Archive for 2015

New Years Eve - Information for Businesses

With 2016 celebrations just around the corner, there are, inevitably, a number of impacts on businesses and the public within the area. Businesses are encouraged to review and ensure that they are familiar with their security and contingency plans as criminals and terrorists use the cover of crowds to commit crime.

Road closures in central London start from 14:00hrs.A map showing the areas and times for road closures being implemented in central London on New Years Eve is on the Safer Westend Twitter feed @saferwestend.

Around 3,000 officers will be on duty across central London, both within and outside the ticketed areas to prevent crime and disorder; and keep everyone safe.

To find out more about tonight's events and, the New Year's Day Parade, please follow this link:

Keep safe and I wish you a happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for 2016.

There will be no surgery in December, but please feel free to contact me as usual.

My surgery will resume in January.

Thoughts on 2015

A long time ago (in the 1960s) in a galaxy far far away (Bristol) my parents went to the theatre (The Old Vic) and sat next to the Prime Minister (Harold Wilson).

I had thought, until last week, that this kind of thing was the remnant of a kindlier and more civilised society where pre-IRA bombing campaign and security issues meant that the Prime Minister of the day could enjoy a night off and an evening out without an accompanying cast of armed security guards and fixers.

That was until last week when I went to the premiere of The Force Awakens and was pleasantly surprised to see the Prime Minister, his wife and children, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, his wife and children all having a family night off to enjoy this latest blockbuster. Even though David Cameron was due in Brussels to re-negotiate Britain’s terms of membership of the European Union for the following morning he was able to join in the escapism for a few hours and just be a father with his kids enjoying a family film.

Do not let the stories about 'booing' the Chancellor fool you. When J.J Abrams confirmed that the Prime Minister was present there was general cheering and likewise when he confirmed the Chancellor’s presence. There were some very limited, pantomime boos, in full seasonal spirit, which were far from any considered expression of political disapproval. From where I was sitting, it certainly did not seem to spoil their enjoyment.

Most of the film and the post production work was undertaken in England because of benign tax rules created or maintained by the Chancellor. Whilst the finer and more arcane points of film finance tax legislation were probably lost on most (if not all of the audience) the very real contribution that the creative industries make to this country, and its reputation, as a result of the current fiscal structures was not.

So last week I had an element of my faith restored and was delighted that as we draw to the end of 2015 with all its trials and tribulations that the world did not stop turning as the two most powerful men in the country chose to spend their evening watching a film with their families.

Crossrail: Installation of track - Bond Street - Tottenham Court Road

The Crossrail contractor appointed to provide the power, utilities, track systems and other services within the central tunnel areas (known as the Systemwide works) has begun enabling works within the tunnels below the new Crossrail Bond Street station. This marks the beginning of work to install rail tracks within the central section of Crossrail.

From 12 January 2016 night time concreting will commence for the construction of the rail track, which is specially designed to minimise operational noise and vibration transmission. Concrete pumping equipment will be enclosed within an acoustic shed in order to mitigate against potential noise disruption.

Pumping concrete to construct the rail track between Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road, will take place from January to July 2016 every fourth night. The night time working has been chosen to reduce daytime traffic congestion in the vicinity of the work site.

 For further details regarding the works, please see the information sheet below:

Stop The War March Tomorrow, Saturday 12th December

Stop The War Coalition have initiated a National Call Out following the decision to begin airstrikes in Syria.

The group will be meeting near the BBC in Portland Place, and the march will begin at 1.00pm.

The route of the march and final rally point is yet to be confirmed.

Local police do have a plan in place for the day, and will endeavour to minimise the impact of this action on local businesses and residents.

For more information please click here

Fitzrovia Centre Winter Party Tomorrow

The Fitzrovia Centre will be holding their Winter Party tomorrow, 10th December, from 6pm to 9pm.

There will be nibbles and drinks, and the event will launch the new exhibition by their artist in residence, Mir Gwilliam-Parkes.

Tottenham Court Road – New Glass Tube Entrance

The new south plaza entrance to the station is now open in what is a major milestone for the stations upgrade.

