London night-life economy up for review

City of Westminster is at the heart of London’s night-time economy and thus its hospitality and entertainment sector, with some 3,700 venues licensed. Its present policy is up for review and it needs to have one in place by the 6th of January 2021. 

So l respond to their Consultation Survey on Sunday before the end of the consultation. 

I welcomed the inclusion requirements as a step forward not only for the Council to discharge its Equality Act responsibilities but stopping some of the exclusion activities of establishments highlighted by the media in recent times. 

The renewed more subtle emphasis on the prevention of crime and disorder; promoting public safety and the prevention of public nuisance will be welcomed by all living in the City of Westminster. And also the presumption to refuse licensing applications in Cumulative Impact Zones. Though l do think they should not remove these zones along the Edgware Rd and Queensway, Bayswater while the state of the Central London economy is in such difficulty in light of the pandemic. So not surprising l think more emphasis needs to be placed on protecting jobs and the West End economy in the review and something l am sure the Mayor of London will be saying as well.  

In recent months we have seen the pandemic impact on this critical part of the London economy.  I have implored the Government to find a way to support the small businesses who are still falling through the gaps of their economic support, particularly the small and medium size enterprises in the night time economy. 

It has been positive to see the Chancellor recently refine components of his Winter Economic Plan, responding to some of the concerns raised by the business community. However, while these changes are welcome, we have already seen a large number of jobs unnecessarily lost in the capital due to the Government’s previous missteps and failure to act early enough. 

When we come out of this lockdown, London and other parts of the country will probably move into Tier 2 restrictions, continuing the prohibiting of household mixing in indoor spaces. But can l make a plea in the lead up to Christmas, that the Government’s previous 10pm curfew policy be dropped.  

The 10pm curfew would allow more sittings of single households in restaurants throughout the evening, helping venues with cashflow at a time when they need all the support they can get. If anything the push to get out of the pubs at 10 pm and then on public transport is where we have the biggest risk of transmission of the virus. So the Prime Minister needs to call time on this pointless curfew. 

Finally, it has been positive to see Westminster City Council decide to scrap its proposals to charge hospitality venues to use pavement space. This would have been a hugely misguided policy, adding unnecessary strain on struggling businesses. So lets not see this proposal again during the Christmas break! 

Spot light on Police conduct in W9 & W10

Some suggest things have not changed much in W9 & W10 since these days 50 years ago

In light of two police conduct investigations by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), the spot light has been put on the Metropolitan Police activities recently in W9 and W10. More so, with the release of Mangrove 9 film highlighting well what the Met were up to in the same neighbourhood some 50 years ago. Some have suggest nothing much has changed. 

Two disturbing policing incidents in the neighbourhood l grew up recently have raised questions of how the Police go about their business in the locality. The first was the stop and search of Bianca Williams  in her car, along with her partner and child along Lanhill Rd, W9. Thankfully it was videoed recorded on a mobile, so we can at least see some of the sequence of events. Saying this the elite athletic couple want the investigation to deal their racism allegations rather than just potential misconduct of the five officers involved in the case for a much more serious gross misconduct investigation. The couple are considering boycotting the investigation. 

The second incident are in many ways far more serious one arises after News night journalist – Richard Watson – highlighted the neglect of investigation into racist attack to three black women along Kilburn Lane, W10 last Christmas. For nearly two weeks after the attack officers failed to recover CCTV or take witness statements, even from the victims. The three women feel the police made racist assumptions about them and this hampered the investigation. The probe into the crime was closed in April, but the Met reopened it last month following News night investigation. The IOPC is also investigating the officers for their conduct but it is not sure on what grounds. 

The location of both these incidents are not more than 10-15 mins by foot. 

All this makes the televising of the Mangrove 9 movie drama this coming weekend on BBC all the more intriguing, as it not recalls an important bit of history for the black community in London and the UK but also for the locality, 50 years ago. The Mangrove Restaurant was repeatedly raided by the police, on grounds of drug possession, despite a lack of evidence. The nine were acquitted twice with the trial being highly significant in that it was the first judicial acknowledgement of racial prejudice in the Metropolitan Police. So not surprisingly some are suggesting what has changed at all in the locality. 

UK response to the Rohingyas crisis

At this mornings Westminster Hall discussion at the House Commons on #Rohingya humanitarian crisis & effect of COVID19 pandemic we got the latest update on the efforts of the British government.

Interestingly Jeremy Corbyn MP also raised why 140,000 gowns were obtained from Myanmar when it stands accused of ethnic cleansing the Rohingyas by the UN. Should we really be trading with them at all? Now it is good to hear that since we have had the crisis of the Rohinyas refugees in Bangladesh for the past 3 years, the UK has been a major donor of funds to support them in their plight in the camps ( $300 million ), from the FCDO Minister Nigel Adams MP. But what on earth were we doing getting 140,000 PPE gowns from Myanmar in April during the first lockdown, from a regime the UN suspects of ethnic cleansing? It makes you wonder if anything more had been supplied from Myanmar since 20th of April when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP announced at a COVID Conference that the UK had received these garments.

