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Westminster council moves to protect Mayfair galleries

The city proposes making the arts district a special policy area in response to encroaching fashion shops

The galleries and auction houses of Mayfair and St James’s generate over £7.7bn in sales a year and support 60,000 jobs

Westminster City Council, in central London, is proposing new measures to protect art galleries in Mayfair from encroaching fashion shops. The council has published a consultation paper on the establishment of a “special policy area” around Cork Street, Bond Street, Albemarle Street and Dover Street.

The move comes after applications were made for the controversial redevelopment of two large sites that formerly housed galleries in Cork Street. Planning permission was only given after the developers agreed to reserve spaces for art dealers in their new buildings.

The city council wants to preserve the traditional districts for the art trade. There are an estimated 85 dealers in Mayfair, 75 in neighbouring St James’s and 100 in the rest of Westminster, totalling around 260. They play an important role in the overall economy, since the UK has 29% of the global art and antiques market, much of it based in Westminster. The galleries and auction houses of Mayfair and St James’s generate over £7.7bn in sales a year and support 60,000 jobs.

St James’s has already been made a special policy area, but this is now likely to be extended to Mayfair. This would offer a degree of protection for existing galleries and new ones would be encouraged to move there. In future planning applications, preserving space for galleries would be an important factor.

Dealers welcome the plan, including John Martin, who runs a contemporary gallery in Albemarle Street. He says that fashion houses are paying very high rents and running at a loss, “but they want the address and prestige of Bond Street on their carrier bags”.

Christopher Battiscombe, the director general of the Society of London Art Dealers, says the change is vital: “Our galleries are now under threat from rapidly rising rents and if large sections of the art trade are forced to move, this would risk damaging not only the trade itself but the character and long-term economic health of the area”.

Westminster Council is asking for responses to the proposals by 14 February. Property owners are likely to oppose the plan to make Mayfair a special policy area, finding it overly restrictive.

For more info, see Westminster’s proposal online: http://transact.westminster.gov.uk

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Comments

16 Dec 13
18:8 CET

GLYN THOMPSON, APPLEBY IN WESTMORLAND

So much for the unfettered operation of free markets.

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