Has Westminster’s planning committee fallen into the hands of Professor Moriarty?

Professor Moriarty being Sherlock Holmes’ ancient foe (they fought a score-draw at the Reichenbach Falls). But what’s this to do with advertising?

Soho remains the spiritual home of UK advertising and production although there are precious few ad agencies (BBH being the most prominent) and production companies left there.

But it’s all being redeveloped, supposedly, with a view to creating (among other things, like shops) more office space for the UK’s much-lauded creative industries.

But, as the zillions of tourists visiting this supposed mecca must have realised it’s a horrible, grubby mess; possibly the biggest (and dustiest) building site on earth. If you try to drive through it you’re mad. These days you can’t even walk through it without some bossy builder with a hand-held sign holding you up or telling you you can’t go there. Or, indeed, anywhere.

Ivy owner Richard Caring (one of Philip Green’s mates) has just opened a spanking new Ivy Soho Brasserie on Broadwick Street, a main thoroughfare. It looks huge. But Broadwick Street, yet again, is being dug up – for what purpose we know not. I’ve been traveling along it for decades but, as far back as I can recall, it’s always being dug up. You’re never told why. It now has newish faux-period cobblestones on it, and since then they’ve been digging it up even more eagerly.

If anyone invites me to a nice lunch at the Ivy Soho outside (they’ve got window boxes and loads of heaters) I’ll demur: who wants to shares their scallops with a JCB?

Westminster Council is famous for its “resistance” to anything that might change the supposed nature of London. There are virtually no billboards, for example. But they’ve turned it into a dirty, distressing shambles. And have no doubt whacked up business rates in the process.

Such ruin to the capital was precisely the aim of the evil Professor Moriarty. So has he come out of cold storage? Or is there some corruption afoot? It’s hardly unknown in the property and construction world, especially in Soho. Why keep on digging up the same bit of road – someone benefits but it’s certainly not the residents, businesses or visitors.

As for the creative industries returning to Soho, forget it. Last time I was in an agency there the noise of more “redevelopment” was so deafening we had to adjourn elsewhere – a bar, mercifully.

It’s a scandal and Westminster should be called to account.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

One comment

  1. Is the Ship still there on Wardour St? Used to be the big hang out for ad and film people. Was in there one night when in walked Tommy Cooper. Under his arm he had a wooden leg wrapped in brown paper. He kept dropping it and picking it up accompanied by that strange laugh of his and his famous line… “Just like that.” Everyone in there knew that he was waiting for someone to ask what it was about and he would deliver one of his memorable lines. No one asked him, ‘cos he used to pull this shit all the time. So he just proceeded to get pissed.