The West End is London’s heart, and has been resilient over centuries, but COVID-19 has struck hard:
Central London’s consumer economy, as well as its social and cultural fabric, are facing a deeper and more protracted crisis than other parts of the capital.
By mid-July, in-store purchases in central London remained 60 per cent below their January level for apparel and food, but the figure was between 15 and 40 per cent in outer London centres such as Ealing or Bromley.
The absence of foreign visitors has been felt most strongly in central London: 40 per cent of international tourist spend in the UK is within the Cities of London and Westminster, and Kensington and Chelsea.
The West End accounts for one in five hospitality jobs in London, one in six jobs in the arts and one in eight jobs in retail – with demand suppressed, these are some of the most vulnerable jobs in London.
To help the West End recover more quickly from the pandemic, and make it a greener, and more liveable neighbourhood:
Central London boroughs should continue to expand opportunities for businesses to operate outdoors.
Landowners and Business Improvement Districts should manage deliveries to limit disruption to businesses, visitors and residents across the West End.
Transport for London, in collaboration with the government and Public Health England, should explore whether public transport could operate at a higher capacity without increasing virus transmission.
The Mayor of London and boroughs should bring forward a business case for expanding the availability of bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters for hire to outer London and parts of inner London that are currently underserved, and the government should provide financial support.
Landowners, with support from the Mayor of London and boroughs, should stage weekly ‘London fringe’ events across the West End’s streets, to create new spaces for outdoor performances that respect physical distancing rules – in addition to indoor venues reopening.
The government should introduce culture vouchers to incentivise visits once indoor performances reopen.
London & Partners, with support from VisitBritain, should help London’s cultural institutions reach international audiences, and prepare a campaign to showcase London’s offer to international visitors. Boroughs, BIDs and landowners should make a concerted effort to make use of the West End’s numerous vacant spaces.
The government should offer ‘enterprise-zone’ style incentives to attract new business to the West End, including lower business rates, and capital allowances on office fit-outs and adaptations.