Ambitious plans will reinvent the nation’s high street and boost London’s recovery

16 Feb 2021

A unique Marble Arch visitor attraction and ambitious new framework to kickstart a reimagined Oxford Street as the great fightback is launched for the nation’s favourite high street. 

Westminster City Council has announced ambitious new plans to revive Oxford Street and the wider District. The new Oxford Street District (OSD) framework, developed with key strategic partners, will deliver:

  • a bold new vision and framework to ensure the successful long-term future for the nation’s high street, as the greenest, smartest, most sustainable District of its kind anywhere in the world
  • spades in the ground within weeks as part of an exciting package of interim support to aid post pandemic recovery in a comprehensive year of delivery
  • restore the area as the `must visit’ destination of choice for domestic and international visitors, when restrictions ease, as well as the place to start, grow and expand businesses
  • a massive boost for the visitor economy with immediate improvements, including proposals for a bold, new ‘Marble Arch Hill’ temporary visitor attraction at Marble Arch to be a catalyst for Oxford Street’s climb back to global acclaim and success

Today the Council’s Leader, Cllr Rachael Robathan, unveiled a blueprint to reinvent the high street for a post pandemic recovery and, crucially, for the longer term.  The new framework builds on previous work and represents confirmation of the Council’s significant commitment to the area. It was already in development pre-pandemic but now also responds to massive changes to shopping habits and working patterns, that have been accelerated by Covid-19. It reimagines the nation’s favourite high street through the following themes; GREENER, SMARTER, FUTURE and TOGETHER to create a globally competitive centre for innovative retail, commercial activities, culture and living.

Some highlights from the framework’s proposals for longer term improvements include:

  • focusing investment in the district on three strategically defined areas (Oxford Circus & Bond Street, Marble Arch and also East Oxford Street), with benefits rippling out across the whole District and West End.
  • cleaner air across the District through world class sustainability initiatives to tackle climate change, with a huge greening programme, a pedestrian first approach and zero emission transport network
  • exploring new models of living and working, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises to establish themselves and reusing and reimagining existing buildings
  • delivering world-class public realm with a strong focus on play
  • strengthening the area’s positioning as a global centre for culture, arts, leisure and creative industries

Westminster has already committed £150m to kickstart the OSD programmes and attract inward investment, taking full advantage of the Elizabeth Line opening in 2022 and the area’s links to the wider West End and beyond. It will be a `year of delivery’ for Oxford Street with a large number of immediate projects getting under way within weeks, including:

  • encouraging a wider range of businesses through a sustained change towards forward-looking brands for a more varied range of shops, including pop-ups, offices, restaurants and cultural or leisure activities.
  • a proposed new `Marble Arch Hill’ temporary visitor attraction to enhance the historic Marble Arch, bringing the beauty and tranquillity of Hyde Park a little closer to neighbouring Oxford Street. Subject to attaining planning approval, it has been estimated that the 25m high attraction could be enjoyed by up to 200,000 people whilst it is operational, subject to whatever Covid restrictions remain at the time. This would support millions of pounds in incremental spending for the local economy across the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in the West End.
  • work will also begin within weeks on a proposed range of intensive, interim improvements on Oxford Street to deliver additional pedestrian space, pop up parks, new lighting, landscaping, greening projects and cultural space to create an attractive, Covid-secure, environment for visitors post lockdown.

Westminster City Council Leader Rachael Robathan said:

“This ambitious and comprehensive framework is the blueprint for how we will work with our partners to reinvent successfully the Oxford Street District for decades to come. This is something we’d committed to long before the pandemic, but the last year has underlined why it’s so important.

The West End is the engine of the London economy and a huge employer which has been hit hard by the effects of Covid-19. We are confident that our bold plans will secure the District’s long-term success, running alongside our creative, interim plans to boost the capital’s post pandemic recovery. We want to focus attention on this iconic centre of our city which has been increasingly overlooked and cement its status for the future as a key central London destination.

Our proposed Marble Arch Hill temporary visitor attraction at Marble Arch signifies our ambitious approach to the District. It will be important for bringing in visitors to support the local economy. However, it will offer so much more. We hope it will give people an opportunity to look afresh and with wonder at this well known, but sadly increasingly overlooked, area to recognise its beauty and importance. We want visitors to appreciate the wider context of this iconic location and its close connections to Oxford Street and Hyde Park, as well as other key destinations in the West End and beyond.”

To read the new framework for the Oxford Street District visit our framework page.