These are candidates for 3 May West End Ward:- 

Candidates 3 May.png

 

So we asked all the candidates for the local elections on 3 May a set of “Soho Society” questions.  

What is your connection with the West End - and for how long?

Where do you live?

What is your position to the following:-

  • The sanitisation and loss of identity of Soho by overdevelopment. If you agree how would your propose to halt this and by what means?
  • Would you impose a moratorium on large developments in Soho. If you are in favour, then what alternative would you propose? 
  • The marked increase in hotels and new hotels plans being submitted. If you are opposed, then what alternatives would you propose? 
  • The Mayor’s proposed pedestrianisation of Oxford Street. If you favour the policy, how do you envisage Soho benefiting? Alternatively, if you oppose the policy, why? 
  • Would you support the protection of specialist independent shops and businesses - vinyl, fabric, food, film, etc?  If so how would go about achieving this?
  • Would you support the retention of the Soho Hospital for Women as a public use building? If you agree, how would you go about achieving this? 
  • Do you have any proposals to celebrate Soho’s special history and LGBT history? 
  • How would you propose to deal with the air quality and environmental issues faced by the residents of Soho? What would be your proposals to alleviate the problem? 
  • Do you agree with the Mayor’s planned night time economy, with the proposed extended opening hours for restaurants, bars and clubs?  If you are in favour, 
  • How would you deal with the increased noise faced by residents, particularly from the increased footfall and night time deliveries to service these establishments? 
  • Would you support legislation on pedicabs?
  • What is your position on supporting the police, on crime in general, to particularly include gang and drug related ASB and help for those with addiction/mental health problems - would you work with the Soho Society, the Ward Panel and others in finding long term solutions?
  • Should there be a rebate on the council tax for Soho residents pending a full investigation into the noise levels in Soho from construction and entertainment uses - until the ambient noise level is brought within WHO guidelines? (this question was added so not all candidates addressed it)

Here are their responses:-

Tim Barnes, Conservative

Your connection with the West End - and for how long?

I first moved to the West End nearly 25 years ago and have lived here ever since. Initially, I came for university but I felt at home immediately and never really considered leaving. I loved the vibrancy, the creative buzz, the bars, and the energy. 

Over the years, I have also worked in offices on Tottenham Court Road, Eastcastle Street and at the BBC near Langham Place.

Where do you live?

Since 1994, I have lived mostly in Fitzrovia and I now live in a flat in Soho on Great Windmill Street.

We would like to know your position on the following:

Over development in Soho as a hotspot

I am not a fan of never-ending, large-scale redevelopment, which is what has happened in Soho in recent years. 

We need major developments in Soho to be beneficial to current residents, with the right mix of housing and services, with more opportunities for small businesses and shops that provide places for local people to work but are also essential to the character of the are. There is no point in developing Soho in ways that kill the very atmosphere that attracted people to live in the area and bring in the shoppers, workers and tourists that are needed for its commercial present and future.

Redevelopment also needs to be delivered with greater understanding and support for the people that have to go on with living around them while construction takes place, over issues such as noise, traffic and scaffolding on pavements. 

As with the local benefits that can come from planning gain (which many people understand as “Section 106”), there are requirements on developers for the construction agreed at the time that planning permission is granted. It is very important that these are monitored and enforced properly – after all, they were issued for reasons to support local amenities and minimise negative impact and that should be a priority. Monitoring and enforcing those provisions should be considered vital and I would work to ensure that is done properly for every major development.

Would you impose a moratorium on large developments in Soho?

The short answer to this is no. I don’t believe that an outright ban would be in the best interests of the people who live and work in Soho or be an effective way of seeing the area develop in ways we might want. 

There are areas we might all want to see redeveloped if it was done appropriately. That should include proper consultation and planning of the impact on those who live and work around each site. 

Every application should be judged on its merits and the part it has to play in making Soho better, not worse, and that criteria should be a high bar that not all recent developments have met in my opinion. But, if there are schemes that meet it, they should be allowed to proceed. 

Hotelification

Where hotels are part of a positive redevelopment, such as opening up an underused area, they can and should be welcomed. But the reality is that there are not a large number of such sights left in Soho anymore and that kind of redevelopment should probably be regarded as being less appropriate in the future than it once was. 

For me, there needs to be a mix of activities, facilities and services in a compact area such as Soho. I would welcome a review of how we consider the balance between hotels and other commercial uses of space. With the development of Crossrail, and potentially Crossrail 2, that would seem to be particularly timely. 

Oxford Street Pedestrianisation

In recent years, changes to Oxford Street have sought to ease the balance of pedestrians and traffic to help move locals and visitors around more easily. Nearly ten years ago, Westminster Council introduced the “X” style crossing points at Oxford Circus, for example, which have made walking through the area much easier. 

