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New Plan To Tackle Empty Shops In London’s Historic Strand District

Image Credit: @sebarnolddesign

A Strand West Taskforce, made up of members from Westminster City Council, Transport for London, The Northbank BID and property owners, is being established to deliver a 5-year strategy for investment and public realm enhancement across the area stretching from Trafalgar Square to Lancaster Place.

The Taskforce will be focused on delivering a number of measures outlined in a new report commissioned by the Northbank Business Improvement District, Unlocking Potential: Ground Floor Land Use Strategy for the Northbank BID, to identify ways to unlock the potential of Strand and create a sense of place and destination. With links to the river and Covent Garden, the area – which includes Bedford Street, Southampton Street, and Villiers Street – is a key thoroughfare for London workers, residents, and visitors.

But a slow return of office workers to the area has resulted in a substantial level of vacant floor space and a decline in retail offer. Traditional fashion and comparison use has given way to convenience and casual grab-and-go food and drink. In response, the report explores how ground floor space in existing buildings can be better used and adapted to facilitate long-term value creation and increased leasings, with a series of actions for each of the streets.

Informed by the report findings, the taskforce will work to deliver a number of public realm improvements, including:

· Appointing a Central Leasing Advisor to better curate new leasings and tenant mix strategies

· Increasing al fresco dining spots

· Establishing a pop up programme to reduce the number of empty units

· Creating an events programme to encourage greater footfall, dwell time and linked experiences

· Tackling barriers to leasing relating to historic planning conditions, legal agreements, and licensing

CEO of the Northbank BID, Ruth Duston, comments: “Like many places across the country, The Northbank was hit hard by Covid-19, with retail and leisure hurt by lockdown and new hybrid

working models impacting footfall. But the reality is that demand for street-level space was changing across the city pre-pandemic, largely due to increased competition from e-commerce and shifting expectations of consumers for the overall environment and experience.

“As the recent success at Strand Aldwych has shown, partnership is key to delivering coherent large-scale programmes. This is the next step in our ambitious vision for Northbank BID, creating a more vibrant district for future generations and celebrating its historic place in the heart of London.”

Westminster City Councillor, James Small-Edwards added: “The Strand has a rich heritage and it is fantastic to see this initiative bringing an even greater sense of identity, as well as increased investment, to the area.

“It also fits with Westminster City Council’s Fairer Economy plans and principles of good growth, a core focus for us. We look forward to working with The Northbank and other Taskforce members on this project.”