The 15 metre tall glass entrance to Tottenham Court Road has also been greeted by the announcement that Central Line trains will now be stopping at the station again from Monday 7 December.

These works are part of TFL’s £500 million upgrade to the station and will be fully completed in 2016. Please follow this link to find out more about the new entrance and details of what the station will feature in the future: Tottenham Court Road Upgrade

Crossrail - Slip form works at Bond Street Western Ticket Hall

Please see the information sheet below which gives information about the slip form works which are currently taking place at the Bond Street Western Ticket Hall over the next two weeks.

Everyone Should Know Their Status: Get Tested this World AIDS Day

Next Tuesday, 1st December, is World AIDS Day, and G-A-Y have launched a ‘10k challenge’, in conjunction with 56 Dean Street.

56 Dean Street is one of the leading sexual health, contraception, and HIV care clinics in Europe, and is based in Soho.

As a matter of public and personal health it is important that as many people as possible, whatever their sexual orientation, are tested and know their status.

If 1000 people are tested at G-A-Y Bar in London between 1pm and 8pm on Tuesday, G-A-Y will be donating £10,000 to the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

For more information on the challenge, launched by G-A-Y owner Jeremy Joseph, please take a look at the graphic attached, or click this link and share the tweet from Jeremy.


Novikov Restaurant and Bar will be hosting the Mayfair Christmas Market on Saturday 28 November from 10am till 9pm. The event will see the whole of Mayfair Place closed off to traffic and turned into a festive event.

To find out more about this event please visit the following link: Mayfair Christmas Market

Crossrail Bond Street – Eastern Ticket Hall – Utility Diversion Enabling Works

In order to install new services, both BT and UK Power Networks will be working within the Bond Street Eastern Ticket Hall site to complete service diversion works over the next month. This works will last until late-December. The majority of the works will be carried out within the existing CSJV footprint, however please see below for the information sheet which details what to expect as the works take place:

Crossrail - Gilbert Street Footpath Closure Between Weighhouse Street and St Anselm’s Place

In order for CSJV to complete the next phase of works, including the ventilation shaft, the site boundary will be moved along Gilbert Street from today (9 November) until late December 2015. The footpath will be diverted. Please see below for further detailed information:

Basement Policy Change in Westminster

Westminster Council has introduced a new policy, aiming to ensure only suitable and appropriate basement development takes place across the city.

As a Ward Councillor in one of the busiest parts of London, a number of residents and businesses have raised the issue of disruptive developments across the area, specifically relating to basement developments.

After many years of work on this new policy I am delighted that we will now be able to manage basement development appropriately, in West End Ward, and across Westminster.

Only new applications for residential basement developments will be subject to the new policy, and existing consents are not affected.

The full basements policy will be voted on at the Westminster Council Meeting on November 11, and if approved it will be submitted to the Secretary of State to begin the examination in public.

The new policy will ensure that basement developments to existing residential buildings, or buildings originally built for residential purposes, must:

-          Not extend beneath more than 50 per cent of the site area
-          Provide a satisfactory landscaping scheme
-          Not result in the loss of trees deemed as having townscape, ecological or amenity value
-          Use natural ventilation wherever possible
-          Incorporate sustainable urban drainage measures
-          Protect the character and appearance of the existing building, garden setting and surrounding area

Other elements were commented on during the public consultation. The council is proposing to apply the following elements of the new policy from November 1, in advance of the Examination in Public:

-          Limiting basement development to a single additional storey
-          Properly protecting heritage assets and safeguarding significant archaeological sites
-          Requiring a detailed structural method statement from a qualified engineer.

There are also further elements of the new policy which, in light of more detailed comments received regarding them, will be applied on a case-by-case basis from November 1, depending on how much weight can be applied to them in each instance:

-          Require basement applications set out a margin of undeveloped land
-          Require a minimum soil depth and volume

westminster demonstrations this week

There are two major demonstrations this week which may have an adverse affect on businesses and residents. There are full policing plans in place for each event. Please see below for information on both events:

National Campaign Against Cuts and Fees – Wednesday 4th November 2015

A number of student groups are holding a march and rally through Central London campaigning against student cuts . Police have increased the expected numbers to 300,000 people.

