Karen Buck

Working hard for Westminster North


Sir David Higgins
High Speed Two Ltd.,
2nd floor, Elland House,
Bressenden Place

30 April 2014

Dear Sir David

High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill (HS2 Hybrid Bill)

Following on from the successful passage of the second reading of HS2 Hybrid Bill , I write to ask that High Speed Two Ltd. ( HS2 Ltd. ) now answer the questions and suggestions made by Westminster and Brent Borough Councils and by a number of my well informed constituents as to the route and development of the new rail line as it impacts upon Westminster North .
A number of organisations and individuals have complained to me that HS2 Ltd. appear to have adopted a tactic of simply not answering questions raised by parties who believe themselves to be affected by the plans to construct the new railway. Such a tactic I believe to be counter productive (in that it creates unwarranted concerns and suspicions) and is profoundly undemocratic.

The major concerns that I share with the Councils and my constituents include :

1/ Why has there been no response to the proposal that the tunnel route as it passes through my Constituency be moved underneath the existing West Coast Main Line (WCML ) so that it avoids passing under the residential Queens Park Estate ? To date this proposal has just been ignored even though a similar section of tunnel between the Euston tunnel portal and the Adelaide Road Vent has since the publication of the draft ES been moved beneath the WCML "to reduce the effect on properties and structures which may be affected by settlement".

2/ The Councils and a number of my constituents believe that there are better locations to cite the proposed Salusbury Road Ventilation shaft and auto-transformer station which have grown to unacceptable size and prominence as the scheme has progressed. Again there appears to have been no response at all to a number of alternative and less intrusive sites. If there are substantive reasons as to why the shaft has to be located at this particular location and to this scale then it is now appropriate that the reasons be detailed.

3/ Westminster City Council is concerned that HS2 ventilation shafts need to be treated as
‘Scheduled Works' and therefore any subsequent changes to design and location be subject to further environmental impact assessments. This is of particular concern to Westminster because of their experience with Crossrail when changes to ventilation shafts were treated merely as ‘Ancillary Works' and therefore less amenable to local authority influence.

4/ I share the view that full use needs to be made of the proposed Old Oak Common interchange as the major southern terminus of the new line which will lessen the role of Euston and so avoid the wholesale demolition of Camden. I would like to see verification of the claim that Old Oak Common will actually be more accessible by public transport by the vast majority of Londoners and from most areas of London than Euston.

5/It is important to act quickly to specify the exact details of the route, the depth of tunnels and, construction methods so as to avoid ‘planning blight' in Westminster. I am pleased that the number of tunnels under my constituency has been reduced from three to two and it is my understanding that these tunnels will be at a depth of between 35 and 40 meters and bored through London clay. Therefore the Ministry and the HS2 Company are entirely confident that such construction will have no impact on properties above ground level and for this reason there are no proposals to offer any compensation to any of my constituents. It would therefore be appropriate for the DoT and for HS2 Ltd. to explicitly assure my constituents on these matters.

In responding to these points can the Ministry and HS2 Ltd. now set out a clear timetable as to when the questions that have already been submitted to them (especially Westminster City Council's submission of 27 February 2014) will actually be answered?

Please note that I am also writing today with the same concerns to the Department for Transport. Please respond in such a way as I can share your response with my constituents.

Yours sincerely

Karen Buck MP


Karen's Letter on HS2

Sir David Higgins High Speed Two Ltd., 2nd floor, Elland House, Bressenden Place London SW1E 5 DU 30 April 2014 Dear Sir David High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill (HS2...

I'm backing Westminster Amenity Societies Forum in opposing any Government moves to relax the rules to allow more short-term lets. Here's my letter to the Minister.

Kris Hopkins
Minister for Housing,
Eland House
Bressenden Place
London SW1

Dear Kris,

I have been contacted by the association of the 18 amenity societies in Westminster to ask me to express their concern to you of the growing problem posed by short-term lets in the borough. As you may be aware, Westminster has the largest proportion of its housing stock in the private rented sector of any local authority in the country, so any changes impact disproportionately on us.

The amenity societies (and many individual residents) are strongly of the view that existing legislation should NOT be amended or relaxed in such a way as to encourage the further growth of the short-term rental sector. They are seeking assurances that the current consultation contained within your document "Review of Property Conditions in the Private Rented Sector" (Q22, Page 9) does not lead to any such relaxation in the legislation.

