Camden Council should not let Arup and Derwent London run loose in Fitzrovia

By News Reporters Somebody in Camden Town Hall must have said: "Now -- between the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics -- would be a good time to sneak this out and hope nobody notices."

To the north of the Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia neighbourhoods is Euston Station. Its proposed development as an HS2 terminal will be planned by the Fitzrovia-based firm Arup. Sarah Hayward leader of Camden Council made much political capital out of her opposition to the expansion of Euston and she was quite rightly greatly admired for standing up for the many people who live and work in Drummond Street, the Regent’s Park estate and beyond.

To the south we have the Crossrail station at Tottenham Court Road which is being partly developed by Derwent London, who also own a lot of propery in Fitzrovia. Camden Council rejected Derwent’s monsterous redevelopment plans for the Saatchi & Saatchi building in Charlotte Street. Sarah Hayward was a member of the planning committee that rejected this proposal. And well done we all said for sticking up for us in Fitzrovia.

But what is not generally known is that Sarah Hayward as Cabinet Member for Communities, Regeneration and Equalities was towards the end of 2011 privy to discussions about letting Arup and Derwent London under the guise of The Fitzrovia Partnership run a business improvement district (BID) in Fitzrovia.

Fitzrovia News submitted a freedom of information request to Camden Council asking how the decision to let Arup and Derwent London hold a ballot came about. It seems very little was actually recorded and the information trail is not very clear. But one thing is certain: Sarah Hayward was involved in allowing Arup and Derwent London to lay the foundations to create a new commercial district in Fitzrovia, conveniently placed between Euston Station and Tottenham Court Road Crossrail Station.

And without any public consultation whatsoever. In fact it appears she didn’t even mention it to our three Bloomsbury ward councillors. Councillor Adam Harrison who lives in Fitzrovia only found out about the BID proposal from Fitzrovia News.

Now Camden Council have turned loose Arup and Derwent London to create one giant forecourt between their two rail stations. Some people are a little bit annoyed about this.

4 Comments on Camden Council should not let Arup and Derwent London run loose in Fitzrovia

  1. Peter (coordinator, Howard House & Cleveland St {north} Neighbourhood Watch) // 4:39 pm, Friday, 3 August 2012 at 4:39 pm //

    The timing was also between issues of Fitzrovia News. The Evening Standard is full of the London Olympic games and not Derwent London’s games.

    1st August was stipulated as the BID start date. The same day, “the new loan was fully drawn on 1 August 2012″…

    http://www.standard.co.uk/business/business-news/derwent-london-taps-in-to-us-insurer-8004706.html

  2. What you state above is not correct regarding Cllr Sarah Hayward. What I told you at the time was the following:

    “The Fitzrovia Partnership asked to meet with us and I have a meeting booked for early next week – but only one day before the ballot goes live. I had thought a BID proposal might form part of the discussion but did not expect it to be so soon afterwards.”

    The Fitzrovia Partnership contacted me only on 25 May 2012 to seek a meeting about how it was “seeking to establish a level of sustainability to the organisation”.

    Interpreting this round-the-houses wording was helped by the fact that shortly before that Sarah had mentioned to me that she thought the Partnership were putting plans in place to propose a BID. That is why I therefore thought that a BID might form part of the discussion. As I have said previously, I was surprised at how quickly after the Partnership’s contact with me that the BID ballot opened, and remain disappointed at the lack of wider consultation with the community.

    It has also been commonly assumed by many for a number of years now that the Fitzrovia Partnership would eventually propose a BID and so while the process has been disappointing the fact of its taking place has not been surprising and as, previously, cabinet member with responsibility for business and later as leader of the council it is similarly unsurprising that Sarah might have heard that a BID proposal was in the works. As you know, councils cannot prevent BID ballots taking place. Instead, they have a right to veto within a period after the ballot’s result in announced. Tonight ward councillors are meeting with the Fitzrovia Partnership to discuss this and their proposed articles of association.

    Adam Harrison

    • Adam

      Thanks for your comment. You said: “Sarah had mentioned to me that she thought the Partnership were putting plans in place to propose a BID”.

      I note you said “she thought”. Actually “she knew”, because according to the response to my FOI request she was the only elected member consulted. The FOI response from Camden is below.

      =================begins=====================

      Dear Mr. Rees
      Re: Freedom of Information Act 2000
      Thank you for your recent Freedom of Information request received on 11th June 2012. Your request has now been considered and the information requested is enclosed.
      You requested information on the:

      1. I would be most grateful if you could let me have the minutes of all meetings between 1 January 2009 and the present date relating to all meetings concerning the organisation known as The Fitzrovia Partnership and their wanting to set up a business improvement district in Fitzrovia.