Areas around Charing Cross Road, the Strand and Victoria will be particularly affected with protesters assemble at 12:00hrs at Malet Street. Route includes Russell Square, Southampton Row, High Holborn, Charing Cross Road, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, Parliament Square, Millbank, Smith Square, Horseferry Road and concluding at Great Smith Street J/W Victoria Embankment.

Million Mask March – Thursday 5th November 2015

The protest group Anonymous organised an annual, global event titled the Million Mask March. Numbers are currently anticipated to be in excess of 3,500.

The London event, described as a “friendly gathering of minds”, will take place at 18.00 hours in Trafalgar Square. However, some social media entries are actively trying to encourage attendees to cause trouble.

There is no intelligence to indicate anywhere in London will be specifically targeted or that there will be any antisocial or criminal behaviour during this event. Previously demonstrators have targeted Buckingham Palace, Soho, Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square.

In case of any emergency always call 999.

Volunteers Needed - You Me Bum Bum Train

200-300 volunteers per night are need to make this immersive theatre experience work. No experience is necessary and all are welcome to take part in a unique experience. Please see the poster below for further details:

Night Tube Benefits Should Be Reviewed in a Pilot Scheme

Article for Huffington Post

One of the final major acts of Boris Johnson's Mayoralty will be the Night Tube: a success story for the Conservatives, for London's economy, for Boris himself, and for those who will use it.
London is the greatest City in the world deserves a transport network to match that meets the needs of London as a 24-hour city.
In introducing the night tube, TFL should also be aware of the impact of residents, especially those who live above tube lines and near tube stations that will form part of the 24-hour network. In my role as a ward councillor for the West End, I represent some of the busiest nightlife stops in the Capital which will be most affected by the introduction of the new service.

First let's take a look at what the Night Tube actually means.
Demand for tube services has soared over recent years, with passenger numbers on Friday and Saturday nights up by around 70 per cent since 2000, we all know about the rush to get the last tube at night and the often overcrowded night bus services.
For West End Ward, the introduction of the night-tube will offer an alternative to many who come to the West End for the array of theatres, restaurants, bars and clubs. This will be welcomed by local business, particularly in area like Soho who have faced challenging times in recent years. We have 10 tube stations in or around my ward - some of the most iconic and busiest stations on the network; All 10 of these tube stations will be part of the Night Tube service.
As a councillor, my first concern has to be for the area and residents that I represent on Westminster City Council.
Night Tube unlock the potential for longer opening hours for bars, clubs and other venues, and this must be managed in a way that allows businesses to flourish and customers to benefit without a detrimental impact on local residents. The West End is already a hot spot for nights out, and with longer opening hours comes the potential for more alcohol-fuelled nights out, and the consequences that follow.
This is where the responsibility of license holders will come into play in partnership with the council and police who have the responsibility for public order.
Westminster Council, and indeed any council affected by the Night Tube across London, needs to ensure that those asking for later licenses provide the adequate security to ensure customers can enjoy later hours in a safe and responsible environment, and that ensures the area is not negatively affected by their increased license.
One of the major advantages of the extended tube services will hopefully be improved safety for passengers, with access to later reducing demand for illegal minicabs, making night buses in turn less crowded and more comfortable and improving the safety of taxis at night.
London is the best city in the world, and like other world-class cities it deserves and warrants a night tube, but it needs to be well staffed, and the safety of Londoners, and local residents, needs to be at the forefront of delivery of the new service.
In my role as an advisor to the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), I know what great work London's Police are doing to safeguard our city.
TFL have already promised an enhanced policing presence during the overnight services, with more than 100 officers to patrol the 144 stations that will be open throughout the night each weekend when the Night Tube services begin. With addition Transport Police Community Support Officers also out on the network to assist passengers, and support police officers. I will be looking to TFL and the Metropolitan Police to take swift action to deal with disturbances both on the network and in local neighbourhoods affected by the night tube.
The other real concern that I have for the West End is not about the people getting home after a good night out but about people arriving in the West End after a good night out. It is not clear what modelling, if any, underlies the assumptions that have informed TfL's predictions as to usage. However many people will now be tempted to go to their local pubs and clubs in the evening and decide, possibly at 2am, to head "up West" to continue their entertainment. This could see large numbers of very drunk people arriving in the West End in the early hours going in search of late night clubs and running the real risk of being refused entry and taking out their disappointment not just of the security staff at the venues but on the West End and its residents.
Safeguarding residents, the local area, and those visiting Central London, is of paramount importance. There are many potential benefits from the Night Tube which will cut late night journeys times and extending London's night-time economy. However, in unlocking these benefits we must be prepared to review and react to the unexpected and ensure the advantages of longer tube opening are not lost by damage done elsewhere. I feel a pilot scheme and more honest figures from TfL are essential if we are to face up to these problems and the implications for the stretched resources of the Council and Police.
As many wise licensees say it is the tenth pint which gives you 10% of the profit and 100% of the problems.

