HISTORY OF FITZROVIA WEST
Gestation Jan 2013 – September 2013
The legislation pertaining to Neighbourhood Forums was passed in late 2011. During 2012 some of Westminster’s Amenity Societies started to discuss setting up Neighbourhood Forums, but unfortunately these discussions were not widely publicised. Societies spoke to societies, rather than to the residents and businesses that made up their area. By the time people of Fitzrovia became aware of the situation an extremely large Marylebone focused forum was being proposed.
After discussions with the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association (FNA), a cross border Fitzrovia bid was launched. Several of our current steering group were involved in that bid. Once it became clear that there was likely to be opposition to the cross border proposal, the Fitzrovia group decided to split into two, a Camden side and a Westminster side.
Early discussions were held before applications were sent in, with as many local organisations as possible, including the FNA. In addition, informal discussions were held with our neighbours and local businesses. These discussions revealed great interest in a Fitzrovia West Forum and little knowledge of and less interest in a larger Marylebone Forum
Launching the bid – September 26th September 2013
Once we had a clear indication that there would be support for a Fitzrovia West area, a small steering group was established and a proposal submitted
Publicity, consultation and outreach
The steering group decided to follow a comprehensive consultation strategy, led by the techniques recommended by the City Council in its Statement of Community Involvement, namely; Informing stakeholders by overage through the media such as local newspapers and radio, posters, leaflets and information and on the internet and consulting stakeholders via questionnaires, public meetings and discussion groups
By December Fitzrovia West had achieved the following:
- Set up a website that received over 650 unique hits in its first month of operation and to date has received 16,000 unique visitors. (DATA TSO HOSTS ANALYTICS)
- Attracted over 150 subscribers to sign up as supporters
- Regularly updated the website with information
- Undertaken a small survey of residents and businesses
- Contacted as many residents and local businesses as possible via a whole area leaflet drop, and individual approaches
- Placed advertisement posters in local shops, cafes, business and residential block noticeboards
- Continued discussions and negotiations with neighbouring groups and amenity societies
- Held two public meetings
- Issued articles and information to the local news-sheet and internet news providers
Since Westminster’s approval of the area the steering group has focused further on
- Improving its representativeness by enlarging the steering group
- Finalizing the details of the constitution and posting them on the website
- Contacting the membership to update them and update their membership details
- Planning a renewed public consultation via a public meeting in July
- Arranging for the election of a shadow Executive Committee to take over from the steering group for the period of consultation and Westminster’s consideration of the Forum application
- Through the good offices of one of our business members, circulating every address in the area with an invitation to our next meeting and to stand for election
At the time of writing we have 152 registered forum members (June 11th). Out of these 89 have registered as residents, 49 are employees of local firms, 28 are rate-paying business members and 31 represent organizations, charities or not-for-profit working in the area. We are happy to furnish WCC with a list of names if required.
Note: there is some overlap in these figures, with about 20 members registered as residents and under another designation. We are working to remove that anomaly.
Profile of resident members
Residents live in all quarters of the area and represent a good social-economic spread.
Businesses and Employees
We are pleased that some of the large businesses have joined, or designated an employee to join on their behalf. Businesses involved include property developers, (For example, London Central, Langham Estates and Howard de Walden), estate agents, as well as a good selection of our local small businesses like pubs, cafes, galleries and hairdressers.
Many of our resident members also run small businesses and represent an important part of Fitzrovia’s vibrant creative economic community. Our membership includes writers, artists and designers.
Organizations represented include; Holcroft Court Residents Association, University of Westminster, Fitzrovia Community Centre, All Souls Primary School, All Souls Youth Project and Fitzrovia Mums.
Our ward councilors, both from Marylebone High Street Ward and Central Ward are also automatically included, and kept up to date.
We have also fostered good relations with our neighbouring areas. FitzEast Neighbourhood Area and The Soho Neighbourhood Area. These also represented as observers in our forum, but do not have voting rights. A letter of invitation has recently gone to Marylebone Neighbourhood Area, and The Oxford Street BID and we are very hopeful that they too will join us in discussions.
