Culture is “at the heart” of Sadiq Khan’s draft civic planning strategy, which sets out plans for new cultural quarters and making London a ‘24-hour city’.

Photo of a gig
Gig at O2 Acadmey, Islington

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has taken steps to stem the tide of music venue closures by proposing legislative changes that would guard against noise complaints from new residential developments.

Part of his draft London plan, a new planning strategy for the city, Khan stresses the ‘Agent of Change’ principle would require developers to properly soundproof new properties, and require boroughs to reject developments that do not clearly demonstrate how noise impacts will be managed.

Khan also sets out plans to extend museum and gallery opening times to make London a ‘24-hour city’, and create dedicated culture and creative business zones across the capital.

The plans respond to a wave of closures of arts venues and nightclubs in the capital. The Mayor’s office estimates that London has lost 40% of its music venues, 50% of its nightclubs and 58% of its LGBT+ venues over the past decade. Similar trends have been reported across the country.

“London is the world leader for culture and creativity, and I’ve made it clear that protecting and growing this vibrant industry is one of my core priorities,” Khan said. “It is growing at a faster rate than any other area of the economy, and I want to ensure that we create an environment where artists and creatives can flourish.

“Culture also plays a vital role in bringing people from all backgrounds together and I want every Londoner to have the opportunity to access culture on their doorstep.”

24-hour city

A raft of proposals, among them the Agent for Change principle, are put forward to help London become a 24-hour city.

The Mayor is encouraging boroughs to protect cultural facilities with an evening or night-time use. If a proposed development would lead to the loss of a venue or facility, boroughs are advised to consider requiring it to be replaced.

An inclusive and enjoyable night-time offer, the plan notes, requires ensuring all groups are served by cultural assets, including the LGBT+ community, young people and minority ethnic groups.

The announcements follow last year’s appointment of Amy Lamé as ‘Night Czar’, tasked with finding ways to create a “safer, more responsible nightlife for the city’s residents”, and publications of reports affirming the importance of the creative sector to the night-time economy.

Cultural zones

The Mayor pledges to work with boroughs to establish ‘Creative Enterprise Zones’, which will give support and affordable workspace to clusters of creative industry workers and businesses. The document says a long-term approach will “ensure creative communities are able to put down roots”.

In addition, local authorities in London are being encouraged to develop “attractive and vibrant areas for residents, workers and visitors” through so-called Cultural Quarters – areas with a mix of cafés, restaurants and bars alongside cultural venues.

They are also encouraged to make vacant spaces available for cultural use, following models such as the Silver Building in the Royal Docks, and to nurture volunteering, talent and audiences by bringing together schools and students with cultural provision.

Artist workspaces

Of particular concern to the sector is the lack of availability of affordable artist studios, which are being squeezed out because of rising prices in the property market. In response, the draft plan calls on authorities to protect such workspaces, especially in areas where there is an identified shortage.

“If creative workspace is lost then it will have to be reinstated in a nearby location,” the document reads.

The Mayor has previously backed plans to create a ‘Creative Land Trust’, which will acquire buildings and lease them to provide affordable creative workspace for artists and creative businesses.

Justine Simons, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, added London needs to be a “beacon of creativity”. “This London Plan puts culture right at its heart, ensuring it is hardwired into all aspects of civic planning.”

A consultation on the draft London Plan will be launched on 1 December 2017, with the public invited to comment online from 4 December. A final plan is expected to be published in Autumn 2019.

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