Furthermore, such PPE supplies could easily have been supplied from Dhaka’s garment industry who have yet to recover from the withdrawal of British companies from their contract commitments at the beginning of the lockdown. It would be useful for the UK government to be seen at least compensating the garment industry of Bangladesh for the behaviour of the British firms. 

So l look forward to seeing the response from the Minister on this matter, as he agreed he would respond to this question. As rather than adding Aung Sang Sue Kyi to the sanctions list against Myanmar officials involved in the ethnic cleansing, we need to get to the bottom of this one first. 

Cladding scandal in Paddington

Whilst the victims’ families seek justice at the Grenfell Inquiry on Bishop Bridge Rd,
W2, we are also in the midst of a wider cladding scandal across London. This is
causing a significant amount of stress and discomfort to many Londoners as many
can’t move or re-mortgage their properties, with annual insurance bills hitting the

A case in point in Paddington is the M&M Buildings on Hermitage St W2, just around the corner from the Grenfell Inquiry itself, where the residents discovered they had ACM panelling and were landed with full liability for the remedial works by their freeholder. This has already cost residents £40,000 per flat and huge raises in their annual building insurance premiums. Whilst they will now receive some remediation grants from the Government, the whole sorry saga does shed light well on the nature of the relationship between leaseholders and freeholders in England. This all makes for a compelling argument for common hold as in Scotland. 

So as the scaffolding goes up on the M&M Building in Paddington, with the commencement of the remediation works to the ACM cladding, do keep an eye on this development. The freeholder is already attempting to sell another phrase of residential flats very nearby by marketing their new development to those stuck in a flammable building and paying out £7.5 million to remediate the cladding and 3.5 years of misery so far! And then the freeholder has the gall to market their new development to those struck in this horrendous situation. So watch this space on this one.  

One Hyde Park – High Maintenance & very low tax!

I see people are astonished at the service charges on One Hyde Park apartment at £55,000 a year from the response in the letter pages ( FT Weekend Sept 12 ).  It makes me wonder, if residents are prepared to pay those kind of amounts for service charges maybe they will be prepared to pay a lot more council taxes as well?

In local tax terms, these apartments would have come under Band H in the City of Westminster, where the Council Tax charge for the 2020/21 year will have been just £1,560.53. That is a staggering 35 times more is spent on paying for their servicing than contributing to the local taxes of councils for their public services across London and the City of Westminster.

The previous leader of the Council tried to get them to increase their council tax contributions voluntarily but this only raised just over £400,000.  This when the council aimed to raise £2.75 million from the £10 million plus homes in the borough, and wrote to over 15,000 homes for an extra £833 a year. In the end only 500 properties made the additional voluntary contribution. So clearly the council could only go so far as the present legislation permitted them.   

In light of the state of the local government finances in London in response to COVID19 crisis and austerity anyway, it is not time councils have the powers to raise larger council taxes receipts from such properties. This critically needs to be put in place for the next financial year 2021/22 to not only help the finances of London government but more importantly fund the public services that all Londoners depend on critically during the COVID19 crisis.

I do not think it is a big ask for those in One Hyde Park and other prime properties in London to make that a bigger contribution in our time of desperate need.  

A shorter version of the blog has appeared as a letter in the FT Letter pages of the 18th of September. 

Crossing Chelsea bridge?

Many people have told me of the traffic difficulties getting onto the Chelsea Bridge from the Grosvenor Rd, so l decided to go and pay a trip down to this part of Central London.

So please see attached video during peak time yesterday on the way back home across Chelsea Bridge on a Friday night.

I  didn’t see a problem turning left into Chelsea Bridge way along Grosvenor Rd (East to West) or right from the other way but clearly congested problem will exist till Vauxhall Bridge is repaired by the 18th of November.

Nor did l see a problem of Traffic going up Lupus St, SW1. Not sure why, but if anything there was a lot of traffic coming on to the Grosvenor Rd down Lupus St. Personally I would avoid the junction at all costs.  

The busiest road by far was the road leading down from Sloane Sq to the Bridge along Chelsea Bridge Road. If there was a problem, it was the road sign point to Hammersmith & Earls Court being South the River!!!!! I don’t suppose TfL can swing the sign around again in the right direction! 

So while l can not see a solution to the heavy traffic immediately towards the bridge till the 18th of November, l await a response from TfL on the road sign. 


my nearest functionally pub the Globe on Lisson Grove.

Loss of public houses continues further under COVID19 crisis


In my part of Marylebone we have seen the loss of a number of public houses particularly to residential usage in the last seven years. It appears COVID19 crisis is further pushing this trend as landlords push rents when those running the pubs have not had the customers normally at the local pub coming out of lockdown yet alone during the lockdown itself. 

