15 July 2014
Cavendish Building, New Cavendish St
Attendance: 70-80 people
Matthew Bennett of the Soho Society and Neighbourhood Forum, in the chair, welcomed everyone to the meeting, and outlined the evening’s agenda – to elect a Shadow Executive Committee for the Forum and to start discussing the issues for Fitzrovia West that would need to be addressed in the Neighbourhood Plan (NP).
Tom Kimber from Westminster City Council (WCC) (slides 2-4 here) explained the legal basis of Neighbourhood Planning and asked everybody to respond to the consultation WCC are currently running on Fitzrovia West’s application to be recognised as a Neighbourhood Forum, which closes on August 12th (you can do this here).
In response to questions he said that; WCC would want to approve the Forum, and if there were extensive objections they would work with us and objectors to try to resolve the issues; that the Council in looking at planning applications would be obliged to consider the NP as well as the WCC plan and the Mayor’s London plan – while they could perhaps on occasion choose to override the NP (or other plans) such a decision would be subject to much scrutiny; Wendy Shillam explained that the Forum would give voice to representations to the council of local views on a particular application and would hope to be listened to; Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association would continue to operate – it is not being replaced by the Forum.
Nick Bailey outlined the development and planning issues currently facing Fitzrovia West (slides 5-13 here). MB added that the eventual referendum on the NP would have to be approved by both a majority of both residents and businesses, and it was therefore important that residents and businesses should work together. A show of hands was taken of the number of business representatives in the room – there were plenty, including one ‘big’ business, though they were in a minority. Other comments concerned the risks to the mixed character of the area from development pressure and the lack of affordable and social housing.
Wendy Shillam introduced the issues that had been shown to be of concern to local people from our survey in November, and tonight’s discussion groups (slides 14-18 here.) Historic buildings and conservation was identified as another topic area to be noted for the future, but not set up as a group for the evening. The term ‘night-time economy’ was explained as meaning essentially pubs, bars, restaurants and clubs and similar activities that go on in the area at night. People were invited to sign up for working groups to tackle these and other topics, and sign-up lists were circulated.
The meeting broke into discussion groups on the different issues and the following points were made.
Pressure for Development in the area, including Crossrail.
- Need to get comprehensive list of all development sites
- Nature of local business matters – don’t want sex, arcades, drugs
- Think about the existing community – building works very disruptive
- Change of use
- Incremental change -> big change
- Infrastructure (bus, rail, phone boxes)
What do we want to see change
- Robust procedure – having a real say
- Information and statistics
- Super-prime residences – buy to leave – no!
- Petrol station
- More local involvement
- Forum involvement in local planning applications
- All the implications of development – parking, bins, greening, pavements
- Trees/food/independent business (local not national)/public space/street life
Environmental Issues, including air quality, noise, street maintenance and refuse.
- Light pollution: buildings too close together, office lights on all night
- Air conditioning noise: restaurants, ageing equipment
- Noise team slow and inefficient
- Noise from alarms
- Eg Hotels – engines running when parked
- Street bins wrongly used
- Different responses from different companies, and from different members of noise team
- Fly tipping
- Different companies – streets never clean
- Recycling bins lids
- How many fines issued?
- Individual responsibility
- Bin lorries don’t always fit down Gosfield St
- Need consultation on location of bins
- Does everyone know about services eg refuse removal
- Air pollution:
- Action on monitoring
- Reduction – if Tehran can do it, why can’t we?
- Information and statistics
- Be positive – we can make improvements!
The Local Economy, including the role of small businesses in the area.
What we would like to see
- Balance between interests of residents and businesses, which are not always so far apart
- Good communication between residents and commerce
- Close some small streets –eg parts of Great Titchfield St (middle), land Margaret St (east), Little Portland St
- Easier contact with WCC re rubbish in the street/collection, street repairs
- Resist residential conversion to protect small businesses
The Local Environment, including open space, leisure facilities and Greening.
- Lack of open space
- Need a survey of potential future and present green spaces
- Encourage and preserve roof gardens, need more, publicly where feasible
- More, suitable, trees – not too big
- Living walls – developers could pay
- Encourage local businesses to have window boxes and planters
- WCC grants for guerrilla gardening
- Grassing over little used streets
- More benches
- More pocket parks
- More space for children to play
- Annual open day for private roof gardens
- Raise awareness of green issues
Licencing and the Night-Time economy.
