Category Archives: News

Ghost of Redcliffe Line returns

With the Indian states attempt to exclude 4 million in Assamit makes you wonder about how the ghost of the Radcliffe line still hangs over the area. The line was drawn and subsequently become the boundaries in the North-East of Indian sub-continent based on religion in 1947 between East Bengal (Pakistan) and India which are clearly still been contested over 70 years after the events.

In the map above Karimganj would be the blue portion of Sylhet after the red line on the border of Assam.

So if we are going to get four millions residents crossing the border, l say in jest we want Karimganj back as well!  This was the part of Sylhet which opted out of India into East Bengal yet had not been transferred to East Bengal ( Pakistan ) after independence and has been a bone of contention ever since for some in Sylhet and Bangladesh. After all the residents of Karimganj did vote to go into East Bengal in the Sylhet referendum of 1947 but found themselves in India after independence & partition. Now that would be something indeed.  This botched handover was also highlighted by the number of enclaves we had both within India and East Bengal of Pakistan which has only recently been sorted out by the Bangladesh and Indian respective governments in 2015 and has referred to as the the world’s craziest border. 

Given we only recently got the enclaves of Bangladesh in India and visa versa sorted out, maybe this should be the next thing to sort out is Karimganj as it may well come to light in the present circumstances.  

Enclaves swaps only done in 2015 on Indian & Bangladesh border



No sleeping on building sites

Thank you Westminster Extra for highlighting on your front page the case of workers sleeping on site in NW8 where the Heath & Safety Executive issued prohibition notices after checking up on the site.

Having seen this and many other cases, l suspect the issue of construction workers living on their building site, is more widespread than is acknowledged particularly in London and legal action needs to be taken by the authorities  to stop the problem increasing.  
So l suspect this problem is much more wide spread then is acknowledged. If you see something on a building site that you think is breaking health and safety law and is likely to cause serious harm, you can report it. 
The quickest way to report a problem is to use the Health & Safety Executive (HSE)  online form and when you submit it you will get an acknowledgement  If you can’t use the form, you can phone them on 0300 003 1647 and they will fill in the form with you. The lines are open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5pm (on Wednesdays the HSE are open from 10am to 5pm). 
So keep your eyes peeled on this front, and report it. 
We do not want construction workers sleeping on building sites like in others parts of the world and go backwards on hard fought health and safety laws.  

Exploding Pavements in London – Update

Londoners should feel safe and secure when walking the streets of London from anything happening from under their feet but alas this is not the case with an increase in pavement explosions. 

From a FOI request l made to the HSE it was been established that since 2015 the incidents of pavement explosions have increased. We have had just over 50 incidents in London over the two years since August 2015 while we had just over 80 between 2010-2015! A clear increase of incidences.

UKPowerNetworks didn’t respond when l asked them originally after Oxford St incident last summer, so l went to the HSE.  The results explain why not. The number of incidents have actually gone up and its only a matter time before we have a serious injury. 
In 2015 when l first asked about the exploding pavement issue, it was mostly a Central London problem in places like NW1,SW1,WC1 etc. Not surprisingly it is where the cables under the pavements are most intensively used and with the on set of plug in points for electric cars more so probably.
This is best illustrated with the exposed cables along Warwick Avenue, W9 as shown above. Clearly these exposed telecommunications cables should be covered immediately yet since l reported them at the beginning of the year to BT, we have yet to see the works undertaken to make sure thats the public are safe and secure when walking along the avenue.  

So far yet so near – Local Elections 2018, City of Westminster

The Local Election 2018 in Little Venice Ward of the City of Westminster was certainly one to watch on the night of the count, as had we taken all 3 seats there, we would have in all certainty taken control of the Council.  So we made a huge effort in the ward which helped us cover very blade of grass since the beginning of the year but unfortunately it was not enough in Little Venice to see myself, Sue Wolff and Iman Less elected as councillors. We increased the Labour vote from 2014 by around 60 per cent but it was not enough. Not really surprising as l  saw Tory voters turn up in their Rolls Royce at Lanark Rd polling station very early in the morning! 