But with Crossrail, changing travel preferences seeing more cycling and bus use, ride-hailing and sharing, there needs to be a well-planned future vision for how Oxford Street will be used for those visiting the area and those living and working in it. If we do not plan adequately, we will make it impossible for people to travel and local businesses may have to close.

My main objections to the Mayor’s current proposals are that they seem to be disconnected from other plans and changes to the city. The views of local residents have not been appropriately considered and parts of the consultation process were flawed. It also seems impossible that the diverted bus routes, and to a lesser extent taxis, will be able to continue to provide critical services for people living in the area once they have to make use of side routes. The effects of the noise and congestion there will have a very high negative impact on some people and this has not been taken into account. 

So, while I don’t object to pedestrianisation on principle, the current proposals are inadequate and should be stopped until an integrated plan is produced that does not shift the problems of Oxford Street on to others in the area. I would vote against them as they are today.

Would you support the protection of specialist shops and businesses - vinyl, fabric, food, film, etc?

Yes. 

We have had Special Policy Areas in the past, including one on the north side of Oxford Street to support the rag trade. However, they are not always successful in meeting their long-term aims and I would like to see a package of activity and support developed to ensure that we learn from what has and has not worked in the past in order to keep the best parts of Soho as they are, in character and buildings, and allow the rest to move on.

Would you support the retention of the Soho Hospital for Women as a public use building?

Yes.

Any public use for the building should be considered ahead of other options. This is in line with the current status of the site, which should be maintained.

Do you have any proposals to celebrate Soho’s special history and LGBT history, and would you support any appropriate proposals put forward by others?

I have not seen detailed plans for any specific new specific activity linked to Soho’s history, whether that be in relation to LGBT+ or other aspects we should celebrate. I would be delighted to support appropriate new schemes, whether they be monuments, events – or something more creative, as Soho probably deserves! Please let me know if you have any great ideas.

Would you support traffic restrictions and air quality monitoring?

Many of the streets in Soho are comparatively old and, thus, narrow by comparison with other parts of central London. Small jams, whatever the cause, can have major effects, backing up traffic and leading to sitting traffic generating unacceptable levels of pollution. As with some other areas of Soho life, some of this is about enforcement of existing regulations but new measures to improve the flow of traffic and reduce the overall level of vehicles coming through Soho should be welcomed. An extension of the Low Emission Neighbourhood provisions might well be appropriate to achieve this.  

We know that areas very close to Soho, such as Bloomsbury and St Martin’s Lane, have some of the worst air quality in the country and gathering more monitoring-based evidence for the effects of traffic and weather on the air around should be considered urgent and I would be delighted to work to find the funds to make that possible.

What is your position on noise (particularly that emanating from clubs and bars after midnight) to include night time deliveries?

No one moves to live in the West End for a quiet life. Residents, as much as visitors, come for the buzz and the attractions of the bars and clubs, whatever scene they might most enjoy. Supporting those businesses is part of keeping Soho the place it has been since Henry VIII. 

But there is no need for those same clubs and bars to be bad neighbours. Particularly where noise is concerned, there are reasonable windows in the working day when deliveries can be taken once staff are on site and cleaning up can be done in the morning. Excessive noise pollution can bring genuine misery to those nearby and should be treated as a serious issue, with monitoring and licensing revisions made where bar and club managers do not take appropriate action to curtail problems.

What is your position on the night time economy, to include licensing?

The nighttime economy is vital to Soho and a part of what makes the area the place we all enjoy in our down time and why many locals decided to be here. No one chose to live in Soho for a quiet life! But as my previous answer makes clear, if bars and clubs inflict noise pollution or unruly customers on locals, their licenses should be examined and revised should warnings and monitoring not prove effective.

Would you support legislation on pedicabs?

I am not a believer in running to new legislation as a first means to address issues, but in the case of pedicabs, we have tried various measures through local police and other routes and the problems persist. They are noisy, create a nuisance for pedestrians and road users and charge outrageous prices that seem out of all proportion to their value as a mode of transport or tourist attraction (and that’s by London standards!). 

So, yes, I would support legislation if required to regulate them and would be an advocate for the current bill being proposed by Conservative London MP Paul Scully.

What is your position on supporting the police, on crime in general, to particularly include gang and drug related ASB and help for those with addiction/mental health problems - would you work with the Soho Society, the Ward Panel and others in finding long-term solutions?

The police do a difficult job across London and I have no hesitation in making clear that I would be a strong supporter of all aspects of their work. Anti-social behaviour and drug users are among the most visible criminal issues in Soho and the police need help to do that effectively.