Current membership thus demonstrates a good balance between business and resident communities. We are aware that for the neighbourhood plan to be successful it will need to address both business and resident issues in equal measure. Thus we have made efforts to ensure that businesses and local organisations are well represented on the elected executive committee, as well as on The Forum.
Our constitution requires that decision making processes are equitable. The constitution does not tie us down to a particular method of ensuring the committee is numerically representative. There are a number of equity requirements that sit alongside the need to represent both businesses and residents. Instead the constitution imposes a duty on the committee to ensure that it is representative. An important safeguard of this is enshrined in our constitution.
- Executive members are to be elected
- Their term of office is limited to a maximum three years
- Minutes of meetings are to be made public and
- The committee will meet in public
It is our intention to run shadow elections in July on a 50/50 basis, requiring voters to vote for 5 each of resident and business/organisation candidates. The constitution allows the committee to co-opt a further three members, if it desires to redress any imbalance or lack of skill among those elected. Co-opted members must be voted in at the next general meeting.
Despite our lack of funds, we initiated a major membership drive before Christmas 2013. We have delivered a letter/leaflet to every address, business or residential home within our neighbourhood area. The response has been good and broadly reflects the diversity of people within the area.
We are initiating a further mail-out this week, to encourage people to join and to take part in this six week consultation period. This drive will include the slightly enlarged area that Westminster City Council established, i.e. the West Side of Portland Place.
We also continue to make overtures to big business in our area and to local developers.
Our purpose in relation to the character of the area
Fitzrovia West is a mixed retail, commercial and residential area. The normal land-use pattern on main streets is of shops on the ground floor of buildings, and offices, flats or both above. Side streets and the more northern streets are much more residential. In addition there are larger retail outlets at the boundaries of our area, in particular on Oxford Street. WCC has designated the area as a business neighbourhood area, ensuring that both residents and businesses must give their approval to the Neighbourhood Plan.
For residents and businesses, Fitzrovia is defined by its atmosphere as much as its built form. In our survey of forum members (November 2013) many people mentioned the friendliness of the area. They liked the mixed use, the variety, as well as the qualities of independent shops and cafes. People also mentioned the rich mix of small business. It is considered by many to be village-like and quiet (not adjectives that one would immediately think to attach to the centre of a world city). The pleasant aspects of walking and cycling around the area were also mentioned.
Our mission and purpose, as expressed in our draft constitution, reflects the aspects that are valued by Fitzrovians, are as follows:-
Mission: Our mission is to ensure that Fitzrovia develops as a habitable, sustainable and neighbourly community through all means available including planning, collaborative working and community enterprise.
- To promote the social, economic and environmental well-being of Fitzrovia, including with Westminster Council and other relevant bodies;
- To produce, and help to implement a Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Development Plan that delivers the vision of the Forum and the wider community;
- To help foster community spirit and encourage local democracy and civic pride.
In addition, we have formulated a vision, a set of values and an approach by which we will work
Our Vision: A vibrant, prosperous, creative and connected neighbourhood where people from all sectors and communities enjoy well being and work collaboratively to ensure that their living and working needs and interests are met in an inclusive and equitable manner.
Values and Approach: We believe that locally managed change can be positive. We will work constructively and collaboratively with Westminster City Council, The Greater London Authority and other bodies to ensure that our local voice is recognised and our views respected.
We seek to be transparent and democratic, collaborative and inclusive, creative and innovative, equitable and neighbourly.
- Value the intrinsic character of the area, recognising that it stems from the dynamism and diversity of the residential community, the vitality and mix of businesses as well as the quality of architecture and urban design;
- Contribute to discussions and initiatives beyond our boundaries that can support our aims and those of our neighbouring communities;
- Work constructively with local developers and landowners to ensure that any development proposal that comes forward has local input at an early stage and contributes to the intrinsic qualities of Fitzrovia that makes this area habitable, socially and economically vibrant and sustainable;
- Work with the authorities and funding bodies to ensure that the infrastructure, physical, economic, social, educational and digital, of Fitzrovia is improved in relevant ways and that funding for the area is fair;
- Take advantage of any powers, including statutory powers, given to a designated Neighbourhood Forum.