Report of Discussion: Westminster After Dark

Businesses across the Edgware Road district joined us on 9 January 2024 for a discussion on Westminster Council’s new plans for an evening and night time strategy. Called Westminster After Dark the plan aims to reach a consensus between residents and businesses on a safe, sustainable, inclusive, and accessible nightlife in Westminster.

We were delighted to see so many faces from our businesses and members, including Grosvenor Casino, Victory Services Club, Hilton London Metropole, Marriott Marble Arch, Capital Arches Group (McDonald’s), Prince Pharmacy, Safeer Pharmacy, Sylvia Young Theatre School, Glory and Honour, Briciole, Waitrose, Sportsman Casino, The Portman Estate, Starbucks, Creams, The Larrik, Shishawi and Ryman Design. Each business introduced themselves, how long they had been in the area and what their operating hours were.

Four themes provided a focus for the discussion, which took place at the Marriott Marble Arch Hotel on George Street:

  • Safety and security
  • Community and culture
  • Economic development and growth
  • Accessible and positive places

The safety and security heading attracted the greatest discussion. Businesses across the board feel that shoplifting is rife and that they are not getting the support they need from the local police. Repetitive, organised theft especially affects hotels, with guests losing luggage and possessions from arriving taxis and in lobbies.

Lighting was cited by many businesses, with dark side streets off Edgware Road. Vacant units, it was felt, added to the feeling of fear and uncertainty for new visitors to the area and creates a bad impression. Old Quebec Street was held up as an excellent example of a transformed space, which now feels safe and well lit.

CCTV and a communications system were raised, for businesses to share information about incidents in the area. The BID has access to an alert system, to which we can upload intelligence shared across Central London.

Rough sleeping, begging and anti-social behaviour were mentioned, again damaging the district’s reputation and deterring customers and local residents from venturing out.

Public transport and night services in particular were raised, with some businesses saying that bus frequencies had reduced in recent months and female staff were not comfortable undertaking night shifts or travelling home at night with buses being less frequent. Larger companies added that it was easier for them to re-allocate shifts across different branches, to accommodate female colleagues if they were not comfortable undertaking night shifts. This was less true for smaller, independent operators. Smaller businesses were felt to be the beating heart of Edgware Road.

The BID’s Street Team were praised and thanked for their support by all attendees, from their speed of response to their assistance reporting crimes.

In the community and culture discussion we talked about Edgware Road being a sociable place, where people like to meet up, to linger, to chat. Part of this is underpinned by the district’s cultural identity. Alcohol does not play a big part on Edgware Road at all, unlike parts of the West End.

There is a café culture on Edgware Road, and this sometimes attracts resistance and a default opposition to tables and chairs from some residents and councillors. What is seen as socialising by one party can be seen as loitering or hanging around by another, and there is sometimes an inherent mismatch between the two. Having well-lit open spaces in which people can meet up would help manage back anti-social behaviour.

Under economic opportunities businesses talked about additional jobs being created to support later hours. This was true across the board, from pharmacies to fast food. In response to a question from the facilitator about how many businesses employed local staff, who lived in Westminster, the belief shared by businesses was that it was too expensive for staff to live locally, and most lived a lot further out, beyond London too.

Public transport and buses were raised in this section too, and also the idea of making travel by public transport cheaper for night workers.

Edgware Road was hailed as a point of difference in Westminster, to be enjoyed for its late-night offer. This view was supported by all attendees, who felt that the positives were not celebrated.

Under accessible and positive places businesses talked about delivery times for linen, and waste collection times for businesses operating 24/7, especially during protest periods and where businesses are adjacent to residential properties. Pavement cleansing was also brought up, with pavements sometimes being cleaned in the evenings when businesses are still open, and customers having to walk through water to enter premises. Some sections of the pavement are missed for cleaning, especially outside restaurants, causing pavements to be slippery and dangerous in the rain.

One business expressed sadness that school children have to walk past rough sleepers and piles of rubbish in the mornings on their way to the best state primary school in the country. There was agreement that this is a poor reflection of the district, and not a positive experience.

Next Steps for Westminster After Dark

Officers from Westminster Council thanked so many businesses for attending and set out the next steps, including three weekend stakeholder assemblies. It is expected that the plan will be launched in the summer of 2024.

Report of Discussion: Westminster After Dark
Report of Discussion: Westminster After Dark
Report of Discussion: Westminster After Dark

Actions for the BID

Following the discussions at the roundtable event the BID has undertaken a lighting survey with officers from Westminster Council’s Highways team, alongside a local Councillor. Proposals are being drawn up to improve lighting on a number of side streets including Cabbell Street/Transept Steet, Burwood Place, the corner of Sussex Gardens with Edgware Road, Crawford Place, Stourcliffe Street, Kendal Street and Connaught Square.

Personal safety training will be added to the BID’s training series for 2024, to give people who work in the night-time economy in the district the skills and knowledge to feel safe.

Street cleaning enquiries will be made to Westminster Council in relation to the stretch raised at the roundtable discussion.

Report of Discussion: Westminster After Dark
Report of Discussion: Westminster After Dark