But the police cannot act on all of these issues alone. Last month, Westminster Council introduced a new scheme to help deliver a first response service to rough sleepers, bringing genuine help to those who need it on the streets but also reducing the need for police time and reducing their impact on local people. We need more co-ordination of mental health, social services, as well as charity and service providers to help with these issues. We should also consider increased investment in CCTV cameras and other means of deterring criminal activity and bringing successful prosecutions when criminal events do take place.

I would welcome the chance to work with the Soho Society and the Ward Panel on these issues and any others that would be beneficial to local residents. 

Joint response also from the Liberal Democrats, Florian Chevoppe-Verdier, Sophie Taylor and Alan Ravenscroft

Liberal Democrats believe that Soho and the West End is a vital part of London’s history, cultural capitals, and economy. There has always need to ensure a careful balance between the needs of its businesses and the needs of its residents, but this has become even more challenging in recent years, not least with the arrival of Crossrail (and the proposals for Crossrail 2). The pedestrianisation of Oxford Street, which we have supported, is another example of an innovation to our city’s heart that will need careful management to ensure that it resolves problems, such as congestion and air quality, rather than exacerbate or increase them.

Westminster’s Liberal Democrats are clear in their vision for Soho as a vibrant, multicultural village, at the heart of our great city. To deliver that means listening and acting on the concerns of existing residents and businesses, while being alive to the need to ensure that its infrastructure is made fit for the 21st century. 

If elected to office we will work closely will all of Soho and the West Ends communities and organisations, to ensure that any future developments are in the best interests of all. That would certainly mean taking a more holistic view of all development proposals, and keeping Soho’s different and sometimes competing demands in equilibrium.

A big challenge for any Liberal Democrats elected to Westminster City Council is going to be way in which the Council is currently run. If elected we would start by engaging directly with Westminster communities, to better understand their concerns, and to see how we could better work with them to improve our city for everyone.

Minne Fry for the Green Party

Your connection with the West End - and for how long?

I have been a London resident for 60 years, the last 35 in Westminster, so have been involved in West End life for many years

Where do you live?

Bayswater.

We would like to know your position to the following; 

The sanitisation and loss of identity of Soho by overdevelopment. If you agree how would your propose to halt this and by what means?

Drastically reduce the current Council’s incessant authorization of and enthusiasm for nearly every large development proposed, particularly in areas that are designated (or should be designated) as of historical or social importance.

Would you impose a moratorium on large developments in Soho. If you are in favour, then what alternative would you propose? 

Yes. Prioritise housing over other developments in Westminster and restrict to areas that have less obvious historical and social significance for residents (and visitors) or where there are already buildings of limited aesthetic attraction. Stop Westminster Council giving permission for the razing of existing buildings and stipulate that developers and architects should work within existing frameworks.

The marked increase in hotels and new hotels plans being submitted. If you are opposed, then what alternatives would you propose? 

As previously, housing should be a priority. Any hotel over a certain size should like other large buildings include social housing and all new builds in Westminster, of whatever size, should be ecologically sustainable. 

The Mayor’s proposed pedestrianisation of Oxford Street. If you favour the policy, how do you envisage Soho benefiting? Alternatively, if you oppose the policy, why? 

In favour, providing that local residents can be reassured that the reduction in traffic is not simply moved to side streets, north and south of Oxford Street, and that designated safe cycling routes are maintained in the planning. A potentially larger shopping community in Oxford Street may well benefit some of the smaller (and less chain-orientated) shops to the South.

Would you support the protection of specialist independent shops and businesses - vinyl, fabric, food, film, etc?  If so how would go about achieving this?

Yes, because they have always formed the heart of Soho (as well as some other parts of London) and are essential for maintaining its distinctive tone and ambience. Would work with the Mayor of London to ensure that large developments do not subsume small businesses and that landlords cannot price out independent shops in the hope that planning will be given to replace them. Also ensure that the Council equally does not price them out through drastically increased business rates. 

Would you support the retention of the Soho Hospital for Women as a public use building? If you agree, how would you go about achieving this? 

Yes. Work with local residents and the local health trust (and possibly the Secretary of State) to ensure that the government cannot continue to close longstanding specialist health centres of key importance to its residents. 

Do you have any proposals to celebrate Soho’s special history and LGBT history? 

Would try to take part and initiate regular events that acknowledge the area’s significance and that will both publicise its specialness and value its people. Would aim to organize local events in conjunction with London Pride.   

How would you propose to deal with the air quality and environmental issues faced by the residents of Soho? What would be your proposals to alleviate the problem? 

Partly relates to the Oxford Street issues. Would work with the Council to re-evaluate and rethink roads and pedestrianized areas throughout Soho, prioritizing pedestrians and cyclists at all times and assessing whether restricting delivery vehicles to early mornings or mid-late evenings would be favourable. Would, as previously, restrict the demolition of existing buildings, with its impact on residents’ quality of life and lungs.

