Response to article from Steve Norris

This is a very one sided account of what’s going on in Soho.  Your contributor is a prospective Labour councillor for the Central ward so predictably there is no reference to what the business community is actually complaining about, and the whole piece is alarmingly short on facts.

For a kick off the number of residents who are complaining is actually very small.  They are certainly unrepresentative of the vast majority of Soho residents who actually agree with the proposition that if you choose to live in Soho you know peace and quiet are not the two words you’d use to describe it.  Nobody approves of loud drunkenness late at night or urinating on people’s doorsteps but in reality this a very rare occurrence and there’s no suggest that disorderly behaviour is any more prevalent during the summer Al Fresco scene than it was beforehand.

More significantly it was always understood that the Summer Festival as it’s branded would finish at the end of September.  You wouldn’t want to be eating outside in a British winter however good the space heaters and gazebos were.

Ironically Labour’s position is to express concern but not call for the festival to be curtailed.  It’s a classic piece of fence sitting and as such can be disregarded.

More relevant is that WCC officers in the middle of July decreed out of the blue that gazebos and space heaters and a few other pieces of kit used to make eating out more pleasant were banned on the basis that they constituted a fire hazard.  I can tell you that informally the LFB have told us they don’t think they do, but won’t say so publicly.  Given the weather in London this summer this has had a huge adverse impact on the ability of the many small hospitality businesses in East Soho in particular.

In reality, and it pains me to say this,  this is all because the Tory led council facing elections next May are in paranoid mode.  Ever since they defenestrated Robert Davis they have been desperate to avoid doing anything that even a handful of residents don’t want – even if as in this case it’s at the cost of dozens if not hundreds of jobs and the survival or otherwise of a whole raft of small businesses.  It was a similar slant that saw them frustrate any attempt to take traffic out of Oxford Street because a few residents of Marylebone didn’t want any buses in Wigmore Street.

How ironic that leading Tory councillors use “For the many not the few” as their slogan without even giving Jeremy Corbyn the credit he deserves.

In the most important borough in the kingdom the idea that a few residents come before creating and protecting jobs and improving the prosperity of one of the world’s greatest cities is frankly absurd.   Just one other egregious example.  The current local plan forbids the building of any new home over 200 square metres.   In many boroughs this would be a non-issue, not least because demand for larger home simply isn’t there.  Most of us happily live in less. But the idea that in the City of Westminster a Tory council should decree that no new home should be larger than an average townhouse is surely ludicrous.   It begs the question as to whether it’s worth voting Labour in Westminster when the Tories are a yard or so to the left of Sir Kier already.

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