The reason cited by millions of visitors to London as to what brings them to the capital is its culture - theatres and galleries large and small, music venues, clubs, arts communities and studios and let's not forget the graffiti and other street art.
But as planning permission is granted for ever more large scale development - usually for 'luxury' apartment blocks and offices - so the arts are squeezed because high rents means there's nowhere to relocate to. (Teacup chandelier maker Madeleine Boulesteix is a case in point: the arts venue in south London where she and many other artists had lived and worked for decades was closed and the site sold to a developer. She's now based in Devon.)
So the London Assembly's Regeneration Committee has produced a report highlighting the threat posed to the capital's still vibrant art scene by developers which urges the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, to take action now. Recommendations include:
· Developing a bold programme to create and promote sustainable culture in the capital.
· Ensuring that the new London Plan includes an affordable cultural workspace policy that means there's affordable cultural workspace in every large new planning development.
· Carrying out research to better understand ‘affordability’ for the cultural and creative sectors. Better quality data on culture in London is essential.
· Urgently piloting a Creative Enterprise Zone in London, which includes both affordable housing and workspace co-located together.
· Protecting not just the famous iconic venues in London, but also smaller grassroots venues.
London is home to a staggering 857 galleries, 215 museums, 320 live music venues and 241 theatres and 80 per cent of visitors to London cite ‘culture and heritage’ as the reason for their visit. And don't forget the creative industries account for one in six jobs in London (16.2 per cent), with almost a third of the UK's creative jobs being based in the capital.
However regeneration programmes, which now cover large areas of London, are putting the capital’s cultural offer at risk. Between 2007 and 2015, the city lost 35 per cent of its grassroots music venues, a decline from 136 venues to just 88. And some 3,500 artists are likely to lose their places of work by 2019.
The Mayor of London has made the promotion of London’s as the best city in the world for culture one of his priorities, and the Regeneration Committee says that means taking action to curb rising property prices which are forcing artists out of their areas.