      Response
      We have run a search of the minutes of meetings from 1 January 2009 to present where the Fitzrovia Partnership wanting to set up a business improvement district (BID) might have been discussed. Attached are:

      · Notes from a Community, Regeneration and Equalities Portfolio Holder Meeting with Councillor Sarah Hayward on Friday 18 November 2011. Note the reference to a Fitzrovia BID briefing under AOB.
      · Notes from a Culture and Environment Directorate Management Team meeting on Thursday 10th May 2012. Note discussion of Fitzrovia BID proposal under item 4.

      Other meetings at which the Fitzrovia Partnership plans to become a BID were discussed were not minuted.

      Please note that we have only disclosed information from the minutes that concerns your request.

      2. I also want details of all minutes, and a list of elected members of council who were consulted, leading to an agreement to allow a ballot for a business improvement district to be held in July 2012.

      Response
      Councillor Sarah Hayward met with representatives of the Fitzrovia Partnership on 22 November 2011 ahead of the decision to allow the ballot to go ahead. This meeting was not minuted.
      Cllr Hayward asked the Fitzrovia Partnership to consult with the ward councillors and Cllr Adam Harrison subsequently met with Gary Reeves in June.
      ====================ends============

      Linus Rees
      assistant editor

  3. Peter (coordinator, Howard House & Cleveland St {north} Neighbourhood Watch) // 5:27 pm, Sunday, 5 August 2012 at 5:27 pm //

    Former Derwent directors Nick Groves and Oliver Shepherd were comparatively open about their discussions with significant Fitzrovia landholders (and the neighbouring ones outside of Fitzrovia) ensuring that the major business players, in enacting their plans, would not be stepping on each other’s toes. That openness extended to discussions with the council and relevant parties.

    What has changed is that Nick Groves and Oliver Shepherd have left Derwent. Under Simon Silver that open and frank engagement is no more. Here we are discussing amongst ourselves what is happening, trying to catch up and trying to work out what it will all mean but we are in the dark, and because of the earlier and better experience with the previous directors is it not reasonable to conclude that this is deliberate?

    So no, that the BID was coming is not a surprise but the timing seems to have been carefully planned at speed so as to side-track, avoid and downright ignore everyone else outside of the BID process, while other big events are going on in London over the summer. Even the proposed re-negotiations of the Articles of Association are part of the stage-management and control of public reaction played as concession and by-passed consultation.

    Let us get through the terminology and be blunt. If a “business improvement district” is about making a district more amenable to business why are small businesses not eligible to directly participate? As that is the case, wouldn’t the name “corporate improvement district” be more appropriate? Doesn’t that describe more accurately what we are witnessing?

    Derwent and the Fitzrovia Partnership are holding their breaths waiting for Camden Council to give the nod after the dance of the negotiations, in lieu of the proper consultation. Isn’t it noticeable how Derwent and the Fitzrovia Partnership are not taking part in Fitzrovia News’s reports and discussions? Why would they?

    Isn’t the “BID” really an attempt by Derwent to have its money buy its way into directing the governance of Fitzrovia to its own profitability? Once enacted, however it is portrayed, is that ignoring of the locality not given a degree of formality?

    Messers Groves and Shephed’s willingness to discuss their plans and listen to feedback about Fitzrovia (face to face, without the service of paid mediating consultants) gave confidence that there was a depth and connectivity to what they were doing: that there is an established residential population who are interested in seeing the area do well, and seeing that continue over the long term. At the time, the contrast was clear with what the Candy’s slash and burn treatment of the Middlesex Hospital on behalf of that poor put-upon minority, the non-dom, jet-set, which roused the indignation of Fitzrovians with the use of the name “Noho”- itself a symptom of the Candys’ detachment from the area, preferring direct dealings with Westminster and Camden Councils, like Derwent under Simon Silver’s leadership.

    What the Candys were doing tied into the redefining and marketing of Fitzrovia with sections partitioned according to the areas of concentration of the major landholders. The BID is a more sophisticated version.

    Another similarity to the highly leveraged Candy approach is the coincidence of the news of the MassMutual Financial Group’s Cornerstone subsidiary £83 million loan to Derwent on the day that the BID was stipulated as due to come into effect. After all, can’t Derwent get that back after rents are pushed up from businesses which will borrow in turn to keep up? That’s a sound policy to base a local economy isn’t it?

    To those who are (what’s a nice way of of putting it?) personally motivated, the experiences of the United States sub-prime mortgages, Iceland, debt-ridden Greece, the property-bubble in Spain and bailed-out banks is not don’t repeat those mistakes, but if you can get away with them and get out fast enough, the mess will be for someone else to deal with and you will escape with a bonus.

    Will Sarah Hayward, Valerie Leach and Camden Council dig into their integrity and not get mesmerised by the millions involved and ask themselves what is in the best interests of the area as a whole?

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