Happy Christmas from Georgina Davies (and Cllr Paul Church)

151218 All Souls Christmas Card Georgina Davies Paul Church

Congratulations to Georgina Davies, aged  nine years, from All Souls C of E Primary School in FitzWest for her stunning Christmas card design.  And thanks to Councillor Paul Church for sponsoring such an excellent competition and turning the winning design into a stunning greeting card.

I can’t help but observe that here is more proof that Fitzrovia is definitely the most creative part of the West End. Georgina’s work illustrates this perfectly.  She has portrayed a London Christmas, as it is; a decorated city with tower blocks, welcoming lit windows and garlanded front doors. What a good idea to put a Father Christmas hat onto top of the Swiss Re tower!

Christmas Cards

151213 Christmas Card from councillor Roe

We have received a Christmas Card from Westminster City Council, signed by the leader Councillor Philippa Roe.  As we have nowhere to display it, it will have to remain on my mantelpiece, but I thought that it would be worth circulating the very pretty picture of ice skating in Hyde Park.

Complements of the season to all our readers!

The FitzWest Exhibition

On Monday 11th January 2016

Getty Image Gallery

46 Eastcastle Street, London, W1W 8DX

Between 11.00am and 8.00pm

We look forward to seeing everyone at the exhibition which will;

  1. Introduce newbies to the Neighbourhood Plan Process
  2. Outline what has happened so far
  3. Present the findings of our consultations, in particular the issues you told us were important
  4. Present the solutions and policies that might provide options for dealing with the important issues
  5. Seek your views and ideas
  6. Present a road map of what happens next

In addition we shall be holding a briefing for  press, politicians, landowners, business  and developers who have an interest in the area.  If you know someone who you feel should be invited to the briefing please send us their details via our email info@fitzwest.org

We are grateful to the management of the Getty Image Gallery for their support.

Those who attend will be able to pick up a free three D map of the area drawn especially for us by the artist Lydia Bevan.

© Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum Committee

© Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum Map Drawn by Lydia Bevan Hand Drawn Maps

Twenty Four Hours on The Street Where I Live

Printed also in Fitzrovia News

Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum (FitzWest) will be holding a public exhibition and consultation entitled  FitzWest Futures – Have Your Say at the Getty Gallery, 46 Eastcastle Street, London W1W 8DX from 11.00am – 8.00pm on Monday 11thh January. This will be an opportunity for people to see the progress we’ve made with the FitzWest Plan and give their views. In anticipation of this event, I’ve been garnering my own thoughts about the area. I’m using this month’s article to highlight public space.

All of us city dwellers tend to live our lives much more in the public domain, in the streets, cafes and public spaces of our neighbourhood.  My twenty four hour diary gives a glimpse of how I use our streets, not only as a thoroughfare, but as a breathing space and a meeting place.

3.00pm Tuesday

I bump into a friend.  We decide to sit on one of the benches under the trees in Candover Street for a five minute catch up.  It could be a lovely spot, but the parking, the rubbish bins and cars screeching round the corner detract from its potential.  A shame, because Candover Street possesses some of our finest arts and crafts buildings in central London, including Boulting’s Manufactory (1903 by the architect H Fuller Clark).  But if I were to step back to admire the architecture, I’d probably be run down!  The speed limit in our area is 30mph. Should it be less?
candover st

Later:

I’m off to the Yorkshire Grey for a quiet pint with my husband.  We plan to sit on the benches in Nottingham Place, but this building, like hundreds of others in our area is having a refit, so instead of a quiet corner we have builders’ mayhem.   We walk around into Riding House Street which is also full of builders gear and completely blocked off to cars.  I reckon the street cleaners have abandoned it too.
nottingham place

1.00am Wednesday morning

I’m woken by shouts in the street. An arguing couple probably don’t realise that I’m in bed only a few metres from where their voices are becoming increasingly raised. I pull the curtains aside.  There they are, under the lamp post, oblivious to the fact that all my neighbours can hear them. About 4,000 people live in FitzWest. It is actually one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in the country.

10.30am Wednesday

I’m cycling off to do some shopping.  New Cavendish Street is to be designated as a cycling quietway, but who knows how they’ll manage it.  I take my life in my hands, it is so congested.  I think we need quiet quarters, not just a few so-called quiet streets. Are any of the through routes really necessary in FitzWest?

Some of my neighbours are still putting out rubbish, oblivious of the fact that the collection is long gone and they are all potentially in line for a £50.00 fine.  I’m disgusted when I see two open bags full of food scraps that will undoubtedly attract vermin.  But to give them their due, collections are not advertised on my street. Many people would prefer to take their rubbish to a recycling point.

