A major publication launched today by Centre for London highlights the pressures on the West End, in terms of growth and visitor numbers, and sets out new thinking on how to sustain the area’s economic development post-Brexit.
The collection brings together a number of influential contributors including Tony Travers, Peter Murray and Alexandra Jones, and makes a series of recommendations to secure the future success of the area.
Featuring forewords by Mayor Sadiq Khan and Cllr, The Baroness Couttie, Leader of Westminster City Council, London’s Global Neighbourhood – The Future of the West End shows that while the area covers a small part of central London it:
- Generates three per cent of the UK’s economic output – more than any other comparable part of the UK – and £17bn of taxes per annum, including eight per cent of all business rates.
- Hosts 120,000 businesses and employs around 650,000 people, two-thirds of which are filled by people living in other parts of London.
- The post-Brexit West End experienced a short-term lift in sales over the summer months, with a double digit increase in tourist spend, due to a weaker pound following Brexit.
However, the collection highlights the growing challenges threatening the West End’s future prosperity:
- Extreme overcrowding and pollution: Crossrail is set to deliver 120,000 additional people into the area every day.
- Businesses being priced out of the area: Prime office rents reached £120 per sq ft in Mayfair/St James’s, (in what year/time period), almost twice the cost of rents in the City. For a small business of 50 employees, that translates into about £600,000 per annum – and closer to £1m if business rates are included.
- Safety concerns: In the year to September 2015, Westminster recorded an average of 22 crimes per 100 residents compared to just nine per 100 across the capital as a whole.
- A rising number of homeless people: Compared with a wider London average of 0.27 (per 1,000 inhabitants), Westminster has a rough sleeping rate of 2.38 (per 1,000 inhabitants). This level of street homelessness is unmatched anywhere across England and Wales.
With bold leadership, the recommendations outlined in this collection could help turn these challenges into an opportunity for the West End to mark its spot as London’s leading global neighbourhood, and become a beacon for the capital around the world post-EU referendum.
Ben Rogers, Director at Centre for London said:
“The West End will have to accommodate more businesses, visitors and residents as London grows. The challenge lies in ensuring new development is in keeping with the area’s human scale and social and economic mix. That means more housing for local workers, affordable work space for start-ups and small businesses, and investment in the public realm.”
Cllr, The Baroness Couttie, Leader of Westminster City Council, said:
“The West End is one of the most dynamic places on the planet, with a huge capacity to rapidly generate economic growth and jobs for the benefit of the UK as a whole. But in the face of fierce international competition, the area’s success cannot be taken for granted.
“That’s why it is so important to celebrate its heritage and special character – already captured so well in these essays – whilst also supporting the transformative improvements that London needs to ensure it continues to provide a thriving environment for its businesses, visitors and urban villages.”
Adrian Penfold, Head of Planning at British Land said:
“The West End is a uniquely vibrant area with an abundance of history, a cultural centre and a creative district that continue to attract talent from across the world. It is important that we address the infrastructure and density challenges it faces in order to protect and enhance the character of the West End and ensure the historic area’s long term success.”
Craig McWilliam, Executive Director and Chief Executive (Designate 2017), Grosvenor Britain & Ireland said:
“The West End’s success is not guaranteed. Bold public sector leadership will be needed to sweat its potential for more jobs and fundamentally better places. With a clear vision, a delivery plan and steady public funding, the West End can drive London’s global competitiveness and reinvest the benefits of its success locally.”
Jace Tyrrell, CEO of the New West End Company said:
“London’s West End is at a major crossroads. With the opening of the Elizabeth line in two years’ time adding 60 million more visits to our area, an ambitious vision of growth set out by the West End Partnership and a new Mayor prioritising the pedestrian, we face a once in a generation opportunity to ensure the West End continues to support the UK economy for decades to come.
“Greater collaboration between the public and private sector is vital and The West End Partnership is this catalyst. We now need to see delivery in terms of upgrading our vital infrastructure, greater investment in the public realm to a world standard quality and enlightened policies adopted at all levels of Government to support West End businesses during a greater period on uncertainty with Brexit.”
About British Land
British Land is one of Europe’s largest publicly listed real estate companies. They own, manage, develop and finance a portfolio of high quality commercial property, focused on retail locations around the UK and London offices. British Land properties are home to over 1,200 different organisations ranging from international brands to local start-ups. People have a choice where they work, shop and live and British Land aims to create outstanding places which make a positive difference to people’s everyday lives. Further details can be found on the British Land website at www.britishland.com.
About Grosvenor Britain and Ireland
Grosvenor Britain & Ireland creates and manages high-quality neighbourhoods across the UK and Ireland. The company’s diverse property development, management and investment portfolio includes Grosvenor’s London estate, comprising 300 acres of Mayfair and Belgravia, in which it has a £1bn planned investment programme. Other developments include elsewhere in London and Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Southampton. As at 31 December 2015, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland had £5.7bn of assets under management.
Grosvenor Britain & Ireland is part of Grosvenor Group, a privately owned property group active in some of the world’s most dynamic cities.
About New West End Company
New West End Company is a leading business voice for London’s West End, representing the people and organisations behind the world’s largest retail destination.
It delivers management and marketing services to 25 streets within London’s retail heartland including Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street.
It aims to drive the change to create a truly unique West End experience, unlock barriers for economic growth and further strengthen the commercial success of the area and its contribution to UK GDP.
 Aside from the City of London with a rate of 9.92, due in the most part to a particularly low number of households