About

This is a blog about life behind scaffolding in Hanson Street, London, W1. My aim is to create an online record of an external and internal refurbishment contract that affects residents living in a number of properties in Hanson Street. I want to keep an accurate record of events. In my experience, after a few weeks or even after a few days, it becomes very hard to remember what happened, and when. Contract S163 seems likely to go on for quite some time.

Living in semi-darkness at the height of the best London summer for years plays strange tricks with the mind.

The darkness, the dirt and the waiting, are straight out of Gogol. Or is it Dostoyevsky or possibly Bulgakov? Whatever. What can a ‘little man’ do to combat the ‘big people’ who have arranged to have our block of flats wrapped in green netting? The cats who live across the road are watching and smiling.

My neighbours and I are literally existing behind bars. And yet we hardly discuss it. It’s an urban narrative that is probably quite common.

Rather than continue to spend hours writing emails to which there will be no logical reply, I decided to start a blog as therapy. Maybe it will be entertaining.

I have a sense that this thing could drag on for months. I want to have a granular record of the waiting…

 

 

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22 comments

  1. Michael Lynch · November 4, 2015

    Fantastic site. I live at num 17 and have been trying to stop the street looking like a landfill for a couple of years with no luck so far. I suggested to Westminster Council simple intelligible signs on the bollards where the rubbish is actually dumped might work because even people who don’t speak English can read numbers and times and the current signs look like planning applications on the occasional lamp post – people are never going to use their time hunting those down and reading them and are a waste of resources and OUR money – but I was ignored. You can bet, however, that had I been a resident of a posh street in Mayfair or Marylebone I would have been taken seriously… As you mentioned, someone has taken it into their own hands and it seems to work. I even had a commitment from councillor Paul Church in exchange for a vote, which predictably, once elected, he ignored.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael Lynch · March 9, 2016

      Here is an email I received from Councillor Paul Church:

      Dear Mr. Lynch

      Councillor Caplan, Westminster’s Cabinet Member for City Management & Customer Services, has responded to me to say that he has instructed the local City Inspector to monitor Hanson Street as a priority and to take enforcement action as required against any business or resident found to be fly-tipping or presenting waste outside of daily scheduled times. Officers have also installed six new easy-to-read waste collection time places on Hanson Street and are open to more ‘Don’t Dump’ signage and letter drops to all residents once the City Inspector reports back.

      I am informed that all waste collection vehicles are now fitted with GPS tracking devices to help officers track that they are in the correct streets at the correct times and the Cabinet Member and I have asked officers to monitor Hanson Street closely to ensure there are no further issues on this front.

      Ensuring that we respond to resident enquiries in a professional and timely manner is one of my key priorities and the Cabinet Member has categorically confirmed that we certainly do not discriminate on the basis of whether a street contains social housing. If you could please supply details of correspondence that has gone unanswered to Mark Banks, a senior City Management Officer, (contact details below) he will have this investigated immediately. The most effective way to highlight issues to us is by using the ‘Report It’ function on the front page of The Council’s website (www.westminster.gov.uk).

      Should you require any further clarification then please do not hesitate to contact the council’s Head of Waste & Parks, Mark Banks by e-mail: mbanks@westminster.gov.uk or by telephone 020 7641 3369.

      Thank you once again for taking the time to write to me about this important issue and I hope this goes some way to ensuring we get it right in Hanson Street.

      With best wishes,

      Paul

      Councillor Paul Church
      Deputy Cabinet Member for Children & Young People
      Westminster City Councillor for West End Ward

      Like

  2. EdKellow · November 4, 2015

    Hi Michael, Thanks for being the first person to comment on my blog. As the FitzWest Forum tweeted, it’s rubbish!