As they point out:

"Short-term letting is causing a major problem for some permanent residents in a number of amenity society areas, particularly in cases where short-term lets are regularly made. There can be real problems of anti-social behavior (and even intimidation), noise, refuse collection problems and similar. Furthermore, short-term lettings remove accommodation for long term lets".

I strongly support this view and trust that the government would not take these proposals further, to the detriment of longer-standing residents in all tenures, who overwhelmingly want both the peaceful enjoyment of their homes, and to live in neighbourhoods with some stability.

Thank you very much and I look forward to receiving your response.

Yours sincerely

Karen Buck MP


Opposition to any Government moves to relax the rules to allow more short-term lets

I'm backing Westminster Amenity Societies Forum in opposing any Government moves to relax the rules to allow more short-term lets. Here's my letter to the Minister. Kris HopkinsMinister for Housing,DCLGEland...

Dear resident,

I am concerned by a number of reports in the local area of a recent increase in both commercial and residential burglary, including a number of thefts of buggies and other items from the communal areas within blocks of flats.

The local police teams have been increasing patrols but I am very aware of the fact that this is probably not enough to increase their visibility sufficiently to provide reassurance- and this may have been true even before the reduction in size of our ward-based Safer Neighbourhood Teams.

I have, therefore, asked Westminster police to consider bringing in the mobile police station, to demonstrate an increased local police presence. I very much hope that this will be agreed soon.

Police are, additionally, advising people not to leave items, especially valuable items, in communal areas.

Here are some of the key points from my recent correspondence with police about these problems:

• " we are conducting targeted crime prevention patrols to the most burgled streets across the North Wards and this includes actively looking for open and vulnerable premises and highlighting them to the respective owners and landlords. For persistently vulnerable premises we also have to refer them to environmental health to take enforcement action around their communal security.

• We recently started Super Cocooning Non Residential Burglaries. Super Cocooning is an enhanced form of crime prevention combined with witness enquiries carried out after a premises has been the victim of a burglary. Door to door enquiries are carried out not only to establish if witnesses can be traced but also to alert other residents/business owners that a burglary has taken place.

• targeted patrols have been carried out around affected Wards over the last two weeks in addition to increased crime prevention visits including target hardening visits in conjunction with the local crime reduction officers."

The Maida Vale Safer Neighbourhood Police Team Number is: 07920233950.

Always dial 999 in an emergency, but use 101 to report crimes and other concerns that do not require an emergency response.

I hope that this is helpful.

Yours sincerely,

Karen Buck


Letter to residents regarding burglary’s in Maida Vale

Dear resident,I am concerned by a number of reports in the local area of a recent increase in both commercial and residential burglary, including a number of thefts of buggies...

We now know that the ‘tax gap'-that is, the difference between how much tax should be collected and how much is collected-rose from £31 billion in 2009-10 to £33 billion in 2011-12 and further to £34 billion in 2012-13, (which is the latest year for which the information is available).

There are two implications arising from this huge and worsening ‘tax gap. Firstly, the shortfall means that there is less money to support our public services and the public finances. Secondly, it undermines trust and confidence in the system itself. Ordinary citizens and small businesses paying their taxes deserve to know that the same rules apply to the very wealthiest individuals and the global corporations as to them. Disabled people and job-seekers facing sanctions and enforcement action for breached of benefit rules deserve to know that they are treated no worse than tax evaders. Yet in the case of files relating to the HSBC bank, for example, following the revelations of malpractice which were first given to the Government in May 2010, just one out of 1,100 people who have avoided or evaded tax have been prosecuted.

A sense that there is ‘one set of rules for the richest and most powerful, and another for everyone else' is a dangerous one. All businesses and all individual taxpayers need to know that the tax system is based on a level playing field, that nobody is getting away with gaming the system, and that when the system is being gamed we have robust measures to deal with it. That is profoundly pro-business and it is also in the interests of individual taxpayers, UK plc and our economy as a whole.

And whilst a ‘tax gap' existed long before this Government was elected, and some people have sought to avoid or evade taxes for as long as taxes have existed, the context has changed for the worse. The aftermath of the global economic crisis, austerity and a series of media disclosures about the low tax bills and complex avoidance schemes of multinationals and high net worth individuals have led members of the public to question the system like never before.

