An unusual 25m viewing platform next to Marble Arch in an attempt to encourage visitors back to the West End has got the green light.
It is hoped that 200,000 people will visit Marble Arch Hill over six months and encourage them to boost the coffers of shops, restaurants and hotels which have been hard hit by the pandemic.
Visitors will climb up the 25m structure next to the Grade I listed Marble Arch and take in stunning views of the area. It will offer them a chance to look over the world-famous shopping destination of Oxford Street.
Kay Buxton, the chief executive of the Marble Arch London Bid representing 200 members said: “I believe it’s the welcome shot in the arm that is so urgently needed for London’s retail and hospitality as it looks to recover from the devastating effects of the Covid 19 pandemic.
“Marble Arch Hill will provide a vital incentive to visitors returning to the West End and experiencing incredible and rare views promised at this unique and rare installation.”
There was a £7.4bn drop in spend from overseas visitors in London in 2020 because of the pandemic, according to Visit Britain.
Ms Buxton said UK based tourists will be crucial for the West End. It’s predicted that across the UK they will spend £61bn this year – up 79 per cent.
The area’s hospitality and hotel sector employs 135,000 people and generates a £45m spend in the area around the monument.
“It will widen the offer to a more rounded day out. London needed a new and compelling attraction for our home visitors,” she said.
Jim Glen, who chaired Westminster City Council’s planning committee said “it is possibly absolutely bonkers but it is only temporary.”
And fellow Selina Short said it was “quite exciting and charmingly eccentric.”
It is thought that 2,300 to 3,600 people will pay to visit the viewing platform each day before getting a lift or taking the stairs back down.
It’s part of Westminster council’s £150m scheme for the West End which has been hit hard by the financial impact of the pandemic.
However there were 49 objections to the scheme with some people saying they thought it was a waste of money and that it was too expensive.
One objector wrote: “We have no tourists here, so who will be going up the mound? Those who want to put their selfie images online, not those who want to go and restart the Oxford Street economy.
“This is a piece of nonsensical rubbish along the lines of the Garden Bridge.”
Another commented: “As a resident who’s just seen my council’s tax rise considerably, I strongly object on a financial basis. Further, given current economic considerations and issues, this is completely unnecessary.”
The London Gardens Trust also said the temporary project would be expensive and that funds should be spent on alternative projects.
According to a Freedom of Information request the council has already spent £56,900 on its plan and has a £900,000 budget for the viewing platform.
Committee member Guthrie McKie who represents the deprived Harrow Road area said it was important to consider the cost as although it was not a planning issue it highlighted concerns about the public benefit.
“It would cover a lot of youth clubs,” he said.
Cycling campaigners are also concerned about the impact of congestion whilst the attraction is there.
The council says it is keen to encourage people to cycle to the attraction.
It is also talking to the police about security measures which include
*Anti climb green wall
*2.4m high protective glass barrier on viewing platform