Frith Street Proposals - Public Exhibition Boards

Benesco Charity Ltd will shortly be submitting a planning application to Westminster City Council for the refurbishment of 53-55 Frith Street and 8-10 Bateman Street.

The proposal is to extensively refurbish the buildings to provide improved office, residential, retail and restaurant accommodation.

If you would like further information or a separate briefing on the proposals, please do not hesitate to contact Matthew Richards on 020 3697 4294 or via email

Crossrail - Hanover Square Ticket Hall Update

Please see below the Information Sheet about the latest works taking place at the Hanover Square Ticket Hall.

Crossrail - Alternative Vehicle Routes for Davies St

Please find below the latest Information Sheet about alternative vehicle routes and the demobilisation of the BFK tunnelling works in the Crossrail Bond Street western ticket hall.

Who should be the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London?



The Conservative Party is holding an online primary to select its candidate for the 2016 London Mayoral Election. Anyone in London who is on the electoral roll can register to vote to help the party choose who will stand for the Conservatives in the election next year.

The current Mayor of London Boris Johnson was selected as the Conservative candidate in 2007 using a primary and the party is again giving all Londoners the opportunity to be involved in the process.

Four candidates have been shortlisted to stand in the primary. Andrew Boff, Zac Goldsmith, Stephen Greenhalgh and Syed Kamall

Voting will take place online during September following an official hustings, with the result announced at the end of September, ahead of the Conservative Party conference. 

The election for Mayor takes place on Thursday 5th May 2016.

Demobilisation at Bond St Crossrail Station

Please see below the latest Information Sheet about the demobilisation of the BFK tunnelling works in the Crossrail Bond Street western ticket hall.

Nightingale House, 65 Curzon Street - Public Exhibition

A planning application for the redevelopment of Nightingale House, on Curzon Street, will shortly be submitted to Westminster City Council.

The proposal is to provide a new high-quality residential building, with a new retail arcade on the ground floor linking Stratton Street and Curzon Street.

If you have any questions, please contact

Park Lane Mews Hotel Public Consultation

Genting UK PLC will shortly be submitting a planning application to Westminster City Council for the redevelopment of the Park Lane Mews Hotel on Stanhope Row and a number of adjacent properties.

The site currently benefits from two existing permissions for the site granted in 2010 and 2013 (09/09841/FULL and 12/10538/FULL) for the redevelopment of the site for a new hotel with an ancillary casino.

The current planning application, necessitated by the change in ownership of the site, broadly follows the same principles of the existing planning permissions – a new hotel, with ancillary residential and casino uses, designed to a high quality.

If you have any further questions please email

Buildings now ranked of quality of Connectivity

A new scheme which shows the quality and capacity of internet and broadband connectivity in buildings is now being introduced, similar to the scores on the doors scheme for restaurants and catering premises.

Building owners can now make clear how good the connectivity is and prospective tenants can assess whether the connectivity is sufficient for their needs.