- Noise and rowdiness, litter, rubbish collection and deliveries
- Not always the pubs who are worst offenders, since they often close at 11, and often better managed
- Some premises well run, others less so, but granting late licences to good ones sets precedent for the bad ones
- Successful establishments may be less troublesome than failing ones, since they have more to lose
- Small clubs etc can be a problem because of particularly late hours, cumulative effect of several premises
- Canyon effect in Fitzrovia streets – people leaving
What would we like to see
- Places for local community to go
- Good communication between residents, licensees, and clients of premises – clients not always aware that this is residential area
- Good management by licensees, and the will to improve things
- A period of peace between midnight and (at least) 6am – covering rubbish collection as well as licensed premises
Traffic and Transport, including TCR.
- Cycles etc on pavements, cycle lanes/mixed use roads
- Fewer pavement obstructions
- Tottenham Court Road changes – traffic calming needed on side streets, humps, 20 mph speed limit
- Fewer residential parking suspensions
- HGVs – enforcement of laws on parking, pavement use, motors running
- Wheelchair access on pavements – meet Camden standards on dropped kerbs ie everywhere
- Amount of parking space in new developments
- The impact of ‘Boris cars’
- Evening and weekend parking
Residential Issues, including cost and provision of housing.
- Housing too expensive
- Too small – look at portfolio not minimum of 10
What we would like to see
- Multi-generational community
- Good schools
- More affordable housing
- Social mix of race, income, age etc, mixed population
- Village atmosphere
- Key worker housing – shared ownership?
- No more social housing
- Low-cost housing by all providers
- Let the area settle down
- Resist conversion of small offices to small flats
Summing up, Matthew Bennett noted that we have some very useful material from everybody now on record; and underlined the points made about the need for a robust evidence base so that planning policies can give effect to our aspirations.
Election of the Shadow Executive Committee for the Forum
MB explained that only 9 candidates, including one whose address and candidacy needed to be confirmed, had stood for 10 places, so there was no need for an election to take place, and asked the meeting to approve their appointment. Those candidates present were invited to identify themselves and say a few words. There was a show of hands in favour, nem con, of the appointment of:
Jonathan Powell (subject to confirmation of address)
In response to a question from the floor about communications and decision-making, Wendy Shillam said that we need everybody’s help to make the Forum a success, and that it is the Forum, not the committee, that will decide on the Neighbourhood Plan and other Forum policies. People who have signed up for working groups will probably not hear anything now until September, but meanwhile everyone should keep an eye on the website where anything important happening will be posted.
The meeting closed at 8.10pm
Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum proposal
Public Meeting 13 November 2013
Cavendish Building, New Cavendish Street
Chair of the meeting Griff Rhys Jones welcomed everyone to the meeting and introduced himself as a local resident and President of Civic Voice (formerly Civic Trust), which supports amenity societies throughout the country. He set out the background to the proposal for a Neighbourhood Forum for the Westminster half of Fitzrovia (see http://fitzwest.org/wordpress/have-your-say/ ) to be known as Fitzrovia West, the challenges facing Fitzrovia from development pressures, and recent developments in planning policy under this government.
He explained that three different Neighbourhood Forum proposals are on the table that affect Fitzrovia;
- A large Marylebone Forum put forward by the Marylebone Association and others which would include Fitzrovia West (FW) in with Marylebone and St John’s Wood;
- The one under consideration by this meeting, for the Westminster portion of Fitzrovia;
- A third, which is unlikely to be approved by Westminster, to cover the whole of Fitzrovia in both Westminster and Camden – this last will be transformed into a forum within Camden only to cover Fitzrovia East (FE). FW and FE would consult each other but each deal with their own councils and policies.
In his view Neighbourhood Forums should involve as many as possible of those with an interest in the area, not just residents, or businesses, or landowners, but all of them working together to resolve differences to reach a shared view of what was best for their area and to act as spokesman in dealing with the powers that be.
Wendy Shillam explained the boundaries that had been suggested for the FW area, on which views were invited from the meeting. Residents from the western side of Great Portland St (GPS) objected to their inclusion in FW, which had been suggested so as to unite both sides of GPS. After a long discussion, it was agreed that the western boundary of FW should be defined as it has been historically, reflecting the boundaries of the Marylebone and Fitzrovia amenity societies, and thus excluding the BBC and coming down the middle of GPS as far south as Riding House Street (full details at http://fitzwest.org/wordpress/the-boundary )
During the discussion, Kevin Coyne, Dean of International Students House, Secretary of the Marylebone Association and acting chair of the Marylebone Forum steering group, explained the background to the Marylebone proposals. These had been put forward after consultation with the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association (FNA) and the large estates. Yoram Blumen from the FNA expanded on this, explaining that there was no independent Fitzrovia-based proposal at the time, and that the logic had been to ensure a large enough group of residents would have the clout to stand up to powerful interests in the area, such as the New West End Company which unites retailers in the West End, while smaller area concerns would continue to be dealt with by the existing amenity societies within the larger area. Wendy Shillam asked about the level of representation from the Fitzrovia West area on the Marylebone Forum. She had been told that Fitzrovia would be represented on the proposed forum by one person, an unknown member of the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association and that there would be no-one to represent Fitzrovia on the steering group. Kevin Coyne responded that exact representation had not been finalised. When pressed he stated that the Marylebone Association website was incorrect in this issue. He said that the precise make up of the Marylebone Forum would not be decided until the area was approved, but there would be representation from the amenity societies, including FNA, landowners as well as churches, the University and other local organisations and even individual residents.
