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Plans underway for a new reimagined Strand Aldwych

Westminster City Council has begun to implement ambitious new proposals to convert busy roads into new public spaces at the Strand and across the Aldwych.

‘Skate the Strand’, a new free, temporary pop-up skate park located on the Strand outside Somerset House, marks the start of the longer-term vision for the Strand Aldwych area. This new ‘Skate the Strand’ project is part of the wider Westminster Reveals campaign and kicks off ‘September on the Strand’, inviting people to return to the city’s streets and enjoy the capital’s famed cultural scene, connecting celebrated talent and communities.

Westminster City Council has ambitious plans for Strand Aldwych, which will see this ancient route adapted to become a pedestrian-focused destination, transforming this historic gateway to the West End into a world-class and contemporary traffic-free public space.

The proposal converts busy roadways into a major new public space at the Strand, to become traffic-free in front of Somerset House and King’s College London, and an enhanced pedestrian experience across the Aldwych, including new crossings, wider footways and a new green space. 

The new Strand Aldwych project aims to bring the inside out – by combining the best of Westminster’s arts, culture, learning and business, utilising the wealth of cultural and creative organisations based in the surrounding areas to reveal the joys of Strand Aldwych as a unique place to visit. It will create a new public space for London, car-free, centred around the majestic St Mary le Strand Church, which will stand pride of place in its newly created architectural and historic setting. 

The reinvention of Strand Aldwych as a world-leading, fit for the future, urban green space is the latest step in the council’s ambitious plans for the West End and its vision for a greener, smarter city. This project is being delivered by Westminster City Council along with key partners including Northbank Business Improvement District, King’s College London, Somerset House Trust, St Mary Le Strand, The Courtauld and Society of London Theatre.

The works will deliver benefits to the area, including:

  • a world class new public space to showcase the very best that local institutions can offer
  • improved air quality, with traffic removed from one of London’s most polluted streets with more greenery and trees on both the Aldwych and Strand
  • a better experience for pedestrians and cyclists that is more centred towards people.
  • greatly improved connections to Covent Garden, the City, Holborn and the West End

Public realm improvements in the Strand Aldwych area started on 4 January 2021 and are due to be completed in late 2022. In response to COVID-19, the scheme was again reviewed, and it was agreed at Full Council that the permanent Aldwych scheme would be taken forward, alongside a “Meanwhile Strand” design to provide opportunities to test how Londoners and the local community would like to use the space. 

From the end of August (19 to 22 August 2021), the Strand was permanently closed to vehicular traffic between Waterloo Bridge and Surrey Street. This new pedestrian and cycle zone will be protected by static physical measures preventing vehicular access to create a car-free zone, although it will allow time-limited access for deliveries and local access. 

This will immediately create much needed space to support the local economy and improve the experience for pedestrians. Through temporary measures, the final scheme design can be tested before being made permanent. Once this ‘Meanwhile Strand’ is established, work will progress on the final stage of the project to implement the remaining public realm works along the Strand, dovetailing with plans at St Mary le Strand and King’s to take forward the permanent scheme. 

Traffic will revert to two-way on the Aldwych and the works will introduce wider footways to create a calmer welcoming environment for pedestrians while they sample cultural opportunities in the area, such as theatre, hotels, dining, shopping, relaxing and appreciating the historic cityscape.

Cllr Matthew Green, Cabinet Member for Business, Licensing and Planning at Westminster City Council said: 

Skate the Strand kicks off ‘September on the Strand’, inviting people to return to Westminster’s iconic streets and vibrant cultural scene. It’s part of our wider plans to encourage people back to the City and to transform Strand Aldwych.

We are doing all we can to build back business and economic confidence and these exciting plans for Strand Aldwych will help improve the visitor experience, kickstart the economy and create jobs and prosperity for now and the future.

COVID-19 has changed how people visit and work in London. More and more people are beginning to return to our city, so there is an urgent need to tackle issues with pedestrian congestion and safety, poor air quality and noise. Our new plans for Strand Aldwych give us an opportunity to build back better and create a new green oasis in central London for people to relax and come together to enjoy, while continuing to celebrate the strong theatre and culture offering the Strand is known for.

Cannon Ivers, Director at LDA Design and Project Lead for Strand Aldwych, said:

Reclaiming the Strand from traffic for people will create a greener piece of city, freeing up the wonderful St Mary Le Strand Church and making the street visually rich and resilient, with improved air quality. 

For the first time, visitors will be able to properly appreciate the Grade I listed architecture which frames the space and benefit from new collaborations as the public realm brings together some of London’s leading cultural and educational institutions. I see a transformed Strand Aldwych as a place where the creative process is made visible – where art is made not just displayed, where performances are rehearsed not just performed, and where knowledge is shared not stored away.

Ruth Duston OBE, OC, Chief Executive of The Northbank Business Improvement District, said: 

It’s fantastic to be welcoming visitors to this newly created ‘meanwhile’ space, which enables us to test new concepts and activities ahead of the opening of the final Strand Aldwych scheme next year. As ever, our partnership with Westminster Council and our local stakeholders continues as we create a new cultural destination for London. The BID is proud to have pioneered the early thinking for the project, which will act as a major catalyst for growth, with the area becoming a new focal point for the world class creative endeavours in the area. Businesses stand ready to welcome workers and visitors back, and this initial meanwhile use will help to encourage more visitors to the area.

These new plans respond to massive changes to how people visit and work in London, accelerated by COVID-19. These new plans reimagine how people can successfully come to the West End through the following themes; Greener, Smarter, Future and Together to create a globally competitive centre for innovative retail, commercial activities, culture and living.

This September there will be a series of free, exciting and inspiring activities as part of ‘September on the Strand’, which sees two weeks’ worth of events to celebrate the new pedestrian space, including the Vans’ skatepark, a Photo London exhibition, alfresco dining through Northbank BID, community event at St Mary Le Strand and a Visible Skin, a King’s College London exhibition.

This new programme of events forms a key part of Westminster City Council’s wider Westminster Reveals campaign to encourage visitors to return to the city’s streets and enjoy London’s famed cultural scene; connecting celebrated talent and communities. This major initiative and phenomenal series of events sees Westminster City Council bring together renowned cultural institutions and visitor attractions like never before as well as iconic hospitality locations and retail destinations such as Regent Street, Oxford Street, the Strand, Mayfair, Carnaby, Paddington, Belgravia and Little Venice.