The deputy mayor of London has fired a salvo at two of the New West End Company’s key pledges, as the organisation seeks £25m backing from its retail members.
Speaking at NWEC’s launch this morning, Kit Malthouse backed the overall vision of the not-for-profit organisation, and called for retailers to continue their support.
But he rustled feathers as he enumerated some key concerns about plans to reduce traffic congestion and introduce more “oasis spaces” for shoppers.
“The wall of red buses is a sign of success – it shows people are coming to the shops,” he told the assembled retailers and property managers.
But this issue is one that has become central to NWEC’s re-election, with chief executive Richard Dickinson saying it was “the number one priority for the retailers we have spoken to - and we canvassed 97% of our members for this business plan”.
Malthouse quoted one US senator as saying ‘not every problem can be solved’, describing the abortive scheme to pedestrianise parts of Soho some years back as “a disaster”.
He claimed retailers and restaurants in the area said the lack of traffic had seen a rise in “drunks” on the street, putting off shoppers and spenders from entering the area.
“Traffic has a cleansing effect,” he added.
Malthouse also rubbished NWEC’s plans to introduce more break out areas in the shopping district, saying it could make the area “start to look like Westfield”.
“The look and feel of the West End matters immensely… [but] I am concerned about some of the developments already in place,” he said, singling out existing spaces around the Bond Street area for criticism.
He noted that the mix of major retailers alongside specialist shops was “very important”.
“I would urge you all to think carefully about that,” Malthouse added.