New fears about the impact of Short Lets
My Select Committee work
The interests of cyclists and residents both need to be looked after as plans develop for CS11 (Cycle Superhighway)
New fears about the impact of short lets
Short lets, through companies such as Airbnb, are a new fact of life for the economy and the holiday industry. There are advantages for both sides and no-one can be against people letting out a spare room for a few weeks or their flat whilst they are away to earn some extra cash. The problem comes when whole neighbourhoods and blocks of flats seem to get turned over to short lets, often bringing all sorts of problems for permanent residents, and commercial owners who let properties in this way all year round to make more money rather than as residential lettings.
Locally, the Council has to employ 6 staff just to help with monitoring and enforcement - they are currently looking at over 1200 properties, with some wards in the borough having 1 in every 20 on a site like Airbnb.
Research just out by the Residential Landlords Association found that London listings on Airbnb have rocketed by more than a quarter in just four months – sparking fears the popularity of the holiday letting site is depriving the city of vital homes to rent. In the four months from February to June 2016 listings were up 27% from 33,715 to 42,646 and the majority of entire properties to let – 61% – were available for more than three months a year, with an average occupancy rate of 89 nights per year.
You can read their full report here.
and the Evening Standard article here.
I want people to be free to make use of their own homes in this way BUT it has to be done properly, so neighbours don’t suffer from all the disadvantages of living in a hotel without the support and management a hotel would have. At the same time, we simply can’t afford to have more and more potential homes being turned over to the hospitality industry when we are in the middle of a housing crisis. This means there has to be proper enforcement of the 90 day limit (after which someone has to apply for planning permission), which in turn means making it easier to monitor.
Mayor of London launches new inquiry into scale and impact of foreign ownership of London property
Over the last few years, international investment in London property has helped make sure homes were built when other money had dried up. As the Mayor of London says:
“We welcome investment from around the world in building new homes, including those for first-time buyers. At the same time, as more and more Londoners struggle to get on the property ladder, there are real concerns about the prospect of a surge in the number of homes being bought by overseas investors. We urgently need more transparency around overseas money invested in London property. Londoners need reassuring that dirty money isn’t flooding into our property market, and ministers must now make all property ownership in London transparent so we can see exactly who owns what.”
One key aim of the research will be to shine a light on who is investing and where the money originates from.
Of course there is not only one factor responsible for London’s housing affordability crisis. Yet a recent study by academics at London’s Goldsmiths University found that the influx of cash into the capital’s luxury housing market from the global super-rich was having a wider impact on gentrification across the city.
It discovered that foreign investment at the top end had pushed London’s “traditional elite” residents away from their wealthy enclaves in places such as Mayfair, Chelsea and Hampstead, and created a “trickle down” effect – raising prices beyond the reach of most people in previously cheaper London neighbourhoods.
Westminster voted strongly to remain in the EU, and we have one of the largest populations of EU citizens in the country living here. I continue to push the Government to urgently sort out the situation of EU residents in this country following the referendum. It is clearly unacceptable that people who have been living here lawfully, contributing, working and building businesses should be left in limbo.
On the wider issue of our future relationship with Europe, it is increasingly clear that the Government are hoping to get the best of both worlds by wanting to maintain the trade advantages of the single market without free movement of labour- an option which will almost certainly not be on offer. At the same time, Ministers are clearly willing to risk a ‘hard Brexit’ despite the damage this will do to our economy over the long term. It is deeply worrying that the Chancellor has said Britain can expect “economic turbulence for up to 15 years”!
It is now essential that Parliament gets to have a proper say in the process and that time be committed to proper scrutiny of the proposed EU Repeal bill. Amongst many other things, we have to ensure that key protections - from employment rights to the environment - are safeguarded. Yet I cannot help regretting that this has to be done when there are so many other global and national challenges to contend with.
My select committee work
Joint Committee on Human Rights
What are the human rights implications of Brexit inquiry
The Committee is issuing an open call for evidence, asking interested parties and stakeholders to submit evidence on any impact of the UK’s proposed withdrawal from the EU on the human rights framework and protection of human rights in the UK. This is to ensure that the Committee does not exclude any relevant but hitherto undisclosed issues.
