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LETTERS: We need a commitment to refuse applications for more luxury housing

Published: 20 January, 2017

• TWO letters published in last week’s West End Extra attest just what the majority on Westminster City Council really think of residents living on some of their estates and nicely illustrates what a lively letters page can achieve. Another local freebie actually having the name of Westminster in its masthead might want to note and learn how to do it.

That from Aaron Little (Panel news, January 13) passes on the good news that the Westminster Residents Panel (WRP) will be continuing. He also refers to the sudden withdrawal of support for the WRP. When this occurred, there was little warning it was coming. This to my mind is a good indication of just how arbitrarily this decision was arrived at. 

To add insult to injury, Citywest Homes (CWH) and/or their political masters have offered one or two annual meetings. By definition, an annual meeting can only happen once a year. If Westminster City Council (WCC) councillors and/or CWH officials cannot get so simple a point, how then can we trust their other decisions?

Something else they decided is what is shown by the cavalier nature CWH treated one of their own employees, namely the administrator of the WRP office. This office was taken by CWH on grounds of it being needed to be converted into a home. The same was said of the Grosvenor Estate office. In neither case has anything happened. 

From Alida Baxter’s letter (We’re the forgotten people here..., January 13), it seems the same game is being played regarding the Soho district office. We should not be too surprised if it stands as empty as all the other offices subject to the same process.

In any case it is becoming clearer all the time just what the city councillors actually think. It has been recently announced in the media that all needing to be housed/rehoused in Westminster will be sent out of the borough to live. This cannot be for reasons of a lack of building land.

This is said of all over London. However, anyone going about our city will see building sites everywhere. Unfortunately, what is going up is luxury housing not social housing. What is needed is a commitment to refusing permission when applications for luxury housing come before Westminster’s planning committee.

What tends to happen is planning permission is granted, sometimes with an obligation towards social housing. As sure as night follows day, the builders will approach the council to buy that obligation off the council “as there will not be enough profit in the project for us”. When this (not if) happens, WCC may construct social housing but will be very careful to ensure this occurs outside our historic city. 

So those needing homes will join those others seen as problems that include those needing sheltered housing and will also be farmed out to outside the borough where these citizens have grown up.

Can anyone remember when WCC directly built their own social housing? Will it ever happen again? Given the doctrinaire politics of the majority on WCC (as shown by their policies), this seems manifestly unlikely. 

All of which should be remembered when it comes to placing our votes at the upcoming elections.

H BOURNE
Address supplied, SW1

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