Source: City of Westminster
Work is scheduled to begin next year to deliver ambitious plans that will transform a historic gateway to the West End into a world class, traffic-free public space and provide a massive shot in the arm for the local economy.
Following a decision by Westminster City Council in December 2020, approval has been given to implement £18m of improvements works to the Strand/Aldwych gyratory. This Council funding is expected to pump prime further improvements to the area and draw in partner funding as economic confidence builds in this new public space, which brings together the best of Westminster’s arts, learning and business. It will create a fabulous new public space for London, car free, centred around the St Mary le Strand Church which is currently flanked on both sides by traffic.
The Aldwych will simultaneously receive an enormous boost with huge improvements to the public realm and environmental measures to benefit residents, visitors and businesses. Traffic will revert to two-way on the Aldwych and end the current race-track feel at certain times of day that cuts through north-south connection routes between, for example, Covent Garden and the South Bank.
Some key benefits of the works will include:
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 greening and trees on the Aldwych and Strand
A better experience for pedestrians and cyclists that is more people-friendly
Greatly improved connections to Covent Garden, the City, Holborn and the West End
Improvement plans for Strand/Aldwych have been in development for several years, but Westminster Council and local partners are keen to see works start as soon as possible, following favourable public consultations and engagement, to support the city’s recovery from the damaging effects of the pandemic.
This means an accelerated timescale that will see the Strand become traffic free in front of Somerset House and King’s College London by August 2021. This will immediately create much needed space to support the local economy and an enhanced pedestrian experience. 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 other partners’ plans at St Mary le Strand and King’s to take forward the permanent scheme.
In this new space it is expected that there will be al fresco festivals, art installations and inspiring activities to complement the area, curated and supported by the world class institutions that are based nearby.
Cllr Matthew Green, Westminster City Council Cabinet Member for Business and Planning, said: “Coronavirus has taught us both how to work at pace and how to improve collaboration with partners. We’ve worked hard with project stakeholders to being forward our plans which can now be implemented more quickly and at a lower cost delivering a major new public space for Westminster as early as summer 2021.
“We are doing all we can to build business and economic confidence in our city and the substantial budget for this work will help improve the visitor experience, kickstart the economy and create jobs and prosperity for now and the future. Our long-term ambition for Strand/Aldwych is not diminished and we intend to draw in additional investment to realise the permanent scheme.”
Andrew Hicks, Chairman, Northbank BID, said: “I’m extremely proud of the work the BID has undertaken in close collaboration with WCC and BID partners to help bring forward this major public realm initiative. By creating a wonderful new pedestrian space, visitors will now be able to more easily access and enjoy important, cultural landmarks such as Somerset House, St Mary le Strand and Kings College London. This project is our most ambitious to date and once delivered will be a huge draw to the Northbank, helping to regenerate footfall and business as we recover from the impacts of Covid-19.
“Westminster City Council have been fantastic partners on this project and is testament to the brilliant work which can be achieved through great collaboration, at a time when we need it most”.
Jonathan Reekie, Chair of the Strand Aldwych Project Board and the Director of Somerset House Trust commented:
“This project represents the very best of what can be achieved through strong partnerships and a shared vision that will draw out the unique and special character of this area of culture and learning. The idea to transform Strand Aldwych started as a small seed when it was first proposed by The Northbank BID in 2015. Working with a small group of local stakeholders including world class cultural and educational organisations, I’m incredibly proud that it has now grown to a fantastic proposal for London with significant public investment secured.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic we have all been forced to consider the future of our city. This is why I am especially excited to deliver Strand Aldwych and to create some truly positive change at a time when we need it most. I look forwarding to continuing to drive this project forward in partnership with all our stakeholders and the local community over the coming months.”
You can view the Cabinet Member decision report here: westminster.gov.uk/ieDecisionDetails
The decision has approved Westminster City Council capital expenditure to cover costs associated with implementation of the Aldwych Two-Way and Meanwhile Strand schemes. The Council will continue to work with partners to complete the funding package in order to deliver the full scheme.
In early 2019 a six-week public consultation was undertaken on the concept designs. Over 1500 responses were received and 73% of respondents were in support of the project’s objectives.
The proposals remove the traffic gyratory, introduce two-way traffic on Aldwych and create a pedestrian and cycle zone on Strand between Lancaster Place and Surrey Street. The area of the Strand between Surrey Street, Arundel Street and Melbourne Place remains open to buses, cyclists and for access, not least to provide a loop for the buses that currently terminate on Aldwych.
The project objectives are as follows:
Support the area’s economy – enhancing its vibrancy, productivity and creativity by celebrating its unique character
Improve air quality – addressing air quality across the whole project area, reducing traffic in some areas, mitigating the effects of traffic in other areas and working with partners to influence, lobby and explore opportunities for positive change
Improve links for walking and cycling – providing better connections to the surrounding area and improving safety for the 14 million people who visit each year
Improve the public realm – creating an attractive public space on the Strand and a better pedestrian experience on Aldwych
Support culture, education and innovation – creating opportunities to showcase the area’s wealth of cultural and educational talent and encouraging opportunities for collaboration
Better movement of traffic – improving journey times and safety for many routes by removing the gyratory, introducing two-way traffic in Aldwych and removing it from part of the Strand
The Cabinet Member decision report says the planned changes will not increase traffic volume in the area overall.