Terms of reference: What are the human rights implications of Brexit
UK’s record on children’s rights inquiry
On 9 June 2016 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child published its assessment of the UK's record for protecting children's rights. While the UN Committee welcomed progress in some areas, it made a number of detailed recommendations identifying specific ways in which children’s rights could be better protected in the UK.
The inquiry will also be an opportunity for the Committee to hear about any implications for children's rights of the Children and Social Work Bill, which the Committee is currently scrutinising.
Terms of reference: UK’s record on children’s rights
Work and Pensions Committee
After a summer mostly spent on our investigation into the collapse of BHS and its pension scheme, our next inquiry will now look at employment opportunities for young people:
• To what extent does getting young people into work and supporting them in work require an approach distinct from that of other groups?
• How effective is Jobcentre Plus Support for Schools likely to be in enhancing young people's career prospects?
• How can Jobcentre Plus services for young people be more effectively integrated with other local services, especially around education and skills?
• What is likely to be the impact of any forthcoming economic uncertainty on young people, and how should the Government best seek to protect them from this?
What you have been writing to me about recently
The interests of cyclists and residents both need to looked after as plans develop for CS11 (Cycle Superhighway)
Early this year, before the election for a new Mayor of London, Boris Johnson announced plans to extend the network of Cycle Superhighways with a new north/south route, CS11. It is absolutely right that we do what we can to encourage alternatives to the car in London, and we should be proud of what has been achieved in recent years in boosting cycling levels. However, it is also true that this scheme is extremely controversial within parts of Westminster and Camden because of fears that changes to highway layout and the proposed part-closing of the Regent’s Park gates would increase traffic and rat-running into some residential streets. It has also been argued that the impact of other major schemes like HS2 and the Baker Street 2-way had not been properly considered.
An initial consultation was carried out in the spring and you can see the details here.
On the basis of strong representations from the St John’s Wood Society, I brought the then Mayor’s champion, Andrew Gilligan, together with TFL, Westminster Council, the Royal Parks and local residents together in March to see how it might be possible to continue improving capacity for and the safety of, cyclists, whist making sure residents were not hit by significant traffic displacements. It was agreed that there needed to be more sharing of information about modelling of traffic levels and flows, and a proper examination of options relating to the park.
Sadiq Khan and his Deputy Mayor for Transport have indicated that they wish to go ahead with the Cycle Superhighways but are open to further representations as to how best to do this.
I therefore organised a second meeting on September 8th when Val Shawcross joined TFL, the Council, St John’s Wood Society and reps from Tulip Siddiq’s Office so Val could hear for herself what our concerns are. Following that, I have written to Transport for London with a detailed set of action points for them to respond to. I am extremely grateful to the St John’s Wood Society for their constructive role and to Val for giving so much time to this, and although there is some way to go (and more formal consultation to come). I am hopeful that we can find a way forward that supports the goal of safer cycling whilst also protecting residents in residential streets nearby.
At last! Westminster Council try out 20mph zones!
It’s taken a while! I have been arguing for years that we should try out 20mph zones in residential areas but Westminster Council dug their heels in and refused to even consider the idea. Still, finally they have come round, and that is very welcome. You can see full details of their proposal here.
Helping leaseholders get the right advice
I held the fifth of my ‘leaseholder advice sessions’ last month, at the Stowe Centre, with a particular focus on Bayswater and Lancaster Gate. Once again, LEASE lawyers were on hand to provide general advice and hold one-to-one sessions with lessees.
LEASE run an excellent website and a phoneline, so please do get in touch with them if you need some help:
One issue LEASE mentioned was that many City West Homes leaseholders may be approaching 80 years remaining on their leases. At that point, he said, property values are affected negatively. It is likely that there will be applications to extend their leases and lessess should be aware of this and make sure they get the right information to ensure their interests are protected.
Join the ‘Maida Hill’ ‘Placecheck’ walkabout
This is a great way to gather thoughts and ideas about a local neighbourhood, brought to you by Maida Hill Forum. I’ll be turning up to see how it goes…
Maida Hill “Placecheck” Walkabouts
Please join Maida Hill Neighbourhood Forum for walks around our neighbourhood on 8 October 2016, 10am-12:30pm, starting from Maida Hill Market.
