Summary of Proposals
As well as providing a detailed practical handbook for use by all those with a role in the improvement of Covent Garden, the Trust hopes that the report which follows will make a contribution to developing Conservation Area policy more widely.
This section outlines the actions called for as a result of the study. Some of the information and arguments on which the proposals are based is contained in the following sections.
The document as a whole is intended to be a single reference work for all those with an interest in the fabric of Central Covent Garden. For example those wishing to find general information about who does what should go to “Existing Responsibilities”.
Our technical proposals for buildings and streets are based on an appreciation of the history of the area. A brief illustrated “History of Covent Garden” is provided to set the context. This will be of general interest and may guide those planning changes.
Developers, commercial interests, their professional advisors and the City of Westminster technical officers should go to the sections “Buildings” and the “Space Between Buildings” where our strategy and proposals for the protection amid enhancement of the fabric of the area are set out. Appendix VIII provides a “Glossary” of architectural and specialist terms.
In addition, we provide in Appendix I “Street Audit” detailed proposals for the short-term which can be acted upon immediately by the City of Westminster, Guardian Properties and the Royal Opera House in particular and the many other agencies, building owners and occupiers.
Those currently responsible for the various administrative functions for Central Covent Garden should go to the section “Management and Implementation” to find out how the strategy can proceed.
The Covent Garden Area Trust wishes to ensure that this study and its recommendations are given the highest possible formal status. The first and most important recommendation is therefore that the local authority should adopt the study as part of a Conservation Area Enhancement Plan for Covent Garden and that it becomes cross referenced into the City of Westminster’s Unitary Development Plan, as supplementary or non-statutory design guidance in all planning and related activities. It is proposed that there should be six-monthly formal reviews of progress made with implementing the recommendations, carried out by a committee (with representatives of relevant organisations) similar to the one which steered this study.
The brief asked for a detailed survey of the condition of the study area and coherent recommendations for:
Façades - Street Improvements - Management of the Open Spaces
A set of costed design guidelines have been produced for :
(a) The components of the spaces between buildings
(b) Temporary installations
(c) Crime prevention and security
(d) Unauthorised structures and uses
(e) Management of the Piazza entertainment
The information in this report has been the subject of consultation with many organisations. The authors’ recommendations have now been endorsed by the CGAT. This summary includes matters which fall into the following categories :
1) Adopted Policies of the Covent Garden Area Trust. (P1 - 11)
2) Recommendations for action by relevant organisations. (R1 - 9)
3) Design and policy ideas for further development. (Dl - 8)
The following summary identifies each report proposal with a category as shown above.
The general standard of treatment and maintenance of façades in the study area is high. However, we recommend a more rigorous approach to reducing unauthorised clutter on historic buildings and increased efforts to design authentic, traditional shopfronts. (P.1). We make specific recommendations relating to individual facades for each building in the area, referenced to general guidance on maintenance, decoration etc. describing appropriate treatments and sources of materials. Our recommendations on management and implementation show how work to the façades of buildings can be supervised, controlled and funded.
We recommend the extension of traditional paving and furnishing materials from the Piazza to the approach streets. The hierarchy of footways, kerbs and carriageways should be maintained. (P.2)
Traffic and Parking
We recommend moving gradually towards the exclusion of all vehicles from the area outside agreed hours of service access (and any limited provision for all day contractors’ access). (R1). This will require physical barriers, ideally rising bollards. (p.1). We set out the stages by which this concept could be implemented in Appendix IX for further discussion. In due course it may therefore be necessary to consider the relocation of existing parking. (R2).
We propose a co-ordinated plan to enhance the formality of the spaces and approaches to them. (D.2). It would involve improved lamp output from existing column types at the principal entry points to the area. We also propose highlighting buildings and features by gentle washes of light or pencil beams as appropriate in place of the present harsh flood lighting in some areas. (p.3).
Management of the Open Spaces
We propose that the City of Westminster should set up a “Covent Garden Team” to be responsible for all its statutory functions in the Study Area. (R.3). We propose that all cleansing and litter collection in the Piazza area should be administered by Guardian Properties (in addition to the Market Buildings) on an agreed agency basis for the City of Westminster. (R4). We propose that cleansing and rubbish collection operatives should be given training and a corporate image to enable them to deal with enquiries from members of the public and to carry out some security and maintenance inspection checks. (R.5).
Components of the Spaces between Buildings
We propose the relocation of the recycling/large black bin equipment away from the north of the Market Building and removal of the clutter of existing rubbish containers. Pairs of rubbish bins, larger than the present ones, should be sited only at the principal gateways to the Piazza and the entry points to the approach routes. (R.6) We propose that street trees should not be included in any further highway improvements and that specimens should not be replaced, except where they are established as mature features (e.g. as in St. Paul’s churchyard). (P.3). We propose a reduction of clutter between buildings, with fewer benches, posts, columns, telephones boxes, service boxes and signs of all kinds. (P.4) We propose that the Royal Opera House redevelopment incorporate an integrated design for an outdoor video screen, possibly as a temporary structure to span Russell Street. (p.4).
We propose that large umbrellas or temporary coverings should be prohibited. Over an interim period of implementation and in a limited number of designated positions (and then only for use during exceptional weather), small, plain natural colour canvas and timber umbrellas, without advertising, may be considered acceptable - only outdoors. (P.5). We propose that ancillary equipment for restaurants, such as servery points, lighting equipment or posts and ropes should be prohibited outside the premises themselves. (P.6). We propose that ground level planters should be prohibited. The policy should be to encourage planting in window boxes at first floor level. (P.7). We propose rationalization and redistribution of outside tables and chairs for restaurants and the adoption of standard designs. (P.8). We propose that the maintenance and repair of buildings and structures generally, temporary structures and site hoardings around the site of the proposed Royal Opera House development should be improved notwithstanding their temporary nature. (R.7). We propose the introduction of a number of small, appropriately designed flower stalls in private forecourt areas and on the approach streets as gateway indicators of the market area and as a way of providing an identity linked to its past. (p.5).
Crime Prevention and Security
We propose the introduction of a carefully designed and ultimately integrated Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) installation. (Guardian Properties currently operate their own separate system). (p.6). Handbag theft, the only crime prevalent in the study area, might be reduced by discreet signs and notices, shelves/net bags underneath restaurant tables and increased surveillance by all on-site staff. (p.7).
Unauthorised Structures and Uses
We propose the vigorous use of the new powers of Westminster City Council to take enforcement action on the public highway and to impound the goods of unlicensed traders. (P.9). In conjunction with this enforcement action we propose the re-location of existing stall trading pitches on the public highways and private forecourts to sites chosen with a view to reducing visual intrusion and physical obstruction. (p.8). We propose determined action against unlicensed entertainers, coupled with an extension from three to four areas licensed for entertainment (see below). (R.8).
Management of the Piazza
We propose that subject to agreement on additional costs, Guardian Properties should extend their existing management function to manage the proposed four licensed areas for street entertainment. (R9). We propose that all the areas for street entertainment, tables and chairs areas and street traders should be marked out in accordance with Westminster City Council’s new practice using small black corner markings in place of white lines and that posts and ropes should not be used. (P.10). We propose that a regular induction and training programme for all street and market traders be established to raise standards of stall trading operations. (P.11).
The plan summarises the principal proposals for the Piazza area and the street entry points. All approach streets have also been drawn up with paving and street furniture details for costing purposes and are available from the Covent Garden Area Trust or the City of Westminster.