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Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Rising in the West
The West End as a development site has been increasingly on the agenda, at least it seems so from a browse through the Estates Gazette EG Focus on London. Alongside a report by Nadia Elghamry on the shift from the West End to the City by Middle Eastern investors, an article by Jane Roberts compares the choked - yet world famous - public spaces of W1 to the Champs-Elysees in Paris, where moves such as pushing parking underground and increasing the width of pavements have led to significant improvements in the quality of the public realm.

This is further to Hana's entry on Farrells' work on the eastern end of Oxford Street.

The New West End Company, in partnership with Transport for London, achieved a temporary closure of Oxford Street to traffic for two days before Christmas. I didn't get to see how the mess of Oxford Street was uplifted by such an exercise but I am reminded of the debates surrounding the pedestrianisation of Trafalgar Square and Westminster - the anti-car lobby and others who thought that at least some of the sites proposed for car removal would in fact be worse (or less animated) without traffic.

Jones Lang LaSalle and Sociovision carried out a focus group surveying exercise recently, and the results were wide-ranging, though 'places to eat and rest' were high on the agenda. It might be that a little strategic thinking would be useful here; better signposting and wayfinding, coupled with programmed green spaces and selective pedestrianisation, might alleviate the burden better than wholesale traffic removal. For those in the know, despite its difficulties and congestion, the West End does conceal buried treasures. Good places for lunch, plotting-up (to use courier-speak), book-reading, fag-smoking. I also write as a fanatical cyclist who gets a certain adrenalin rush when combatting taxis.

The NWEC is proposing to reduce the number of bus routes using the area from 24 to 2, apparently to the chagrin of TfL. This does seem a little naive when considering the influx of public transport users which will surely happen in 2012 and who will be expecting the West End to be the focus of their social lives, despite the eastern focus of the games.

All this amid ambitious and perhaps surprising proposals in last week's AJ article on the Thames Gateway, in which something called 'Eastminster' was proposed - a focal point for development centred on the Isle of Dogs and the Royal Docks. Is this an opportunity, post-Canary Wharf, for an even more established property 'vent' in the east which might allow both the City and the West End to 'relax' a little, or like Canary Wharf and Docklands, would it push the old centres into upping their game even further?


Blogger David said...

My gosh, two entries in a row namechecking Jones Lang LaSalle!

2:54 pm  

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