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LETTERS: They seem to think people in Soho don’t matter

Published: 13 January, 2017

• FURTHER to Bob Carlton’s excellent letter (Closure of CityWest’s Soho estate office doesn’t help us, January 6), I’d like to add that, despite all pretence to the contrary, CityWest has simply joined in the general attitude that people in Soho don’t matter.  

Take the recent holidays. People on both sides of Oxford Street wanted to send Christmas cards and presents and if ever a time demonstrated how the loss of post offices has affected us all it was then. I can’t be the only resident who remembers the huge efforts made to prevent the closure of the only post office left in Soho, back in 2007.

A petition was sent to Mark Field MP, but later we all read, with bitter disappointment, the West End Extra’s report on his verdict… that a small post office outlet, with a couple of windows in the Oxford Street Plaza’s branch of WH Smith’s, would be adequate replacement.

There was no mention of any contingency plan, should WH Smith close, as though it would be there for ever. Though nothing in the West End is for ever, except demolition and redevelopment. 

At that time residents in Fitzrovia still had two real post offices – one in Newman Street and another in Great Portland Street. In Soho, though, we were left with the lacklustre service and endless queues in Smith’s, and an even less adequate post office corner of Ryman’s far down Lower Regent Street, where the wait was for hours.  

But then the Newman Street office closed and in 2016 so did the Plaza, taking Smith’s and its few counters along with it. In December those with parcels, if they were physically able, joined Fitzrovia residents to queue for an eternity in the Great Portland Street office, and into the evening the whimpering, freezing, queues stretched far down the pavement. 

A friend of mine, unable to queue, packed up a parcel and, lacking scales, made a wildly generous over-estimate of its weight rather than get it wrong, and paid Parcelforce to collect it!

Even those of us who simply wanted to send cards had a problem.  Every card I received, from around the country, had a second class stamp on the envelope but, ask where you would, not a second class stamp was to be found in Soho. 

Now we’re into the new year and if you bought anything online and want to return it Heaven help you. Will our MP, who approved the Poland Street closure, stand and queue in the cold at the Great Portland Street post office for you? I think not. So here let’s raise a cheer for Mail Boxes Etc, tucked away in Ingestre Place, who will send parcels at PO rates, but the Royal Mail won’t help you find it – look on a Google map in vain, and at the same time see just how few post offices there are in the West End.     

I am so sick of the attitude that nobody lives here, and if they do there’s no reason to care about them.  

This spreads even to life and death situations, for which December was a terrible month. 

Before Christmas I was amazed to see that an ambulance had actually been able to get to my building, given the usual gridlock. Sadly a disabled resident had died. Then, over Christmas, an elderly resident in Ingestre Court died and his wife fell and broke her pelvis.  

It was just as well, no matter how heartbreaking, that these events took place over the holiday, because once all the digging and building got back to normal even more streets were closed, and emergency services might well have needed a helicopter to reach them.

It’s no good blaming the highways department – they’re faced with more planning permissions for demolition and building than ever before.   

On top of all this, did you know that we don’t need food? The food hall in the Marks & Spencer premier Pantheon Store, (almost opposite what was once the Plaza) which must have the nicest and most helpful staff in the world, is unfortunately dependent on higher echelons who’ve reportedly designated it as being for office workers only, not believing anyone in Soho or Fitzrovia needs to eat. Post-Christmas was a nightmare and it was January 5 before its supplies got anywhere near back to normal.   M&S’s new boss, Steve Rowe, has admitted most customers go to its stores for food rather than anything else, but his intelligence hasn’t reached our area, where the message was “Let them eat knickers”.

So it should be no surprise CityWest Homes care little or nothing about the Kemp House residents who’ve suffered flood, fire and no lift service in their tower block. 

Like the rest of us, they’re just people who live in Soho.

ALIDA BAXTER
Broadwick Street, W1

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