This will be the first step in finding out what we like or what we think should be changed in our neighbourhood. The results will be fed into the Maida Hill Neighbourhood Plan – a community-led planning policy which will guide development in our area.
2. Who is invited?
All people who live, work, run businesses, own land or buildings in Maida Hill.
3. What will we do during the walks?
There will be four groups, each covering a different part of our neighbourhood.
We will record anything we think should be protected and enhanced, as well as those things which are bad for our neighbourhood and need to be improved, removed or replaced. These could be buildings, public spaces, landscaping features or development sites. We will mark these on maps; we will take notes and photographs.
4. What will we do after the walkabouts
The results of the walkabouts will be presented at a public meeting organised by Maida Hill Neighbourhood Forum on 15 October 2016 (venue to be confirmed). At this meeting we will talk more about issues that we would like to address in our Neighbourhood Plan.
5. How do I sign up?
Please let us know if you would like to join us and whether you would prefer to placecheck a particular area.
Reply to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Delayed regeneration scheme in Church Street has stacked up problems for residents
I’ve been attending meetings with residents from the Church Street blocks, such as Blackwater House, who are concerned by the delays in the Council’s regeneration scheme. As there has been too little investment in their upkeep during the wait some of these blocks are now suffering badly, with problems including loss of heating and lifts out of order. I’ve carried out a survey of residents views following these meetings and am reporting the results to the Council and City West Homes to try and get some improvements quickly.
Hathaway House tower block approved by Westminster
Westminster Council approved a (modified) version of this tower block on Woodfield Road last month. Local Labour councillors have now written to the Mayor of London asking for him to use his ‘call in’ powers to make more changes. However, the new Mayor is still limited by Boris Johnson’s ‘London Plan’ until changes are made to it, so it may not yet be possible to meet all the concerns of residents. Here’s the text of the letter:
I’m writing to raise concerns about the application approved by a Westminster Council planning committee to redevelop the Hathaway House site, 7D Woodfield Road (16/02091/FULL). This scheme has been widely opposed by local residents (132 formal objections and the opposition of the two local neighbourhood forums).
There are a number of areas where I believe the scheme fails to meet the principles even of the current London Plan. The amount of affordable housing in the approved scheme remains low, 23% by floor space or 26% by unit numbers, falling well below Westminster’s own target of 35% (for areas outside the Central Activity Zone such as this) and the new Mayor’s target of 50% affordable, although I recognise that this decision arrives ahead of the issuing of the Mayor’s Supplementary Planning Guidance on affordable housing due later this year that will begin to operationalise the Mayor’s target. The type of affordable provision being entirely shared ownership a tenure type that has proved unsuitable in Westminster given property values and falls outside of Westminster Council’s stated policy preference for intermediate rent and Sadiq’s priority for the provision of social housing.
Much of the considerable local resident objection to the plans has focused on the height of the building which I believe runs counter to the principles set out in Policy 7.7 (location and design of tall and large buildings) of the existing London Plan. This proposed tall building is not within the Central Activity Zone or an identified cluster of larger building (such as the Paddington Basin), it is not a site identified as a location for tall or large buildings in Westminster’s LDF. This 14 story building (ground +13) will significantly overshadow neighbouring buildings (which being 4 stories- ground+ 3 at the redevelopment) and the surrounding street and canal. The developers (and indeed the Conservative members of the planning committee) erroneously claimed that this falls within a broader context of other towers in the wider area (The Trellick Tower in Kensington and the Warwick and Brindley Estates at Westbourne Green). However this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of local geography, particularly when considering how residents of the local area relate to the existing street scene and housing (those towers being around 15 minutes walk from the site).
The site falls within an area identified by Westminster Council for the development of a coordinated regeneration plan, the upcoming Harrow Road Management plan to be developed over the next few years. This scheme preempts and, in my view, inhibits the goal of having a cohesive approach for the area that is supported by local people. The scheme will provide little in the way of new jobs for local people, with the office space being used to facilitate an existing office move. The ground floor will provide an inactive frontage onto Woodfield Road and the scheme density is around 720 habitable rooms per hectare on the residential units alone (before the commercial space is added), exceeding the 200-700 guidelines set out in the London Plan (dramatically so when commercial space is included) and therefore constituting overdevelopment of the site. During the planning process no play space has been identified, with permanent alternative options some considerable distance from the site.