What you won’t hear is that the result across the whole of the City of Westminster were better than the 4 new seats we have gained in Maida Vale (2); West End (1) & Bayswater (1) would suggest. As Britain Elects shows clearly below the Labour vote went up by 7 per cent and there was only a few percentage points between us and the Tories. We reckon across the whole borough there was 21,837 Tory voters while we had 20,803 Labour voters. Thats just over a thousand voters! And also suggests we need to look at the electoral college of councillors, as its quite clear it is easier to elect councillors in a ward like Knightsbridge & Belgravia in comparison to wards in the very North of the City. Almost suggesting we have a rigged electoral college of councillors because of the boundaries of the ward. So bring on a boundary review as soon as possible. 

Nevertheless, we intend to continue campaigning and fighting on issues of concern for our residents and communities in Little Venice. So do keep in touch with us on issues and concerns you have in our neighbourhood.

A version of this blog can be found as a letter in the latest  Westminster Extra

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. 

Tree pit gate scandal in Little Venice

The choice for residents – red for tree pits?

The choice for residents – white for the tree pits?

An astonishing £ 57,000 worth of tree pit works – the hole in the ground in which a tree is planted – is being undertaken along Warrington Crescent & Sutherland Avenue, W9 through council ward budgets priorities of the local councillors in Little Venice Ward. One has to ask if this was value for money; were other options investigated and could the money have been better spent on other ward priorities.

Some locals have commented that the costs involved per tree make this a very expensive enterprise. With about 100 pits, it comes out as over £500 per tree pit! One estimate obtained by a local resident suggests it could have been done for £11,000 including installation ( 100 pits, 1 sq metre each, depth of 40mm, brown & 20 m apart ) , as a two day job with six man crew. A marble or glass finish (not brown) would of course be dearer but could have been included. And there could be extras if the site is difficult to access. So clearly Conway are having a laugh with this £57,000 quote for the tree pits. Others go further and suggest that we could have got the local garden centre, Clifton Nurseries to offer better options and probably cheaper as well as a local supplier. 

In their local consultation with local residents the choice was between whether the tree pit works were done in red or white. So nothing else was offered other than this colour choice to local residents. Other options like for example doing some guerrilla gardening at the bottom of the tree as has been done along Warwick Avenue were not offered or investigated. Something that would certainly appeal to those more environmental concerned with such matters in the neighbourhood. 

As for other priorities, clearly with the murder of a local resident along St Mary’s Terrace  at the end of last year, concerns have been raised about the lighting along St Mary’s churchyard passage. Paying for better lighting and CCTV coverage at this location all residents of Little Venice go through would have been a better use of these scare financial resources. 

So the tree pit gate scandal illustrates well our sitting councillors in Little Venice priorities when other alternatives existed at probably far lower costs and measures against the fear of crime and making people feel secure in the neighbourhood were not considered at all. l’m just fed up with being lectured about procurement and efficiency by the Council who have rings run round them by contractors. 

“Guerrilla gardening” along Warwick Avenue – much better alternative to tree pit works!

Koreans are right to aspire for unification

Browen Maddox’s comment article in the ES ” Is North Korea really coming in from the cold in the Olympics” is patronising. If the Germans and Vietnamese can come together after recent major conflicts, why can’t Koreans? Should reunification not be a legitimate aspiration for them since their peninsula was divided in the fifties?

At an air pollution conference, l attended in Busan in 2016, the issue of reunification came up a number of times, suggesting to me it is a clear ambition of South Koreans. So the rapprochment between North & South Koreans has more emotional capital than Donald Trump’s concern about the US losing influence in the region.

The coming together of the North & South Korean Olympic teams under one flag in the opening ceremony was telling in itself. IF this signals the start of the end of a long era of American dominance, Koreans may feel it is no bad thing.

A copy of this blog was printed as a letter in the Evening Standard letters page on the 13th of Feb. 


Where’s the centre of secret property ownership in UK?

Global Witness this week told us about the levels of properties owned by secret property companies registered in tax havens throughout the UK and guess where the centre of it all is? Yes right in the heart of London, the City of Westminster, with over 10,000 properties out of the 85,000 in the whole country. Private Eye did a similar exercise for us a few years back when the levels were at much the same levels. 

