Camden Council has opened a public consultation on its plans to make permanent the outside eating and drinking areas at Conway Street and Whitfield Street in Fitzrovia.
Camden claims its streateries programme makes the streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and helps children on their way to and from school.
“We want our streets to have more safe space for everyone to walk and cycle, for children to get to and from school safely and healthily, for businesses to be able to flourish, to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles and for you to be breathing cleaner air,” state the consultation documents.
The council also claims the streateries help to keep the pavements clear.
“Streateries change parking bays to spaces in the road for businesses to place tables and chairs for al fresco dining, protected by barriers. This means pedestrians, wheelchair and buggy users can pass safely on the pavement,” states the consultation.
But businesses are already responsible for keeping the area in front of their premises clear so that people can pass comfortably, and Camden is supposed to take enforcement action if the pavements are cluttered.
Instead the main beneficiaries are the hospitality businesses which can increase the seating area of their premises to accommodate more customers eating and drinking, as a report to the council states.
“Camden is committed to helping its businesses recover from the pandemic, and the Streateries programme can provide a much needed boost, enabling businesses to offer outdoor dining on the public highway and attract more customers, particularly during the summer and autumn months,” states a report from June 2021.
“Early drafts of the proposals were developed in discussion with the Cabinet Member for a Sustainable Camden, Ward Members and representatives from Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and business partners, including Fitzrovia Partnership during April and May 2021,” states a report.
Saying that streateries make travel in the neighbourhood safer is stretching things a bit. Camden has yet to bring forward any plans to reduce the number of drivers passing through Fitzrovia — the main source of road danger — which would actually make the neighbourhood more pleasant to walk, cycle, and get to and from school.
But Camden is adamant that al fresco seating is part of improving the neighbourhood, and can “provide a lasting legacy of greener, safer, healthier travel, places for people to spend time and enjoy”.
A previous consultation revealed that there is concern from residents about noise nuisance from outside drinking.
The issue of noise was prevalent “among respondents to the consultation for the Lore of the Land Streatery on Conway Street; noise was an issue before Covid which, many fear, will worsen with the Streatery”, states a report.
Camden officers have said they will take enforcement action to ensure that hospitality business comply with the conditions of their licences.