Wendy Shillam pointed out that Fitzrovia would be a small area with a separate identity whose priorities might well be different, within a very much larger Marylebone, and would get lost in the bigger forum. Why were Soho and Mayfair content to go it alone? She explained that a Neighbourhood Plan, properly drawn up by a forum, would have a statutory basis. That means that Westminster Council would have to adhere to the neighbourhood policies when considering a future planning application. Neighbourhood Forums have a role in prioritising how money is spent within an area, and this should be driven by residents within the local area. FW wanted to involve as many residents as possible, and was already trying to do this with the website, leafleting, and public meetings. The intention will be to have a much bigger forum that Marylebone would, with a steering group/executive committee elected by the members. FW would consult with neighbouring forums and indeed had already done so, speaking to Soho and approaching Marylebone, so that where necessary they would be able to combine forces to deal with wider proposals. Griff Rhys Jones pointed out that Neighbourhood Forums are expressly designed to deal with local issues and forums from much smaller places than Fitzrovia are being set up all over the country.
Many speakers, including steering committee members, made points from the floor in support of a separate forum for Fitzrovia West, to be formed on a more democratic basis;
- Fitzrovia has its own character and clear neighbourhood identity which is different from Marylebone (several people);
- FNA had not consulted residents adequately when going in with Marylebone, when clearly from this meeting there is a substantial demand for a separate forum (Mark Adams)
- FW is more like Soho than Marylebone;
- The central core of Fitzrovia is very different from Marylebone, and the western side of GPS is not obviously different from the east (Drew Stevenson)
- Barbara Corr asked how many people present – apart from those already identified as from outside the now agreed FW area – considered themselves part of Marylebone, but no-one raised their hand
- FE faced similar issues with Bloomsbury, where they had decided a separate forum was preferable (Wesley Skow)
- In France, villages with as few as 20 people have their own mayor and local council;
- It is important to work closely with FE
- Paul Church, prospective Conservative candidate for West End Ward, which covers Soho, Mayfair and Fitzrovia West, strongly supported the initiative, which would bring FW in line with Soho and Mayfair, who each have their own Forums
Reservations expressed included the risk of allying too closely with Camden, a suggestion that Westminster Council might not support the proposal, and the loss of the potential clout of the larger area.
A show of hands was taken (excluding those from outside the redefined FW area) and only one person, 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 FW proposal.
Wendy Shillam explained that for this to happen, it was essential for people to write to the council in support of FW before 13 December, the end of the consultation period.
Kevin Coyne suggested that the decision on the Marylebone area might be taken by Councillor Davies before the end of the FW consultation period. He was asked by GRJ whether, having heard the strength of feeling expressed, he would revise the boundaries of the Marylebone area. He did undertake to talk again to FNA and others, but implied that if FNA continued to want to be a part of the Marylebone bid, they would be unlikely to reconsider.
Fitzrovia West Steering Group 15/11/2013
Notes of Fitzrovia West Forum Steering Committee Community Meeting
Tuesday 8 October 2013 6.30 – 8.00pm
Fitzrovia Community Centre 2 Foley Street, Westminster, London W1W 6D
chaired by Griff Rhys Jones, President of Civic Voice and Fitzrovia Resident
To discuss neighbourhood planning for Fitzrovia West and decide whether a local neighbourhood forum should be formed.
1. Welcome and Introduction by Griff Rhys Jones
2. The FitzWest Application
Introduced by Wendy Shillam, steering group member (Copy of application here.)
3. Why is Neighbourhood Planning Important?
Introduced by Nick Bailey, steering group member
4. Discussion: What is Special about Fitzrovia?
Introduced by Barbara Corr, steering group member, who gave a slide show outlining things she felt important about the area, including the small shops and businesses, independent cafes, the mix of uses and the friendliness of the area for all people.