Do you agree with the Mayor’s planned night time economy, with the proposed extended opening hours for restaurants, bars and clubs?  If you are in favour, 

how would you deal with the increased noise faced by residents, particularly from the increased footfall and night time deliveries to service these establishments? 

Not in favour.

Would you support legislation on pedicabs?

Yes.

What is your position on supporting the police, on crime in general, to particularly include gang and drug related ASB and help for those with addiction/mental health problems - would you work with the Soho Society, the Ward Panel and others in finding long term solutions?

Would work with the Mayor to ensure that there was adequate (ie more) policing in vulnerable areas of London, such as Soho, and more council-run refuges and specialist hospital wards.

Should there be a rebate on the council tax for Soho residents pending a full investigation into the noise levels in Soho from construction and entertainment uses - until the ambient noise level is brought within WHO guidelines?

Possibly. Fewer developments and constructions would hopefully take place. For those that do, would only give planning permission providing social housing and/or cultural usage was given for at least 25% for large developments (or 10-15% for smaller ones). Could suggest reducing construction working hours to 9.00 – 5.00 Monday to Friday only.  

Jonathan Glanz, Conservative

Your connection with the West End - and for how long?

I have lived and worked in the West End, completing my studies with UCL in 1981. I was involved for many years in the Marylebone Association, where I was Chairman, and the Marylebone Millennium Commission prior to being elected to the Council in a By-election in 2009. I am in and about the ward every day as part of my work, and I am a regular user of its theatres, bars, restaurants, gym facilities and shops.

Where do you live?

I lived in Bloomsbury from 1978 to 1988, and since then in Marylebone, first to the east of Baker Street, and for the last 22 years in Wimpole Street, just to the north of Oxford Street.

We would like to know your position on the following:

Over development in Soho as a hotspot

The cumulative effects of development have clearly put the balance between residential amenity and commercial activity out of kilter. As a Planning Authority, we have no control over who makes a Planning Application, and there is a presumption in favour of development. Also, a Planning Permission, once granted, lasts for five years, so there is no way to coordinate whether works are implemented simply on a first-come first-served basis under current Legislation. 

I would like to improve on the coordination of future developments in relation to Pavement Licences (for scaffolding and other works), access to service the building works and take muck away from demolition, and to see better control of the pollution by way of dust, exhaust fumes from on-site machinery, and particularly noise. I believe we should seek to impose acoustic baffling and/or acoustic enclosures where possible to minimise the adverse effects of development on long-suffering nearby residents.

Would you impose a moratorium on large developments in Soho?

There are no current powers either at Government or Local Authority level to impose a Moratorium. If the question is “would I like to see one?”, the answer is yes for the reasons set out above, because of the adverse effects of the number and cumulative effect of such large developments.

Hotelification

Hotels can form part of a mixed-use area such as Soho. Ham Yard was an abandoned dump, but now has integrated back into the community, with shops and open spaces alongside the hotel development. I am more concerned with dormitory hotels with little or no staff and no food and beverage operation, because these can become the focus of prostitution, drug deals and antisocial behaviour. Although hotels are in the business of “selling sleep”, it does not mean that depending on the market to which they are pitching, that the sleep of others will not be interrupted late into the night by revellers returning to ill-managed premises. 

Currently, hotels are considered Commercial Use, as are offices, and there is no current Planning Policy to prefer one Commercial Use to another. I think this should be reviewed as part of the upcoming City Plan.

Oxford Street Pedestrianisation

I refer to the piece which I wrote for the Clarion. My view is that Oxford Street is Mayor Khan’s vanity project being imposed on the West End against its will. It has not thought through the implications for the residential and business communities to the north and south, particularly in respect of the displacement of traffic and pollution. It has not resolved the issues of servicing, disabled access or the funding for and management of the new open spaces, which could become very unpleasant quite quickly if not properly policed and managed. Whilst there is certainly room for improvement on Oxford Street, the current scheme as proposed does not address these problems and I do not support it.

Would you support the protection of specialist shops and businesses - vinyl, fabric, food, film, etc?

I particularly like the independent and quirky shops that Soho has to offer. However, in Planning terms, they are not currently protected as one shop can change to another shop without the need for a Planning Application under the National Planning Framework. Even if there were to be an SPA (Special Policy Area) imposed, it is difficult to ensure that any one specific type of shop can be favoured over another, and you cannot impose an SPA to just have “independent or quirky shops”. Soho benefits from its variety, rather than as a collection of similar businesses such as bespoke tailors on Savile Row or art dealers on Cork Street.

