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Pride crowds in Soho ‘could be restricted’

Jessica Geen June 21, 2010
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The number of revellers in Soho during London Pride could still be restricted, despite the festival pulling all official attractions out of the area.

London Pride is to be held on Saturday July 3rd but festival organisers have been forced to withdraw all official events from Soho due to health and safety concerns.

The area is London’s most popular gay hotspot, with dozens of gay bars, clubs and cafes.

North Soho, where a dance stage was to be held, is currently surrounded by road and waterworks and the Fire Brigade raised safety concerns about evacuation routes in the case of an emergency.

Pride media director Colm Howard-Lloyd said this afternoon that while a proposed limit on just 7,000 people in the area at a time had been dismissed, the police and Westminster council could still take action to restrict numbers in the area.

When asked by whether barriers and a heavier police presence could be possible, he said the two were a “likely option”.

Last week, Michele Cremona, the co-chair of a local LGBT business forum, warned that the area could become dangerous if attempts to restrict crowds were made.

Pride London is to meet with the council on Thursday. Mr Howard-Lloyd said he could not give any definite comment before the meeting.

Instead, he said: “If they felt a need to restrict people, something will have to be put in place.

“The 7,000 limit is just not viable. We want to discuss a more practical option.”

Mr Howard-Lloyd said that Pride London had received a number of legal threats for restriction of trade from bars and restaurants if the 7,000 limit goes ahead.

He said other bars had indicated that they would seek to pursue the charity via the civil court for loss of trade.

He said Pride was “really urging” the council to allow the dance stage to be placed in Leicester Square in order to have a “big attraction” to lure crowds out of Soho.

Speaking last week, a Westminster council spokeswoman said: “We’ve said we welcome Pride, we’re happy for it to take place, but ultimately safety comes first. If something was to happen, we’d want to evacuate the area as soon as possible. We are acting on the fire service’s advice.”

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: “London Fire Brigade plays an active role in Pride and our firefighters take part in the parade every year. We also take public safety very seriously.

“Pride is a popular annual event and attracts huge crowds, however this year due to Crossrail and other construction works in the Soho area, the Safety Advisory Group which includes LFB, Westminster City Council and Metropolitan police, have advised organisers that a large number of people in Soho Square will lead to emergency evacuation and access problems unless adequate controls are put in place.”

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