Turning into Langham Street I have to negotiate another hazard.  The female Ginko trees have dropped their fruit. The council have made an attempt to clean up the pavement, but it still smells disgusting.  My heel slips on gunge.

open rubbish

1.00pm Lunch in a cafe
We all value this area because of the cafes and cosy pubs. I love the independent shops, the quirky businesses, the galleries and college activity.  But the traffic, noise, pollution and rubbish nuisance that this intensity of use causes is something we hate.  This is a beautiful area with huge potential.  I ought to be proud of living and working at the heart of this great city; not embarrassed by the mess.

The FitzWest Forum is taking some short term action.  We’ve asked for the Ginko trees to be replaced. We’ve started a dialogue with Westminster City Council, trying to find solutions to the rubbish problem and we’ve joined with The West End partnership to see if we can make change right across the West End.

Then there are the invisible menaces. Noise is one; pollution another.  The invisible pollutants like nitrogen dioxide and fine particulates are more pernicious than ever the London smog was. They are at their greatest intensity in our area, Euston Road, Marylebone Road and Oxford Street are hotspots.  More than 10,000 people die each year in London from pollution (GLA figures). It affects the young and the elderly disproportionately.   Calming the traffic and planting would help, but really we must consider restricting air conditioning and discouraging diesel vehicle trips.

In our last public meeting the forum made public space issues one of the top priorities for the FitzWest Neighbourhood Plan.  In the January exhibition at the Getty Photographic Gallery, we will be proposing new local planning policies can support this ambition.

Have your say. It’s free to join the forum here: Fitzwest.org/wordpress

By Wendy Shillam Chair of FitzWest

An edited version of this article appearsin the December 2015 issue of  The Fitzrovia News

Keep The Date Free

We are holding another exhibition on Monday 11th January 2016, at the Getty Gallery Eastcastle Street from 11.00am to 8.00pm, where our draft policies and priorities will be exhibited.  Keep the date free in your diary.  We’d like as many people as possible to come along and give us their views.

More information will be published here soon.

Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)

This Neighbourhood Executive has been concerned for some time that all the processes regarding the charging of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) have gone ahead without any consultation with the neighbourhood forums.  This is curious because the Localism Bill expressly states that properly constituted neighbourhood forums should be fully consulted and their priorities be used to account for spending of 15% now and 25% of the CIL once the Neighbourhood Plan is agreed by referendum.

Communities without a Parish, Town or Community Council will still benefit from the 15% neighbourhood portion (or 25% portion, if a neighbourhood plan or neighbourhood development order has been made). If there is no Parish, Town or Community Council, the charging authority will retain the levy receipts but should engage with the communities where development has taken place and agree with them how best to spend the neighbourhood funding. Charging authorities should set out clearly and transparently their approach to engaging with neighbourhoods using their regular communication tools e.g. website, newsletters, etc. The use of neighbourhood funds should therefore match priorities expressed by local communities, including priorities set out formally in neighbourhood plans.

The Government does not prescribe a specific process for agreeing how the neighbourhood portion should be spent. Charging authorities should use existing community consultation and engagement processes. This should include working with any designated neighbourhood forums preparing neighbourhood plans that exist in the area, theme specific neighbourhood groups, local businesses (particularly those working on business led neighbourhood plans), and using networks that ward councillors use. Crucially this consultation should be at the neighbourhood level. It should be proportionate to the level of levy receipts and the scale of the proposed development to which the neighbourhood funding relates.

http://planningguidance.communities.gov.uk/blog/guidance/community-infrastructure-levy/spending-the-levy/

We are pleased to have received the enclosed letter from Councillor Robert Davis today, clarifying their understanding of the issue. We welcome the fact Westminster City Council  are aware of the duty to consult fully with the Neighbourhood Forums on the expenditure of the neighbourhood proportion of CIL.  We look forward to fruitful discussions.  Perhaps now some of the local issues like rubbish collection and the state of the streets can be properly addressed.