The controversy engulfing HSBC is but the latest of many examples, but it is deeply alarming. My colleagues in the Labour Treasury team have called upon former Treasury Minister and HSBC Chief Executive Lord Green and the Prime Minister to make a full statement about Lord Green's role at HSBC and his appointment as a Minister. It is why we regret the failure of the Government's deal on tax disclosure with Switzerland, which has raised less than a third of the amount promised. It is why we welcome the proposals of charities and campaigning organisations for an anti-tax dodging Bill; and call on the Government to clamp down on tax avoidance by introducing a penalty regime for the general anti-abuse rule, which is currently too weak to be effective. This would include closing the Quoted Eurobonds exemption loophole, thus ensuring that hedge funds trading shares pay the same amount of tax as other investors, introducing deeming criteria to restrict false self-employment in the construction industry, and scrapping the ‘shares for rights scheme', which the Office for Budget Responsibility has warned could open a new tax avoidance loophole costing £1 billion.

Last week's Financial Times report on tax avoidance and tax collection compared the Government's anti-avoidance measures for companies with the measures Labour put in place to tackle corporate tax avoidance during its time in office. It found that the tax collected by the Government's measures was going to be 90% lower than under measures introduced by the previous Labour Government, saying:

"Measures put in place by Labour during its 13 years in power to counter corporate tax avoidance are projected to raise ten times as much over the next four years as those introduced by the current coalition government."
Writing in the Financial Times, Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that, "just as concern over tax avoidance is at its highest in living memory, just as government ministers are falling over themselves to condemn such behaviour, that same government is trumpeting a new tax policy that looks like it will foster a whole new avoidance industry. Its own fiscal watchdog seems to suggest that the policy could cost a staggering £1 billion a year, and that a large portion of that could arise from ‘tax planning'."

We also need a public form of country-by-country reporting on corporate profits. In government, we would seek an international agreement on public forms of such reporting. At present, the agreement arising from the base erosion and profit-shifting process is to make country-by-country reporting available to tax authorities, but we believe that there is a strong case for the information to be made public. We will seek a multilateral agreement, but if that is not possible, we will discuss with business in this country the best way to introduce a public country-by-country reporting format on a unilateral basis.

We will:

• take further action to stop employment agencies from exploiting tax relief through the use of umbrella companies,( raising £400 million a year ).

•force the United Kingdom's overseas territories and Crown dependencies to produce publicly available registers of beneficial ownership. The current Prime Minister has been writing to the Crown dependencies and overseas territories, saying that they need to move forward with a publicly available register of beneficial ownership, but nothing has happened. Ed Miliband announced at the weekend that we would seek a blacklisting of overseas territories and Crown dependencies if there was no movement on a public register of beneficial ownership within six months of the election of the next Labour Government.

• tackle the use of dormant companies to avoid tax by requiring them to report more frequently.

• introduce penalties for those who are caught by the general anti-abuse rule, giving the plan teeth by introducing a tough penalty regime, with fines of up to 100% of the value of the tax that was avoided.

• close loopholes on stamp duty that allow the hedge funds to avoid paying hundreds of millions of pounds in tax through intermediary relief.

• close loopholes that allow some large companies to move profits out of the UK and avoid corporation tax. (According to HMRC, the tax loss from that loophole is around £200 million each year, and it has been reported elsewhere as £500 million).

• make tax havens which have links to the UK put company ownership information in the public domain.

• scrap the failed shares for rights scheme, which the Office for Budget Responsibility warned could enable avoidance and cost £1 billion.

• ensure stronger independent scrutiny of the tax system, giving new powers to the National Audit Office and placing new responsibilities on the Chancellor and chief executive of HMRC to report annually on their efforts to tackle tax avoidance and to reduce the tax gap.
I hope this gives you a clear sense that tackling tax avoidance and evasion will be a very high priority for Labour- as tough action is needed now more than ever before.

Karen Buck MP

My letter on tax avoidance

We now know that the ‘tax gap'-that is, the difference between how much tax should be collected and how much is collected-rose from £31 billion in 2009-10 to £33 billion...

Further to our email exchange below, I have liaised with colleagues and will now address each of your questions in turn:

£500,000 will be saved from the Children's Centres (outside the play service):

It is my understanding that you are currently liaising with Jayne Vertkin regarding the above. It is anticipated that Jayne will provide a response within the next five working days.

