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12/09/06
Soho’s Future is Up for Grabs
- Consultation exercise begins on plans to improve famous central London quarter

Soho’s Future is Up for GrabsWESTMINSTER Council is canvassing the opinions of residents, workers and visitors as to the prospects for one of London’s most famous and colourful zones.

"No other part of London has the same mix of residents, businesses and visitors, and balancing their various needs can be difficult," said Councillor Danny Chalkley, in charge of economic development at Westminster Council, the local authority on whose patch Soho lies.

On the one hand, the council seem to recognise the Soho atmosphere – Chalkley calls it "a unique part of Westminster that fully justifies the special attention we are giving to it" – while on the other, it wants to 'clean up' the area still further, with priority in the consultation exercise going to measures to tackle anti-social behaviour such as creating noise.

Recent years, decades even, have seen determined efforts by the authorities to clean up Soho, efforts that have been rewarded by a drop in the area's sleaze factor and an increase in visitor numbers, which in turn has brought in the kinds of chain-stores and bars that now threaten to rob Soho of its special character.

As an example of this process, there's the recent announcement that the famous music pub, the Intrepid Fox, is to shut.

"Its closure will mean sanitisation of the city's pub scene and loss of cultural diversity, which is important to London's development," said Patrick Begent, the pub's manager.



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