Category Archives: News

Geo-politics of Rohingya’s – A Bengali Perspective

While the world has been rallied to the moral and humanitarian case to support the Rohingyas in their flight from ethnic cleansing by the Myanmar state and their plight in Bangladesh, let us not forget the geo-politics of their situation. Notwithstanding the grandstanding of the Security Council at the UN, it is the Chinese Belt & Road initiative and in particular the pivotal place of Bangladesh within the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) corridor that has determined the recent initiative by Chinese. This is one part of the Chinese efforts to rebuild the Old Silk Roads across the whole of Euro Asia land mass, enhancing trade and interactions across the whole of the continent, shifting the central of world economic activity into the heart of Asia, through a process of Easternisation.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a meeting with Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali

This is best illustrated by the rush of the Bangladesh Foreign Secretary to undertake a bilateral agreement with Myanmar for the safe return of the Rohingya’s too Rakhine state, after Bangladesh had been pursuing a multilateral solution through the UN. This happened almost immediately after the Chinese Foreign Secretary Yang Yi came to Dhaka to meet AH Mahmood Ali, the Bangladesh Foreign Secretary.  So you could say the Chinese brokered or at least kick started the bilateral deal.

According to the bilateral agreement we have three-phases  to address the crisis and promote stability. Firstly China has asked Myanmar’s army to restore order by declaring a ceasefire to stem the flood of refugees. In the second stage, China has suggested that both Myanmar and Bangladesh should be encouraged to talk so as to find a feasible approach to settle the issue while the international community should play an active role as well. In the third stage, Wang called upon the international community to help rebuild Rakhine state.

The Chinese Foreign Secretary  can be credited for getting the support for the proposal from Myanmar’s civilian and military leaders as well as the government of Bangladesh, before unveiling the plan. The proposal, if implemented, would pave the way to restoring peace in the region and rehabilitate all the refugees who had fled to Bangladesh and other countries. And while some will maybe cynical about the Chinese involvement given it has not condemn the ethnic cleansing, China at least does have a firm handle over Myanmar because of its economic support. So it can put pressure on the army to stop the further atrocities.  Furthermore, the Chinese $25 billion offer of infrastructural investment based on the corridor to the Bangladesh government already before the Rohingya tragedy would have played very heavily on the minds of officials in Dhaka.

So as the Rohingya refugees situation plays itself out, do not forget that in the background other issues and concerns are foremost in the minds of officials involved in this bilateral deal other than the immediate humanitarian concerns.

Bangladesh Elections

With nearly 700,000 Rohingya’s crossing over into Bangladesh in the past 18 months, fleeing a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar since August last year, the Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina stated quite clearly “….if we can feed 170 million people, we will be able to feed them as well”

With an election looming on the 30th of December, there is no doubt the issue of how to host the Rohingya’s will come up during the election.

As a responsible government, it has opened its border and provided shelter to the forcibly displaced Rohingya’s. By doing so, it has not only saved lives, but also stabilised the entire region by containing the crisis within their border. Bangladesh will of course like to see the Rohingya’s returning to their homes with safety, security and dignity.  Pending their return, Bangladesh will try and address their basic needs.

Now given the scarcity of land and other socio-cultural and environmental impacts, the Bangladesh government is going to relocate Rohingya’s to a newly developed island, Bhashan Char, where they would have better living conditions and livelihood opportunities. These plans to put them on this island in the Bay of Bengal have proven popular amongst the Bengali electorate, though not necessarily globally, while we hear stories allegedly of more than 200,000 Rohingya’s have been able to hold Bangladeshi passports by corrupt means have somewhat shocked the Bangladeshi electorate.

The Bangladeshi PM at a recent UN Conference on Global Compact on Refugees reiterated that the Rohingya crisis has originated in Myanmar and the solution has to be found there. So Bangladesh would like to see the Rohingya’s returning to their homes with safety, security and dignity but pending their return, Bangladesh will try to address their basic needs.

