The professionals and organisations behind the transformation of Regent Street have hailed their close collaborative working as the secret of success in getting the temporary project – with 5,000m2 of extra space for pedestrians, better cycling provision and new greenery and seating – through in record time.
The Crown Estate and Westminster City Council unveiled plans for Regent Street in October which includes extensive tree planting and reduced road space, and were at an NLA webinar
held before Christmas to mark the opening of the 18 month trial project.
The Crown Estate’s head of public realm and urban infrastructure, Scott Marshall, said its latest investment in Regent Street was against the backdrop of Covid’s impact on retail and footfall in the area ‘falling off a cliff’ to less than 5 % of normal levels. But working with all the stakeholders including Westminster, Transport for London, neighbouring landowners and business improvement districts was key.
‘The real silver lining to the challenges that we’ve been facing is the fact that we’re all in this together’, he said. ‘We can share our learnings, we can share data, we can share evidence and experiences with the primary goal of public safety. And then, when we could, getting the West End going again.’
The project aims to give the street a fresh look and greener recovery, he added, creating a great first impression for when visitors could be welcomed back, with ‘new shoots and blossom to go hand in hand with vaccines’ and a new year filled with hope.
BDP chair of landscape architecture Nick Edwards said it aimed to restore pedestrian confidence through the provision of a perceptively safe place, with reallocated roadspace to provide space for cyclists, with an approach which was ‘characteristically distinct to Regent Street’. The street includes bug hotels to promote biodiversity, plants and trees, in line with evidence that ‘touching or viewing nature makes people feel good, less anxious and less stressed; an important part of our recovery’.
And Sarah Rye, head of public realm at City of Westminster said the project aimed to help ‘the reawakening of the city’, supporting social distancing and helping people move around. But the collaboration required to get the scheme together at such a pace was ‘absolutely immense’ she said, underpinned by ‘phenomenal support from everyone to get things delivered’. ‘This is a once in a lifetime opportunity’, said Rye ‘to rethink how our streets and public realm spaces in the heart of the West End can be, going forward’.