Westminster City Council has outlined its intention to rid central London’s Oxford Street of “questionable candy and tat shops” as a part of a £150m rejuvenation.
Rachael Robathan, leader of the council, tonight said “Oxford Street is Europe’s hardest hit street” by Covid and that the decline will continue without a serious intervention.
Footfall on the major High Street was down 71 per cent during the pandemic, with retailers hammered by almost two years of Covid restrictions.
The Centre for Cities think tank found that central London’s High Streets were the worst affected in the country, with businesses losing out on 47 weeks of sales throughout the pandemic.
Westminster City Council is proposing to spend £150m to rejuvenate Oxford Street and is calling for powers to be devolved so it can “curb irresponsible behaviour by people using short-term let properties”
Robathan said Oxford Street must be rejuvenated and the ubiquitous US-style sweet shops and tourist shops must be replaced.
“Of course, there are beacons of hope, such as IKEA moving on to the street, and the Elizabeth Line finally due to open later this year, but unless we do something, the decline of Oxford Street will continue,” she said.
“But, as I have told council repeatedly over the past two years since I became leader, this matters not just for businesses, but for residents too. Nobody wants to live in an area with empty shops – that goes for Oxford Street as much as it goes for Oxford.
“Nobody wants their local high street to be filled with questionable candy or tat shops. But more importantly, nobody wants to see the loss of jobs which would come with a long-term decline of an Oxford Street District filled with empty or derelict buildings.”
Large portions of Oxford Street are awash with US-style sweet shops, phone repair shops and tourist shops.
It has been speculated that more of these kinds of businesses are opening up, after the pandemic accelerated the decline of traditional bricks-and-mortar retail.
Brands like Topshop, House of Fraser and Debenhams have all closed down their Oxford Street shops, after either going bust or reducing their physical footprint.