While I recognise some of the restrictions provided by the current London Plan as set out above I believe that this scheme breaches these policies and therefore should be called in by the Mayor of London through the State 2 process.
Still working to get Elmfield Way ‘adopted’
Alongside ward councillors, I have been pressing for the ‘adoption’ of Elmfield Way for many years, in response to resident concerns about lack of parking enforcement and the condition of the highway. When I negotiated the setting up of the playground with the Department of Health in 2009, this was on the understanding that the area was going to be redeveloped, and the road would be adopted as part of that process. We were told in 2014 that everything was going ahead, late but as planned. Now, another 2 years on, not much has happened, but the parking problems continue. Unfortunately, the latest message from the Council is this:
The Council is still in negotiations with the NHS and DoH regarding the potential transfer of the three sites off Elmfield Way to Westminster to facilitate these sites’ re-development by the Council as supported and affordable housing.
Unfortunately, I am unable to provide you with a timescale at this point when these negotiations will be concluded and when works might start.
The potential future adoption of the highway at Elmfield Way by the Council is linked to the transfer of the 3 sites to WCC and their re-development by the Council. Part of these works involves bringing the highway up to an adoptable standard.
We are pressing for an explanation as to why it is taking so long to sort out the issue between Westminster and the Department of Health!
Hopes for a ‘Safer Saltram’ as new traffic scheme starts
After many complaints from residents about speeding traffic in narrow streets, and a lengthy consultation and resident involvement process, the new one-way system has finally been introduced into the ‘Saltram triangle’. This has so far been broadly welcomed, although we have to be sure that it doesn’t add to the problems on the side streets. Let’s hope it brings relief overall to an area which has suffered from these problems for years. Please do let me (or your ward councillors) know your thoughts.
Rainbow Children’s Centre threat
Funding for Children’s centres (and youth and after-school services) has been slashed in recent years. Most recently, a threat has emerged to the Rainbow Centre for young children with disabilities - a much loved centre in Queen’s Park. You can read the full story here.
Petition to save St John’s Wood Post Office from closure
I’ve had lots of letters from local residents anxious about the impact of the likely downgrading of the Crown Post Office on Circus Road, St John’s Wood. This is part of the continuing cost-cutting in the Post Office, which has seen many smaller offices close or be franchised to a private owner in recent years. The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has said the changes are not necessary as the Post Office is due to break even this year. They believe that the move is being forced through in a bid to make a £10million turnover by the end of 2018.
The building is owned by the Westminster Council, so it could be that they can assist. There’s a petition calling on the Council to lobby the Post Office to keep open the Crown Post Office on Circus Road, St John’s Wood you can sign here.
Santander bike scheme- new site approved in Maida Vale - now sign the petition to extend it to QP
Councillor Rita Begum is delighted that a new site for Santander bikes has now been approved in Maida Vale. Now Queen’s Park Councillors are supporting a petition organized by a local resident calling for the bikes to be located in the Queen’s Park area. You can sign the petition here.
“We the undersigned petition Westminster City Council to expand Santander Cycles to Queen’s Park. With the major multi-million redevelopment of the Moberley Sports Centre now underway (not scheduled to open till 2018) and the sad loss announced of the Jubilee Sports Centre, now would seem to be a great time to root for some Santander Cycles in Queen’s Park to help keep us fit in the meantime. Cycling is one route to fitness, accessible to all ages. It has never been more popular. I have been a member of the scheme for several years and use the bikes at lunchtime and to go to meetings. I would love to cycle all the way home but my route from work in Pimlico stops well short of Queen’s Park. I can currently only cycle as far as the top of Ladbroke Grove or the bottom of Warwick Avenue. I then have to get the bus or tube to complete the journey – defeating the object of the bikes. Westminster is spending thousands of pounds building cycle superhighways and more and more hire bikes are springing up in other parts of London. Yet Santander Cycles are not available to hire in an area where quieter roads are plentiful and there is clearly great interest in fitness with several gyms and yoga centres now flourishing. Please join me in this petition to ask for hire bikes in our area. “
Rules on basement excavations finally tightened
It wasn’t so long ago that Westminster Councillors were telling residents that fuss about basement excavations was a storm in a teacup, no worse than any other building works, and once done, never noticed again. However, I am now very pleased that the rules have been tightened in the new planning guidance, and the Council have also made what is called an “Article 4 Direction” which removes permitted development rights for basement development throughout the city, which was came into force on 31 July 2016.