£125,000 from Youth Services:

The council has undertaken engagement with service users and partners to explore different models of youth service delivery that, within a reduced budget, continues to enable access to services for children and young people across Westminster but more effectively targets and engages those who would have additional support needs. The models explored have included better integration with services such as schools, arts and sports provision and national initiatives to ensure children and young people benefit from the broad offer of provision across the borough and to also ensure that commissioned services are geographically located to most effectively engage those with additional needs.

Have individual schools been asked if they will take on the play service and if so, how many of them have indicated yes or no?

The council is considering a variety of options for the future provision of school-age childcare and play. We are consulting with service users, third sector partners, and schools to determine the likely impact of different models service delivery. There is already a mixed economy of providers in Westminster providing school-age childcare for local families. There are four schools managing childcare on site, four third sector providers (including two that are commissioned by schools), and the Westminster Play Service operating at eight locations, including six school sites.

The objective is to secure a comprehensive, accessible and good quality service, whilst meeting the savings targets. This will require a more cost effective set of services whichever delivery model is implemented. There are no plans to close any childcare services as part of this work and some services may increase provision if there is demand from service users and it is a viable proposition. The final recommendations will follow the consultation process.

Host schools have been consulted about the possibility of taking on childcare services at their sites. At present, only one out of the six schools that currently host a play centre has indicated that it would prefer to take on responsibility for childcare.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions.

Response from Westminster Children Services to my letter regarding Children’s Centres

Further to our email exchange below, I have liaised with colleagues and will now address each of your questions in turn: £500,000 will be saved from the Children's Centres (outside...

Time to curb the monster basements

Bayswater and Lancaster Gate have long been 'sought-after' neighbourhoods- attractive, safe and convenient. Long may that continue. But the desirability of addresses within these localities has some downsides. Central London property has become what is sometimes described as a 'global reserve currency', meaning it is a safe way to invest some of the world's wealth. One of the consequences of this trend has been overseas investment in property which is then subject to re-development, sometimes to the point of total reconstruction. Sometimes, these properties are not even occupied. Other times, they are added to the stock of private rented homes, with their rapid turnover of residents.

The rash of monster basement excavations that have plagued residents across Westminster and Kensington owe much to this trend, leading to headlines like this recent one from FT.com: "Basement excavations boom as London house prices soar. The trend for "digdowns" is spreading across west London as soaring house prices prompt homeowners and developers to increase their home's value by extending it downwards"

Basement excavations can be a useful way of expanding living space without having to move, and areas like Bayswater and Lancaster Gate have long been international in character, so this is not an argument against the principles of home improvement nor of foreign investment. Yet the sheer scale and nuisance associated with many of these basement developments has reached unimagined proportions and the time has come to put a stop to it. To give a local example, I was contacted about one basement development near to Bayswater Station of which it was said:

" There is a proposal for one basement development...to use Bark Place and Moscow Road as the thoroughfare for the construction lorries,,,. In addition, there will be two other simultaneous basement developments happening on Caroline Place..

It is estimated that the works will take up to 2 years and that there could be up to 18 lorries per day using this route, weighing up to 30 tonnes and that's just for the one development!

The junction at that corner is very narrow and the turning is very 'blind' and it is inevitable that this will lead to gridlock. I am concerned about the possible dangers caused by the weight, their frequency, the vibration...

Residents and businesses on Bark Place, Orme Court, Moscow Road and Caroline Place are extremely concerned about the stresses and strains that will undoubtedly affect the infrastructure of our streets,

No wonder residents are concerned!

I welcome the new rules being put forward by Westminster Council. These will set limits of the size and depth of basement excavations. However, I am only too aware of the problems Kensington Council has already run into with their planning proposals, and while Westminster may have learned some lessons from this, my fear is that well-funded developers will be able to challenge the Council in the courts where permission is refused in line with local planning guidelines

This is why I introduced a short Parliamentary Bill before Christmas, proposing the amend the law on 'Permitted Developments', to give legal backing to Councils that want to resist monster excavations. I also think Councils should be able to consider the impact of multiple schemes in the same way they can for licensed premises.

Although this specific Bill is unlikely to proceed for lack of Parliamentary time, I will continue to push this with Ministers and welcome resident's views and comments.

