Retailers in London’s West End are calling for improvements to congestion, urging an end to “the wall of buses” that dominate the capital, it has been announced.
Following yesterday’s unveiling of the New West End Company’s five year business plan, a £25 million investment aimed at driving prosperity across London’s core shopping streets, senior figures have called on the Government to re-examine ways to diminish congestion in the area.
Richard Dickinson, CEO of the New West End Company, said: “As a major contributor to London’s GDP, the retail heartland of London’s West End is a vital asset for London.
“Our challenge over the next five years is to drive growth and investment; create a world class environment and deliver a game changer to end the wall of buses and congestion on our streets.
“The transport planning around the Olympics has understandably dominated the agenda for managing congestion in London over the past few years, but with Crossrail bringing in 70 million new journeys a year to the capital, we now need urgent action to reduce traffic in London’s West End.
“We must deliver places for people not traffic and my number one mission is to see an end to the wall of red buses within our next term.”
Reducing traffic is a primary consideration for the company despite the response from Kit Malthouse, Deputy Mayor of London for business and enterprise, who expressed concern at the launch that changes may be unnecessary and cited busy public transport as a sign of retailers’ popularity and success.
Dickinson also announced at yesterday’s event that the company will lead a transport conference on November 15th 2012 which “will bring together international and other experts to inspire new thinking and investigate all the options.”
As part of its strategy, the New West End Company also seeks to drive further growth and investment in the area, which incorporates Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street as well as 22 other connecting streets, suggesting a multi-million pound investment to improve the appearance of the area, building new pavements, gateways and street lighting and furniture “to rival the luxury streets from around the world.”
Last week the company, working with Heart of London Business Alliance with the support of real estate firm Jones Lang Lasalle, released a report revealing that spend in London’s luxury quarter has reached £3 billion annually while the number of retail and leisure units in the area grew by 42 per cent in the past seven years.
Following research commissioned by the company, a prime focus for future development in the coming years is the regeneration of St Giles Circus and East Oxford Street, creating a new diagonal crossing and removing Tottenham Court Road’s one-way system, as an additional 20 million journeys to Tottenham Court Road Crossrail station are forecast from 2018.
Commenting on the plans, Mayor Boris Johnson said: “London’s West End is a shopping magnet, attracting visitors from all over the world, driving jobs and growth and boosting London’s economy.
“Bringing together the energy and experience of businesses in this flagship retail hub, and drawing up a clear vision for the future through the New West End Company, is essential to its continued success.”
In order to further boost tourist interest in the area, the New West End Company conducted research which found that the UK is currently losing £1.2 billion of tourism spending from Chinese visitors, set to rise to £3.1 billion by 2020 and as such is leading plans to change the current visa system required for them.
Similarly, the company has waded into the debate on Sunday trading laws, calling for a full review of the pilot to create the possibility of further relaxation to boost trade.
Paul Kelly, Managing Director Selfridges Group said that it is crucial for local retailers to support the initiative in order to boost trading.
“It is important as a community that we work together to strengthen our appeal to the global shopper ensuring London’s West End maintains its reputation as the premier destination in the world.
“Clearly, New West End Company drives this vision and sets the framework for our future plans. I encourage retailers to continue to support the company as we work to continue to make the West End the retail destination of choice.”