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Closure of Beak Street would worsen traffic congestion

08 November, 2019

‘Worst case scenario traffic reassignment (range across peak hours)’

• IN response to Peter Hartley (Let’s get rid of the rat-running traffic, November 1), regarding the proposed pedestrianisation of Beak Street, the Soho Society would like to note:

1 – we have asked both Shaftesbury and Westminster Council for evidence of the volume of the rat-run traffic – they have not provided it. We are currently pursuing a Freedom of Information Act request to get it, as a result we remain open-minded but sceptical;

2 – we are discussing with the council our preferred solution, which is to control all traffic entry into Soho at the six entry points and limit it to emergency vehicles, residents, rubbish collection and authorised construction and delivery vehicles using number plate recognition and, if necessary, automatic bollards. This seems a better solution and would have much greater impact on traffic reduction but keep streets open for traffic where needed;

3 – Shaftesbury’s own traffic survey shows that the closure of Beak Street just moves traffic to other streets which are more residential and would in our view make traffic congestion worse – see map above;

4 – there are other problems with pedestrianisation which our survey has revealed for example one respondent said: “Safety at night – One thing too often ignored in the push for pedestrianisation is safety for women (and men) walking alone at night.

As a long-term Soho resident, the only time I experienced a serious sexual assault was on a pedestrianised street (Rupert Street) and it was only when I was able to run into the road and stop a passing taxi on Brewer Street that my attackers left me alone.

At three in the morning, pedestrianised streets like Carnaby Street, Berwick Street, Rupert Street and Glasshouse Street etc are deserted except for sporadic pockets of people. If I was on Carnaby Street and there was a group of men up ahead,

I would be an easy target and there would be no passers-by to intervene. I never, ever walk down pedestrianised streets alone at night. Traffic on streets keeps pedestrians moving and groups of people less likely to congregate.

“Noise – Pedestrianised streets mean that groups of people sit down/hang out in the street drinking late at night. These are people who have left other establishments but have take away alcohol and drugs and decide to continue the party in the street. I have spent time in a flat on Berwick Street and was routinely woken up by groups of eight or more people sat in the middle of the street at 5am singing, shouting and playing music etc”;

5 – typically rent and rates increase by 50 per cent when a street is pedestrianised – which drives out the smaller independent shops that make Soho special – Shaftesbury and the council benefit but at the cost of residents which has been the story for far too long;

6 – we invite Peter to work with us on a proposal that actually works for Soho not just the property developers.

Chair, The Soho Society


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