LONDON, January 23, 2015 /PRNewswire/ --
SohoCreate alongside Creative industry and property luminaries, including Sir Cameron Mackintosh, Sir John Hegarty, Sir Paul Smith CBE and Stephen Fry have sent a letter to both George Osborne and Eric Pickles in an attempt to protect office space for London's creative companies.
Recent figures released by Westminster Council show the terrifying rate that small office space is being lost to high end residential conversions. This is particularly challenging in London's Soho, long the birth place and home to so many of the country's great creative companies and performers.
Sir John Hegarty, Chair of SohoCreate, said
"Soho is the most creative square mile in the world and we are in danger of turning it into an upmarket housing estate."
Tom Harvey MBE, CEO of SohoCreate, said
"Soho is an incredible creative and economic engine for London, it's one of the most creative clusters in the world, but we are currently selling it off to the highest bidder."
Signatories are from Soho's property development sectors and from across the creative industries including, film, fashion, television, games and theatre.
The text of the letter is as follows -
Dear George Osborne and Eric Pickles
We write about an imminent crisis for London's creative businesses.
The square mile of Soho and its surrounds is the most creative in the world. In its way it is at least as important as the square mile in The City. Soho is responsible for 10% of the country's creative turnover. 20% of London's new creative jobs are based here. A quarter of Soho's entire workforce is in the creative sectors. It is unique and valuable.
In the last four years Soho has lost 30,000 square metres of office space and gained twice that amount in residential. The creative clustering that makes this such an extraordinary economic and cultural engine is under threat as a result. There is a very real danger that we will erode the creative fabric of Soho past the point we can ever rebuild it.
We appreciate the need for housing in London, but the massive loss of office and studio space is hugely damaging both economically and culturally. Soho has recently lost working space for 3,000 people and, therefore, up to £500 million in turnover as a result of the shift to residential. The majority of new residential is also expensive and only suitable for portfolio investment or very high net worth individual purchases.
The City Council, local property developers and the creative industries all agree. It is essential that we are able to address local cluster needs within the planning approval process. Currently there are no grounds for resisting applications for conversion of office use to residential.
Any diminishing of the scale and impact of the creative industries in Soho will be a massive loss of business and prestige to London and the whole UK. We ask that you urgently address this.
London is the creative capital of the world and we must do more to ensure creative people and companies remain at its centre. The creative industries are growing rapidly and should be seen as a vital and energetic part of our cities. They generate every form of wealth. Importantly, therefore, we are all keen to know what policy commitments you are able to make in your forthcoming manifesto to protect creative industry space in London and, by extension, the UK as a whole.
Nick Allott OBE
David Evans, Chairman, The Soho Society
Stephen Fry, Chairman of Save Soho
Sally Greene OBE
Tom Harvey MBE
Sir John Hegarty
John James, MD, Soho Estates
Pat Joseph, CCO, The Mill
Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho CBE
Ian Livingstone CBE
Sir Cameron Mackintosh
Steve Marmion, Artistic Director, Soho Theatre
Sir Alan Parker CBE
Lord Puttnam CBE
Cllr Philippa Roe, Leader of Westminster City Council
Sir William Sargent
Sir Paul Smith CBE
Sir John Sorrell CBE
John Spearman, Chairman, Framestore
Editors notes -
SohoCreate is a new creative festival for London. It's a festival about being creative. SohoCreate champions creative people, the risks they take, the dreams they have and the journeys they are prepared to endure in order to be creative.
SohoCreate is a private company, with investors based in London and Canada. Investors include Westminster City Council.
Soho's creative credentials began 450 years ago when the first Huguenot refugees and crafts people were welcomed to this neighbourhood in the heart of London. Its creative life has been well documented, from the early performances of Jagger, Hendrix and Daltry to the birth of Spandau Ballet; from the place Dickens wrote Tale of Two Cities to the place television was invented. Soho's creative companies now win an average of two Oscars a year and are responsible for 20% of London's new creative jobs. Their collective turnover is £7.5 billion nearly 10% of the entire country, and creative industry workforce numbers are 46,000.
Recent figures released by Westminster City Council on the loss of office space metreage and the gain of residential metreage can be found on page 4 here.