“...By the early 19th century the character of the market as well as the neighbourhood had been transformed. Traders in crockery, poultry, bird-cages, locks and old iron had moved in, giving the growers and dealers in fruit and vegetables excuses to flout the rules of the market and to complain about the payment of tolls. In an attempt to bring order out of chaos, the 6th Duke of Bedford obtained an Act of Parliament to redefine his authority in 1831; but in 1826 the family solicitor still complained that the market displayed a ‘...total want of that systematic arrangement, neatness and accommodation which tends obviously to facilitate and increase public convenience...’
What was required was a new Act of Parliament to replace the faulty one of 1813 and, in particular, to authorise a schedule of tolls...where the tradesmen could carry on their business in regularly assigned areas...”
From : “The London Encyclopaedia, Covent Garden”. Edited by Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert.
“... The Trust has become increasingly concerned at the deterioration in the general appearance of the Piazza and the surrounding area; in particular the proliferation of unlawful temporary structures, illegal signage and so on...”
From : “Design Guidelines Committee Covent Garden Area Trust - Brief for an Environmental Study of Central Covent Garden”.
Generously sponsored by Westminster City Council, English Heritage and Guardian Properties.
Amongst the land sold by the London Residuary Body following the abolition of the Greater London Council (GLC), the Covent Garden Piazza was the most famous. The restoration of the Piazza and its operation as a speciality shopping centre by the GLC was an unusual example of municipal enterprise, made possible in part because the Authority was both the freeholder and the planning authority.
This combination enabled the GLC to create a successful and profitable commercial operation, whilst respecting the integrity of one of London's greatest squares. The operational policy and mix of uses was not set with the shareholders’ return as the criteria, but by lengthy consultation and the desire to offer Londoners a ‘new’ square and within it an unusual shopping centre with genuinely specialist operators. Ironically this not entirely commercial policy was a tremendous commercial success, as evidenced by the price paid for the Piazza and surrounding freeholds.
Londoners and other visitors were clearly attracted by the quality of the restoration, the beauty of the Piazza, the well run street entertainment and shops which did not replicate the endless rows of boutiques available elsewhere in London. The sale of the Piazza raised two potential problems: how would a commercial operator manage a public open space and how could the commercial return be increased to cover the very substantial purchase price, without sacrificing the special mix of uses and without taking over the ‘public’ spaces for income generating activities?
The Covent Garden Area Trust (CGAT) was established after prolonged lobbying of Government and the London Residuary Body in order to maintain the special character of the area and to preserve its unusual built environment. We commissioned this Study to help further these objectives, which can only be achieved through co-operation with all the interests involved in Covent Garden. All concerned have contributed to it with enthusiasm: we hope that those involved in the Piazza will play a part in its realisation.
David Bieda, Chair, CGAT Design Guidelines Sub-committee
We dedicate this Study to the memory of Geoffrey Rippon, Secretary of State for the Environment 1972 - 1974, First Chairman of the Covent Garden Area Trust 1988 - 1992.
Subject to necessary periodic amendments and monitoring, Westminster City Council supports the relevant planning advice and recommendations of the Environmental Study of Central Covent Garden and will have regard to the Study as a material consideration when considering proposals affecting the central part of the Covent Garden Conservation Area and in seeking to secure the effective preservation and enhancement of its character and appearance.
Since 1994 the Planning and Transportation Committee have supported and reviewed the preparation of this useful background reference document, covering a wide range of issues affecting the character of Central Covent Garden.