Soho, the most vibrant and creative area in London, is in danger of losing its identity if property development is allowed to continue unchecked.

This is the warning issued by campaigners trying to protect the unique character of the world-famous entertainment district from the growing trend for commercial space to be turned into luxury flats.

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A man walks past a sex shop on Brewer StreetCarl Court/Getty Images
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Bar Italia on Frith StreetCarl Court/Getty Images

Soho is both fashionable and seedy, glitzy and grubby – it is home to theatres and hundreds of bars and restaurants – and also a red light district. But it is also a hub for world-leading creative industries such as film post-production.

A walk up Berwick Street from Raymond's Court to Oxford Street reveals the diverse mix of businesses in Soho, from sex shops to textile wholesalers and bespoke tailors, via independent record stores and shops catering to the counter-culture, plus one of the oldest street markets in London.

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Walker's Court, a tiny alley lined with sex shops, discount bookstores and tattooistsCarl Court/Getty Images
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People leave a 'head shop' on Berwick StreetCarl Court/Getty Images
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Independent record store employee Jonny Winstanley poses for a photographCarl Court/Getty Images
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A market trader sells fruit and veg at a stall on Berwick StreetCarl Court/Getty Images
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Simon Holland, the manager of Berwick Street Cloth Shop, poses for a photoCarl Court/Getty Images

Soho Create, an umbrella group for the area's creative industries, wrote an open letter to the Chancellor, George Osborne, and the Communities and Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles.

"The square mile of Soho and its surrounds is the most creative in the world. In its way it is at least as important as the square mile in The City. Soho is responsible for 10% of the country's creative turnover. 20% of London's new creative jobs are based here. A quarter of Soho's entire workforce is in the creative sectors. It is unique and valuable.

"In the last four years Soho has lost 30,000 square metres of office space and gained twice that amount in residential. The creative clustering that makes this such an extraordinary economic and cultural engine is under threat as a result. There is a very real danger that we will erode the creative fabric of Soho past the point we can ever rebuild it."

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People walk past the offices for De Lane Lea, one of the many media companies based in SohoCarl Court/Getty Images

Soho has gone more upmarket, but also more bland in recent years, with chains and members-only clubs replacing sex shops and clip joints.

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People walk past a Nando's on the corner of Dean Street and Bateman StreetCarl Court/Getty Images
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A man walks past The Soho HotelCarl Court/Getty Images

Many people may see this as progress, but the area is losing its identity. In November, the internationally famous Madame Jojo's nightclub had its licence revoked, apparently because of a violent fight outside the venue. But the venue had been earmarked for redevelopment, and many saw the closure of the burlesque bar as part of a drive to gentrify the area.

The Yard, a gay bar that for years has occupied a prime site with a courtyard on Rupert Street, faces being covered over and turned into a restaurant and flats. The bar's owners said: "The new restaurant and flats would be sold to the highest bidder and another generic big brand name would replace this magical getaway within the bustling streets of Soho."

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A sign for Raymond Revuebar is seen above venues which held Madame Jojo's and Escape gay bar, both now closedCarl Court/Getty Images
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People make their way along Old Compton StreetCarl Court/Getty Images

Denmark Street, lined with music shops, faces becoming a street lined with upmarket apartments. Known as Tin Pan Alley, Denmark Street was at the centre of Britain's popular music explosion in the 50s and 60s.

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Signs are seen outside a musical instrument shop on Denmark Street, famously nicknamed 'Tin Pan Alley'Carl Court/Getty Images
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A man reads adverts for musicians on a wall near Denmark StreetCarl Court/Getty Images
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A builder works on a construction site near Denmark StreetCarl Court/Getty Images

The new Crossrail station at Tottenham Court Road will bring with it shiny, characterless chain stores, and drive up rents so that independent shopkeepers may be forced out.

Curzon Soho, one of London's flagship arthouse cinemas, may be knocked down to make way for the Crossrail 2 development, according to reports.

But perhaps the tide is turning. Save Soho – a campaign group fronted by Stephen Fry and supported by celebrities such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Idris Elba and Eddie Izzard – has raised the profile of the issue, calling on Boris Johnson to pledge support for the area's night life and prevent any further closures.

The Mayor has given Save Soho his backing, saying: "People from all over the world come to Soho to enjoy its unique character and history – its performing arts and live music, its gay and transgender scene and nightclubs"

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A 'Save Soho' banner hangs on a derelict building in Denmark StreetCarl Court/Getty Images

Tim Arnold, singer and campaigner for the preservation of Soho, told the Evening Standard: "The kind of people who can afford luxury apartments don't add anything to the character of the area. Soho needs to be an inclusive place, not exclusive. What we're worried about is if the intermingling of the different classes and income groups stops. That would end the spirit of Soho as we know it."