Category Archives: News

No more pub crawls along Bell St, NW1

Brazen Head, Bell St on corner of Lisson St, NW1 (Closed for business)

The Preservance Pub, Shroton St, NW1 ( closed with Airbnb lets above )

The Pheonix Pub, Daventry St, NW1 (hostel with bar still operating)

The Old “Blackmans” Pub, Ashmill St on corner with Daventry St, NW1 (converted into residential & offices)

Green Man, Bell St on corner of Edgware Rd, NW1

The Globe Pub, Lisson Grove NW1 ( gone upmarket now! )

Bell Inn, Bell St on corner of Cosway St, NW1 ( now a bar with rooms let above)

When l first moved in Marylebone, l could take a left or right immediately from my front door, or even in front of me of even behind me and there was a pub. So you could easily have a pub crawl without having to go very far on and off Bell Street, NW1. Indeed from my doorstep, you need only go hundred metres or so and you could reach seven pubs. Alas that is now down to two. So what does this all mean?

You could start a pub crawl in the locality with the Blackman’s at the corner of Daventry St and Ashmill St over 10 years ago. Yet it become the first pub that was successfully converted into residential and office space and started the trend of change of use in the pubs on and around Bell St.  You could then go down the street and get your next pint in the Phoenix. This has since become a successful youth hostel though it still have a licence for a bar which a few locals still using it as a waterhole. Coming back on to Bell St, the Green Man on the corner of Edgware Rd is still a going concern, offering hostel accommodation above as well to travellers from around the world. Further up on Bell St the Brazen Head has long gone and was a popular place to watch sporting events. Now its been completely converted into residential with two flats above over the old pub area only just occupied since over the Christmas period. The old Constitution on the corner of Bell St and Cosway St has become more like a bar ( under new management again! ) called the Bell Inn and does a good business letting its flats and rooms above on Airbnb. Which now moves us onto the Perservance on Shroton Street which recently had its planning application of residential conversion turned down.  In recent time it appears the rooms upstairs are rented out on Airbnb while the pub premises lie empty. That is not surprising as the owner of the premises is asking for £70,000 rent annually when the going rate would be some £25,000. And finally we have the Globe opposite the Seashell, which is still operating as a Pub concern but has certainly gone up market with the business now aimed at the weekday trade of French bankers in the neighbourhood from the BNP Paribas HQ in London nearby. This is a far cry from the old stable of footie and the cheapest beer for a mile, which Sean the previous landlord operated when he run the show.   

We have saw a similar trend with pub houses on the other side of Marylebone station, with a public house premises along Linhope Street, where we managed to save it under a listing as a Community Asset, showing how to save your local pub, yet it still lies empty after four years ago when the new owner first pursed a change of use. 

So as we have gone down from seven pubs to two now, on and off Bell St, is this just the sign of the times? Have drinking habits changing forever? In recent time we have had 3 public house conversion proposals only two of which has been approved but the other premise lies empty. What is clear is that the margins made in running pubs are very low, particularly when you operating on your own and not within a huge chain offering cheaper beer costs.  Furthermore the premises usually get higher values as other uses like offices and certainly residential when converted and rented out. So the finances of the once cherished public house have more than anything determined the fate of the local pub.  And finally if we were going to challenge the whole saga, it should have been when the Blackman’s pub on Daventry St & Ashmill St, first put in their application for change of use over 10 years ago. That would have put a stop on pub closures everything else in the locality.  

Contrast in housing over festive break at Paddington Green

The two ends of the housing world can be illustrated well over this Christmas break at Paddington Green. While Crisis at Christmas are putting up 250 rough sleepers at City of Westminster College site over the Christmas break, we have a new launch of properties on an adjoining site of Westmark Tower on “West End Gate”  at prices the vast majority of local residents will certainly not be able to afford. 

Crisis at Christmas will be accommodating up to 250 rough sleepers till the 30th of December in Paddington Green giving them health services like dental and foot care; benefits assistance on top of a bed and food and of course social support. Plenty of the street homeless along the Edgware Rd have made their way to Crisis point of help and assistance. 

All this whilst the “West End Gate” developers undertake a new launch of properties in Westmark Tower at prices the vast majority of local residents will certainly not be able to afford where property prices begin at £935,000 for a one bed flat! And do not forget the hefty annual service charges as well 

Westmark Tower in WEG development

WEG development along the Edgware Road

It’s all a bit like a posh restaurant where the locals can look in but are priced out of eating as the hefty prices keep them well and truly out in the cold!.  So it is with this contrast in developments in Paddington Green. It is two different housing worlds which is not helped as the social housing is cut by nearly half to boost developers’ profits in “West End Gate”. The 200 flat addition to the development should have had 70 ‘affordable’ flats according to Westminster Council’s own rules but the development was waved through with a design with only 32 affordable flats, so depriving local people of 38 new homes. Westminster Council should at least adopt the Mayor of London’s guidance for developments to have at least 35 per cent of genuinely affordable housing. 

