First use of planning powers to safeguard West End nightclub
New planning rules designed to protect London’s night-time venues have been put into action for the first time to ensure the future of a West End nightclub.
Original plans for the demolition and redevelopment of Wells House on Oxford Street would have seen the loss of the nightclub space that currently occupies the building’s basement. The Mayor of London’s new planning policies have been used for the first time to protect the space and ensure an entertainment venue will be an integral part of the new office and retail development.
A comprehensive study by City Hall and the Night Time Commission has shown that 1.6m Londoners – a third of the capital’s workers - usually work evenings and nights and that jobs in the night-time industries are growing faster than the wider economy. But the last decade has seen a worrying decline in grassroots music venues, LGBT+ venues and pubs. The Mayor and his Night Czar, Amy Lamé, are committed to protecting and improving the city’s night-time economy and cultural venues, and have taken action to ensure London remains an exciting and vibrant city 24-hours a day.
This includes creating the Mayor’s 24-hour vision, establishing the first ever Culture at Risk Office, which has already supported 350 cultural spaces (venues, studios, libraries etc) across the capital at risk of closure, and creating the most pro-culture planning framework the capital has ever seen.
The Mayor’s draft London Plan includes a requirement for developers to ensure existing venues, clubs and bars still have a home in new developments, and includes the Agent of Change principle, which helps protect venues by putting the onus on developers to meet the cost of soundproofing and noise-reduction measures.
Night Czar Amy Lamé said: “London’s night-time culture is the most diverse in the world and is growing faster than the wider economy. Our beloved pubs and venues play a vital role in London life.
“That’s why we are so determined to protect and champion them. We’ve taken unprecedented steps to protect these venues and I’m delighted to see one of our policies in action for the first time.”
Notes to editors
Wells House, located in the West End, contributes to a strategic cluster of night time activity of recognised international importance.
Westminster Council referred the development to the Mayor in April because it was a tall building, greater than 30 metres in height and outside the City of London. During consultation, the Mayor raised a number of issues with the application’s compliance with the London Plan, the draft London Plan and the Mayor's Culture and Night Time Economy Supplementary Planning Guidance, including the loss of the nightclub. The scheme was then amended to include a nightclub unit of exactly the same size as the current Scandal club. Subject to the re-provision of a night club use, the Mayor advised Westminster Council that he would allow the Council to approve the application, without exercising his powers to direct them to refuse the application.
The Mayor’s work to help music venues in the capital includes:
- Appointing Amy Lamé as Night Czar to act as a champion of the capital’s night-time economy
- Founding the first ever Culture at Risk Office as a dedicated resource to support cultural spaces and venues at risk
- Developing a Cultural Infrastructure Plan that helps boroughs and businesses identify what is needed to sustain London’s future as a cultural capital
- The draft London Plan – the Mayor’s overall planning strategy for the capital – sets out unprecedented plans to protect and grow the city’s culture and creative industries through a range of bold measures. This includes New Creative Enterprise Zones, Cultural Quarters, protecting artists’ workspace, introducing the Agent of Change principle, asking every borough to develop a vision for its night-time economy and pushing local authorities to recognise the heritage, economic, social and cultural value of pubs.