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ver the past five years, the New West End Company has secured around £6 million of TfL and other funding to improve areas such as Marble Arch, the east of Oxford Street and South Molton Street. It has achieved a 20 per cent reduction in bus


traffic in sections of Oxford Street, secured funding for a £4 million makeover of Oxford Street with the UK’s first diagonal crossing and has seen progress in areas such as Sunday trading and on the issue of Chinese visas [a complex visa system for the UK means the West End has been losing out to other countries in an increasingly important market]. That’s not to mention a dedicated team of Red


Cap Welcome Ambassadors to guide and welcome visitors, a strong partnership with the police to deliver a 61 per cent reduction in smash and grab crime and efforts to provide a cleaner West End, with 87 per cent of shoppers believing the area to be cleaner than three years ago. The challenge now, according to Richard Dickinson, chief executive of New West End Company, is to build on the legacy of London 2012 and to prepare for Crossrail and beyond. “We’ve spent the last three months talking to all


our retailers and have got a really good view of the key priorities they want to see developed,” he says. “It’s more of the same – protecting the reputation of the West End and rooting for West End retail – making sure it is seen as a jewel in the crown of this fantastic destination.”


The plan is to invest in more public spaces, including work to improve shopper information, guidance and orientation, improvements to the entire length of Bond Street, continued investment in Oxford Street and support for pocket plazas, larger oasis spaces, and new food and drink quarters. “We’ve got to make sure the public realm looks good,” says Dickinson. “Outside the stores has got to look as good as inside. We need more relaxing spaces for people to dwell when they are shopping and nice places for residents to enjoy when they are out and about.”


One key aim is to develop London’s Luxury


Quarter, which includes leading brands and flagship stores along Bond Street and connecting streets, and arcades in Mayfair and St James’s – plus harness, involve and draw on the West End’s leading auction houses, galleries and exhibitions. “As a result of the Olympics, we need to leverage emerging markets such as China and the Middle East,” says Dickinson. “I think customers don’t understand the diversity of the luxury offer.” In terms of transport, the vision is to see a


significant reduction in the amount of traffic. Traffic calming measures, new technologies to reduce air pollution, reductions in speed limits, pedestrianised


zones, and schemes to boost walking and cycling are all part of the plan. The north end of Bond Street is one of the key


areas of focus, adds Dickinson, admitting that funding is still an issue. “It’s hard because the council haven’t got any cash, so we have to find ways of doing it – maybe we’ll get our property owners more involved formally in the bid.” There’s also the difficulty that Bond Street has several landlords. “I think generally, the occupiers are recognising the need to improve the quality so I think they will come together,” says Dickinson. “At the moment, the north end is blighted by Crossrail


but once that comes in, it will improve that whole area. The plan is about looking after our customers and making sure they have a good time when they are here – creating a place where they can easily park, where they enjoy walking down the streets, where there aren’t big road works and building sites for them to try and get round. “We’ve got to sort out the carriageway, sort the paving and the lighting and make sure it is up to scratch in relation to international competition – so that the quality is in line with Rodeo Drive or the Tokyo, Paris and Milan equivalents. We’ve got to be up there with the big players.”


Working for the West End


THE NEW WEST END COMPANY WAS SET UP OVER A DECADE AGO TO CHAMPION THE INTERESTS OF MORE THAN 600 FIRMS ON AND AROUND OXFORD, REGENT AND BOND STREETS. NOW THE BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT (BID) IS REVEALING ITS PLANS FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS AS IT SEEKS A NEW MANDATE. SELMA DAY FINDS OUT WHAT IT HAS IN STORE – INCLUDING A STREETSCAPE TO RIVAL BEVERLY HILLS


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