What is strange is how both different housing ends of the housing spectrum and rubbing shoulder to shoulder during this festive break at Paddington Green.  At least one is in the christian tradition of the festive break and l will not have to tell you which one! 


What’s in a name? – plenty!

Where is the Gate referred to in the name of the new development going up called West End Gate? Can the Marylebone flyover have been mistaken as a Gate by the developers, given its only a stone throw away from the posh development. Indeed when was a bit of Little Venice on the Edgware Road part of the West End? The developer even claims its in Marylebone when its clearly on the wrong side of the Edgware Rd – its in Paddington. No doubt the unsuspecting international buyer for whom the development is aimed at as an investment, will take the name as red and think it is actually in the West End! 

This instance illustrates well that they is plenty in a name when you are talking about a major development and the market it wants to attract. In light of its implications, the renaming of neighbourhoods should really have a process of approval ideally via the local authority similar to planning consents required for developments. Maybe even making it part of the planning system? Maybe even grounds for the Mayor of London to call in an application, as developers redraw the boundaries of our urban villages and neighbourhoods. 

Indeed this is also happening with the renaming of schools which l attended like Quintin Kynaston Comp and Paddington Green Primary by powerful academies in their attempts to rebrand them. You would have thought that at a time when a lot of attention is being drawn on Paddington from the movie Paddington Bear, the Academy chain would refrain from such a move. Particularly when only a year ago it welcomed the creator of Paddington Bear, Michael Bond to the school! 

So in short, there is plenty in a name. Just ask a developer! 

Is this development “West End Gate” in Marylebone or Paddington? – certainly not in the West End.

Aid is a tool of foreign policy

If nothing else the recent speech of Nikki Haley, US Ambassador at the UN, revealed the reality of aid giving by the developed world to the developing world. Its a tool of their foreign policy. It was made quite clear by her how she expected those who received aid from the US were expected to vote at UNGA deliberation on Jerusalem, just before Christmas.  It was not dissimilar to when George Bush told the world you are either with us or against us after the appalling events of 9/11. In many ways she was a lot more stark by suggesting that the US would note how countries voted on this matter.

The excellent map by tells where US AID monies in 2014 went around the world.

The map above should change the way you think about foreign aid, as it mostly goes to countries that are not poor. Israel for example is the biggest recipient of US Aid, with three times as much as the second highest recipient Egypt in the Middle East. This out of a total US aid budget of $35 billion. It is a very important part of the soft power that superpowers can exert, yet it was exerted      in a very hard and blunt manner by the US Ambassador to the UN. 

How countries actually voted on the draft resolution

Nikki Haley  has gone further by announcing that the United States are negotiating a $285 million cut in the United Nations’ “bloated” budget for next year, from the 22 per cent of UN funding that it contributes across all its activities, including peace keeping activities. It will be interesting to see who makes up the gap. But it certainly leaves an opportunity for other players around the world to take up this opportunity to exert more soft power through the UN system, in the geo-politics of the world. So l suspect that others will not miss this opportunity. 

More concrete mixers over weekends just not on!

Last Saturday afternoon l saw the impact of the huge works into the West End Gate development to local residents around Paddington Green.  As concert mixer after mixer lined up to enter the site by Church St causing noise and dirty roads with the addition of suspended parking for local residents on the main market day for Church St market. 

This is sent to continue into the new year as the developers ask the Council to have more concert mixers going into the site on Saturday afternoon’s in particular. This of course would not be tolerated anyway else in the City of Westminster, as the developer asks for restrictions to be dropped for their works over huge additional inconvienence to local residents over weekends. 

One has to ask why this huge development was given site entrance through Church St in the first place? Annoying many residents in the process when another way into the site existed along Newcastle Place which could have been used for the site works.  Indeed as the Paddington Green Police station is no longer used by the MET,  Newcastle Place could easily of been closed as the sole means of entrance into the building site. Officers need to explain why the present works arrangements on Church St were acceptable over above going alternative routes like via Newcastle Place. 

