Monday, February 03, 2014

Westminster consults on a Special Planning Policy to protect Art Galleries

The City of Westminster is currently consulting on proposals for a NEW Special Planning Policy designed to to protect the art galleries currently located in Mayfair & St James and particularly the remaining galleries in Cork Street. 

You have an opportunity to comment before 14th February - and do not need to be a resident of Westminster to do so.

The galleries include ones which have been pivotal in advancing the careers of many top artists in the UK

Cover of the Consultation Document

Below is the content of a letter I've received from Messums - one of the top dealers in the area - and a gallery who exhibits a number of artists who are mentioned on this blog from time to time (people like Daphne Todd, Pete Brown, William Bowyer, Tom Coates, Jane Corsellis, Saied Dai, Ruth Stage etc)

They are highlighting the consultation about the proposed new policy to protect art galleries in Mayfair and St. James - and the deadline for comments which is 14th February 2014.
I am writing to draw your attention to an exciting consultation paper recently issued by Westminster Council, proposing the creation of a new Special Policy Area (SPA) in Mayfair, London to protect the future of art dealers and in particular Cork Street as a centre for the arts. It builds on the existing SPAs in St James’s, in favour of art dealers and private clubs, and Savile Row, in favour of the tailors.

Our concern is that with out it, the extraordinary concentration of top class art dealers in Mayfair and St James’s, which contributes so significantly to the London art scene, will come under threat from new developments and rapidly rising rents, driven by the advance of the fashion industry and the influx of wealthy foreigners looking at property in the area as a safe place for their money.

The point we would make is that in may ways the art trade and streets like Cork Street have given Mayfair its richly hewn tapestry. It has helped to create the special character of the area and make it a desirable place to visit and live and if the art business is driven out, this character may be lost and some of the long term economic health and vitality of the area will go with it.

We are delighted that Westminster Council have accepted the possiblity of this loss, and that they are proposing an SPA policy, which aims, not to prevent the fashion trade or wealthy foreign residents from moving in, but to try and ensure that there is some balance and that this is not at the expense of the art trade.

However they do need to hear peoples views on this recommendation, and in particular from those who value and enjoy Cork Street and this part of Mayfair as an important centre for Art.

Whether you are resident in the UK or overseas, I do hope that you will consider adding your weight to what Westminster Council are trying to do and that you will write to the Council in support of their plans.
The address to write to is set out on the last page of the proposal paper which can be accessed in full via this link, and the consultation period ends on 14 February, so it is important to act within time. 

Relevant documents are:
All comments on the proposals should be directed to the City Planning Department of Westminster City Council - details of how to do this are on page 18 of the pdf file - BEFORE 14 February. Comments should focus on

  • whether or not you support the proposed plans and 
  • any planning considerations relevant to the need to make special provision to protect specialist niche economic uses which are NOT currently protected under current planning policy.

Other relevant context includes:

This is a photo I took in Cork Street some 10 days ago - some seven galleries have closed on one side of the street - the building will be demolished and it's unliklely the galleries which have closed will return

Closed Galleries in Cork Street
(the one on the left with the light on is Messums)

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