If anyone would like a copy of my speech and the associated press coverage, do feel free to contact me.

Priced out- London's housing crisis

Meanwhile, as London property prices surge, Londoners are ever more concerned about housing pressures- the cost of renting, how to get on the property ladder, where their children and grand-children are going to live. I have written before about my concerns that Westminster does not make sure developers include a reasonable proportion of affordable homes to rent and buy within new schemes seeking planning approval. This has been reliably estimated to have lost £31 million worth of contributions to affordable housing. Yet even with a record £100 million in the Council's Affordable Housing Fund, it still seems almost impossible to get affordable homes built. The Council hasn't even replaced the stock of homes sold under Right to Buy.

There are many consequences of this failure. Lower and middle income earners struggle to afford homes near where they work- including, of course, those people who are essential to the economy and public services. And Westminster's legal duty towards homelessness households (which is not, contrary to myth, the worst in London) means that the shortage of homes costs a fortune. A recent Freedom of Information request to the Council found the homelessness has cost Westminster £111 MILLION since 2010.

Feeling the pinch

A deeper crunch is coming for the Council as Westminster has to cut another £100m from the budget. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most recent "Westminster Reputation Tracker' survey showed a fall in satisfaction to the lowest level they have recorded, as pressures intensify. The poll said:

"Residents across a range of backgrounds are experiencing economic difficulties and this is impacting on how they live their lives and how they perceive the council. Three in ten (30%) think their financial situation has got worse in the last 12 months, and 39% of them think it will continue to get worse. The majority (54%) of Westminster residents are worried they will suffer directly from spending on public services over the next 2-3 years. Concerns are across all social grades but in particular those who are on middle or lower incomes, parents and those in social housing. Those unsettled by the economic situation are less likely to be sure about the service they receive from the council."

Crime continues its long fall

Good news on the crime front, however, as the long decline in offending continues. Bayswater and Lancaster Gate wards have both seen declines year-on-year of other a third, which is excellent. However, this doesn't mean we are crime-free by any means, with concerns about anti-social behaviour in particular reaching me more quite regularly (hostels and hotels are the main focus), and I liaise with both the police and Council in response to them.

Police numbers has also continued to fall in the recent past, with Westminster now having 397 fewer police officers and 384 fewer PCSOs now compared with 2010.

Hallfield estate- the Major Works debacle goes on.

The renovation of the regarded, listed Hallfield descended into farce at the beginning of the year, when the contract with the building company, Mulalley's, was suspended.

A report to the Council said:

"External repairs and window replacements have been underway on the Hallfield Estate since May 2012 but progress has been exceedingly slow. Whereas completion of works to all 14 blocks was originally expected to take 127 weeks, works are only partially complete to 3 blocks after 85 weeks. Residents have regularly complained about the quality of work."

Problems emerged from the off. Listed building consent was refused for kitchen and bathroom windows; Electrical conduits buried in cement were failing earthing tests; new floors were short of specification and there was a failure to commit to proper manning levels to fulfil tasks.

After years of planning and consultation, and more than two years on site, residents are (almost) back to square one. What a shambles. Tenants and leaseholders have a right to be furious, whatever the rights and wrongs of the Mulalley's decision!

Karen’s article for the SEBRA Newsletter

Time to curb the monster basements Bayswater and Lancaster Gate have long been 'sought-after' neighbourhoods- attractive, safe and convenient. Long may that continue. But the desirability of addresses within these...

Planning for a stronger community

The onward march of ‘monster basements'- is an end in sight?

Thanks to the excellent campaigning work of the St John's Society on this important ‘quality of life issue', I introduced my '10-minute rule' Parliamentary Bill on permitted development rules and basement excavations before Christmas. I was delighted with the amount of media coverage it received- coverage which is, I think, very helpful to the cause of those of us who want to see proper powers restored to local authorities to resist excavations which are excessive in scale. Whilst it is entirely possible for householders to extend their homes in this way in a responsible and environmentally sensitive manner, it is unfortunately true that some of our neighbourhoods are being blighted by noise and nuisance in the creation of subterranean pleasure palaces that almost boggle the imagination.

Although this specific Bill is unlikely to proceed in this session for lack of Parliamentary time, I will continue to push this with Ministers and to see what other opportunities there may be to take it forward.