In Berwick Street, where the Council owns the freehold to the shops, I ensured that a specific User Clause was imposed in the Lease Agreement, to ensure that the shops can only be used for specific uses. If you recall, previously shops such as Subway were there, which contributed little, if anything, to the character of Soho.

Would you support the retention of the Soho Hospital for Women as a public use building?

Yes. The building was built as a public building with community use, and that is it the current Planning use. I would strongly oppose any Planning Application which sought to vary this use, and will seek to ensure that the building is still available for the community.

Do you have any proposals to celebrate Soho’s special history and LGBT history, and would you support any appropriate proposals put forward by others?

I would very much like to see a National AIDS Memorial in a suitable location in Soho. I have discussed this with various LGBT groups, and a number of proposals have been mooted. Possible locations include Soho Square and the new public space between Soho Square and the Tottenham Court Road Station, being the site of the old Astoria Theatre, and home to G-A-Y. I have discussed these proposals with various interested parties, and would like to bring to fruition over the next 4 years.

Would you support traffic restrictions and air quality monitoring?

I would like to see fewer cars and lorries in and around Soho, and particularly to discourage people from using Soho as a through-route or rat run. The successful introduction of the Low Emission Neighbourhood to the north of Oxford Street in Marylebone is an example to be emulated, as are the freight consolidation schemes introduced by the Crown Estate to ensure that fewer delivery lorries are required to service businesses in their area. I would support the introduction of a similar scheme for Soho. It seems nonsensical that 10 different ice suppliers for instance supply a pretty basic commodity to bars on Old Compton Street, and that up to 59 different authorised waste collection companies are offering waste collection within the area, which leads to confusion as to timing and responsibility for its collection.

What is your position on noise (particularly that emanating from clubs and bars after midnight) to include night time deliveries?

The evening and night-time economy is part of Soho, but ought not to be allowed to operate in such a way as to significantly adversely affect residential communities, both within existing and new developments. I believe that in this respect the polluter should pay, and the obligation should be put onto those producing noise to come up with workable and effective sound reduction and mitigation measures. I would also encourage pubs and clubs to ensure that their on-site security staff are effective in ensuring that those leaving the premises do so quietly and with respect for their neighbours.

What is your position on the night time economy, to include licensing?

See above. I would distinguish the evening economy (restaurants, bars etc) from the night-time economy (primarily alcohol and music/dance-led). These venues are part of Soho‘s unique mix, and in some cases are suffering as part of rent and rates increases which threaten their existence. Well-managed clubs and bars, with well-behaved customers, ought not to be discouraged from Soho.

Would you support legislation on pedicabs?

Yes. I consider unlicensed, uninsured pedicabs to be a menace. Particularly those that blare out noise late into the night, block the pavement and highway and rip off tourists foolish enough to use the services.

I have supported first the Private Members’ Bill introduced by Mark Field MP, and now the current Bill introduced by Paul Scully MP (with whom I have liaised extensively on the detail and effect of pedicabs), and will continue to do so until appropriate Legislation is in place to address the significant problems caused by badly-operated and maintained pedicabs.

What is your position on supporting the police, on crime in general, to particularly include gang and drug related ASB and help for those with addiction/mental health problems - would you work with the Soho Society, the Ward Panel and others in finding long term solutions?

Since I was elected, I have worked with the various Safer Neighbourhood Teams, the police in general and businesses via the Safer Soho/Safer West End group within the Safer Business Network (which I chair) to address the problems of criminality and antisocial behaviour that affect Soho and beyond. I also served for four years at the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, during which time I ensured that the challenges of Soho were regularly and repeatedly made known to both the Deputy Mayor for Policing and his Senior Officer Team. The drugs-related criminality, particularly when it affects residential premises, is unacceptable, and there must be more and better-coordinated activity, primarily by the police but working with the Council and appropriate charities, to address the underlying problems of those involved with the trade or addicted to its products.

I liaise regularly with Jane Doyle and her team, and other Soho residents in trying to find solutions both to individual problems and the underlying causes as I am acutely aware of the fact that displacement from one street to the next is not a cure for the problems we face. I will continue to do so if re-elected.

The Labour candidates chose to put in a joint response on behalf of Pancho Lewis, Patrick Lilley and Caroline Saville.

1. Your connection with the West End - and for how long?

All three Labour candidates – Pancho Lewis, Patrick Lilley and Caroline Saville – visited Soho for the first time as young adults at the age of 18. Pancho was a full-time saxophonist at the time and had just come back from touring around India and Australia. The experience of being taken Ronnie Scott’s by his uncle, a pianist, left an indelible impression on him. Caroline's lifelong love affair with theatre, music and galleries began in the West End. She would regularly travel up for weekly visits to record shops like Wreckless. Patrick’s life-long infatuation with the West End started at an Adam and the Ants' gig at the Marquee when it was on Wardour Street. He continued as a visitor to Soho’s numerous gay venues and has lived in and around the West End most of his adult life - for example, sharing a house with Boy George in the early 80s. 

