and discussion groups
We printed a number of blank postcards. These invited people to support the Fitzrovia West proposal, but did NOT seek to direct their reasons. These postcards have been distributed at our public meeting and at other gatherings in the area. A total of 30 postcards are included with this report. We are aware that others may have been posted directly to the Council.
We have also set up an automated supporters list. People can sign in via the website. This list currently contains 150 names from across the area, and more than more than forty small businesses.
We have also kept in touch with the following organisations:
- Fitzrovia Community Centre
- Fitzrovia News
- Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association
- St Charles Borromeo Ogle Street*
- Fitzrovia Lates
- All Souls CofE School
- Westminster University*
- Fitzroy Court Sheltered Housing*
- Middleton Place Residents Association*
- Holcroft Court Residents Association*
- Fitzrovia Appartments Leasoholders Association*
- Soho Society
- Marylebone Forum
- Marylebone Association
- Portland Village Association
- All Souls Youth Project
- Howard House and Cleveland Street North Neighbourhood Watch*
Starred* organisations are represented by residents. The list represents our local organisations and residents’ groups, as well as neighbouring organisations.
Meetings with Landowners
We have held meetings with some of our larger landowners. This area is not occupied by large estates as much as other areas are. In Fitzrovia we have a group of smaller landowners. There are no exceptionally large swathes of single ownership.
Landowners with whom we have held positive and cordial meetings include:
- London Central Portfolio
- Howard de Walden Estate
- Langham Estates
- Dukelease Properties
- Ridgeford Developments Ltd
- Derwent London
- Goldhawk Investments
- Fashion Edge
- Generation Media
All these organisations have expressed a willingness to work with us and to support and/or become members of the forum. We continue to make contact with other land owners in the area.
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