The shopping heart of London will soon have fewer shops, after the local trade group announced plans for a large-scale revamp of the area. After Westminster Council unexpectedly pulled the plug on plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street, replacement plans have been worked on, and now the local trade group has now announced a £2.9 billion revamp of the area.
The biggest change will be in shopping, as the area adapts to more people, but fewer shoppers – thanks to the rise of online shopping. So an area famous for its shops could end up with fewer shops.
The New West End Company, the trade group that represents Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street businesses, says that it is working with the Mayor of London and Westminster Council to change the planning requirement for the area to have ground floors of buildings that are wall-to-wall shops, and allow a wider mix of building uses.
They’re expecting anything from showrooms to cultural spaces, food and leisure activities, to community events and evening attractions.
This is a reflection of the reality that while the area is expecting to see an additional 60 million visits per year following the opening of the Elizabeth line, fewer of those visitors will be visiting for the shops alone.
Shoppers want “experiences” rather than pile-em-high shopping, so struggling high streets have been adapting, and apart from the planning changes, the New West End Company has announced that £2.9 billion will be invested within a one mile radius of Oxford Street by 2022. The proposals include £1 billion being invested in new developments and refurbishments on Oxford Street alone.
The expenditure is part of a £250 million upgrade that’s already underway, with £150 million from Westminster Council for the streetscape with two new proposed public piazzas at Oxford Circus and Marble Arch.
The proposals will see the equivalent of two Trafalgar Squares in pedestrian space added, with wider pavements and — if that’s even possible with the road congestion — slower road speeds.
The trade group is also lobbying government to alter Sunday trading hours to allow shops to stay open until 8pm on Sundays.
All these changes will be dependent on the Mayor of London signing an agreement, expected at the end of next year to designate the area as an “International Centre” to amend the current planning regulations.