DIY blue plaques please

l am glad to hear of the suggestion to Paint the Town blue with women’s plaques by Dame Judi ( 21st November 2018 ) but you need not just do it via English Heritage.  You can do it yourself as we did along our street in a bit of NW1 where Joe Strummer wrote his best songs in a squat in the late 1970s during the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the birth of Punk in London a few years ago.  
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l say this as I am not sure we would have got through English Heritage procedures for a blue plaque for legendary song writer Jo Strummer of the Clash. We also do not just want blue plaque’s only n the posh postcodes of London! 

On the buses in Paddington

Are we to see the last of No 23 going to Paddington from the West End?

With the pedestrianisation of Oxford St stopped by the council and Cross rail delayed for more than a year, TfL can concentrate on getting their proposed changes for users in Central London right.

The 23 route changes mean passengers from Bayswater can still take the bus to Marble Arch but no further into the West End, as it turns around heads to Hammersmith instead. So getting rid of the need of the 10 bus route altogether!

94 bus route along the Bayswater Road changes will mean less of a service during the day between Marble Arch and Piccadilly though not to the night service once minor changes in the road are made.

And finally the 98 – the only bus route with electric double decker buses courtesy of the Chinese – will have its route along Oxford St dropped altogether after going up and down the Edgware Rd.

Although In all these changes l have to be convinced the disabled and mobility impaired concerns have been taken on board, so l expect Transport for All to have a good look at it all.

So Marble Arch looks destined to be the new hub where folk from Paddington make their changes on the bus. All this looks strangely in keeping with the Council’s new proposal for Oxford St to only have 4 bus routes going down it, with zero-emission buses only. Thats why it makes sense to let the 98 bus continue down Oxford St given its the only electric double decker bus route and thus comply at least with the Council requirements.  

But we should not forget that we having a four year fare freeze in London on the buses and the hoppers bus fare allows us one hour unlimited switching between buses for £1.50. Both of which have proven popular to bus users and should make the changes easier to accept.

As for timing of it all, l would not be surprised if the Cross rail works are not complete before the next Mayoral contest, giving TfL even more time to get these changes right.

Please make your views clear to TfL on this link

Going empty in Westminster

While some Councils in London like RBKC want more powers to get empty homes back in use to house social tenants and acknowledge some 621 long term empties within its boundaries (empty for over 2 years), other boroughs like Westminster City Council are in denial about this issue. They only acknowledge some 155 long term empty homes in their borough!  As an adjoining much bigger West Central borough to RBKC, you would expect their figure to be much higher than the figure of 621 and certainly not as low as 155. As a result properties like 70-76 Bell St NW1 can lie empty for years and came to the notice of locals but certainly not the council.  
There is clearly a need for some consistency across the boroughs in London on putting some energy behind the blight of empty homes in London but do not expect Westminster City Council to take the lead.
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Furthermore RBKC chase their large empty property owners unlike City of Westminster who can’t be bothered. 51 Palace Court, W2 has been lying empty since 2012 according to some local residents. 

Holiday Inn redevelopment raises skyline issues across London

While Towers are going up in City of London ( check out the Principal Tower ), it was good to see RBKC overturn an application for two Towers to replace the Forum Holiday Inn on the Cromwell Road last Thursday night in a marathon session that lasted over 6 hours!!! 

Forum Holiday Inn hotel hangs over South Kensington


It is one of the Towers that sticks out like a sore thump in the West Central London skyline for many years and had a planning application (PP/18/03461) to replaced it by a taller and bigger set of two Towers. On massing and height grounds alone it was objectionable. It would have been a 100 per cent increase in volume of the hotel building as it hang over the neighbourhood of six storey Victorian houses with wide streets, quite out of character from the rest of the neighbourhood.  Lets also not forget the loss of light and air as well to adjoining neighbours. Not surprisingly the council received hundreds of objections to the proposed scheme on these grounds alone. 

The developers made a big deal of the Garden Square being retained but this is a legal requirement for them anyway and the proposed footprint of their scheme would have taken over 50 per cent of the overall plot from the 30 odd per cent presently. So plenty was being packed into the site to retain the square by the developers.  

