Labour is deeply concerned that some of Westminster’s most iconic areas are under threat and that action needs to be taken by the council to help protect them. Soho has fallen victim to over-development, pressures from Crossrail, rising rents and the encroachment of global high street. If action is not taken now to save it, what makes these areas unique may be lost for ever. Similarly Chinatown is facing similar encroachment and pressure from rising rents.
Labour will look at the use of the council’s planning powers to help protect these iconic parts of Westminster. It will look to use the ‘Special Policy Area’ powers it has to protect Soho and Chinatown as the Council has currently done for other parts of the city.
For example in the most recent revisions to Westminster’s City Plan in November 2016 the Conservative Council created a special policy area (CM 2.4) that seeks to protect parts of St James as “a centre of aristocracy and prestige” by introducing special protections for its private members’ clubs. The policy framework does contain important protections for medical facilities on Harley Street, tailoring in Savile Row, galleries and antiques in Mayfair and institutional uses on Portland Place.
Beyond the planning system if elected Labour will work to minimise the impact of the proposed Crossrail 2 on Soho, including fighting to protect the well-loved Curzon Soho cinema. We would also work proactively with major landowners to address the rent crisis.
Westminster Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “If the Council can provide special planning protection for elite private members clubs it can surely find a way to protect the live-music venues, LGBTI Community venues and other small businesses that keep Soho vibrant and interesting. It can find a way to support the Chinese Community protect the unique nature of Chinatown. If elected in May Labour will work to put such protections into the Council’s revision of the City Plan while taking further action on rent rises and over-development.”