Al fresco streets are off the table, for now

Bid for permanent outdoor dining schemes on hold owing to election

Friday, 25th February — By Tom Foot

al fresco

Al fresco in the West End

A CONTROVERSIAL plan to make “al fresco” streets schemes in Soho permanent has been parked until after the election.

Designs for the city council’s Vision for Soho, consulted on last year, will now be presented to the public in the summer. “Purdah” rules mean the council cannot work on schemes of this nature in the run-up to the May council election.

Many residents are against making permanent schemes that temporarily were introduced to help restaurants and venues to extend their businesses into the street during the Covid-19 pandemic.

With the coronavirus emergency over, questions have been asked about why the city council is set on a “land-grab”.

The Soho Society has criticised the council’s approach to consultation, adding: “Superficially the Vision for Soho claims to be about traffic reduction, greening, and ‘making more room for pedestrians’ and, possibly, noise monitoring. None of these claims really stand up to much scrutiny however…”

Sources said that while the decision may be delayed until after the vote, the election had become like a referendum of al fresco projects in the West End ward.

Yesterday (Thursday) Westminster’s lead councillor for business, Matthew Green, said: “The Vision for Soho process is about giving the local community a full voice in shaping the area’s long-term future. Given the substantial amount of feedback received following the third stage of the consultation, we need more time both to develop the final proposed designs and to deliver a final consultation process that gives Soho’s communities as much time as possible to understand and respond to the proposed vision.

“As the pre-election period starts at the end of March, unfortunately this does not give us enough time to engage further in the way that the community deserves. That’s why it is necessary to postpone, for a short time, the publication of the proposed designs and the launch of the final consultation period until after May’s local elections.”

The Soho Society is to hold hustings for the West End ward election on April 28 from 6pm in St Anne’s in Dean Street.

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