Archive for March 2013

Bond Street Station Visit

The Tunnel Boring Machines have entered the subsoil of the West End on their way from the Park Royal portal to Farringdon as work on Cross Rail races ahead.

Last week I had the chance to visit the Bond Street site and see first hand the work being done. The photos below show the works at Hanover Square as part of the new Bond Street Station (east entrance) which will be a major interchange between Cross Rail and the Tube network.

Housing centre stage in #aspiration budget

Housing took centre stage in the Chancellor's Budget last week. Here's a quick summary of the major renouncement:

Help to Buy - £3.5 billion Equity Loan scheme, helping home buyers with a 5% deposit access the funds the need to secure a bank mortgage. Under the scheme new and existing homeowners can receive a 20% equity loan that will help them buy a new build property, with the added boost to get house builders to get on and deliver new homes we desperately need.

At the same time a separate option, called Help to Buy: Mortgage Guarantee, will enable lenders to use Government-backed guarantees to offer £130 billion worth of mortgages with smaller deposits, as little as 5%, on new and existing properties.

Right to Buy- The Budget announced further boosts the scheme by: 
  1. raising the discount cap to £100,000 in London, from Monday 25 March, to recognise higher prices;
  2. lowering the eligibility criteria, so that tenants can apply to buy their homes after 3 instead of 5 years; and
  3. looking at ways to simplify the application process for tenants
This is extremely welcome and will be very good news for many social tenants in Westminster who have worked hard and saved but always found homeownership just out of reach with Central London prices.

Private rented homes - The Government’s flagship Build to Rent Fund will be dramatically increased to £1 billion to support the construction of new homes specifically for private rent. This is a Government investment with a commercial return for homebuilders struggling to finance ‘shovel ready’ building projects through conventional finance.

Affordable housing - Funding for the Affordable Homes Guarantees Programme to £450 million. Up to 30,000 affordable homes will now be delivered through the expanded programme, with all new homes started on site by the end of March 2015.

Right to Buy discount extended to £100,000

Perhaps the most significant move in Last week’s Budget is the extension of the Right to Buy discount to Londoners to £100,000. Yesterday that discount extension came in to effect.

Margaret Thatcher first created the Right to Buy in the 1980s so that everyone, not matter what their background, could have the same chance to get on in life. This Government have re-energised Right to Buy so that aspiring social tenants have a realistic opportunity to purchase their home in today's market. 

After years of restricted discounts and dwindling sales, the Government reinvigorated the Right to Buy last April, and is now going further for Londoners – recognising the unique position of our housing market and reflecting the higher property values and placing that dream within reach of thousands of Londoners previously excluded.

Since its introduction in the 1980s Right to Buy has helped almost 2 million households to experience the benefits of home ownership.

Residents interested in the scheme should visit for further information and details on how to apply to buy your home.

Farewell to Trenchard House

I was very pleased to co-host an open morning at Trenchard House with the developer, Barratt Homes, giving local residents an opportunity to tour the site before demolition is completed. Planning was granted last year for the demolition of the existing building and the construction of a new apartment building with retail space at lower ground and ground floor level.

Demolition is due to be completed in the next few weeks to make way for 83 new housing units, including 65 affordable homes. This is a great new development in the heart of central London showing how public land can be released for the benefit of residents and delivering new housing stock where it is most needed.

Regent Street will reopen on Thursday 21 March 2013 by 6pm

Following my post earlier this month I am pleased that progress has been made on the full reconstruction of the carriageway and Regent Street will be reopened to traffic on Thursday 21 March 2013 by 6pm, ahead of schedule.

The unfortunate Thames Water burst water main has resulted in a huge amount of cooperation and everyone has taken advantage of the road closure required on safety grounds to undertake other works. This is great news for residents and traffic and will keep London moving for many months ahead without further disruption.

Thames Water undertook 500 different maintenance activities within 75 different excavations to ensure that all of its valves, fire hydrants and pipes are now in the best condition possible and reconstructed a significant part of the concrete slab at the junction damaged by the burst main.

56 cubic metres of concrete (140 tonnes) has been poured to replace the damaged concrete slab at the junction after removing over 500 tonnes of material including planning of the whole junction (over 30 lorry loads).

In the spirit of cooperation, a number of organisations pulled together to deliver this work:
  • National Grid Gas plc stepped in at short notice and allowed use of its core and vac system to explore for potential voids beneath the concrete slab.
  • UK Power Networks made two electrical disconnections in under 12 hours to allow for the removal of two lamp columns removed during construction of the ventral islands It promptly reinstated excavations in Vigo Street to allow it to be reopened to traffic between its junctions with Savile Row and Sackville Street.
  • TfL diverted buses, put in two bus shelters whilst Regent Street was closed to traffic and placed traffic signals loop detectors in the base course of the carriageway to avoid the need for slot cutting through the wearing course. 
  • BT quickly responded to requests to repair its frames and covers at the junction.
  • City of London Telecom (CoLT) and Cable and Wireless replaced several covers and frames along Regent Street.
  • Westone (J Murphy and Sons Limited) installed rapidly the new traffic islands
  • Westone (FM Conway Limited) has executed re-surfacing work and used the latest pavement technology around utilities' covers to try and protect the carriageway from premature failure
  • Road Traffic Solutions was responsible for the traffic management funded by Thames Water and helped maintain access to the Café Royal Hotel London  
Well done to all those involved in getting Regent Street reopened on time!

MOPAC Challenge 30th April 2013

The MOPAC Challenge on the 21st March 2013 has be rescheduled and will be taking place on the 30th April 2013 at 10 am. 

