Campaigners ‘saved the soul of Soho’ as residents voted to have more control over decisions

By Jacob Phillips, local democracy reporter

Campaigners believe they have saved the soul of Soho as residents voted to have more control over decisions.

Residents will now be able to block skyscrapers being built in the Central London district and help protect businesses following a referendum on September 2.

At the polls, 91 per cent of residents and 89 per cent of businesses voted in favour of the Soho Neighbourhood Plan.

The plan, which was formed from the views and opinions of 3,000 Soho residents and business owners, puts residents at the front of decisions and will allow them to better protect the character of the iconic district.

Residents and businesses will be able to draw up their own plans for the area and ask Transport for London and Westminster City Council for help implementing it.

The plan means residents can block skyscrapers being built in Soho and they will have a greater say on 29 issues including music venues, air quality, and public toilets.

Matthew Bennett, who has lived in Soho since 1968, begun planning the plan in 2011.

Speaking at the polling station he said: “This is an opportunity for local people. For the first time they have control over how the area changes.

“The local community knows what it wants from the area.”

The neighbourhood plan will now be made legally binding in eight weeks by Westminster City Council.

There was no formal opposition to the referendum and residents at the Polling Station had all voted yes when the Local Democracy Reporting Service visited.

One lifelong Soho resident said: “The main thing is it needs to stay vibrant and lively.”

A second Soho resident who gave his first name as Stephen added: “The community needs a better voice.

“I think it will create a better conversation between the council and residents.”

A third resident, who had lived in Soho for six years, added: “I would like to see Soho keep its charm.

“There isn’t even a family-run business here anymore. Most people don’t even realise people live in Soho.”

The referendum was originally due to take place in February 2020 but was forced to be delayed because of the pandemic.

Pictured: Mathew Bennet outside the polling station for the Soho neighbourhood plan referendum.



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