ADD2256 West End Good Growth Study

Type of decision: 
Assistant Director's decision
Code: 
ADD2256
Date signed: 
07 August 2018
Decision by: 
Debbie Jackson, Assistant Director of Regeneration

Executive summary

Approval is sought to commission a study to undertake a review of risks and opportunities to the achievement of the West End’s potential within the context of the new London Plan policy for good growth in the Central Activities Zone. The study will be a standalone piece of work with a value up to £50,000, to be funded from the Mayor’s Strategic Investment Fund (SIF).

Decision

That the Assistant Director of Regeneration and Economic Development approves:

Expenditure of up to £50,000 on external services to undertake a West End Good Growth study on behalf of the GLA.

Part 1: Non-confidential facts and advice

Introduction and background

The draft new London Plan emphasises the significant contribution by the West End (including the primary retail functions of Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Street and the wider West End Retail and Leisure Special Policy Area) towards the Central Activities Zone (CAZ) and its vibrant, successful and diverse retail offer at a scale and quality that makes it a shopping destination of global significance.

The case for transformational investment in the West End’s public realm relies in part on the need to improve the resilience of the West End economy and on the fact that it helps realise the full growth potential associated with the opening of the Elizabeth Line (increase of business turn over from £8.8bn in 2014 to £13bn in 2021 and of 30,000 jobs between 2017 and 2032).

The West End Partnership’s Outline Business Case from 2017 for a proposed Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) investment aimed to resolve a number of long standing and interrelated issues – including air quality, road user safety, and pedestrian comfort levels, that were beginning to undermine the attractiveness of Oxford Street as a premier shopping destination - and to secure resilience and growth opportunities in the economy of the West End. The timing of the TIF investment was driven by the opening of the Elizabeth Line in December 2018 and the corresponding growth in visitor numbers which would compound all of these ongoing issues.

Since that time, there is a perception that structural change within the retail sector has gathered pace. The planned closure of the House of Fraser on Oxford Street, aligned with Westminster City Council’s withdrawal from the partnership working on the Mayor’s pedestrianisation proposals, have raised fundamental questions about the nature of the future economy of West End, in particular focussed around the Oxford Street district as a key commercial centre. Increased accessibility, driven by the Night Tube and the opening of the Elizabeth Line, and polarisation trends (whereby larger commercial centres attract relatively greater demand), mean that despite sectoral restructuring the potential for growth of the West End economy remains significant.

It is proposed to commission a study to review of risks and opportunities to the achievement of the West End’s growth potential within the context of the new London Plan policy for good growth in the Central Activities Zone.

The study would be a standalone piece of work. Its value would be up to £50,000, to be funded from the Mayor’s Strategic Investment Fund (SIF). The Regeneration and Economic Development team will manage the delivery of the study, in consultation with other GLA group teams as required. Consultants would be procured via direct call-off from the Architecture Design and Urbanism Panel (ADUP), utilising existing in-depth knowledge from previous relevant work in the area to deliver the study within the set programme and inform executive decision making in a timely manner.

Objectives and expected outcomes

The study will focus on the on the unique characteristics of the West End economy and the role of the Oxford Street district in that economy, building on existing studies on economic sectors and high streets as relevant.

The study will develop a holistic understanding of this economy, and an assessment of its potential to adapt and grow, given sectoral restructures and increasing West End accessibility. It will inform public policy decisions and enable public and private sector partners to develop coordinated investment strategies that maximise potential good growth in line with new London Plan policies.

Issues that the study will consider, in the context of the West End (but focussing particularly on the Oxford Street district):

• Structural changes within the retail sector: downward and upward trends;
• The role of Oxford Street as the flagship location for retail in the UK;
• International comparison of innovative solutions with centres in world cities;
• The make-up and potential growth scenarios for the West End market in terms of visitor numbers and expenditure;
• The mix of uses and experiences that will achieve/undermine economic growth projections;
• The quality of and innovation within the environment, including that of the public realm, and innovation within the retail sector and beyond, that will ensure customers continue to be drawn to spend time and money in the West End.

In assessing customer spending patterns, attitudes and expectations, potential growth potential and factors that may constrain this potential we would expect the study to distinguish between the following key segments of West End users: West End workers and residents; domestic customers; international customers.

The study will provide:

• Targeted literature review on the current status and future perspectives for London’s retail sector and commercial district, with a focus on the West End;
• Overview of the structure of the Oxford Street district economy (number of businesses, employee jobs, and an estimation of headline GVA);
• Review of current West End commercial space supply (including planning pipeline) and demand up to 2041;
• Review of Westminster City Council Local Plan and London Plan approaches to accommodating the projected growth;
• Assessment of space required, and capacity within the West End, to deliver forecasted growth of the West End workforce;
• Assessment of potential for sectoral growth and resulting changes in space requirements;
• Assessment of the impact of growth scenarios on existing residential communities;
• SWOT analysis summarising the status and outlook for the West End Economy;
• Assessment of essential and desirable conditions for ensuring a successful future for the West End, including recommendations for key actors.

Equality comments

The West End (and the Oxford Street district within it) is a key destination in the CAZ. The work set out in this decision is intended to inform a future strategy for the area which secures a viable, accessible and sustainable mix of uses for all residents, workers and visitors to the area.

Other considerations

a) key risks and issues

Failure to address the changes and challenges set out above could jeopardise the Mayor’s plans to deliver inclusive and sustainable growth in the area. To mitigate this, this study would help inform future approaches and engagement with a range of stakeholders.

b) links to Mayoral strategies and priorities

In his manifesto the Mayor committed to prioritise the improvements of high streets, squares and public spaces across the city, and to work with Westminster Council, local businesses, Transport for London (TfL) and taxis, to pedestrianise Oxford Street.

In the draft new London Plan the Mayor committed to:

 Promote and enhance the unique international, national and London-wide roles of the CAZ, based on an agglomeration and rich mix of strategic functions as well as local uses;
 Support the vitality and viability of the West End as an international shopping and leisure destinations.

c) impact assessments and consultations

Successful delivery of a future strategy for Oxford Street district will be dependent on engagement with a range of stakeholders in the public and private sector, including local authorities, landowners, businesses, residents and other users.

Financial comments

This study will be funded from the Mayor’s £112 million Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) which is being financed from the GLA’s share of growth from the London 100% business rates retention pilot for 2018-19. Provision for the SIF has been made in the Mayor’s 2018-19 budget. This study is being approved in advance of the Mayoral Decision allocating the wider fund to allow the procurement process to be commenced as soon as possible.

Activity table

Activity

Timeline

Procurement of contract

Aug 2018

Delivery start date

Aug 2018

First draft report

Early Sep 2018

Final draft report

Mid Sep 2018

Delivery End Date

End Sep 2018

Project Closure

End Sep 2018