    Like

  3. Michael Lynch · November 4, 2015

    Apparently your blog was mentioned at a meeting of residents in that tower block in Berwick St. as an example I think of what can be done with social media. Keep up the good work and I’ll keep things up to date with my efforts to drag public health issues in Hanson St. out of the Middle Ages.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. EdKellow · November 5, 2015

    Hi Michael, Excellent. Knowing that you are active too, gives me hope. There is the refuse problem and then there is a bigger problem with how streets and neighbourhoods are managed. What I would like to see is some kind of one stop shop. What I am trying to do is connect people and make my neighbours feel they are not alone in their concerns about what is happening in our neighbourhood.

    The reason I started the blog in the first place was to try and get some leverage with City West and Axis. To some degree it has worked. Another benefit is making contact with the Berwick Street residents – that proves to me that social media is a good tool to strengthen communities across artificial boundaries.

    Contract S163 has been terribly badly managed. We now know quite a lot about who is responsible for the delays. The ball is in the court of City West and Axis. Stay tuned!

    Like

  5. Neigbour · February 16, 2016

    Hi there – whilst the rubbish is annoying, I’ve yet to see a rat since I moved in. I now cannot rent out my apartment whilst I do a secondment abroad – because when people Google they see your site and conclude that the entire street is a vermin pit covered in scaffolding. Keeping legacy articles online about issues which have now mostly been resolved is causing me far more issues than anything city west/ axis , the rats have done. Please consider the wider impacts of keeping legacy posts online to other residents who may need the flexibility to move – be that by selling or letting their properties…

    Like

    • EdKellow · February 16, 2016

      Hi Alex,

      I’m sorry you having difficulty letting your flat.

      I’ll put up a post with a new photo of the street as it is now.

      There are still a few unresolved issues which is why I have not put the blog to bed yet.

      Like

    • Peter Foster · September 4, 2016

      Come again? You can’t rent out your apartment “because” people see this blog? I don’t think so. Hanson Street – and the whole area from Cleveland and Tottenham Street to Wells Street – is a vermin pit. See my pictures: https://www.flickr.com/gp/fitzrovialitter/06uLL6

      Like

  6. Michael Lynch · February 16, 2016

    I reported what I observed, and still do – rats, foxes, seagulls and pigeons breaking up bin bags, which are left in the street all day and night, and strewing them around the street, even during the day. Nothing has changed. Since I moved to the street ten years ago two big black bins have been removed either end of the street, collections have been reduced from two to one a day (unlike the surrounding streets) and street cleaning is often done before collections leaving residual litter on the streets. Westminster have ignored every communication I’ve made on the issue mainly because half of the street is social housing so it’s not taken seriously unlike a street in precious Mayfair would be. Not only is it making the properties difficult to rent but this article from the Daily Mail states how litter outside properties devalues them by up to 12% (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2915296/Litter-outside-home-knocks-12-house-prices-meaning-cuts-street-cleaning-costs-owners-thousands.html). Covering up the facts is not the answer to our problem, it’s action that will do that.

    Like

  7. Neighbour · February 16, 2016

    Why don’t we club together and for a 2 week period pay for a street watchman to observe, document and report which people are breaking the rubbish disposal rules such that fines/enforcement notices can be issued…

    Like

  8. Michael Lynch · February 16, 2016

    I would certainly support that idea and I’m currently writing to Paul Church, councillor for West End ward. I gave him my vote after he promised to resolve the issues. He won his seat and predictably has done nothing since.

    Like

  9. Michael Lynch · February 16, 2016

    Email to councillor Paul Church:

    Dear Paul

    You may remember our conversation at my home (Dudley Mansions, Hanson St.) while you were canvassing, about litter in the street.

    The problem has deteriorated since that conversation and you winning the seat. I have personally observed rats, foxes, gulls and pigeons breaking up bags and stewing rubbish on the road and pavements, even during the day.

    Since I moved into the area ten years ago, two ‘big black bins’ have been removed from either end of the street, collections have been reduced from two to one a day (unlike surrounding streets), collections sometimes take place up to half an hour before 10am giving 30 minutes for people leave their trash on the street for 24 hours, and street cleaners sometimes cleaning before the collection when it is really needed afterwards to get rid of the litter that understandably occurs after collection.

