Westminster City Council's proposals to protect historical land uses: From Tailors to Doctors - Boodle Hatfield

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07 May 2021

Westminster City Council’s proposals to protect historical land uses: From Tailors to Doctors

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3 min read

Westminster City Council (WCC) have recently adopted their 'City Plan 2019 - 2040', outlining proposals for the 8 square miles of London that they are responsible for. As part of this, the borough will now contain 'Special Policy Areas' (SPAs) aimed at promoting certain trades in specific areas.

The proposed SPAs are:

Mayfair and St James's 

Described as 'prestigious locations' WCC recognises that the pattern of land use in these areas, which includes art galleries and high end luxury retail, attracts international investors and has a 'broader significance for London's economy'. WCC will require proposals for new development to reflect the area's character and function and have said that, 'proposals for additional gallery floorspace, antiques trading, and luxury, bespoke and niche retail, are therefore welcomed.'

Harley Street 

Harley Street has long been recognised as 'an international centre of medical excellence, complemented… by residential use.' Amazingly, there are more than 5,000 practitioners in the street. The latest aim is to make sure this remains sustainable.

WCC have proposed that, medical facilities, including those that do not fall within Class E (commercial, business and service uses) as a result of being attached to the residence of the consultant or practitioner, will be protected in all but exceptional circumstances. Furthermore, proposals for additional floorspace to upgrade or provide new medical facilities, patient care and patient accommodation will be supported. A variety of medical related facilities (such as ancillary patient family accommodation and physiotherapy) are also included as the plan acknowledges that 'complementary facilities' will also be welcomed.

Obtaining planning permission for medical related activities in the area will likely be much easier than for other uses. We are therefore more likely to see luxury physios than restaurants in the street for the foreseeable future!

Savile Row 

Interestingly, at a time when men's 'classic' fashion is arguably having something of a renaissance, WCC have shown a real desire to preserve the tailoring excellence that Savile Row is famous for. 

They have said that 'proposals for other uses that would result in the net loss of tailoring floorspace from the SPA will be resisted, unless this relates to floorspace benefiting from temporary consent for tailoring purposes'. Further, redevelopment proposals that would result in the replacement of multiple individual stores with large format retail will be resisted.

A change of use away from tailoring will therefore be difficult; something which those aspiring tailors keen for a spot on 'the Row' will surely welcome.

It is going to be fascinating to see what and how much of an effect these SPAs will have on their designated areas. WCC appear to have put a great deal of thought into how they want the borough to look over the next 20 years and many will be glad that they are making a concerted effort to retain its character. It seems you might still be able to purchase some of the world's best suits, artwork and medical treatment in the borough for some time.

The full plan is available here: City Plan 2019 - 2040: previous stages | Westminster City Council

"City Plan 2019–2040, first and foremost, is a plan for people. It sets out to deliver an ambitious strategy to make Westminster one of the best places to live, work and play. Not just in London or the UK, but globally."

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