Over the last two years Patrick, Pancho and Caroline have met thousands of residents. We've worked on and led campaigns that have brought our West End community together to stand against over-development, the closure of our local Soho GP, and the Conservative Council's pernicious plans to privatise Berwick Street market.

2. Where do you live? 

Pancho, Patrick and Caroline are longstanding Westminster residents.  Patrick has lived in and around the West End for over 25 years, Pancho for about four, and Caroline travelled the world before making Westminster her home. 

We are committed to putting the people who live in this area first. We will prioritise people before property developers. We have spent the best part of the last two years, meeting residents, earning their trust and helping residents with the many problems they face. Labour candidates don’t just pop up at election time. We serve the communities we seek to represent all year round.

3. We would like to know your position to the following; 

4. The sanitisation and loss of identity of Soho by overdevelopment. If you agree how would your propose to halt this and by what means? 

Pancho, Patrick and Caroline believe Soho's identity and character is threatened by property developers.

The current Conservative administration's unhealthy relationship with the property industry is well documented in the national press. Residents’ lives are disrupted by the constant din of drills and diggers, while decision makers dine with developers. There is a disconnect between elected representatives and residents. If elected Labour will right this wrong by ending hospitality for councillors, allowing residents to speak at planning committees and creating a Special Policy Area to keep Soho special.

5. Would you impose a moratorium on large developments in Soho? If you are in favor, then what alternative would you propose? 

It is very clear that after decades of Conservative rule in Westminster change is needed. As the buildings get higher, residents’ morale gets lower.  We will seek to bring about policy changes to ensure that large, over-bearing developments are not imposed on our communities. We have a track record of opposing large developments by working hand in hand with residents groups, amenity societies and Skyline. Labour Councillors will involve local residents in the planning process by inviting them to speak at Council meetings and seeking their views on the design and scale of buildings, as well as how to protect Soho's heritage. We mean business when say residents not developers need to be put at the heart of decision-making.

6. The marked increase in hotels and new hotels plans being submitted. If you are opposed, then what alternatives would you propose? 

‘Hotelification’ is a huge issue for Soho residents, with over 2,000 new hotel rooms are planned in and around Soho. This is madness! We are opposed to it. It is a tragedy that Film House on Wardour Street is being turned from a hub for creative industries for which Soho is renowned into a hotel you could find anywhere. Labour opposed it alongside a longstanding local resident. Conservative councillors waived it through planning committee while not even allowing residents to have their say.

In addition to eye sores popping up all around Soho, many of our current residential blocks are being turned into make shift hotels due to the onslaught of Airbnb lets. Labour will not stand for this and will ensure that Labour run council enforcement services take a stronger approach to protect residents' amenity.

7. TfL and The Mayor’s proposed pedestrianisation of Oxford Street. 

When Westminster’s Conservative-run council embarked upon this joint venture with TfL it was made very clear that Oxford Street is Westminster’s road and no pedestrian plans can take place without the council’s full approval.

Before stepping aside from his role, whilst investigations continue following stories in the national media, Conservative Cabinet Member Councillor Robert Davis said he wanted to create “the world’s best outdoor shopping experience”. West End Labour candidates will not support these proposals unless residents’ concerns around traffic displacement and the needs of the disabled and elderly are fully resolved.

8. Would you support the protection of specialist independent shops and businesses - vinyl, fabric, food, film, etc?  If so how would go about achieving this? 

Many small and independent businesses have already fallen victim to rising rents and rates. The Conservatives in Westminster Council have chosen to side with powerful landlords and developers instead of helping small, specialist businesses.

We pledge to champion small businesses. We will stand up for small businesses and fight for them. We have a plan to deliver this. Labour believe that the small local shops residents rely on should be protected, as should the specialist independent shops and businesses specialising in world-leading creative industries, iconic fabric and vinyl stores which are synonymous with Soho. We will send a strong message to developers and landlords that sky rocketing rents and crippling business are killing the spirit of Soho. A Labour administration will review special policy areas to ensure that planning policy is designed to complement our local communities rather than imposed on them.

9. Would you support the retention of the Soho Hospital for Women as a public use building? If you agree, how would you go about achieving this? 

Your Labour candidates have worked with the Soho Patients Action group led by Wendy Hardcastle to fight to keep our local Soho surgery.

We are unequivocal that this building should remain in NHS use to support the health of our diverse local communities.  Attempts to sell off this public service will be vociferously opposed by Labour councillors.