    Not one single communication I have sent to Westminster has been responded to and I’m wondering if, because half the street is social housing, whether the problem is permanently put on the back burner, an unlikely scenario if I was writing from Mayfair.

    A neighbour has blogged that she is having problems renting her flat because of blog posts about the issue and I recently read an article that says properties in littered streets devalue by up to 12% (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2915296/Litter-outside-home-knocks-12-house-prices-meaning-cuts-street-cleaning-costs-owners-thousands.html). All this apart form the public health and aesthetic issues of course.

    When we spoke I mentioned the practical problems of the current notices looking like old planning applications on lampposts, too high for many people to read even if they were inclined to. Also the problem of the more visible ‘punitive’ ones warning people of the crime of dumping on the street are misleading so not taken seriously. It is not illegal to put rubbish on the street, it depends when.

    I suggested notices on bollards outside front doors with the times in big characters (not everyone will read English but everyone can read numbers) and some vigilance from the council in the mornings to intercept people dumping illegally.

    While the habit is to dump all through the day, new residents will just follow suite.

    The problem is not insoluble it just requires the will of the council who take our money for such services and have legal public health duties.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Michael Lynch

    Like

  10. Laura Cowan · July 13, 2016

    Hi Ed,

    Just reading your blog with interest as I live in a council block (although my flat is privately rented) in Tower Hamlets that is having building work carried out on it by …guess who …Axis Europe on behalf of Tower Hamlets Homes. We (and many other blocks in TH) have been under scaffolding and blue sheeting for nearly 2 years now (although in all fairness to Axis, this is because the first contractors broke the communal boilers because they didn’t follow building regulations).

    We’ve been told the scaffolding is about to be taken down on a regular basis since the end of 2015 and it’s now supposedly happening at the end of this month, despite the fact that there has been almost no more work done on the building since December.

    I’ve been researching Axis and Lambeth Council fired them from a similar job in 2009 for poor performance, so why have other councils employed them subsesquently? It’s really hard to write about this without resorting to swear words, but it absolutely beggars belief. I assume Axis are being paid vast sums of our money in order to do …what?

    If this is happening in multiple local authorities, surely this is a news story?

    Laura

    Like

    • EdKellow · July 13, 2016

      Hi Laura, Thanks very much for getting in touch. I’m so sorry to hear that you too are suffering from Axis and scaffolding. Congratulations on doing the research. I’m not surprised to learn that Axis were fined. It’s sad for lots of reasons. First of all it seems hundreds of people across London are suffering from poor project management, and are having to live behind scaffolding. I felt really depressed last year because I had no natural light and City West Homes took months to do anything about it. Secondly, there are some well meaning people working for Axis and I do not think Axis gives them the tools to do the job. I think incompetence on this scale is a story. Fitzrovia News published an article I wrote. https://news.fitzrovia.org.uk/2015/11/24/city-west-homes-apologises-to-residents-for-delayed-maintenance-on-homes/ Maybe you could contact your local newspaper and start there? I do hope it won’t be long before you see the back of the scaffolding and Axis.

      Like

  11. Peter Foster · September 4, 2016

    An interesting blog. I am glad that there are others concerned about the abject state of Fitzrovia.

    Residents of Hanson Street might be interested in looking at my Flickr photostream,
    fitzrovialitter, https://www.flickr.com/gp/fitzrovialitter/28S8x0

    This contains photographs of the rubbish in the area – and central London in general. Hanson, Ogle, Nassau, Gosfield and Cleveland Streets feature prominently.

    Camden and Westminster monitor the streams.

    There is also a public Flickr group ‘Fitzrovia Litter’ where people can add their own photographs: https://flic.kr/g/pHbo6

    Like

    • MICHAEL LYNCH · September 4, 2016

      Excellent! The trash problem never changes in spite of the innumerable email conversations I’ve had with Westminster. I’ll be sending regular photos of my life living in a landfill.

      Best Michael Lynch (Hanson St.)

      >

      Like

      • Peter Foster · September 5, 2016

        Thank you Michael; please add your images to the Flickr public ‘Fitzrovia Litter’ group.