Take for example, my nearest functionally pub the Globe on Lisson Grove. Its landlord has not been clear at all of what is going to happen with their commercial rents as the economy comes into the recovery phase of lockdown. This while it is clear that the the pub has value if turned into residential like many other old pubs in the neighbourhood like the Perservance and Brazen Head.

In one case over 30 people locally decided to form a group to nominate the Linhope Street Public House (Swan & Edgar Public House, formerly known as the Feathers Public House) for listing as an Asset of Community Value. Please find the link to the Asset of Community Value Nomination Form made to the City of Westminster. It clearly shows how to get one’s local public house listed as an asset of community value under the Localism Act, which then gives the pub extra protection if its put up for sale. This after writing a column in the West End Extra Forum in 2014 under the header of  ” The pub’s a hub and worth cherishing”  it was very reassuring that it was of immediate use to campaigners trying to stop another pub closing in NW1.  

This is also happening to pubs in South London as well like the Bear in Camberwell. Something needs to be done to get landlords to take on board the cultural institutions we are dealing with here when looking at their commercial rents reviews. Otherwise we will be losing a lot more pubs as a result of COVID19 crisis. 

COVID19, small businesses & cabmen shelters


Hanover Square Cabmen’s Shelter awaiting reopening after completion of Crossrail works

It was become apparent to me that a large number of small business owners are missing out on government funding and support in Central London either the £10,000 or £25,000 grants offered to firms via local authorities in March due to their landlords essentially not passing on the grants to them. 

Take for example, the Cabmen’s Shelters in Central London. Its clear the operators of the green shelters for cabbies, have not had these sums passed on to them from the Trustees of the 13 shelters in Central London even though monies have been received from the relevant local authorities. In such pressingly hard times for the operators these grants need to be passed on as soon as possible, particularly when coming out of the lockdown. 

There are of course many many other instances particularly in the catering industry, where the restaurant’s rent is inclusive of business rates and paid through the landlord. A case in point is Normah’s Malaysian restaurant in Bayswater.  They were left so confused with the grant system and implored the government to find a way to support the small businesses which are falling through the gap. While the businesses themselves suggest ” Don’t think about the profits. Just think about how to survive” 

Which all goes to show that l feel, landlords have a responsibility to pass on their grants to the small operators actually running the spaces their provide. This needs addressing urgently if we are not to see many small businesses that we depend on and take for granted disappearing for good, as a poor legacy of COVID19 crisis. 

Rules of the Cabmen’s shelters – pity we don’t have some rules about who gets any grant monies!

Tresco House – watch out for this PDR conversion!


Having recently commenting on the government expanding permitted development rights to make sure it does not in rabbit hutch homes, l thought l should have a look around the neighbourhood it see if there is any prospect of such a residential conversion from offices. Being on the gateway to the West End there was bound to be a few cases nearby, and the most obvious one was Tresco House. 

In this search l also discovered that most of central London is, exempt from Permitted Development Rights legislation, as Article 4 Directions have been implemented which cover the Central Activities Zone (CAZ). The CAZ is protected and recognised as containing 1.7 million jobs (a third of the London total), generating 10% of the entire UK’s economic output. As the featured map above clearly shows. 

As for Tresco House, l am not quite sure if it falls within the boundaries of the CAZ for Central London as it appears the CAZ goes a bit along Lisson Grove.  But if its outside of it, the building leads itself to a conversion with wide dimensions so should not end up as a block of rabbit hutches while being on the edge of the CAZ. At the moment its still used by the DWP as an assessment centre though  they was rumours they will have to sell up soon as a result of previous austerity cuts. So watch this space. 


Demise of petrol stations in London?

The approval of the change of use for the petrol station within the landmark Lyon’s Place building along Edgware Rd to an electric charging point station at last weeks City of Westminster planning Committee, should herald a new age in electric infrastructure in London and the demise of the council’s Petrol station preservation Transport Policy. 

Starting with the latter, this decision should see the death of Transport Policy 17 in the Westminster Council UDP to preserve petrol stations. So it will be very interesting to see what now happens to other developments where the Council insisted that they have petrol stations incorporated into them like the one along Cleveland St, Fitzrovia. As it is noticeable that we have been losing petrol stations in Central London for the past 10-15 years anyway. 

This while its clear to me that we have been losing petrol stations in Central London for sometime, as car ownership drops amongst local residents and those with cars still are prepared to travel further away to “tank up” the car.  As it is noticeable that we have been losing petrol stations in Central London for the past 10-15 years anyway. And in the Church St ward that Lyon’s Place building finds itself in, we have car ownership dropping down to 35 per cent since the beginning of the century when it stood at 50 per cent. 

So this landmark development won’t just be the place we have the big red retro-petrol pumps making it stand out along the Edgware Rd but also be the first place where we saw a petrol station converted into a major electric charging point station. Marking a major advancement in the electric infrastructure of London for the new future of electric cars and buses on the streets of London.