10. Do you have any proposals to celebrate Soho’s special history and LGBT history? 

Labour is committed to celebrating Soho as a safe and iconic home for London’s LGBTQ+ community. Patrick organised a major exhibition in Denmark Street to celebrate the history of LGBT London from World War II to 2002. He has also volunteered with the Museum of Soho to ensure that this important aspect of Soho’s cultural history is indelibly saved for future generations. We want to work with residents to find ways of celebrating Soho's unique LGBT history and community.

11. How would you propose to deal with the air quality and environmental issues faced by the residents of Soho? What would be your proposals to alleviate the problem? 

Tackling air quality through greening innovative design, new technology and traffic management will be central to Labour’s plans. Labour will rigorously focus on fly tipping and street litter with more on street monitoring and mobile cameras to help enforcement at fly tipping hot spots. We will work with local residents to restore bins that have been removed or provide extra bins where they might be of assistance. We will also improve signage and resident communication. 

Westminster Council recycles only about 16% of its waste and burns the rest of it. A Labour council will tackle this atrocious record and develop innovative solutions to food waste and community composting.  We will also look to develop improved standards of cleanliness in the West End, removing redundant phone boxes that are frequently used for public urination and expanding the use of pop up toilets where residents want to see them. 

12. Do you agree with the Mayor’s planned night time economy, with the proposed extended opening hours for restaurants, bars and clubs?  If you are in favour.  

We think that the Mayor’s plan is an opportunity for other areas to develop their own night time economies.  Soho has plenty! Residents have a right to peace and quiet. Indeed, Soho was declared a stress zone decades ago and local Labour councillors would respect this and use these powers to limit licensing hours. Labour councillors will work to improve relationships between residents and night time businesses to ensure a greater level of respect for residents' very legitimate concerns.

13. How would you deal with the increased noise faced by residents, particularly from the increased footfall and night time deliveries to service these establishments? 

We would lobby or stricter penalties against offenders and greater enforcement powers to ensure that residential amenity is respected at all times but particularly at night time.

14. Would you support legislation on pedicabs? 

Not only do we support legislation, we’re actively lobbying the Government to introduce a new law to regulate Pedicabs. We’re working Westminster’s Labour MP Karen Buck to introduce legislation in Parliament to bring these nuisance vehicles under control. We need strong local representative who will put residents first and hold the government to account to ensure that this much need and long overdue legislation is passed.  We have written to the Transport minister on this exact point calling for action not words.

15. What is your position on supporting the police, on crime in general, to particularly include gang and drug related ASB and help for those with addiction/mental health problems - would you work with the Soho Society, the Ward Panel and others in finding long term solutions?  

The Conservative government’s cuts have reduced police numbers by over 18,000. As a Labour Council we will work with the Mayor of London and the Police to replace or restore CCTV that has been lost due to a political decision by the current Conservative Council leader to turn off CCTV cameras and leave our streets vulnerable to anti-social behaviour and crime.

In Soho we are affected more than most by drug related crime. We will look to set up a special Soho Drugs Taskforce alongside the Soho Society, the Ward Panel and other members of our community to ensure that a more joined up approach is taken. We will also work with colleagues across the border in Camden to ensure that this issue is tackled at the root cause, rather than letting it move around and surface at intervals.

There needs to be more investment for specialist support services and help for people with addiction and mental health problems, and we'd like to see more government investment for these services.

16. Should there be a rebate on the council tax for Soho residents pending a full investigation into the noise levels in Soho from construction and entertainment uses - until the ambient noise level is brought within WHO guidelines?

It is a sad state of affairs that this is even an issue. The fact that it is an issue perfectly encompasses why the elections on May 3rd will be an historic one in Westminster. For the first time in recent memory Labour could win West End and Westminster Council. If we do, we will ensure that residents are put at the heart of decision making not property developers.  

Westminster Council has been run in the interests of property developers for far too long.

Even your current Conservative Councillors, who are standing down, have commented that they feel developers have too much power and have been allowed to run amok.  Tackling this power imbalance will be a key priority for a new Labour Council. We would also seek to redress the valid issues raised by Soho residents who have suffered unacceptable noise levels for too long. May 3rd is an historic opportunity for Soho residents to send a loud and clear message that their voices must be heard! 

Hilary Su, Conservatives

Your connection with the West End - and for how long?

I first came to know the West End in 2005 when visiting England for the first time as a student. I think spent most of my time in the West End from that visit as the area truly piqued my interest. For someone who had been living in rural America, the West End was a rather refreshing change to say the least.

I have been working with clients based in the West End, which means I make regular visits to this area and I use various public and private facilities for my work functions.

Where do you live?

