The West End is London’s beating, social heart, and has been resilient over centuries, but that it remains so is not a given – whether the current crisis leads to long term damage depends on how successful London’s mitigation strategies are. So far, government support has softened the blow for some of the biggest sectors of the West End economy – hospitality, retail and the arts, but more needs to be done. As restaurants, shops and venues reopen, it is clear that central London’s economy has remained in the doldrums, while the rest of the capital and the country have both seen a stronger recovery.
Making sure that London retains its strong core is also an essential part of the decarbonisation agenda. The West End has the best public transport connectivity in the country, and its density favours active travel, so focusing recovery efforts here will avoid a car-led recovery. There is potential for progress on consolidating freight and greening vehicle fleets.
The crisis and recovery will also lead to higher turnover of businesses – London should make sure that no office space in such a favourable location is underused, and this churn should be harnessed to improve the environmental credentials of West End buildings.
The policies above will help the West End recover more quickly from the pandemic, find its unique buzz again, and build back greener. The outcome depends on whether we act in time.