Westminster Council explores long-term future for Soho al fresco scheme

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Westminster Council explores long-term future for Soho al fresco scheme

Related tags: Westminster city council, Al fresco, Coronavirus

Al fresco dining will continue in parts of Covent Garden and St. John’s Wood, with Westminster City Council also exploring the possibility of introducing a longer term scheme in Soho.

The Council said the decision to extend the scheme permanently in parts of the borough follows 'hugely positive' responses to consultations from local residents, with more than 80% of respondents in Covent Garden and St. John’s Wood approving the continuation of measures. 

It means that in St. John’s Wood High Street the current one-way system and pavement widening will remain in place.

In Covent Garden, meanwhile, al fresco dining to continue on Henrietta Street, King Street, Maiden Lane and parts of Southampton Street.

“Covent Garden has always been one of London's top destinations for hospitality and St. John's Wood offers world-class eateries on a bustling local high street," says Cllr Matthew Green, Westminster City Council Cabinet Member for Business, Licensing and Planning.

"We’re really pleased that residents and businesses have voted in favour of keeping al fresco. Thanks to residents and businesses working together, Westminster is proud to be able to support the continuation of outdoor dining in these areas."

Westminster City Council launched the al fresco scheme in July last year​ to coincide with the lifting of the first Coronavirus lockdown, and was widely praised at the time for serving as a lifeline to the area's beleaguered hospitality businesses.

Last month, however, there was uproar from local operators after Westminster City Council informed businesses that traffic will be re-introduced to Soho’s streets at the end of September​.

The streets affected by the ending of the temporary road closures include Frith Street, Greek Street, Dean Street, Moor Street and Old Compton Street.

Restaurants with existing licences will still be able to use pavements, but roads will be off-limits.

Plans to bring the scheme to an end in Soho and across the rest of Westminster on September 30 are still set to go ahead, but the Council adds that it is exploring the possibility of introducing longer term al fresco schemes in other areas, including Soho.

These schemes are being mapped out in partnership with local communities and will only go ahead with the support of residents.

“We are committed to supporting our local communities bounce back from the pandemic," continues Green.

"Al fresco has been and continues to be a lifeline for businesses in the West End. This summer, we created more than 16,000 additional covers across the city – the highest number in London – helping to save countless businesses and jobs in Covent Garden and across Westminster.

"There are some consultations which are still ongoing, and we will continue to work with local communities and businesses as we explore permanent schemes.”

Related topics: Business & Legislation

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