As Lead Member for Broadband and Connectivity at Westminster we have been working with the City and major landowners and stakeholders to encourage them to ensure that sufficient capacity is built into their developments and refurbishments in the same way as sufficient supplies of water and electricity are taken as a given.

Individual occupiers can then key into this infrastructure according to their specific needs.

This is a useful step towards ensuring that the current areas poorly served by the historic infrastructure can be given the kind of service that they need to operate businesses in the twenty first century.

Please follow this link to the scheme.

The NHS: leading the way in transparency for taxpayers

My article for Conservative Home with Owen Meredith.

Earlier this month, the government announced a significant but under reported change in the way the NHS in England will issue prescription medicines. From next year, medicines that cost more than £20 per pack will have the indicative cost, alongside the words “funded by the UK taxpayer” printed on the pack.

This is a welcome and bold move. It takes another step in the direction of empowering people and providing them with more information about the public services they use. We have written before about the importance of users of all public services better understanding the cost and value of those services. Not only does this help greater understanding of the politics and economics of public services, is also gets over the something-for-nothing culture that often prevails.

It would be madness not to look at the £14.4 billion cost of prescription drugs to the NHS, which rose 7.6 per cent last year, at a time when the NHS needs to find £22 billion of efficiency savings over the next five years. These savings need to be made even while NHS spending as a whole is protected and will in fact rise by £10 billion.

In an article in September 2012, we argued:

To rebalance the economy and restore a rational state, the Government needs to act boldly and remind taxpayers just what it is they are paying for… following a Private Member’s Bill introduced by Ben Gummer MP, Osborne took the next baby step in the transparency agenda and adopted individual tax statements… but tax statements are only one side of the coin… What is also needed is a personalised statement of services to be issued alongside your tax statement… to break the cycle of dependency and deliver a smaller State, we need everyone to be more connected to what we get and what we pay for it.”
The move by Jeremy Hunt to inform patients of the costs of medicines dispensed on prescription is another very welcome step along that pathway to better transparency and understanding. Let us also take this opportunity to remind ourselves why this is needed. As it stands, we are expected to deliver a budget deficit of £69.5 billion in 2015/16, that is spending £1,000 more than we raise in taxes – this year alone – for every man, woman and child living in the UK. With Government departments needing to find 40 per cent savings in order to plug that gap and deliver balanced books, we need to bring public opinion with us when cutting the size of the state. The easiest way to do that is to show people exactly what it costs.

And there is plenty of evidence to support the case. In Wales where prescriptions are free, Paracetamol – which costs as little as little as 23 pence over the counter – is prescribed on the NHS at the rate of more than 1 million prescriptions a year. In fact, doctors in Wales wrote more than 74 million prescriptions for free medication last year. The statistics published by the Welsh Government reveal that the number of prescription drugs being issued is now 52 per cent higher than a decade ago. This is a scandalous waste of public resources. Simply reminding people (and doctors) of the cost to their purse and those of other taxpayers would have a behavioural impact on demand that could reduce demand by at least 20 per cent.

Take another example, there have been numerous studies on the cost of pathology tests and how simply changes to request forms or making doctors aware of the cost of tests dramatically reduces the number of unnecessary tests carried out. Replicating this across all public services is a sensible approach to reduce waste and manage costs.

In making this simple change, Jeremy Hunt is seeking to tackle the level of prescription waste, which costs the NHS £300 million a year. He is beginning to broker a new deal between the citizen and State and in so doing will reaffirm the value of public services received.

West End Ward Surgery - Friday 31 July

Unfortunately I will be absent from this month’s Surgery due to unforeseen circumstances . However, my colleague, Councillor Glenys Roberts, will be representing the Ward at St Anne’s Church, 55 Dean Street from 5pm to 6pm.

If you are unable to attend this drop-in and have Ward issues to raise , Councillor Paul Church, will be taking a surgery on Saturday 1 August at 2pm at Danceworks, Balderton St.

Alternatively you can contact me via email to raise any issues or concerns that you may have on

I look forward to seeing you as usual at the next Surgery which will be taking place on Friday 28 August.

