A British man-made mountain towering almost 100ft into the central London sky with breathtaking views of the capital is taking shape today – but locals have the hump saying it is an eyesore, a ‘stupid idea’ and a waste of money.
The Marble Arch Mound, which dwarfs the famous 1827 John Nash structure next to it, is at the centre of a £150million revamp of the Oxford Street area as Britain re-emerges as a tourist destination this summer after more than 18 months of Covid lockdowns.
The 82ft artificial hill opens on July 26 costing up to £8 for adults and £5 for children who will enjoy breathtaking views of the famed shopping district, Mayfair and Hyde Park. They will also have access to the hollowed space inside containing a cafe stocked with M&S food, a shop and an exhibition space until it closes in January 2022.
But not everyone is pleased with the plan, claiming it won’t lure in tourists and damages views of Marble Arch, one of the capital’s best loved landmarks.
Barrister Paul Fisher said: ‘The ‘Mound’ is a ‘Millennium Dome’ waiting to happen. Unfortunately, we can’t turn it into a concert venue when everyone realises nobody wanted it. It also obstructs the main attraction after which the area is named – the Marble Arch’.
The Marylebone Association wrote: ‘Many residents are getting the hump with the delayed Marble Arch Mound and think the £2m of public funds could have been better spent’. The local council insists it costs hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Others were unsure it will attract tourists. One critic tweeted: ‘Not entirely convinced that people will pay £4.50 to go up an artificial mound at Marble Arch’. Another said: ‘Oooohh a big mound in Marble Arch? No, I do not want to rush into central London to climb it for the views. What a stupid idea!’.
Another said sarcastically: ‘So how do we make Marble Arch a nicer place? Council: “How about a GIANT MOUND MADE OUT OF SCAFFOLDING instead?!”.’
Workmen are busy building the structure designed by Dutch architect company MVRDV and people will be able to climb it via a single continuous route, which is around 130 stairs, while a lift will also be available to take visitors to the top and back down.
It is being build with a gigantic matrix of scaffolding, which will be boarded and covered with soil, grass, plants and trees with a viewing platform at the top.
The temporary mound is the centrepiece of a blueprint drawn up by Westminster Council to jump start tourism when restrictions are eased. Families and people who visit outside peak times or don’t want to jump queues can visit for as little as £4.50 per adult, with children under four entering for free.
Work is already well underway on a £150 million project to transform Oxford Street as council bosses issue a clarion call for shoppers and diners to return to the area post-lockdown.
And al fresco dining, ‘pocket parks’ and an arts centre are among the other ambitious plans from Westminster Council in a bid to entice tourists back to the Capital this summer.
The Marble March Mound is taking shape next to the famous landmark it now towers over. Marble Arch was built in 1827 as a grand entrance to nearby Buckingham Palace and sits at the end of Oxford Street
A famous red London double decker passes by the scaffolding of the attraction Westminster Council hopes will lure tourists back
Hundreds of people are working on the project that is part of a wider £150million redevelopment of the area
Dubbed the Marble Arch Mound, it will tower at 82ft and promises Londoners with sweeping views for six months between summer and Christmas (artist’s design of the finished project)
Tickets have gone on sale for up to £8 but will be cheaper at non-peak times, for families and free for young children
The mound sits at the north end of Hyde Park and enjoys 360 degree views of that part of central London
The artificial hill has been built on a gigantic scaffolding base, with layers of soil, plants and trees and plywood being added forming the mound
On one side the grass is already being added with just over a month left until member of the public can start arriving
Its opening will coincide with the relaxation of lockdown in England on July 19, which Boris Johnson says on current figures is ‘looking good’
The installation will provide sweeping views of Hyde Park, Mayfair and Marylebone when it opens to the public in July
Workmen lay cabling at the top of the mound, which can be reached via 100-plus steps or via a lift
The Marble Arch Mound, created by Westminster City Council will open up to members of the public from July 26 until January 2022
Visitors will be able to see views of the capital’s Oxford Street Hyde Park, Mayfair and Marylebone as part of a scheme to increase footfall in the shopping district as lockdown restrictions ease
Inside the void at the mound’s heart will be a cafe selling M&S food and an exhibition zone with shop
The Mound includes a large viewing deck providing never before seen views of London’s West End, as well as a 5,000 square feet space inside
Marble Arch Mound is due to open in July 2021. Tickets went on sale yesterday
The Lord Mayor of Westminster, Cllr Jonathan Glanz, said: ‘I think it’s really exciting to see this coming out of the ground and giving a new aspect – literally – of views in this part of London.
What else will the £150m Oxford St development include?
- Extended footways for pedestrians
- Increase in plants and green areas
- Bright banners to ‘create a sense of place and aesthetic continuity’
- ‘Urban theatres’ for outdoor performances, kitted out with lighting
- Pop-up restaurants
- More electric charging points
- Zero-carbon retrofitting of heritage buildings
- Trial installations
- Remove unnecessary signage
‘I’d be very surprised if people didn’t come to take advantage of it because it really is unique. I’m really pleased to see Oxford Street bouncing back. We’re doing everything we can to encourage footfall.’
