Time is running out to have a say on Westminster Council’s bid to create a protected enclave for art and antiques galleries in Mayfair.
The proposal published in November's
Mayfair & St James's: Developing Westminster's Local
Plan outlines a vision of Special Policy Areas for
different types of retailer in Savile Row, St James's and Mayfair -
galleries would enjoy enhanced protection under local planning
rules in the latter two. Part of the proposal is to extend that
protection by legal means in some circumstances.
The public has until February 14 to submit
their views officially in the consultation process.
Westminster City Council Councillor Robert
Davis, who is spearheading the move, wants to stem the tide of
gallery closures as big fashion brands move in to the area, pushing
up rents. In recent months the exodus of galleries from Bond Street
(only a handful are left) and Cork Street as property is
redeveloped has attracted widespread media attention.
"The aim of SPAs are to protect and promote
specialist uses and clusters which are unique to Westminster,"
writes Cllr Davis in the document. "While the Savile Row and St
James's SPAs are adopted in Westminster's City Plan - Strategic
Policies, this booklet contains proposals for a new SPA for
Mayfair, focussed on and around Cork Street."
The proposals recommend:
• protecting existing art galleries (class
A1 Retail and D1 Non-residential Institutions) and antiques traders
(class A1 retail); and
• encouraging the establishment of new art
galleries and securing their status by legal agreement.
They also suggest that new retail uses
should fit in with the character and function of each street or
area in which they are located (e.g. art galleries in Cork Street,
jewellery or international fashion in Bond Street), and offer
appropriate items or services that are bespoke, unique, antique or
However, despite the ambition of the
proposal, Cllr Davis concedes that effective implementation will
essentially rely on the cooperation of landlords, because of the
limits on planning control and the opportunity to secure higher
rents from other businesses.
"We therefore put emphasis on working
collaboratively with landowners and developers to develop
strategies and work in partnership in Mayfair and St James's to
maintain its world-leading status as the home of high-quality
retail and luxury services," he said.
Needless to say, the art trade strongly
support the SPA initiative. In August 2012 Christopher Battiscombe,
secretary general of the Society of London Art Dealers, told ATG
that SLAD had asked the council to award Cork Street similar
protected status to the private clubs and art galleries of St
James's, but that such a scheme might take a couple of years to
News of the proposed SPA comes too late for
seven of the 22 galleries in Cork Street, as landlords Native Land
have already started their redevelopment of 29-30 Old Burlington
Street, which includes a stretch of Cork Street.
But galleries in Mayfair's surrounding
roads, such as Albemarle and Dover Streets, are also worried about
John Martin, who has a Modern and
Contemporary art gallery at 38 Albemarle Street, is keen for
supporters to express their views, but he is preparing for the
worst by setting up a second gallery at 80 Fulham Road in Chelsea,
which opened on January 31.
"Although there are many good reasons for
having two spaces, my decision is also in no small way determined
by the uncertain future for anyone with a gallery in Mayfair. So it
is partly a fallback position," he said.
Rises in Rent
Rents in and around Bond Street have more
than trebled in the past two years, said Mr Martin. "Not only will
this have a devastating effect on the future of smaller,
independent ground floor galleries, but the loss of galleries and
the traditional destination businesses of Mayfair (eg tailors) is
seeing footfall diminish.
"So while rents are rising, art collectors
seem to be falling in Mayfair. There are other contributing factors
- offices being turned into flats being the main one, but Mayfair
is definitely losing its sparkle."
Mr Martin believes that SPAs could be
important to the wider trade across the country, too, "simply
because it may give some confidence to local authorities to protect
the character of towns and cities; in due course this may help
affluent towns like Stow on the Wold, which may well get onto the
radars of luxury goods and fashion retailers".
• The SPA document can be viewed online
• ATG urges readers to write to email@example.com in support of the SPA
• Comments can also be sent by post
to: City Planning, 11th Floor Westminster City Hall, 64 Victoria
Street, London SE1 6QP. Comments will form part of the statutory
record of consultation and will be made available on Westminster
Council's website and to the public, but contact details will not
Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.