By Linus Rees, assistant editor
The Sunday Times runs an article today claiming that single women are attracted to buying property above a lap-dancing club in Tottenham Court Road. The article entitled “What women really want” should be called “What John Gray and estate agents really want you to believe”.
Feminists, look away now. A development above Spearmint Rhino, a lap-dancing club on Tottenham Court Road, in central London, is a highly popular place for single women to buy their homes — and we’re not talking about those who want to live a stair climb away from work.
The reason? Security. The flats have a separate entrance from the club, but it’s on the same street, which means burly bouncers outside until 4am every morning. Ben Everest, a partner at LDG, a West End estate agency, has sold flats in the building above the club to half a dozen single women over the years; he recalls sitting down with one client, a student in her twenties, and her father, who had bought the flat for her, to discuss the club, two storeys below. They both enthused about how secure the doormen make her feel when walking home at night. “Female purchasers seek safe locations in good, solid buildings and are more conscious of safety than men,” he says.
The entrance to Paramount Court is not in the same street as Spearmint Rhino, it is around the corner in a different street, as the same estate agents’ website clearly states. Though the same website fails to mention the proximity to the lap-dancing club, funnily enough.
The entrance to the residential block is also very convenient for men to urinate against, as the residents frequently complain about. It’s not just feminists who should look away, it’s everybody else, including good journalists.
Perhaps the two women who wrote this article ought to visit the place for themselves at four in the morning before advising single women on their choice of accommodation, and taking estate agents words at face value?
Fitzrovia, which is a residential area, is blighted by the activities of clubs like this. Fitzrovia is increasingly being marketed as an entertainment centre along with other residential areas of central London. This has been partly driven by Camden Council who have embraced commercial interests and are increasingly handing over the area south of Euston Road to eating, drinking and entertainment.
There are about 35,000 people living in the part of the London Borough of Camden south of the Euston Road yet the council would rather not shout about this. The previous administration in Camden allowed a Business Improvement District (BID) to be established in Holborn, Bloomsbury and St Giles. There was no public consultation with residents about this part-privatisation of public space (increasingly called public realm) in south Camden. The objectives of this BID run by a group called InHolborn are to increase the amount of visitors, retail activity and evening entertainment in the southern part of Camden, according to their business plan.
Inholborn BID could be joined in the near future by the Fitzrovia Partnership BID. In Fitzrovia we now have two security guards employed full-time by First Security to patrol the streets around Charlotte Street and Fitzroy Street on Behalf of the Fitzrovia Partnership and with the backing of Derwent London plc. Their objectives are to increase membership of the Fitzrovia Partnership in readiness for introducing a Business Improvement District into the Camden part of Fitzrovia.
Business Improvement Districts are an American idea taken up by New Labour in their 2003 Local Government Act. This has extended the trend of public-private partnerships into wider areas of public life. This time the streets and open spaces themselves are increasingly becoming developed for private commercial gain and being policed by private security firms such as First Security.
Fitzrovia’s open spaces are in danger of becoming like shopping malls and theme parks, a bit like some of our rail stations have become and what Covent Garden has in spades.
The bouncers on the forecourt of the Spearmint Rhino club in Tottenham Court Road are not there to protect the interests of single women in the flats above. They are there to protect the interests of the the Spearmint Rhino Club. Likewise, the Business Improvement Districts will not improve the interests of residents. They are there to improve the interests of large businesses. Which is why they are called Business Improvement Districts.