Environment: All is not rosy in the Garden

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The Independent Online
London's Covent Garden Piazza was yesterday condemned as cluttered, over-commercial and unsightly. Twenty-three years after the fruit and vegetable market moved out, the piazza, with its designer shops and pavement cafes, has become a victim of its own success.

Some 40 million people a year visit Covent Garden to shop, socialise and promenade among street entertainers. But a damning study commissioned by the bodies collectively responsible for the area suggests cafes and commercial greed are destroying the special character of the piazza.

Pavement cafes, maximising trading space beneath a canopy of corporate umbrellas, are the worst offenders. Geoffrey Holland, leader of the Greater London Council's original restoration team and chairman of the Covent Garden Area Trust, said: "Views across the market square ... have been lost and the whole area is in danger of losing the special quality that has made Covent Garden so popular." The study was commissioned jointly by the Trust, English Heritage, Westminster City Council and Guardian Properties who manage the market building.

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