For a residential housing market to operate well, we need perfect information in that market. We certainly do not have this in City of Westminster as with this level of concentrated secret property ownership we certainly have all the adverse impacts like properties lying empty for years. All  ultimately acting to price locals out of the housing market.

The recent Sunday night  BBC drama McMafia  is raising awareness of corruption and global crime allegedly amongst the Russian oligarchs based in London, with officials threatening to use the “full force of government” to be brought to bear on foreign criminals and corrupt politicians who use Britain as a haven. Officials will use new unexplained wealth orders (UWOs) – which came into effect this week – to seize suspicious assets and hold until they have been properly accounted for. Lets see what actually gets done. 

Funnily enough the last CEO of Westminster City Council left to take up role as CEO & Head of Civil Service for British Crown Dependency of the State of Jersey.  Now normally the leaving of CEO from a local authority does not arouse any eye brows but if one is going from the City of Westminster to the States of Jersey, when the City of Westminster has the biggest concentration of properties owned by off-shore companies registered in places like the British Crown Dependencies, it just may do so. 

Does Central London need any more petrol stations?

Lyons Place development petrol station along Edgware Rd

With the death of the petrol station in Central London, why is Westminster City Council insisting to keeping them particularly when residents around them do not want them?
It s not just been an issue in Dorset House above the old petrol station on the corner of Gloucester Place & Marylebone Rd, NW1 but also has been one on new development proposals like that along Cleveland St & Clipstone Mews  to the residents of Holcroft Court resident. Incredibly in the later the Council insisted on a petrol station being part of this development in the planning brief and in the former residents had fire disaster fears over the petrol station. 
The one that appears to actually being built out is along the Edgware Rd in the new Lyons Place development. Now on part of the site there was a petrol station and garage which lied empty for many years but losing one would not be any loss as we have two nearby, including one virtually across the other side of the Edgware Rd and the other on the junction of Sutherland Avenue & Maida Vale a Tesco 24 hour supermarket with a petrol station. 
This is even more galling as car ownership has been dropping in Central London wards dramatically since the beginning of the century and the rise of electric cars requires a different  type of infrastructure altogether with more demand for plug-in points in London. Can we not expect the council to acknowledge the concerns of residents when retaining petrol stations and move with the times with a presumption against anymore petrol stations remaining in City of Westminster with vehicle moving away from petrol.    

Council want to retain old petrol station under Dorset House on Marylebone Rd – why?

Why was there inclusion of a new petrol filling station in the narrow Clipstone Mews in proposed development along 87-125 Cleveland St?


Standing with the people of AFRIN

Last weekend we saw the Kurds of London on the streets of London protesting against the incursion of the Turkish into Afrin, as they stand in solidarity with the people of Afrin and said no to war. This had the feel of when the Tamils of London went out on to the streets as the Sri Lankan army tried to push the Tamils into the Indian Ocean around 5 years ago. 

Jeremy Corbyn, a regular over the years at such mass protests was not able to make it but sent the following statement: 

“I send my solidarity to the Kurdish people of Syria and all over the world facing attacks on them as a people and on their identity. 

What is urgently needed in Syria is a ceasefire, de-escalation and a negotiated political solution, which must include the Kurdish people, not further escalation and interventions in a conflict that has already led to huge numbers of deaths and refugees. 

Multiple interventions by outside powers in the Syrian war have increased the suffering and destruction and intensified tensions in the region and must end. 

Turkey’s air and ground assault in the Afrin region is already causing civilian casualties, including among refugees who have fled other parts of Syria. 

The British government has failed to consistently oppose foreign interventions in Syria and is itself involved in the US led bombing campaign. 

We have a moral obligation instead to throw our weight behind pressure for a lasting peace and political settlement in Syria, including the withdrawal of all foreign forces engaged in the conflict. ” 

Unfortunately Turkey under Erdoğan is hell bent to pursue this military intervention into Syria, so we will rightly see more protests against their actions by the Kurds of London in the coming months.