New £1bn recovery plan for London's West End shopping district unveiled
Investment is continuing to flood into London’s West End to support a major regeneration of the UK capital’s premier shopping district following the crippling effects of the pandemic.
The latest scheme will see £1 billion pumped into the region via The Heart of London Business Alliance’s (HOLBA) 'West End 2027’ plan. The membership organisation represents over 600 businesses and property owners across the Piccadilly, St James’s, Haymarket, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and St Martin’s areas.
Under the Business Improvement District (BID) scheme, it will include over 40 “potential projects [to] help the West End recover and thrive from the pandemic as a global cultural and commercial powerhouse”, the body said.
The scheme has outlined five “immediate-priority projects” including public realm schemes such as the creation of a new Arts Quarter in the network of small streets between the National Gallery, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus.
BID also proposed the transformation of Green Park “to create a world-class welcome for visitors as they arrive on Piccadilly”. And it envisages turning Charing Cross Road into a “tree-lined boulevard” to accommodate the estimated 80% increase in people arriving in the area following the long-awaited completion of the Elizabeth Line.
HOLBA chief executive Ros Morgan said: “We are committed to ensuring the West End comes back from the pandemic even stronger than before.“Part of our strategy includes bringing culture on to the streets and integrating art into the built environment, which is based on the idea that it will be more important than ever to have spaces in the West End that people want to come back to, particularly as footfall from workers and tourists picks up.”
The latest investment comes on the heels of an announcement from the New West End Company (NWEC) of a planned £5 billion capital investment into the region over the next five years. NWEC has said London’s leading shopping district is “set for a speedy recovery” and has forecast it will turnover £8.6 billion within the next 12 months.
Meanwhile, in February, it was confirmed the capital’s key retail and entertainment hub is to receive £190 million in funding from Westminster City Council to revitalise the area. The regeneration support fund will include £150 million investment in re-designing Oxford Street while The Strand/Aldwych is to made more pedestrian-friendly.
A report by property consultancy Colliers for NWEC said the area will recover to its historic annual turnover of £10 billion by 2024 and will supersede pre-pandemic levels by a further £1.4 billion by 2025.
In 2021, sales in the West End were up 30% on 2020 figures. However, the NWEC said that was less than half pre-pandemic levels as a lack of overseas shoppers continued to hamper the recovery of areas such as Regent Street, Bond Street and Mayfair.
The NWEC has also called on the government to offer “more support to help entice overseas holidaymakers to the UK”.
“Top of the asks is a simplification of the UK’s visitor visa system and a reconsideration of the abolition of tax-free shopping,” it said. It also called for an extension to Sunday trading hours, as part of its plans to revamp the district.
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