Fitzroy Place Newsletter - July 2015

Please see the latest newsletter below in relation to the Fitzroy Place development:

Fight the Flytippers in Westminster

Dumped rubbish on Westminster's streets is an ongoing battle within the Ward and 75 City Inspectors are now on our streets to comabt this issue.

Please help us keep our streets clean by reporting flytipping online. Either send details and photos to us on Twitter using #FightFlytippers or fill in our quick online form at

Crossrail: Tottenham Court Road - latest works information

Please see below to view the latest works notification about the closure of Dean Street to through traffic to facilitate the removal of a scaffolding structure around the Nellie Dean public house.

Please also note that contractor, Laing O’Rouke, will be receiving a large welfare cabin delivery at the Goslett Yard worksite on the morning of 22 July 2015 approx 6am. The large load will be brought in under escort.

West End Starved of High Speed Internet

Many residents and business in the West End and elsewhere in Westminster are frustrated by the inability to access cost-effective superfast broadband. Small and medium sized businesses which make up the bulk of those operating in the West End are told by BT that they should be able to operate on the residential standard basis which operate on a shared arrangement , not unlike the old party-lines which means that the limited bandwidth available is divided and rationed between many users. At busy times their access to the internet and email is effectively slowed down to make the running of a business in the 21st century practically impossible. As use of the internet increases and programmes need more band with the position will only get worse.

As Lead Member for Broadband and Connectivity my inbox is full of those complaining of the lack of service and whilst larger businesses can fend for themselves and have a wide choice of higher capacity providers , smaller businesses and residents are told that there is no prospect of upgrading the 4 exchanges in Westminster for a better service that can be provided by Fibre to the Cabinet as BT, who control the infrastructure state ”there is no demand” and it is prohibitively expensive to do so in central London because the residential population “not sufficiently dense”.

This is clearly counter-intuitive and , in my view, nonsense.

In order to address this, and enjoy the unheard of luxury of being able to watch a programme on Netfix without it constantly stopping for buffering we need to provide evidence of demand.

Please follow the link and this on the Westminster City Council website ( to show that there is indeed demand to help us get broadband fit for a World class city in the 21st Century.

An investigation, has shown that 341,592 residents across London are without high-speed broadband connection. London’s average internet speed is 25Mbps which makes it one of the worst capital cities in. It is important that we take the time to campaign and invest in this area to help bring the capital back up to a competitive international standard.

Surprisingly Westminster is the borough at the bottom of the pack with 103,000 of its residents without high-speed broadband connection. The map (below), recently produced by The Mayor of London, shows details of black spots across London. By visiting you will be able to search your postcode and will be given the chance to request faster broadband for the borough.

Soho Square - Hellman's Pop Up Garden - Wednesday 15 July 2015

Hellman's are creating a pop up Mediterranean garden which will be set up tomorrow in Soho Square. The garden will be open to the public and will contain chairs, hammocks, tables and a portable kitchen in which a chef will be undertaking cooking demonstrations. The north east quadrant of Soho Square gardens will be decorated with plants and garden accessories such as wooden barrels, shutters, gazebos. Details are listed below. 

Wednesday 15th July 2015
Soho Square Gardens (north east quadrant)
Event live: 12:00 – 20:00hrs

Crossrail: Bond Street Station – Hanover Square Works Update

Please see the document below for information on the latest works and progress being made at the Hanover Square ticket hall worksite.

Crossrail - BFK Demobilisation at Bond Street

Please see below for the latest Crossrail works information sheet regarding the BFK demobilisation at the western ticket hall on Davies Street and the removal of the ‘crane deck’.

Pride 2015 - #Freedomto

This year the Pride organisation have been asking for support for a national letter writing campaign called #FreedomTo Represent. It has asked for politicians at local, national and European levels to write a letter detailing the importance of Pride. Although simple, this technique sends a powerful message to all about the LGBT representations in the UK today. I have written and support this campaign so please take the time to write or blog on this subject.

This year's annual Pride in London has already started and ends on 28 June. The annual Pride Parade and other events take place on Saturday 27 June and further details can be found via the website

Is the Market Calling Time on Office to Residential Conversions in Central London?

