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The face of Soho’s Walkers Court is set to change, after the passing of plans by Westminster Council, despite myriad objections from local residents, societies and businesses.
Many consider Walkers Court to be the heart, both physically and spiritually, of Soho, with its bright and brash sex shops, which help to give the area its unique character. ‘Seediness’ is considered not only part and parcel of Soho, but part of its attraction, although it seems that the Council does not agree, opting instead for the plans whose £10m redevelopment include a new 150-seat theatre, deli, flats and restaurant.
Others in opposition included The Soho Society, English Heritage, and the prostitutes who live in and work from the local flats, and who have done for 25 years. While the latter feared for their livelihoods, the Soho Society and English Heritage had been hoping to preserve ‘buildings of merit’ that give the area its personality, and to prevent its transformation, or ‘sanitisation,’ into a glass-fronted district which would make it less distinguishable from other London areas.
The plans were submitted by Fawn James, granddaughter of Paul Raymond, the owner of the Soho club Raymond Revuebar (now The Box nightclub), and they include the reinstallation of the Revuebar’s famous neon sign. James is the director of Soho Estates, and the plans include new headquarters for the company above the nightclub as well as a double-height, glass-fronted auditorium to the theatre.
The buildings, within the Soho Conservation Area, have been designed by Matt Architecture and SODA (Studio Of Design and Architecture), both of Leicester Square.
The owners will hope that the new sign will preserve the character of Soho, to keep the visitors flocking, while the new theatre development will welcome new tourists and Londoners.
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