// Marble Arch to get a climbable 25m hill after lockdown ends to lure shoppers back to Oxford Street
// It is part of a £150m push by Westminster City Council to overhaul the retail precinct
// The hill will operate for six months starting in summer, featuring a viewing platform plus an exhibition & event space
Authorities have unveiled plans for a 25m climbable hill as part of a wider £150 million revamp of Oxford Street aimed at luring shoppers back to the area after lockdown ends.
A large mound of soil is to be built up next to Marble Arch, on the western end of Oxford Street, to create an artificial, temporary hill and platform providing views over Hyde Park and the West End.
Westminster City Council said the hill forms part of plans to revive Oxford Street and the wider West End district through its Oxford Street District framework, which has been developed with key strategic partners.
It comes after the district was battered by three lockdowns and various other restrictions, such as a plunge in office workers and tourists due to stay at home orders and travel restrictions.
The pandemic has also some of the precinct’s star retailers – namely Debenhams and Topshop, both of which went into administration last December and have left behind huge vacant lots.
Subject to attaining planning approval, the temporary Marble Arch Hill would include a walking path around the sides to a viewing platform at the top, along with an exhibition and event space in the base.
Westminster City Council estimated that the attraction could be enjoyed by up to 200,000 people once it is operational, and subject to Covid restrictions.
Work is expected to start on the construction of the mound in the next few weeks.
The Marble Arch hill will operate for six months starting in summer and once it is ready to be taken down, the trees and landscape used to build it will be relocated to other parts of the district and local community.
Work is also expected to begin in the next few weeks on a interim improvements on Oxford Street, such as wider pedestrian spaces, more trees and greenery along streets, and new lighting.
There are also plans for a zero emissions transport network, more restaurants and pop-up shops, cultural and leisure activities, and new ways to support SMEs and reuse existing buildings.
Westminster City Council has already committed £150 million to kickstart the Oxford Street District framework 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.
The announcement was welcomed by the New West End Company, which represents the retailers and other businesses in and around Oxford, Bond and Regent streets.
“The launch of Westminster City Council’s £150 million Oxford Street District transformation is a huge milestone as central London starts its recovery,” New West End Company, chief executive Jace Tyrell said.
“The past 12 months have been the toughest on record for businesses on Oxford Street and the surrounding area, and these ambitious plans are a sign of a forward thinking, sustainable and agile future for the district, creating an altogether stronger and more exciting high street that caters to the needs of the ever-evolving consumer.
“This continued level of investment highlights the West End’s ongoing influence over the prosperity of our economy and communities across the UK, and will ensure that the district, and its world famous streets, remain competitive on the global stage.”
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.”