Category Archives: Featured

Birds of a feather in Central London

Parakeets taking the high ground while pigeons back down

In recent times it has become not unusual to see seagulls and parakeets in the sky’s of Central London feeding off the goodies available.

In Hyde Park when people offer bird food, more often then not you’ll see parakeets taking up the offerings while pigeons give up ground to them. While in the street market of Westminster, we have seagulls looking for the fish cuttings from fishmongers stalls. It also appears both the seagulls and parakeets are permanently here to stay as you see them throughout the year at these stops for them in Central London. So they are clearly not just migrating birds but ones that have adapted to the urban landscape and clearly there are more rich pickings here in the City.

So when l hear seagulls screeching in the morning near my home, l wonder to myself whether we should start calling them city gulls instead! And now that parakeets seems to have top spot amongst the birds in the Royal parks, maybe we should start acknowledging how these birds have adapted around human life in the urban settings of Central London. 

And l am sure we have other types of birds adapting to our urban surroundings in Greater London.

seagulls looking for fish cutting in local street markets

Ruined skyline of Little Venice

With the Brunel Building & Dudley Tower going up in Paddington Basin, it is becoming quite apparent what the visual impact is going to be in Little Venice. 

Dudley Tower & Brunel Building going up on North Wharf Rd, Paddington Basin

The Towers going up against the background of Ladbroke arm of Little Venice canals

Dudley Tower & Brunel Building going up over top end of Warwick Avenue


It is all very well Cllr Daniel Astaire talking about .”…growth needn’t necessarily mean tall buildings” in the ‘Taller buildings’ debate in last week’s Westminster Extra ( 23rd Feb 2018 ) but he neglects the reality of Dudley Tower and Brunel Buildings in Paddington Basin going up right now and ruining the skyline view over Little Venice. What is visible  now is only the lift tower and tuis only a fraction of what will be built with a bland semi industrial aesthetic  cladding, approved as a ‘non material alteration’ under delegated powers. These are  not just big, they’re ugly. So too are the the clumsy dark brick clad buildings along Harrow Road and South Wharf Road,  now towering over the Georgian gem of St Marys Church , Paddington Green. We agree with the words of Rohan Silva (Evening Standard 13 January 2018) “Now is the time to put a stop to the low quality, generic and outright terrible buildings that are blighting our city. It’s not just a question of aesthetics-its about economics too.

When planning permission was given for the Brunel Building, condition 5 referred to the visual impact yet when it was submitted very little could be ascertained from certainly the elevation drawings submitted. Furthermore the view analysis of Dudley Tower when planning was granted does not do justice to its actual visual impact on Little Venice pool, particularly when it was turned from a 7 storey to a 22 storey building.

Little Venice residents were not  consulted since they live outside the ward boundary but suffer the impact on their visual amenity. So Cllr Daniel Astaire, who is to blame for the skyline of Little Venice being ruined ? 

A Labour administration at City Hall after the 3rd of May will make sure;

  •      Residents have the right to speak at Planning committee meetings to present their case.             Westminster is virtually alone amongst local authorities in preventing residents from doing           so. Residents in the wider community are consulted. 
  •      Providing more information explaining how the planning system works, including jargon               busting, to help residents find the relevant information that explain what is being proposed         for their area and have their say.
  •      Establishing a ‘Design Panel for Westminster’ to allow professional  architects,                               conservationists, and other experts and interested residents to give external advice to                 planning committees on design aspects of major planning proposals.
  •      Creating a new Strategic Projects Planning committee with a larger than normal                           membership to prevent major applications being dominated  by the whims of over-powerful         individual councillors such as Tory Deputy Leader Cllr Robert Davis.

If residents want a decisive change in planning in our City, only voting Labour on the 3rd of May can make a difference.

New developments going up against the tree line of Paddington Green

A version of this blog was been published in the letters page of Westminster Extra on 2nd March 2018. 

Garden Bridge – A bridge to far for London?

A full investigation is required to find out why so much public money was wasted and make sure it never happens again but while the Garden Bridge is dead in the water, the need for bridges in East London is set to continue.

Assymetry of London Bridges across the Thames in Greater London

Let us be quite clear London needs more bridges. You just have to look at the movement of cars from South East London into Central London via Blackwall or Rotherhithe tunnel and you can appreciate it. Just as critically it is also needed to stem the isolation of places like Thamesmead, a town created within London by the GLC.

But any new bridge in London needs to be East of Tower Bridge linking East London with South-East London but certainly not in Central or in West London where you can be going on & off the bridges by car and you lose any sense of which side of London you are actually on!

Indeed at the end of Ken Livingstone time at City Hall, we had a proposed Thames Gateway Bridge linking Beckton in East London with the remote area of Thamesmead and putting them on the map for the first time. But this half a billion project immediately died a death with Boris Johnson new administration even though it had all the approvals to let the contract and would have been operational in 2013.

Little was heard of bridge proposals in the rest of Boris Johnson time till the Garden Bridge came up towards the end of his second term at City Hall. With a concerted media campaign and influential backers like the Chancellor of Exchequer of the day Gideon ( George ) Osborne it suddenly drew a lot of attention not dissimilar to other projects like the Emirate cable cars and Arcelormittal Orbit slide which caught the eye of the Mayor. Illustrating well again Boris Johnson as Mayor of London complete incompetence to strategically look at London while pursuing media generated hyped projects at huge expense to the public purse.

Not only did they want tens of millions subsidy for the construction of the Garden Bridge but they also tried to get the running costs of the bridge subsided by public purse and Westminster council did well to put a stop to it, as owners of the landing at the Temple.

The Garden Bridge ultimately was completely in the wrong place, essentially a tourist attraction and was not adding to the transport infrastructure of London, so it did not warrant any public monies. So quite how Transport for London (TfL) signed up to it, is beyond me and they do need to explain themselves. Along with their senior staff, we should also add all the construction consultants from firms like Arup who appear to have been paid handsomely for professional services which has not produced anything at all for the public realm.

How a pair of Bullingdon Club boys wasted tens of million pounds public money for their pet projects the Garden Bridge is beyond many while in public office needs through investigating as well. Also, l dare say Joanna Lumley role in it all needs looking into as well. She appears to cast a spell on politicians particularly those who she’s had on sitting on her knees! It all adds to the feel that some can get away with murder or at least spending our money without accounting for themselves. Heads must roll but I doubt it will with them.

So while an investigative inquiry is imperative, let us not allow the final legacy of the Garden Bridge to be the death of any other bridge proposals across the Thames, as we will no doubt need them. Oddly enough TfL at the end of Boris’s time returned to bridge proposals in East London.

A version of this blog has also been published in Westminster Extra this week.