You can read the full policy here.
Let’s get behind apprenticeships
Next year, the new apprenticeship levy comes into force, to boost the number of apprenticeships either directly in larger firms, or via them paying for schemes in other companies and organisations. Mark Field and I jointly hosted a reception with Westminster Business Council in September, so local employers could hear more about the levy and about the value of taking on apprenticeships to their company and to the young people they employ.
The loss of pubs continues unabated, as rent hikes or the lure of luxury residential conversions takes its toll. Recently, the managers of the popular gastropub, The Truscott Arms, had to leave after the latest rent rise. The Chippenham, which closed last year, is an eyesore (both buildings have now been squatted) and the Marylebone Society has recently produced a report on the loss of pubs in their area too.
Here’s a report from CAMRA, the campaign for Real Ale, who have written to Westminster Council in an effort to get more wide-ranging action:
1. I thought, following on from the reported mention of A4 Directions and discussion on the report on ACVs at last night’s Environment and Public Services Scrutiny Committee at Westminster City Hall that you might like to be aware that our Secretary Paul Charlton has written to Robert Davis recently. We have offered CAMRA's support and help with a possible wide-ranging A4 Direction perhaps emulating the approach taken by the London Borough of Wandsworth. Other LPAs have adopted development policies that explicitly support and promote traditional public houses and other community facilities and hubs.
There's a number of ranging matters that overlap. What is clear is that the current Westminster planning and development policies - though we argued and submitted as you would expect for much more explicit support, and indeed have been deploying these and similar evidence-based arguments for the last decade or more in support of these often local and small businesses, local employers, anchors of the high street, and a key part of reviving and sustaining local economies and neighbourhoods in ways that no amount of up-market residential 're-generation' schemes can.
2. You will know of the egregious example of CTLX and the Carlton Tavern - and there are almost equally unacceptable examples elsewhere.
The Chippenham Hotel, that has been lost as an A4 establishment essentially through a failure to enforce that provided a loophole that claimed lawful use as a retail shop. The change of use was of course a complete charade, and an abuse if not worse of planning law. There was never any intention to pursue once the certificate of lawful use was established. Judging by the site at the rear I'd expect a significant development to be in the works, no doubt being discussed in pre-application advice meetings. These last are not public - tho' you will know that Kensington and Chelsea have said that they will make pre-application advice publicly available.
I wondered if there is any channel in law to set this aside but gather not. Not an error, but an egregious fraud as there was clearly no intention to remain as anything other than a development opportunity, as almost as soon as the certificate of lawful use was obtained that closed. With a large development site also to the rear, CLTX it appears is only biding its time for this large and prominent building and site. Some recent photographs are attached.
Other examples include the Windsor Castle Crawford Place (and though a recent planning application was refused, the planners seemed to be unaware of the City's rather weak policies that do cover public houses); the Brazen Head (several years now in scaffolding and what appears to be a part-abandoned development); the Tudor Rose Blandford Street - a perfectly good public house that saw a demand for a doubling of rent that was not sustainable by a traditional public house - now the interior has been trashed and an attempt to set it up as a wine bar and resto demolishing most of the existing interior.
The Marylebone Association has also been increasingly concerned about the loss of traditional pubs - the Victory BTW appears to have been converted to a pizza joint without planning consent and is subject to an enforcement enquiry - from their recent e-newsletter.
Thank you for reading and your comments are always welcome!
Karen Buck MP
Promoted by Robert Atkinson on behalf of Karen Buck MP at 4G Shirland Mews, Maida Hill, London, W9 3DY. The information used to supply this email is for the use of Karen Buck and will not be passed on to any third party organisation.