Cllr Rachael Robathan, leader of Westminster City Council, said: ‘We really hope the scheme will serve two purposes. First, to draw and encourage people back into the centre and Westminster. We know that footfall is still down by about 50% so we really need to show that it’s open for business.
‘Second, I hope that when people climb up here and see these fabulous views, they’ll be able to see Oxford Street through fresh eyes.
‘For people and families who can’t go away on holiday, what better way to have some fun in the summer than coming over to Westminster for a couple of days and kickstarting their trip with a visit up the mound?
‘You’ll never get to see this view again. We’ve never been able to be up here and see all of this area.’
Kay Buxton, chief executive of Marble Arch London Business Improvement District, said: ‘Marble Arch Mound is a much-needed shot in the arm for the recovery of London’s hospitality sector, as we expect hundreds of thousands of visitors to come.
‘With international tourism still on hold, the sector is relying on domestic tourism to boost income.’
According to Ms Buxton, ‘domestic day trips are expected to generate £44.6 billion in the UK this year, with domestic overnight tourism forecast to be worth £18 billion’.
The council has also worked with M&S Food, which will set up trucks to provide food and drinks from inside and outside the mound.
Tickets can be purchased via themarblearchmound.com. Prices start from £4.50 for adults. Family and resident discounts are also available.
The mound is the centrepiece of a master-plan drawn up by Westminster Council to jump start tourism when restrictions are eased (artist’s design)
There are no plans to close Oxford Street and the Council does not believe the mound will affect the rough sleepers in Marble Arch. Pictured: An artist’s design of what the mound will look like
Council leader Rachael Robathan said: ‘Our proposed Marble Arch Hill temporary visitor attraction at Marble Arch signifies our ambitious approach to the District. It will be important for bringing in visitors to support the local economy.’ Pictured: An impression of what the mound will look like
Kay Buxton, chief executive of Marble Arch London BID, said: ‘We are proud to be working with Westminster City Council to create a truly unique and once in a lifetime opportunity to see London from a completely new perspective.’ Pictured: What the mound is set to look like at dusk
A wider £150million ‘fightback’ strategy to regenerate Oxford Street with pop-up parks, more pedestrian space and ‘green projects’ was unveiled today.
It is believed to place emphasis on al fresco dining, which ministers will likely allow first as part of lockdown lifting.
Subject to covid the hill will be climbed by 200,000 people, who will likely have to pay a small nominal charge.
No exact cost has been calculated, although a spokesperson said it will run to ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’ while others have claimed it could be closer to £2million.
They want the hill to be climbed by 200,000 people, who will likely have to pay a small nominal charge (artist’s design)
Westminster Council chiefs are hoping that curbs are loosened enough for them to welcome visitors to the mound. Pictured: Plans for the mound
No exact cost has been calculated, although a spokesperson said it will run to ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’. Pictured: First, the park will be extended onto the mound area
Secondly, the mound will be raised. Covid was especially bruising for tourist hubs like the West End, which is predominantly non-essential retail, hospitality and theatres
Westminster Council insists the cost to build the mound is justified and that funding will come from the Capital Budget which has been earmarked for the Oxford Street development and will not divert cash from day-to-day vital services. Pictured: The third stage in the mound’s development
A wider £150million ‘fightback’ strategy to regenerate Oxford Street with pop-up parks, more pedestrian space and ‘green projects’ was unveiled today. Pictured: Blueprints for the Marble Arch Mound
Footfall on high streets across Britain plummeted during the three national lockdowns and starved firms of revenue.
Covid was especially bruising for tourist hubs like the West End, which is predominantly non-essential retail, hospitality and theatres.
The West End employs 10 per cent of all Londoners and youth unemployment in the Westminster has increased 175 per cent.
Westminster Council insists the cost to build the mound is justified and that funding will come from the Capital Budget which has been earmarked for the Oxford Street development and will not divert cash from day-to-day vital services.
On the wider redevelopment, the Council says that work will begin ‘within weeks’.
It will include ‘additional pedestrian space, pop up parks, new lighting, landscaping, greening projects and cultural space’.
There are no plans to close Oxford Street and the Council does not believe the mound will affect the rough sleepers in Marble Arch.
Jace Tyrrell, chief executive at New West End Company, which represents 600 business in the area, said: ‘The launch of Westminster City Council’s £150million Oxford Street District transformation is a huge milestone as central London starts its recovery.
‘The past 12 months have been the toughest on record for businesses on Oxford Street and the surrounding area, and these ambitious plans are a sign of a forward thinking, sustainable and agile future for the district, creating an altogether stronger and more exciting high street that caters to the needs of the ever-evolving consumer.’