151127 CIL Neighbourhood letter November 2015

Here is our response:

Dear Councillor Davis,
CIL
Thank you for your letter received today, we have placed a copy of the letter on our website with this reply.
We were aware of the procedures advised by government and thus slightly curious as to why the Neighbourhood Forums were not consulted at the time the council reviewed infrastructure expenditure.
However, we accept that you will now be undertaking a wider consultation process to come to agreement with the new neighbourhood forums as to how that proportion of CIL should be expended.
We assume that you will be contacting us again soon so that a process and programme of discussion can be devised that will lead to a final agreement with the various neighbourhood forums.
I have put forward the suggestion that the West End Neighbourhood Forums have many priorities in common, and that it would be prudent to work together as a group.  We await officers response to that proposal.
In addition I note that government advice supports the involvement of Ward Councillors.  Our Ward Councillors have not yet attended any of our executive meetings, but some of them have been present at our public consultations.  We urge any of them that are not yet formal members of the forum to join, so that they automatically receive information about issues of importance to the community.
We are holding another exhibition on Monday 11th January 2016, at the Getty Gallery Eastcastle Street from 11.00am to 8.00pm, where our draft policies and priorities will be made public.   We do hope that your officers and politicians will want to attend.  In particular we are holding a briefing in the evening and hope that as many as possible can come.
We are looking forward to a positive and productive dialogue, and look forward to hearing more from your CIL team in the not too distant future.
With best wishes
Wendy Shillam
27 November 2015
The response is:

Dear Wendy,

Thank you for your email of 27th November. My apologies for not responding to you sooner, but all of our efforts in this area have been focussed on the recent Westminster Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) public examination and the work arising from.

I am very grateful for your views on the importance of a positive and productive dialogue about the best and most effective way of involving neighbourhoods in agreeing how the neighbourhood CIL funding proportion will be spent. My team will be in touch again when we have developed proposals for discussion and your suggestion of a joint approach for West End neighbourhoods is an interesting one to which we will certainly give thought.

Thank you also for the information about your exhibition on 11th January. I have drawn it to the attention of my officers and Andrew Barry-Purssell, our Place and Investment Policy Manager and the City Council’s lead officer for CIL, will be in attendance.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Robert Davis MBE DL

Deputy Leader and

Cabinet Member for the Built Environment

Westminster City Council

15th December 2015

Chair
Fitzrovia West Executive Committee
info@fitzwest.org
http://fitzwest.org/wordpress
@FitzWestForum
Wendy Shillam MA RIBA MRTPI

Crossrail 2

flyer

Here is an open invitation to visit the Crossrail 2 exhibition and have your say.  We’ll be there too and will share our thoughts via Twitter.  The closest place is St Giles Circus, 30th November and 1st December.  See you there!

Office Space in the West End is dwindling

Gerald Eve have just published their quarter three review of West End Office Space. WestEndFloorReview_Q3_2015.pdf

fGreat Portland Street

This review offers another definition of the West End (that runs right across Bloomsbury and Covent Garden)

The figures for Fitzrovia and Bloomsbury indicate a massive take-up of office space.  The rental values are shooting up as well.

gerald eve image

The report states that

 

‘As well as Facebook committing to almost 230,000 sq ft at One Rathbone Place in Fitzrovia, several game and software developers signed up to West End space during Q3. Proportionately, this was most pronounced in Soho, as the TMT sector accounted for 82% of all space taken.’

Having a quick discussion on Twitter this afternoon with Steve Chambers @respros over in Soho, we both conclude that the rise in residential schemes has started to edge office space out of the picture.  GE report that demand for small spaces is dwindling – but might that be because the rentals are too high right now for any entry level business to consider.

In The Green

This week I have been thinking about the environmental benefit of roof gardens and edible gardens in particular.  My thoughts have been driven by two very different events.  The first is that the West End Partnership have been adding flesh to the bones of their plans for London’s West End.  As a member of their Peoples Task Group, I needed to consider, among other topics, what their emerging greening strategies might mean for people who work here, live here or visit Fitzrovia.

And in another, completely unconnected event, my own rooftop garden features in this month’s Garden Magazine, the organ of the Royal Horticultural Society(RHS).  It is a special issue devoted to urban gardens.

runner beans and french beans making a bid for the heavens

My own rooftopvegplot. Open by appointment April – September

If you are not a member of the RHS then this might be a good time to join.  The organisation is slowly becoming a little more progressive and organic gardening, protection of wildlife and greening the urban realm are now all on their agenda.  People like me, who do not own acres of manicured evergreens somewhere in the Dukeries, are now welcomed.  I’m rather proud that a productive, urban, organic garden, the size of a postage stamp is featured within the hallowed pages.

The RHS is taking a number of excellent initiatives that the most progressive of urban gardeners and the most devoted of environmentalists would approve.  In this issue November 2015, the magazine is suggesting how we can find space and place to plant more.  Their ‘Greening Grey Britain’ initiative.

Front gardens make an amazing difference. But we don't have front gardens in the inner city!

Front gardens make an amazing difference. But we don’t have front gardens in the inner city!

