New Marylebone community group aims to bring “village feel” to area

A new community organisation which launched in East Marylebone last week is hoping to “put the Great back into Great Portland Street”.

The Portland Village Association has been set up by local businesses and residents to promote the area and act as a voice for the community.

With more than 30 organisations attending the first formal meeting, the group is now hoping to apply for council funding once it has formed a list of priorities.

Weymouth Street resident and association chairman Mark Gazaleh says he hopes the association will help bring back a “village feel” to the area.

“We have a lot of social problems and issues associated with crime in the neighbourhood so we decided to bring back a sense of ownership for the people who live here,” he said.

“It’s an area that is on the periphery of Westminster and it has always suffered because of that.

“The bit around Marylebone High Street has the Howard de Walden Estate and Western Marylebone has the Portman Estate but we don’t have a dominant owner like that around here.

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“We have a more disparate landscape with different owners so we have to create our own sense of unity.”

As well as promoting the interests of residents and organisations in the Portland Village area, the association aims to attract more tourists to the neighbourhood by improving its appearance.

The creation of the group follows on from a successful scheme by Mr Gazaleh’s W1W Tree Planting Initiative which has seen 275 trees planted in Eastern Marylebone over the past two years.

The scheme has been endorsed by numerous celebrities with Barbara Windsor, Alan Titchmarsh and Lord Robert Winston all planting individual trees.

The Portland Village Association secretary Kerstin Bowers, a founding member Ridgeford Properties, said: “This side of Marylebone is often forgotten about.

“The Western side tends to attract the money and investment so we feel that our side needs more regeneration.

“We want to bring more of a sense of place to the area, regenerate it and spruce it up a bit.”

Priorities discussed at the first meeting included rubbish on the streets, an excess of street furniture and the need for more greening.