Originally published by Huffington Post on 19/06/2015

With some reports suggesting house prices in central London have cooled dramatically and increasing demand for commercial space in the Capital will the market now cool the mania for office to residential conversions?

When the Government's reforms to planning law came into force in 2012, the new rules told developers councils "should normally approve planning applications for change to residential use and any associated development from commercial buildings." Westminster City Council won an exception from this for Central Activities Zone, recognising the unique nature of our City - but that has not stopped the surge of developments seeking, and winning, consent. Some 5,000,000 square feet of commercial space in Westminster has been converted or is consented for conversion and many more schemes are in the pipeline.

Westminster's City Plan, produced when commercial values were significantly higher than residential, sought to address the then market pressure to convert from residential to office by establishing a presumption in favour of commercial to residential. That presumption is now being revised so that developers will have to prove special circumstances to undertake commercial to residential conversion and provide replacement commercial space. Although this is a welcome move has the market itself already begun to correct this?

There is no doubt about the market's appetite and the need for more homes across London, but sacrificing valuable and desirable commercial space in the engine room of the London economy is no longer the right solution, particularly if these homes remain unlived -in and are merely safe havens for investors to park their money, rather than homes for London's workforce. Converting prime-commercial into residential accommodation is not how we will maintain and enhance vibrant communities in the centre of our city nor will empty flats support the local shops, restaurants and services which make the very glue that holds such communities together. It is ironic that these very factors which make London such an attractive place in which to live should be threatened by a policy designed to build more homes.

So as the London Land Commission seeks to identify brown field sites for 400,000 new homes in London they should be mindful of the need to preserve commercial space for firms to expand. Failure to do so could leave thousands of businesses literally squeezed out of the Capital and with them the jobs relied up to by the thousands of new tenants for those homes. Particularly from amongst the creative industries, small start-up businesses, professional firms and other SMEs which have thrived in the properties now being converted and permanently lost to commercial use.

We have already seen the market shift as tax changes on residential property have kicked in, including (ATED) on properties held within corporate envelopes and higher rates of SDLT, the froth at the very top of the London residential market has faded away. Talk to Estate Agents in Westminster and they will tell you properties are sitting on the books for longer than they have for some time, bucking a national trend which has seen the number of homes for sale fall to their lowest level in nearly 40 years.

When the assumption of developers is that even poorly equipped and located properties will necessarily achieve £2,500 per square foot in the West End just because of their post code the market has clearly overshot. The market which has now caught them out and many units remain unsold or unlet as the investors come to terms with real return (often sub 2%) that they can obtain from their investment. These properties will now come back to the market at more realistic sale or rent prices and help to lessen the shortage of homes which they were planned to address.

At the same time, news this week of the continuing success of London's £18bn tech industry and the inflow of investment to the sector, which is now rivalling the City as the powerhouse behind the UK's economy, shows the growing desire for international firms to locate in London, and they are increasingly looking for office space outside the traditional silicon roundabout hotspot. Not only does this inward investment help to rebalance the UK economy away from financial services to a broader base, it also signals the need to ensure our city can continue to grow. The opening of Crossrail in 2018 will add significantly to this demand as Central London become easier to access. There is no question that Greater London needs more homes of all tenures.

Office rents have now reached record levels in central London and the ripple effect is being felt far beyond the Central core where rents of £120 per square foot on the best space has seen the small office suites in Marylebone, Fitzrovia and Bloomsbury head up to £75 per square foot and beyond.

As the market changes again and with booming demand for commercial premisesacross the city seeing West End vacancy levels fall to just 2.3% and booming rents, developers are now looking again at their numbers and schemes like Derwent Valley's Savile Row and others across Fitzrovia, Soho and St James which have consent for conversation but increasingly look unlikely to be developed as residential.

As a very famous Lady once put it "You can't buck the market".