Meanwhile, I welcome the subsequent publication of Westminster Council's consultation on planning rules regarding basements, which is a rigorous and detailed document. If it (and the equivalent planning policies being drawn up in similar authorities, such as Kensington) proves robust enough to withstand well-funded legal challenges from developers I would be absolutely delighted. However, my fear is that we will at some stage need to ensure proper statutory underpinning to enable local authorities to be confident that their decisions will not end up with them being dragged into expensive appeals (which they then lose).

Preserving our community assets

On another ‘quality of life' agenda, it was marvellous to see campaigns in defence of much-loved local pubs ‘The Star" and "The Clifton", especially as the proposed residential conversion for the "Star" has, at the time of writing, been withdrawn. Of course it is not going to be possible to defend all enterprises- pubs, shops and so forth- everywhere. People's lifestyles and purchasing habits have changed, and businesses are not going to continue where they are making heavy losses. But where venues are viable and contribute to the life of a community, as the "Star" and the "Clifton" so obviously do, we should do everything in our power to retain them. One option is, of course, the designation of the pub as an "Asset of community value", and I am aware that this option is being investigated.

Worryingly, the direction of travel seems to be going against the ability of local authorities to support the character of their local communities, A government Statutory Instrument changed the planning permitted development rights and Use Class Orders systems for planning with effect from 30th May 2013 so, for example, shops can become payday lenders or fast food restaurants for a period of two years without planning permission. We are currently awaiting the outcome of another consultation on permitted development which may reduce still further the scope of the local council to influence the shape and character of our local high streets by adding to the sets of circumstances where permission for change of use is not required. The likely result will be much less control for local communities about what sort of development happens in the countryside and in High Streets and is, in my view, very much to be regretted.

Pressure on local budgets increases

We have now been told that, despite the savings made from merging various back-office functions between Westminster, Kensington and Hammersmith, Westminster needs to save another £100 million from its budget in the next four years. One of my biggest concerns is whether this can be done without serious damage to ‘frontline' services such as care for elderly and disabled people. Care packages and Taxicards have already been removed from many older and disabled people in the local area, whilst at the same time, we have seen an increase in Accident and Emergency attendances, and longer stays in hospital for people who cannot be discharged because care is not available to enable them to return home. Integrating health and care provision more fully can improve the quality of care, and potentially offer better value for money, but the question remains- if local authority care is having to be cut still further, as Westminster admits, can we also manage to reduce what are expensive and sometimes unnecessary hospital stays? This is an issue that should be of concern to us all- whether we need care, support someone who does, or pay for the services at local or national level.

Karen’s article for the St John’s Wood Newsletter

Planning for a stronger community The onward march of ‘monster basements'- is an end in sight? Thanks to the excellent campaigning work of the St John's Society on this important...

Mr Robin Sedgwick,
Brent Council Planning Department

Dear Mr Sedgwick,

Moberly Sports Centre planning proposal: Objection

Members of Brent Council may be aware of the controversy surrounding the proposed closure of the Jubilee Sports Centre and the re-development of both the Jubilee and Moberly sites to provide a new sports facility funded by the building of ‘market' housing.

I have many concerns about the overall package, which I believe are broadly shared by many residents (c5000) who signed a petition against the Jubilee closure, and the majority of those who attended a public meeting at the Beethoven centre on January 16th.

It is also fair to point out that there are also some residents of Queen's Park (Westminster) who are positive about the scheme, believing that it will offer improved leisure facilities.

I have three main concerns:

a. The loss of leisure amenity for Queen's Park residents
b. The lack of affordable housing on both the Moberly and Jubilee sites
c. Concerns about parking and accessibility at Moberly and possible impact on local Queen's Park streets

a) The loss of leisure amenity for Queen's Park residents

North Westminster has the highest population density in the country, and Queen's Park is a ward with very high levels of deprivation. Whilst the new centre on the Moberly will re-provision many of the facilities from the Jubilee, including the swimming pool, the well-used football pitch has been re-located to another part of the borough, representing a significant loss of open-air amenity for local residents.

In addition, the basketball court adjoin the Jubilee will go with no current plans for replacement.

Both of these are open-air facilities, which should be preserved locally as a balance to entirely indoor leisure provision.