Trump is gifting Xi Jinping leadership of the World

l could not disagree more with Peter Frankopan analysis in the ES (15th of Dec) that the power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East will determine the shape of global affairs. It’s the struggle between USA & China which matters most and everything else is a sideshow. 
In 2010 the US announced a historic shift in foreign policy – the “pivot to Asia” – turning its strategic orientation from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Concerned that the economic rise of China would prompt a challenge to its position in world affairs, the US declared it was both a Pacific and an Atlantic power and moved to reassert its influence in Asia, particularly the Far East. 
If anything President Trump has accelerated the process of the US losing its global power since the beginning of the year by not signing into trade agreements with Asia countries and not ratifying the Climate Change Paris agreement. This while China makes huge investment in renewable and alternative energy and physical trade links through its Road & Belt programme with the rest of Eurasia. 
So while the US President stokes the flames of war in the Middle East by extending the “war on terror” into a sectarian one on his first visit aboard to Riyadh and saying who he thinks can claim Jerusalem, Chinese President Xi Jinping has  claimed the leadership of world on globalisation and climate change. Xi Jinping is also much more secure at home, and does not have to rely on rants and outbursts via twitter to their home support base. 
A version of this letter has been published by ES as their Letter of the Day today. 

Exploding pavements still an issue in London

Exposed cabling along Warwick Avenue – is this acceptable?

Recently l got a response from the Health & Safety Executive on the number of exploding pavements in London to my Freedom of Interest (FOI) 

When l asked about the matter over two years ago when l was an Assembly Member (AM) at the London Assembly, it was revealed that we had 80 incidents “putting lives at risk” since 2010. Now we hear we have had over 50 similar incidents since 2015 in London along. l did originally asked the private utility that manage the cables under our feet – UK Power Network – for the figures after the  explosion along Oxford St ( which many mistook as a bomb ) in the summer.  But they were not forthcoming and it appears little has been done to make our streets safe for Londoners, literally under our feet since then by them.   

It shows a disregard for health and safety by a private utility company making a lot money out of these contracts. 


Geo-politics of the Rohingya’s plight

The Bangladesh, India, China & Myanmar corridor is foremost on the minds of the Chinese on this border of South & South-East Asia.

While the world has been rallied to the moral and humanitarian case to support the Rohingya’s 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. Not withstanding the grandstanding of the Security Council at the UN, its 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 to 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. 









Rule changes should be called Prideaux Amendments

Unite delegate Niamh O’Brady speaks for the rule changes at London Labour conference passed overwhelmingly!

Surprisingly the rule changes to the London Labour Party have not received much attention in the blogosphere, passed overwhelmingly by delegates welcoming this momentous change in the Party. 

In all we had three rule changes. The first was having the Regional Board elected by one member one vote cross the whole of the Party in London. That is all 150,000 of them! The second was the setting up of a Conference Arrangement Committee (CAC) to organise the next Regional conference. In light of this year’s procedures and issues, this will be very much welcomed. And finally to increase the CLP representatives on the London Regional Board to 14 along GLA constituency boundaries and 14 Trade Union representatives as well.  The former had been something l was advocating for some time verbally and in my blogs last week

All these changes are well over due and welcomed now that the Labour Party in London has more members than the Tories nationally, at some 150,000. 

Now a familiar sight at these Annual Conferences is Francis Prideaux who you can always find outside the conference giving out yellow flyers for more democracy within the Labour Party. Up and till recently he was on the Regional Board representing Central London, so he would have seen first hand the need for these changes. Seeing them through now, its time to acknowledge his tireless campaigning on this front. So l like the idea from Charlie Mansell, to called these rule changes the Prideaux Amendments. After all he has been going on about for a very long time indeed! 

I am sure it will give him a little warm satisfaction that all the campaigning was worth it. 

A Council Estate disappears

The Cricketer’s Estate built by the London Borough of St Marylebone in St John’s Wood must be the first old council estate now wholly owned privately by one individual including the freehold of the land. A sign of this very unusual case of public housing disappearing altogether on the Estate is all the additional security around the boundaries. 

When the great and the good built this Estate through the local council, they could never have imagined this could happen to the housing being provided for its residents in Marylebone in desperate housing need. This is obviously long before Right to Buy came into existence for tenants but what makes this quite incredible is that almost all the leasehold interests are privately now in the hands of one individual. On many Council Estates in Central London, you often find over 50 per cent of the flats and houses are owned by leaseholders but almost completely by one individual via his companies, is very unusual indeed. Furthermore he has managed to obtain the freehold of the land from the Council as well. 

I understand the landlord of the Estate works in the City and has now brought himself another adjacent property to look over his private Estate. Clearly he feels its his manor now! 

This is a unfortunate reflection of our times in housing, particularly in London. 

London Borough of St Marlybone logo on side of Verity House can be seen

Bradman House, St Johns Wood.