So while l congratulate the councillors for throwing out the application after it was given an Officers recommendation to approval, l suspect this one will come back again. If only because the developers think it complies with the requirements of the London Plan as the constant reference to the GLA during their presentation made clear. 

This while the report to the Councillors stated quite clearly  ” ..the scheme doesn’t comply with the London Plan and draft London Plan but possible remedies could address these deficiencies” from the stage 1 response from the GLA. I suspect we will see a lot of focus on those remedies right now during the 14 days when the Mayor can take over the case.  So watch this space, quite literally. 





Flats above the Tube not new idea

Flats over the station is not a new idea at all as the Evening Standard’s headlines and editorial would suggest last week. You only have to look above Baker St tube station and see that Chiltern Court (180 flats) was built when redeveloping Baker St and completed in 1929. 

When the Bakerloo tube line was extended North of Paddington over a century ago, tube stations like Maida Vale were in fact designed for “over station development” by local architect Leslie Green. Some were developed later like above the old tube station at Hyde Park corner. So developing above the tube station is not new. Incredibly we stop doing housing developments above tubes since those days till now!  

Worst housing in Westminster?

Miles Buildings plaque, NW1 in 1968

Penfold Place, NW1 in 1968

Looking North between the blocks of Miles Building, NW1 in 1968

Recently the BBC broadcasted  Contract – Marble Arch to Edgware where the “poet & hack” John Betjeman ( Poet Laureate of the UK 1972-1984 ) goes down the Edgware Rd during the late sixties, highlighting the dismal damp squalor of Miles Buildings, with clearly a slum landlord running it all. Incredibly things have not much changed 50 years after he first pointed out the buildings in his broadcast. It shows some of the worst housing in Central London if not least in the City of Westminster, in 1968 and l am sorry to say it is much the same fifty years afterwards.  

Like myself he had picked up on the despairing sight of these tenement blocks. What caught my eye was how little had changed since 1968 to Miles Building and its clear it has been largely ignored in the interim years by the authorities, the local council the GLC and all other housing authorities.  I understand one family owns much of this overcrowded slump housing. 

Along Penfold Place, NW1, just off Edgware Rd and opposite Paddington Green Police Station these old tenement blocks date back over a hundred years ago and were built by the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company.  They were clearly trying to improve housing locally in the squalor of Marylebone. But something clearly happened to change the ownership of the blocks and down hill it went very quickly by the looks of it. At that point it appears the buildings were left to rot into their damp squalor. 

So l ask can anyone else point to any worse housing in Central London?  I certainly can not. As for regeneration in Church Street Ward where these blocks find themselves in – Miles Buildings does not get a look in!!!!! And have not done for over fifty years now.  It must be time to redress this particularly when it will soon live under the shadow of the West End Gate development on the other side of the Edgware Rd.  These blocks should at least be upgraded to building standards of today. 


Miles Building plaque, NW1 in 2018


Penfold Place, NW1 in 2018

Between the Miles Building blocks looking North in 2018





Pet Rescues in London

Last week we saw two pet rescues in London – one of a terrier in Maida Vale and a parrot in Edmonton – much to the relief of their pet owners.  Which makes we wonder how many times the London Fire Brigade is asked to help out in these cases annually.  At two a week, it could be over a hundred times a year! 

In the first instance, worried owners or members of the public should call the RSPCA on 03001234 999. They can then make some sort of assessment whether the Fire Services are need to help at all. 

But let us be clear, long may these pert rescues continue with the RSPCA working with the London Fire Brigade in London though it would be useful to know the extent of it. 


What rank hypocrisy from Boris Johnson

I bet you Boris Johnson did not raise burka concerns when Foreign Secretary at the Foreign Office when kowtowing with the Saudi’s! Certainly not while he was Mayor of London.  So it is clear he has only taken this position to help become the leader the of the Tories and become the PM. What humbug from him.