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Al fresco dining to continue in Covent Garden and St. John's Wood

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Al fresco dining Covent Garden

Published: 15 September 2021

Outdoor dining will remain in parts of Westminster 

  • More than 80% of Covent Garden and St John’s Wood residents and businesses approve of al fresco measures – results from month-long consultation
  • Westminster City Council has supported nearly 900 business, bars and restaurants to provide outdoor dining with pavement licences
  • Some al fresco schemes will remain in Westminster on a permanent basis
  • Soho schemes to be devised – residents to be consulted  

Al fresco dining will continue in parts of Westminster, following hugely positive responses to consultations on the future of the scheme in parts of Covent Garden and St. John’s Wood.  

Al fresco dining has proved to be a hit with residents and businesses after Westminster City Council supported licensed businesses by providing space for outdoor dining during the pandemic. Following a month-long consultation, the council has received feedback from residents and businesses in Covent Garden and St. John’s Wood with more than 80% of respondents voting in favour of al fresco measures remaining.

Support for the measures in St. John’s Wood High Street means the current one-way system and pavement widening will remain in place.

In Covent Garden, two consultations have taken place. The first consultation confirmed people and businesses in the local area would like al fresco dining to continue on Henrietta Street, King Street, Maiden Lane and parts of Southampton Street.

The second consultation was on the Neighbourhood Traffic Management Scheme which looks at traffic movements across the whole area and into Camden and proposes timed closures.

Westminster City Council acted quickly last year to enable outdoor seating in roads and widened pavements during the summer, and the scheme continued in the winter months. When restaurants reopened in April this year, the council helped nearly 900 businesses, bars and restaurants to open to outdoor diners by implementing al fresco dining.

During the summer, around 60 streets benefited from either pavement widening, temporary closure of roads and parking bays to allow tables and chairs to be set-up for outdoor restaurant seating in the street.

The council is also exploring the possibility of introducing longer term al fresco schemes in other areas, including Soho. These schemes are being mapped out in partnership with local communities and will only go ahead with the support of residents.

Cllr Matthew Green, Westminster City Council Cabinet Member for Business, Licensing and Planning, said:

Covent Garden has always been one of London's top destinations for hospitality and St. John's Wood offers world-class eateries on a bustling local high street. We’re really pleased that residents and businesses have voted in favour of keeping al fresco. Thanks to residents and businesses working together, Westminster is proud to be able to support the continuation of outdoor dining in these areas.

We are committed to supporting our local communities bounce back from the pandemic. Al fresco has been and continues to be a lifeline for businesses in the West End. This summer, we created more than 16,000 additional covers across the city – the highest number in London – helping to save countless businesses and jobs in Covent Garden and across Westminster. There are some consultations which are still ongoing, and we will continue to work with local communities and businesses as we explore permanent schemes.

Dick Schumacher, chairman of the St. John's Wood Society, said:

The consultation results confirm what I've sensed from conversations with residents over the last year, that there is strong local support for transforming our High Street with wider pavements and permanent outdoor dining space. Residents want a high street that is greener and more pedestrian friendly, but still provides parking spaces for visitors from beyond the immediate vicinity.

The community looks forward to working with Westminster Council on an appealing design that can help make the St. John's Wood High Street a destination that draws people from across northwest London to our retailers and restaurants. I'm grateful for how engaged the council has been with the local community in seeking opinions on this. Residents appreciate the degree of consultation.