Westminster (SW1) for 10 years.

We would like to know your position on the following:

Over development in Soho as a hotspot

I already consider Soho a hotspot. Any future development should focus on modernisation and improvement of the current facilities and structures with a balance between commercial and residential interests. 

Would you impose a moratorium on large developments in Soho?

For me this is a case by case issue. Large scale of modernisation projects that aim to improve residents’ everyday life, such as work that improve road safety or fast broadband, should not be banned. However, erecting a tower that obstruct residents’ view and/or distort the skyline of Soho needs scrutinisation and careful consideration. 

Hotelification

Future hotel planning must be carefully scrutinised before consideration. We ought to understand whether there is any hotel still lacking in the West End. We have pretty much all kinds of hotel located in the ward, ranging from ultra-luxury to dorm-like hostels. It is essential to understand whether it’s wise to build more of similar ones in central London. If there is amble provision of accommodation of all kind then I don’t think we should prioritise building more of the same. However, if a  hotel development may transform a deprived area, ie creating green space and community leisure area, I will be willing to support after consulting with affected areas. For large hotel tenders, I would like to encourage them considering building some form of community centre adjacent to the hotel, so that residents nearby may share the benefits of having a new development in the neighbourhood. 

Oxford Street Pedestrianisation

61% of the ward residents have voted against the pedestrianisation. Our action should reflect their will. No pedestrianisation until we have substantive evidence that the disruption will be kept at minimum to all residents and businesses in the affected areas.

Would you support the protection of specialist shops and businesses - vinyl, fabric, food, film, etc?

Yes, as long as they bring true variety to the community. I especially want to support businesses that are unlikely to find a market base outside of Soho due to its unique business nature etc.

Would you support the retention of the Soho Hospital for Women as a public use building?

-  Yes.

Do you have any proposals to celebrate Soho’s special history and LGBT history, and would you support any appropriate proposals put forward by others?

I don’t have any proposal at the moment but I am very happy to consider others’ proposal if appropriate. Soho is a unique community for a wide range of people. It has its characters and special history and I will do my best to preserve its authenticity. However, I have reservations of making Soho exclusively available for any one type of community. Soho is everyone’s Soho and everyone can celebrate its character and uniqueness regardless of one’s colour or orientation. 

Would you support traffic restrictions and air quality monitoring?

I think the “dontbeidle” campaign is a great initiative to help address air quality especially in central London. Having low emission zone also helps. The Westminster Council has planted a considerable amount of trees in the West End to create a wider greener environment which evidently helps with improving air quality as well. 

What is your position on noise (particularly that emanating from clubs and bars after midnight) to include night time deliveries?

I believe it’s the clubs and bars’ responsibility to ensure their acoustic system is up to date and function properly. They must be mindful of their residential neighbours. Residential buildings that are very close to licensed night clubs and bars will need to be properly sound proofed. The landlords and the residents need to take responsibility for that and understand that choosing to live in the busiest area of London comes with certain price. This part of London may never sleep.

What is your position on the night time economy, to include licensing?

     - Night time economy is vital to Soho and the entire London. Soho employs a quarter million people and the vast majority of them work in night time, making significant contribution in making London as one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Clubs, bars and beyond should be appropriately licensed and their record in operating in the night time economy needs to be carefully vetted. 

Would you support legislation on pedicabs?

Yes I would support some form of legislation. Pedicabs exist because there is a demand and tourists love them. The legislation I am willing to support must fall under the remit that pedicabs will only be available after certain hours and park in areas where no or less 24-hr buses are available. If properly regulated, they could compliment to visitors/residents’ experience in the West End especially when public transport is not available and Uber surcharges is an overkill. 

What is your position on supporting the police, on crime in general, to particularly include gang and drug related ASB and help for those with addiction/mental health problems - would you work with the Soho Society, the Ward Panel and others in finding long term solutions?

I will be very willing to work with all local authorities and the law enforcements to tackle crime, ASB and especially drug related offence. Enforcement here is key and I want to see our police force get tough with serious offences and re-offences. Addicts and mental health sufferers must be referred to suitable institutions. This is likely required a collaboration with various charities and service providers. I consider public safety a key issue to the West End and am very happy to work with all entities involved. 

And finally, Ron Whelan from the Campaign against the Pedestrianisation of Oxford Street

1.I am chairman of the Mayfair Residents Group and have lived in Mayfair since 1975.

2. My address is 29A Brook Street.

3. I oppose pedestrianisation because it will create chaos in nearby streets and yield little economic benefit to the West End.

4. I am totally opposed to extended opening hours for bars and clubs.

5. I would definitely support legislation on pedicabs.

6. We are a single issue party and will have an open mind on other issues, relying on the evidence that is put forward.