Five new ‘Special Policy Areas’ will come into effect today to ensure they remain the home of the world leading industries that put them on the map.
Alongside Mayfair and St James’s, the policy covers tailoring heartland Savile Row, the medical district of Harley Street and the embassy thoroughfare of Portland Place.
A number of antiques dealers have disappeared from Mayfair and St James’ in recent years with commercial pressure forcing traders to close their doors. The demand from fashion brands has forced rents higher. This policy will help ensure that these areas retain their historic identity by allowing Westminster City Council to reject planning proposals which threaten the original character of the areas.
The council is seeking to protect specialist traders and prevent an invasion of global brands which threaten to change the make-up of some of the capital’s most recognisable streets.
“World Renowned Destination”
Westminster City Council deputy leader, councillor Robert Davis said: “Like a good suit, planning policy should be made to measure.
“The 17.5 million people who visit London each year come to experience our capital’s distinctive character. It’s unthinkable that world renowned destinations such as Savile Row, which is synonymous with quality tailoring, could become indistinguishable from any other high street around the world.
“Our historic tailors and art traders are coming under intense pressure from other disparate uses eager to rent in the area. We are using our powers to protect some of the capital’s most valuable assets and create environment where specialist traders can thrive.”
British Antique Dealers’ Association (BADA) chief executive Marco Forgione, said: “The UK is a global centre for excellence for the trade in art and antiques, an industry which is valued at £9bn supporting 40,000 jobs in the UK. Westminster Council’s introduction of special policy areas will be a huge relief for many of the independent art and antiques retailers operating in the heart of London.
“Despite being unique in the world, our antiques and art trade has come under increased pressure in recent years as developers look to transform historic galleries into housing or retail space. We welcome Westminster City Council’s new policy which will protect our businesses and ensure the capital remains a vibrant hub of art and culture.”
The planning protection is welcome however the continued rise in rents in central London is still a concern for many businesses. The traditional galleries of Cork Street have nearly all moved out. While one dealer in Jermyn Street, tapestry specialist S Franses, is concerned a planning decision will mean it will have to leave its premises. Dealers in the area, including Philip Mould, have spoken out about their concerns.
Special Policy Areas (SPA):
- St James’s SPA seeks to protect the unique historic character and function of St James’s, including its art galleries and niche luxury and specialist retail such as shirt-makers on Jermyn Street.
- Mayfair SPA will support the area’s international reputation as a centre for the art trade by protecting existing art galleries and antique traders, complemented by niche retail use. It will also encourage new retail uses in keeping with local character.
- Savile Row SPA aims to encourage retail use that is bespoke, limited edition or one-of-a-kind and complementary to the function of the area and protect Savile Row as an international centre for bespoke tailoring.
- Harley Street SPA supports its role of the area as an international centre of medical excellence, in addition to residential use.
- Portland Street SPA seeks to support the existing character and function of the large historic buildings to be used by prestigious institutional organisations such as embassies.