A new dawn for CityWest Homes residents?

I think Andrew is very fair and measured in what he has to say about City West.

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Last week, Westminster Council announced that it plans to return CityWest Homes to direct council control. This is big news for residents, given the sort of issues I highlighted in a blog earlier this year, which unfortunately still have to be resolved.

As a result of the blog, along with a small group of residents from other estates I was able to put concerns from across the borough to CityWest’s then chief executive, Jonathan Cowie. He was generous with his time, clear (though careful not to apportion blame) about the scale of the problems that had needed tackling within the organisation, positive about his goals and frank about some of the areas in which his changes had not been successful.

Following these meetings, we hoped to be involved in helping CityWest to make the positive progress that was required.

Not long afterwards, it was announced that Jonathan would be leaving…

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Westminster Labour calls for action on Planning transparency

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Labour Councillors have called on Westminster Conservatives to urgently deliver much needed change to open up the Planning system so that residents can have more confidence in the transparency of major planning decisions that affect local communities.

Residents are particularly keen to see changes that would allow them to speak at Planning Committee meetings, which has long been a Labour demand and was promised for the first time in the Conservative election manifesto this year. This is a right that residents in every other London borough have enjoyed for many years. Labour are pushing the council to take swift action to give residents a voice at these meetings and to ensure that the new processes learn from the best practice of other boroughs to maximise the time given to the views of local people.

Labour’s call for action comes after the Council’s website has suddenly stopped displaying residents’ comments on planning applications, with…

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Summer gardening club aims to make Fitzrovia greener, not more commercial

This is a heartening initiative. And shows what can be achieved by spending an hour or two gardening regularly.

Fitzrovia News

A new gardening club will be launched on Saturday at one of Fitzrovia’s most used and abused public open spaces ahead of London becoming the world’s first National Park City.

Pots of plants. Wildflowers ready for planting in Whitfield Gardens, donated from an allotment.

Volunteers from the Friends of Fitzrovia Parks will be spending an hour every Saturday morning this summer making small improvements to Whitfield Gardens leading up to National Park City Week in July.

In December the Friends planted daffodils and other flowers as part of scheme by the Metropolitan Parks and Gardens Association to deliver free bulbs donated by Lincolnshire family business Taylors Bulbs of Holbeach.

This spring nine native species of deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs have been planted in Whitfield Gardens, along with dozens of varieties of wildflowers of as part of a project promoted by Kew Gardens.

For the first time ever oak and hornbeam…

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If we don’t care for our own backyard then nobody else is likely to

I don’t think we should sacrifice the residential areas of Soho, Fitzrovia and Marylebone on the altar of a dying retail artery. I think there will always be a need for some shops in Oxford Street, but the competition from centres like Westfield is too strong for Oxford Street to continue as it is. I also think we need a solution that helps people to move around central London – not just get shoppers to Oxford Street. Why not build a circular tram that links Waterloo, Victoria, Marble Arch and Holborn via Kingsway to Waterloo. Nice, France, has a very successful U shaped tram that does a similar job of getting people around the city while reducing traffic pressure.

Fitzrovia News

By Griff Rhys Jones

There are big plans for Oxford Street in the offing. You may already know of them and they are certainly going to affect the residents who live around that retail artery. There was a consultation with Transport for London, but it appears that they put up the “wrong address” on their internet site. Undismayed, they report back that most people are in favour of their proposed changes. (I think they mean the ones that they directly approached, not the ones who couldn’t get through to their consultation process.) I hesitate to go into print. I hesitate to be a NIMBY (though I have always believed that if we don’t care for our own backyard then nobody else is likely to) but the desire to pedestrianize Oxford Street will have more repercussions than allowing the shopper to romp and yomp along the ancient thoroughfare un-menaced by…

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More work needed on Oxford Street to get it right, say Labour

If you live in near Oxford Street and you care about the air you breathe, you should read this!

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Following the announcement of the latest consultation returns on the Oxford Street project, Labour’s Business and Public Realm spokesperson, Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg said:

“The consultation results show that TfL and Westminster City Council still have a big job to do to demonstrate that the proposals will have local benefits. Around half of local residents are opposed to the proposals, with the other half in support (with or without concerns). We have four major concerns and call on TfL and Westminster Council to show ((a) how any additional vehicular traffic will be kept out of residential streets; (b) how air pollution levels will be reduced in residential streets; (c) how the needs of the disabled and elderly will be provided for and (d) how Oxford Street will be managed 24/7 to ensure the safety and security of residents, shoppers and visitors”

“We will keep campaigning to get the best deal for local residents and businesses”

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The changing Fitzrovia art scene

Shame that Fitzrovia Lates fizzled out but good that we still have many excellent galleries.

Fitzrovia News

Towards the end of 2011 I wrote enthusiastically about the increase in the number of commercial galleries, from 16 in 2008 to 37. By 2012 the number peaked at around 54, but there has been a big fallout over the last five years, and we are now down to around 32 spaces.

Map of Fitzrovia galleries taking part in 'Lates'. Fitzrovia Lates, one of the initiatives to promote the area as an art hub, fizzled out long ago.

Also, these figures don’t take into account the many galleries that came and went during this period: I have noted over 60 gallery closures over the last six years.

There are many reasons for this falling off, the massive increases in West End rents and business rates, that has affected art galleries all over central London, being an important factor. While one reads daily about auction records being smashed and vast sums of money being paid for paintings at…

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