        Camden and Westminster will never prosecute individuals, only businesses, for dumping; hence our problem.

        Like

  12. Michael Lynch · September 6, 2016

    Thank you – I didn’t know that.

    Michael

    Like

  13. Michael Lynch · September 19, 2016

    The rubbish situation in Fitzrovia is becoming intolerable, it’s not only ugly but it’s a public health hazard. Westminster would never allow it in Mayfair or Marylebone but because of the level of social housing in Fitzrovia the council feel they can ignore it with impunity. Since I moved to Hanson St. ten years ago we have lost two ‘Big Black Bins’ at both ends of the street and one collection per day, road sweeping when it is done is often done before the collection leaving litter in the street all day, which always encourages more. They won’t even respond to my suggestions regarding inadequate and, in it’s current form, pointless signage in the area. I think maybe only a petition, press attention and a Twitter campaign will get them to pay attention?

    Like

  14. Michael Lynch · September 26

    Pancho Lewis of the Labour Action Team has started a petition to reinstate the Big Black Bins in areas where they were removed and have become a dumping ground, like the corner of Hanson St and Foley St. If you’d like to sign please go to:

    http://petitions.westminster.gov.uk/FitzroviaRubbish/#detail

    Like

  15. EdKellow · September 26

    Thanks, Michael, I will.

    Like

  16. Michael Lynch · October 16

    Dear Mr. Walsh

    Westminster Council’s efforts to keep our street clean is exceptional, a collection every day, a daily road sweeper, litter bins cleared regularly and ad hoc collections when there is a particular rubbish issue in the street – when some councils in will collect once every two weeks – if your lucky.

    I proffered the idea of having stickers which could be placed on rubbish left in the street outside collection times as a reminder to the offender and anyone passing and I noticed that they’re being used. Again, a great response from the council.

    In the time I’ve lived here, however, I have seen a reduction in the quality of the service provided. Two collections a day down to one, street being swept before the collection often, five Big Black Bins removed and consequently trees are being used as waste disposal spaces. A site in Langham St. that once housed a Big Black Bin is so polluted with grease that it is a hazard to walk along the pavement particularly when it is wet. I have almost slipped over on more than one occasion – apart from the potential damage to an individual it’s a litigation hazard for the council.

    On top of this the main problem we now have is the conflicting and unclear information being disseminated from Westminster council about your services.

    For example, ‘You will be fined if you illegally dump rubbish’ but when is it legal and when isn’t it? In the absence of a clear indication it’s not taken seriously – in fact, ironically, they’re placed where rubbish is most often dumped so they’ve become a signpost for dumpers!

    I was about to make a concerted and consistent effort to re-educate the residents in our street by talking to people and using the stickers, which I presented a funding case for. The problem is that your letter of the 21 of August and the new signs have created so much confusion amongst residents that people have stopped paying attention to them – consequently the situation is now worse that I’ve ever seen it. (See photos I took yesterday evening 9pm Saturday 14 October and 11pm Sunday 15 October.)

    A 10am collection made sense to people. As a result of your letter, however, people now are now unsure as to whether they should be leaving rubbish out at 7.30am, 8am, 10am, 2pm or any time during the day or night (I’m aware that this is not what the sign says, but this is the impression people are now under) and some think that rubbish is collected all through the day as a result of seeing ad hoc collections, which would less necessary I believe if the times were clearer and enforced more effectively.

    It was a possibility that the situation could have been managed when the collection time was 10am. It made sense to people and I was ready to do everything I could help people observe it but now the situation is hopeless.

    Many people in the street are elderly and some are disabled. To expect them to put on an alarm clock to get their rubbish down by 8am is unreasonable and impractical. Even able bodied people who are in work are not going to put on their alarm clocks to get their rubbish out by 8 at the weekend and many people leave before 7.30am during the week so have no ‘legal’ option for leaving rubbish out.

    As a result of your letter, a system that was already broken is now in chaos.

    I look forward to your reply.
    Best wishes
    Michael Lynch

    Like

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