The RHS are right on the button when they say that gardens play a crucial role in urban and suburban areas, and potentially will become even more important in the future as our climate changes. From helping protect us against flooding and extremes of temperature, to supporting wildlife and helping gardeners to be healthy, gardens can provide an amazing range of benefits.

https://www.rhs.org.uk/science/gardening-in-a-changing-world/Greening-Grey-Britain/urban-planting

The estimate is that 25% of the urban realm is open space, that might be transformed into a garden.  That could be a formal flower garden, a wild space, a flowering place for pollinators or an allotment.  Gardens can be at ground level, on balconies or on rooftops.  Temporary gardens can be found on building sites. So called guerrilla gardens can spring up anywhere.  We have our own guerrilla gardens in Great Titchfield Street, started by one of the flat dwellers in Collingwood House.  The idea has proved infectious, the space around trees in the street have been invaded by flowers right up as far as the restaurant Conchiglia and the Smile Clinic.  Well done to those businesses for taking up the initiative.  It’s a great pleasure to walk down that part of the street now. (Though I despair at the number of cigarette butts I see casually tossed into flower beds.)

Guerrilla Gardening in Great Titchfield Street

Guerrilla Gardening in Great Titchfield Street

My own contribution to greening the city is a rooftop vegetable plot, designed to be intensively productive all year round as well as beautiful.  It is organic, and full of flowering produce as well as leaves and roots.  I have bee hotels up there, a stick tower for insects and several bird feeders and nesting boxes. You can find the article in this month’s RHS magazine, or in the recently published book, ‘My Tiny Veg Plot’ by Lia Leendertz. Pavillion, Books 2015.  This lavishly illustrated book is an excellent resource for different urban/small space gardening techniques.

20151102

As part of the FitzWest Neighbourhood Plan we will be looking at how we can improve the urban space.  That’s about reducing deliveries, traffic calming and improving space for pedestrians and cycles.  It’s about improving our rubbish collection system so that the streets are no longer strewn with take-away cartons and banana skins.  It’s about management of contractors and street diggers, so that builders rubble, skips and cranes don’t litter the streets, causing danger to pedestrians and blocking carriageways. And it’s also about finding more places for planting.

A survey of green space in FitzEast has already been completed for the Business Improvement District.  This is an issue that touches those who work or visit the area as much as it does residents.  We need something similar in FitzWest.

if you would like to join FitzWest please visit this page of the website:

http://fitzwest.org/wordpress/become-a-member/

And if you’d like to help with the survey of public space and greening of FitzWest email me, Wendy Shillam on info@fitzwest.org

Cycle Quietways – Too little? Too Late?

Plan

Westminster Consultation on Cycling QuietWay from Edgeware Road to Fitzrovia

The Greater London Authority has developed a cycling strategy, which involved super highways and quiet routes which criss-cross the city.  In Westminster several of these proposed routes run through FitzWest.  The Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Forum welcomes the attempt to link up the city and to devise routes where less experienced cyclists might feel more comfortable.

The proposals are modest.  They include a cycle waiting area at the head of junction stop lines on major roads and a small cycle priority path leading up to the junction.  The proposals do not designate an area of the carriageway for cycles, do not provide cycle only phases to traffic lights and do not attempt to calm or restrict traffic in any way.  There is a modest section of cycle contra-flow adjacent to Holcroft Court.

We dont believe that cycle quiet routes can be achieved without closing roads to vehicular traffic or (at the very least) reducing access, type and speed of traffic on the proposed cycling quiet routes.

In principle we believe that cyclists and pedestrians should have priority over vehicles on all but the most major thoroughfares, throughout the West End.  Many people live and work here.  We agree with the GLA that the best method of transport for many of those people is walking and cycling.  But we also see that a plateau of cycle road users will be reached unless cars and other vehicles are not also restricted in their use of side streets. This could be achieved with quiet zones, speed limits, traffic calming and cycle/pedestrian priority areas.

A Dutch Quiet routes

In Fitzrovia the narrowness of the streets, the quantity of on-street parking and the volume of deliveries, all mitigate against a successful cycling system.  We believe that quiet routes should be introduced, but we don’t feel that the measures taken, which are minimal, will make a lot of difference.  Vehicles, deliveries and parking must be better managed on these roads in order for them to be useful for novice cyclists.

In addition the measures taken to allow cycles to cross major road junctions seem flimsy.  Putting a priority waiting space in front of traffic is a useful measure, but it is not enough.  Cycle priority lights would be one solution, where cycles have their own green phase – perhaps linking with better pedestrian crossing facilities.

We enclose some images of quiet routes from Dutch and Danish cities to illustrate the difference between Westminster’s proposal and more enlightened cities.

We will be commenting formally to Westminster CC soon.  Please leave your views here and we will take account of them in our response.

Thank you.

Cycle priority routes in Copenhagen

Read the full details