The loss of the basketball court also represents a loss of free, unbooked, open-access sport, which I believe to be in contravention of the London Plan.

b) The lack of affordable housing on site

I note that Brent's policy is that "Where less than 50 per cent affordable housing is proposed, the application must be accompanied by a financial appraisal which demonstrates that the proposal represents the maximum viable proportion of affordable housing". Obviously, the fact that Wilmott Dixon/Westminster Council's plans include the re-provisioning of the sports centre means that the overall formula would be varied significantly. However, I and my council colleagues are unconvinced by the business case which indicates that Wilmott Dixon must only build market homes for sale in order to finance the new development. This is especially in light of the market prices being asked for in other local developments (such as Amberley Road, W9, where the developer is marketing 1 bed homes for £850,000). At the public meeting, Councillor Paul dimoldenberg called for the ‘books to be opened' so we can have an honest discussion about the feasibility of the overall housing/leisure package.

c) Accessibility, parking and transport

The Jubilee Sports Centre is well located in the heart of the community, bringing a footfall into the centre of Queen's Park, which improves community safety. The new, larger sports centre on the Moberly site is being promoted as offering leisure facilities to attract users from a wider area. (Both within Westminster, Brent and elsewhere). This is alsmot certain to increase parking demands within the Queen's Park estate, as more people have to travel further to use the centre, and to increase traffic pressure on what is already a busy set of junction's corners around Kilburn Lane/Chamberlayne Road.

I would be very grateful if you could bring these comments to the attention of the Planning Committee.

Thank you

Yours sincerely


Karen Buck


Karen’s letter on the Moberly Leisure Centre application

Mr Robin Sedgwick,Brent Council Planning Department Dear Mr Sedgwick,Moberly Sports Centre planning proposal: ObjectionMembers of Brent Council may be aware of the controversy surrounding the proposed closure of the Jubilee...

It was an honour last week to hold a debate in Westminster Hall on the NHS in London. It was a well-attended debate, with some excellent and thoughtful contributions from my colleagues. I have been concerned about funding cuts to Central London CCG and West London CCG for some time and you can see my letter to the Secretary of State for Health here.

Please find a link below to the debate.


Karen’s Westminster Debate on London and the NHS

It was an honour last week to hold a debate in Westminster Hall on the NHS in London. It was a well-attended debate, with some excellent and thoughtful contributions from...

Dear Resident -

Further to our meeting in at Dibdin House in May this year, I wanted to write again following a couple of new developments.

As you may already know, Genesis are no longer the Managing Agents for Dibdin House. The owners Grainger have now taken over the day-to-day running of the estate, and I am keen to know how you think they are getting on.
I haven't received any reports of Anti-Social Behaviour on the Estate at my office, which I hope reflects a real improvement to how things were earlier in the year.
However, the big issue to come out of the meeting was the future of Dibdin Hall and its use as a community venue rather than being converted into more private flats. I have asked Grainger about their plans for Dibdin Hall, but I wonder if residents might also be able to send their feedback to me using the form below. I would like to pass on your comments and strength of feeling to Grainger direct to alert them to how important the community space is to you.

Additionally, if there is anything else you would like me to take up about the management of the estate, please do let me know by returning the form below. I will be meeting Grainger together with the Chair Elect Polly Robinson in the coming weeks, and would like to be able to raise some of your concerns and thoughts about the future of the estate.

In the meantime, please note that following new management, contact details for both tenant and leaseholder issues have also changed.

Key Contacts

If you are a tenant and have a repair issue then please contact Grainger's contractors Kier on 0345 300 5824.

If you are a tenant and have any other query about your home or common areas then please contact your Property Manager Darin Solomon at email address dsolomon@graingerplc.co.uk or direct number 0208 877 6904. Darin also remains the first point of contact for any ASB issues.

If you are a leaseholder with concerns about common areas or your own home, please contact Laura McGill at email address lmcgill@graingerplc.co.uk or direct number 0207 795 4737.

I look forward to hearing from you about Dibdin Hall and any other issues you would like me to raise at the forthcoming meeting. As always, if you would like to let me know about any other matter, please contact my office either by telephone on 020 8968 7999 (phone answered between 9:30 am-12pm), or by email, fax or post.

Yours sincerely,

Karen Buck

Karen’s Letter to the Residents of Dibdin House

Dear Resident - Further to our meeting in at Dibdin House in May this year, I wanted to write again following a couple of new developments. As you may already...

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