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Westminster City Council update on Marble Arch Mound

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An image of the Marble Arch Mound with a road and cyclists in the foreground

Published: 12 August 2021

Leader – Rachael Robathan

Central London has a battle on its hands. Having suffered 18 months of the pandemic, we have to get people back into the city. Currently, visitor numbers remain significantly down and that has severe implications for a Westminster economy that hosts more than one in eight jobs in London and creates billions for the rest of the country.  What happens in Westminster really does matter to the UK as a whole. 

The Mound is a small part of the Council’s wider £150m investment in the Oxford Street District, designed to reinvigorate the nation’s high street. This is a critical investment, and will support London and the UK to build back better, helping unlock over £2bn of additional economic value by 2030.

The Mound is also one initiative in a wider campaign, Westminster Reveals, designed to bring the buzz and footfall back to London. We’ve developed an exciting programme of events spanning galleries, theatres, art trials and free shows. The Inside Out arts festival started this week and we have the hugely popular West End Live weekend which draws hundreds of thousands of people to Trafalgar Square to look forward to in September.

The Mound opened too early, and we have apologised for that. It has become clear that costs have risen more than anticipated and that is totally unacceptable. Our original forecast cost was £3.3m. Total costs are now £6m, covering every aspect of the project: construction, operation and eventual removal. With regret, I have accepted the resignation of my deputy leader, Melvyn Caplan, who led the Mound project. We have also instigated a thorough internal review to understand what went wrong and ensure it never happens again.

Tickets are now free for August. We are working hard to deliver a new exhibition space and make sure the 130 steps climb to the top is the best experience it can be, with a café for a drink and snack at the bottom.

We are determined to continue our hard work to restore our city’s vibrancy, bring back visitors and ensure people can keep their jobs. Doing nothing was never an option. So when the Mound fully reopens in September, I hope that people will come and see it for themselves. The Mound may delight or divide views and that’s ok, but we’re confident that in the end it will fulfil its original brief - to get people back into the West End and remind them of why this is a world class City.

Additional notes

Westminster cabinet changes

  • Cllr Melvyn Caplan has resigned with immediate effect.
  • Cllr Matthew Green will take responsibility for the Council’s investment in the Oxford Street District, alongside his role as Cabinet Member for Business, Licensing and Planning portfolio.
  • Cllr James Spencer, currently Deputy Cabinet Member for City Management, will take responsibility for the City Management portfolio.
  • Cllr Tim Mitchell will become the sole Deputy Leader.

The case for action

  • As of 5th August, footfall in Westminster is still c50% below pre-pandemic levels – despite the removal of Covid-19 restrictions, and loosening of quarantine rules on international air travel. For comparison, footfall was down 15% in Greater London, had returned to pre-pandemic levels in the South East, and was above pre-pandemic levels nationally (+2%).
  • As of 11th August, footfall in Oxford Street was down c54% compared to pre-pandemic levels.
  • Pre-pandemic, Westminster was responsible for £66bn of economic added value (GVA) for the UK. That is the single highest number of any Local Authority in the UK.
  • c£2.4bn of pre-pandemic business rates were collected by Westminster – c8% of the total business rate tax take in England.
  • 14% of jobs in London are based in Westminster.
  • Nearly one fifth of shops in Oxford Street permanently shut as a result of the pandemic.

Oxford Street District investment

Achievements so far

Analysis

  • Analysis of the Council’s Oxford Street District Vision Framework has been undertaken by independent economic analysts, Adroit Economics. This showed that the continuation of pre-Covid trends would result in lower economic value creation (GVA) and reduced jobs, footfall and tourists across the district by the end of the decade. 
  • Without locally-led interventions beyond the immediate pandemic response, even greater falls would be expected across all indicators as a result of the pandemic’s direct impacts and acceleration of long-standing trends. 
  • Compared to the modelled post-pandemic scenario, delivering the Council’s framework vision could deliver an uplift, by 2030, of:
    • Over £2bn in economic value creation for the UK (GVA)
    • Over 30,000 additional jobs

Mound costs

  • Original projected costs - £3.3m
    • The original costs were set out here: CMR UPDATE MAM 280421 FINAL KG.pdf (westminster.gov.uk)
    • The report sets out build costs of £2m and an additional £0.5m of costs attributable to the Mound. Costs of operating the Mound were referred to in the document (para 5.5). These costs are £0.8m.
       
  • Current costs - £6m:
    • Total design, build and remove cost - £5.2m
    • Costs to operate - £0.8m