It will be held in Committee Room 1 at City Hall and the live webcast can be found here.
The Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Stephen Greenhalgh, will be chairing the meeting. The meeting will focus on reducing reoffending particularly amongst young offenders.

Flashback to 1988 Berwick Street market

A blast from the past with this video produced by Westminster about Berwick Street market from 1988

Regent Street Works Photographs

The slideshow of images below show the extent of ongoing works on Regent Street as Thames Water continue works to repair the carriageway following a burst water pipe at the beginning of the month. A 20 inch-wide pipe broke at the Vigo Street and Glasshouse Street junction, flooding the carriageway and breaking up the surface of the road.

Works were competed on Saturday that include laying the granite kerbs forming the traffic islands in the centre of Regent Street. The carriageway around the new traffic island south of the junction has been reinstated and a temporary surface inside the granite kerbs provided. It will be replaced with granite setts later this year.

Further work is being done using a special core and vac system brought to the UK by National Grid plc and on loan to Thames Water. These 600mm diameter holes will be drilled through the areas that ground penetrating radar surveys have identified as potential voids starting today (12th March) to allow detailed inspections under the structural concrete slab, which supports the highway and these should speed up the identification of any other works needed to be undertaken to safely open Regent Street to traffic.

Westminster City Council and Tfl believe that we remain on target to open Regent Street to traffic by Friday 22 March 2013.

Crossrail Tunnel Boring Machines hit the West End!

The Tunnel Boring Machines have entered the subsoil of the West End last week on their way from the Park Royal portal to Farringdon where they will meet those travelling in the opposite direction.

The machines have passed under Hyde Park and Park Lane and are now under the west side of Mayfair and will take the next couple of months passing beneath Mayfair and then Soho as they make their way to Tottenham Court Road.

The machines are operating at some thirty metres below the surface beneath much of the existing infrastructure and we are told by Crossrail ought not to be audible from the ground. You can track the exact progress of the machines at the following website


Who would pay the Mansion Tax for the £2 million council houses?

My article this week for Conservative Home

Ed Miliband’s public support for a ‘mansion tax’ is yet another broadside in the class war that he and his colleagues are so fond of but which, once again, demonstrates how – by practising the politics of envy – he is either wildly out of touch or desperate for a sympathetic showing and a cheap headline in the left wing media.

Mr Miliband’s Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls has asserted that a new tax on homes worth more than £2 million would yield £2 billion per year. That works out at almost £30,000 from each of the 70,000 properties estimated to fall within that price bracket. It is thought that 91 per cent of these properties are in Greater London. Quite what Mr Miliband has against the country’s capital I do not know. After all, he is not proposing that this money be spent on building new homes for Londoners – as I have previously argued here that a localisation of Stamp Duty receipts should be put towards – or helping the least well off stay in their homes. Instead this money would flow towards that most chilling of places; an Ed Balls controlled HM Treasury.

Among the 70,000 “mansions” a fair number of them, especially those found in central London, will undoubtedly be modest-sized properties with some even being social homes. There is, of course, a good argument for selling off such properties but these are also assets for local authorities or housing association and as such they may believe that holding on to them for a bit longer may be more beneficial to the taxpayer.

As is often the case with this kind of announcement, much thought has been given to the headline-writers but very little has been afforded to the people who will actually be affected. The left can throw around phrases like ‘super-rich’ but in reality some of those being targeted are hard-working aspirational people and those in real need who – through an accident of birth – happen to have a longstanding attachment to the heart of the capital. Mr Miliband’s message to all of these groups is simple, ‘London is not for you’.

As is often the case with this kind of announcement, much thought has been given to the headline-writers but very little has been afforded to the people who will actually be affected. The left can throw around phrases like ‘super-rich’ but in reality some of those being targeted are hard-working aspirational people and those in real need who – through an accident of birth – happen to have a longstanding attachment to the heart of the capital. Mr Miliband’s message to all of these groups is simple, ‘London is not for you’.

Local authorities also have a duty to house those in need and in an area like Westminster accommodation for a family of five, six, seven or more does not come cheap. In any case, the proposals being put forward by the Labour frontbench compromise the future of these homes. The Leader of the Opposition is effectively evicting large families in social homes, forcing them into smaller homes or accommodation far away from their employment, their child’s school and their family and friends. Who would pay Mr Miliband’s +£10,000 tax in this instance? The tenant, or the local authority?

20MPH Limits - Westminster boundary roads

The London Borough of Camden are proposing to introduce 20mph limits on roads within their area. In West End Ward we have a number of roads which form the division boundary between Westminster and Camden, particularly Cleveland Street (south of New Cavendish Street), Charlotte Street and parts of Charing Cross Road. The London Borough of Camden are out to consultation on this process but it is currently anticipated that the boundary route will maintain their 30mph speed limits currently applied by both Westminster and Camden even if the 20pmph restriction should be adopted by Camden. A plan and link to a questionnaire on the issue is set out below for you to have your say. 


boundary roads 20mph -

Bond Street Station Upgrade

Please find attached an activity notification, detailing forthcoming works for the Bond Street Station Upgrade.

Activity Notification Substation -

Reinstatement of North Audley Street

Prior to the arrival of Crossrail’s Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) under North Audley Street, you may remember that it was necessary to install monitoring equipment on the water utilities under North Audley Street to ensure that the assets were fully protected from the potential for ground settlement as our TBMs passed underneath.Please see the latest Information Sheet below for further details:

c300-xrl-z-aag-crg01-50001_reinstatement_of_north_audley_street -