Oxford Street speedy regeneration works start
Westminster City Council’s recently unveiled plan to spend £150 million on Oxford Street’s regeneration has kicked off already with “spades in the ground” for a series of “temporary interventions that will encourage visitors back after lockdown”.
The current works will also be closely followed by projects “that will permanently reimagine the Oxford Street District”.
It means “Oxford Street is going green with pocket parks, trees and new street furniture”. And the council said “the temporary interventions will encourage visitors back to the West End after the pandemic ‘hammer blow’, supporting businesses to bounce back”.
The council launched its plan for a five-year reinvention of the street and its neighbouring area last month. And while that plan is clearly a long-term one, it was keen to do quick work that would make the most of the reopening of non-essential retail in England from April and the much-hoped-for return of office workers, tourists and other shoppers.
This first stage of quick fixes will “create more space for people, add trees and greenery, and introduce new seating, cycle parking, and pocket parks throughout the Oxford Street District”. That phase of the work should be completed by late spring and the first permanent projects are also due to begin this spring.
For the quick project, there will be a 40% increase in new mature trees and over 1,500 new plants from 65 different species, plus 55 new seating areas, which is double the current number of benches.
Cllr Rachael Robathan, Leader of Westminster City Council, said: “Today is significant, because the talking is done and work is under way. It is critical that we act urgently to restore confidence in the nation’s favourite shopping district.
“These initial measures, which should be completed in time for summer, will literally pave the way for an economic recovery. They will create a new visitor-friendly environment and reinforce the area as one of the best places in the world to live, work, shop and visit.”
Karen Lord, Head of Branch at John Lewis Oxford Street added: “[This] will both prepare for the opening of Crossrail and help encourage shoppers and visitors to come back to the West End.”
Oxford Street in normal times attracts around 200 million visitors in a year and with the opening of new transport hubs, that had been expected to surge by tens of millions in 2021. But the pandemic put paid to that and visitor traffic to the West End in general has been down more than 50% year-on-year and often as much as 80%+ during lockdown periods.
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