Things the attendees thought were special about Fitzrovia/Fitzrovia West were that it still feels lovely, there is a stable resident population and many people have lived here for twenty or thirty years. It could be seen as a model for the future – people live here and everyone wants to live here. There are small neighbourhood shops and it is so very different from Oxford Street. It is also much nicer than Marylebone (this could be partly because of the absence of large landowners) People like the fact that it is in the congestion zone and that most people do not have cars so we meet each other in the street. We like the art galleries, Shiv the pharmacist, Guivier (the violin shop), awnings to reduce solar gain (rather than air conditioning), hairdressers, the fashion business and the art shops. People like having the University of Westminster, UCL and other institutions in the neighbourhood .The FNA was mentioned as having done good work for the are
To a certain extent the area may be a victim of its success. There was some feeling that (owing to foreign investment in central London apartments) Fitzroy Place would be uninhabited. There are no longer food shops like green grocers, butchers, fish shops, delicatessens. (The small local supermarkets sell mainly sandwiches etc. to office workers) It was suggested that small food shops could be protected – it has been done in Paris. JG said this would be extremely difficult because of the liberalisation of the Use Classes. The Crossrail intensification on Oxford Street is seen as a real threat, though also an opportunity. Westminster City Council needs input from residents and consults with amenity societies.
The forum would need to define the neighbourhood and be passionate about it. Presently Westminster City Council needs input from residents and consults with amenity societies. Those present felt that FNA should listen to its community on this issue. If recognised the forum has the opportunity to create a Neighbourhood Plan, say what type of homes are built and decide how to deal with streets, rubbish, trees landscaping.
What are the Options?
Introduced by Wendy Shillam.
A copy of the slide presentation for the evening is available on request.
A number of questions were posed.
In particular the group wished to understand more about the nature of the boundaries, why they had been drawn. It was explained that the boundaries where not cast in stone and needed to be discussed and agreed by all parties. Ultimately it would be Westminster City Council’s duty to decide which proposal goes forward. However the steering group members felt that there should be potential to agree boundaries with Marylebone in the West and Bloomsbury in the East.
B. In a business forum, what is the definition of business? For example how many employees per vote?
This question could not be answered at the meeting, so a fuller answer is shown below.
In Business Areas two separate referenda will be held in parallel. The first will be for residents and a second referendum will be held for businesses (or more specifically non-domestic rate payers). Each business will have one vote. In this instance the outcome of the business and residents’ referenda will be considered separately. If both are in favour of the Neighbourhood Plan it will be adopted. If both reject the Neighbourhood Plan it won’t be adopted. Where the two outcomes conflict with each other the decision about whether or not to adopt the Neighbourhood Plan will rest with the local planning authority.
C. Why do we have a borough boundary through Fitzrovia?
It is an accident of history and unlikely to change.
D. Check the western boundary- what do the Marylebone Association think?
There is a letter on file from The Marylebone Association to Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association confirming that if Fitzrovia wants to go it alone they will not stand in our way.
E. What does Fitzrovia East think about a unified forum?
Fitzrovia East and Fitzrovia West steering committee both consider a unified forum a good measure, but also understand the political hurdles that might entail. They are both content to have two forums and work with their neighbours as they must do with Bloomsbury, Marylebone and Soho neighbourhood areas.
VII. Discussion and Resolution
- two separate areas working together or
- are we one area working with two separate boroughs (as subcommittees)?
Is Fitzrovia a definable neighbourhood?
The view of the meeting was that Fitzrovia was definitely a different area and there was some discussion about the exact boundary. Should it go through the middle of streets, or through rear boundaries? But the general area was agreed.
Does the community want to proceed with a neighbourhood area forum for Fitzrovia West?
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, especially as it had recently extended its reach north of Euston/Marylebone Road.
VIII. Next Steps
Who would like to be involved?
People signed up to become more involved.
Drew Stevenson volunteered to join the steering committee
Who else should we talk to?
Widen the consultation. It was agreed to hold another larger meeting in about a months’ time, by which time Westminster City Council will have commenced their public consultation.
What more shall we do – priorities?
- Discuss suitable boundaries with our neighbours, especially Marylebone Association.
- Invite Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association to hold a separate meeting or combine in a joint 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.
Both Cllr Glanz and Cllr Roberts, who were present, expressed their support for the group aspirations and Cllr Glanz offered to speak on our behalf to Cllr Davis. After the meeting the steering group sent letters of thanks to them and received warm letters in return.
The meeting was closed by Griff Rhys Jones who congratulated the group on the positive nature of the meeting. He felt that it would be important to further define the area and to maintain a passion for it. As a resident on the Camden side he reiterated his support for the ambitions of the group and committed his further support.