Published: 21 June, 2013
by WILLIAM McLENNAN
A CAMPAIGN to turn Old Compton Street into a “continental-style” piazza received a slew of support this week.
In just five days, more than 2,600 people signed a petition to pedestrianise the Soho street, including an endorsement from actor Russell Tovey.
The petition – on change.org – says: “There is a huge shortage of outdoor space in Soho and pedestrianising this street would be a significant and valuable addition, creating a great friendly public space, bringing in a lot of money through increased capacity and usage, and making Soho a world-class destination.”
Matt Haikin, who set up the petition “on a whim” last week said: “It’s taken me by surprise a bit. I put something up to play around with the website and suddenly it started to spiral.”
He added: “I did a bit of Facebook and Twitter promotion, which has helped, and we got a couple of celebrity retweets. Russell Tovey retweeted it, which gave it a couple of hundred extra signatures almost immediately, because he has a lot of followers.”
The letter addressed to Cllr Alistair Moss, who chairs Westminster Council’s planning committee, reads: “Please pedestrianise Old Compton Street. It is long overdue, there are easy workarounds and timings to alleviate the concerns of local residents and traders. It would bring an enormous amount of tourist revenue into the borough. There really is NO reason not to.”
West End ward representative Cllr Jonathan Glanz said: “It’s an interesting idea and I don’t think it should be ignored. On the other hand I don’t think it’s likely to translate into anything any time soon.”
He said that it was important to consider local residents and business owners, adding: “What we have is a group of people who come to Old Compton Street from wherever, mostly other parts of London, and say ‘wouldn’t it be nice if...’ It may or may not be ‘nice if’ but it’s not their decision to take.
“It’s a decision that would have to be consulted on with all relevant stake-holders, some of whom would be for it and inevitably some of them would be against it.”
He added: “I suppose if I went to Paris and sent an email to the mayor and thought ‘wouldn’t it be a good idea to do x, y and z’ then there is probably websites that I could do the same on.”
A council spokesman said: “We’ll look at the petition when it is submitted and decide whether it is a viable option.”
To sign the petition go to www.change.org/oldcomptonstreet