It’s time to get the Party going again in London

As the post­-election dust settles and thoughts turn towards the London 2016 elections, we should take this opportunity to look at where we can improve our campaigning and ensure that come 5th May 2016 we truly bury the myth that London is a Labour city.
Lord Feldman’s root and branch review of the Conservative Party structure and operations is a welcome start to ensure a Party fit for the 21st Century that continues to win elections. This review is absolutely essential, perhaps nowhere more so than in London.
In the General Election, across the Capital we performed better than many expected, but still woefully underperformed against the national picture. The growing consensus among the political commentarial that London is a Labour city is one we can defeat, but to do so we should not be afraid to learn from our opponents.
The result on May 7th paints a mixed picture. Whilst across the UK as a whole we increased our vote share by 0.8 per cent, in London we managed just half that with our vote share rising from 34.5 per cent (2010) to 34.9 per cent (2015). Labour on the other hand increased their vote by 7.1 per cent. Compared with 2010 we added nearly 60,000 votes, but were eclipsed by Labour’s additional 300,000 meaning we lost four talented parliamentarians – Mary Macleod in Brentford & Isleworth, Angie Bray in Ealing Central & Acton, Nick de Bois in Enfield North and Lee Scott in Ilford North. A shortfall of just 2,414 votes in those seats cost us four London MPs.
So as we prepare to select our candidate for the London mayoral battle that is now just 334 days away, let us address the realities and weaknesses we face in London and adapt our party to meet those head on.
This is a weakness that is on the face of it surprising. We have all had conversations at Conference and with friends and colleagues across the rest of the UK about the London centric nature of the party, candidates and CCHQ. So why when we have the talent, the money and the capacity in our London ranks are we failing in our own back yard?
There is no simple answer, but learning from our opponents, part of the solution is surely better use of what we have got. We should not shy away from recognising the strength of Labour in London that delivered them a handful of gains in May. Their unified structure, deployment of financial and activist resource is better than ours. We do not have to just accept that – let’s change it.
Thinking of own experience as a Westminster city councillor I am lucky enough to have an active ward committee and membership that regularly organise the social events and fundraisers that keep the party funded and functional. They keep a well­-oiled, election winning machine whirring in Westminster. But many, who give their money freely and generously, cannot afford to be so free with their time ­ so campaigning and canvassing in my West End ward is more often than not the hard core of 4 or 5 on a wet Saturday morning or Tuesday evening.
For many years I fear we felt that was enough. In an age where the internet is at our finger tips and emails form “Boris Johnson” and “David Cameron” reach the inboxes of thousands on what sometimes felt like an hourly basis during the campaign, is the election really still won on the doorstep?
Undoubtedly, yes.
Yet many places we need to win across London are not blessed with either the manpower or the money. Ignoring the boundary changes for a moment, in the seats within our reach Hampstead & Kilburn (1,138), Westminster North (1,977) , Harrow West (2,208), Eltham (2,693 majority), Tooting (2,842), and the four seats we lost a concerted London-wide effort over the next four and a half years can deliver those gains.
During this election I had the opportunity to campaign across London – from Hampstead and Kilburn to Croydon Central, Westminster North to Ilford North – in the fight to win the 23 seats needed to deliver the majority we thankfully now have. Taking Lindsey Hall’s campaign in Westminster North, here we increased the Conservative vote and cut Labour’s majority, but there was very little help from outside the seat. Had 50 more activists pounded the streets in the weeks before the election we could, just maybe, have converted the 989 votes from Labour to Conservative needed to gain the seat?
So where were they? There is something inherently local about politics that drives and inspires us to get involved. While we all want to see a Conservative government and Prime Minister in No 10, we naturally feel more comfortable campaigning at home, where we know the people and the issues and we feel a sense of belonging. Localism is a buzz word, but it is one with meaning.
The question Lord Feldman’s review must answer is how we best motivate and mobilise our financial resources and manpower to win across London. We need our activists to feel a sense of belonging to a London wide Conservative network in order to share from where there are many to where there are few. On structure, funding, manpower and data we can campaign stronger by working together.
So with 2016 fast approaching and elections where every vote truly counts, let’s campaign as a single London party and keep our city, the greatest city in the world, a Conservative city.

Article originally published by Conservative Home (10/06/15)