Ambitious proposals by Westminster City Council and LDA Design to convert busy roads into new public spaces at the Strand and across the Aldwych are now underway.
‘Skate the Strand’, a free, temporary pop-up skate park located on the Strand outside Somerset House, marks the start of the transformation of the Strand Aldwych area. The skatepark is part of the Westminster Reveals campaign and kicks off ‘September on the Strand’, inviting people to return to the city’s streets and enjoy the capital’s cultural scene, connecting celebrated talent and communities.
Plans for Strand Aldwych will see this ancient city route adapted to become a pedestrian-focused destination. The street in front of Somerset House and King’s College London becomes traffic free, providing a major new public space centred around St Mary le Strand Church, which will stand pride of place in its newly created architectural and historic setting.
The Aldwych reverts to two-way traffic, with wider footways to create a calmer and more welcoming environment for pedestrians, and new crossings and a new green space.
The new Strand Aldwych project aims to bring the inside out and create much needed space to support the local economy, which includes the best of Westminster’s arts, learning and business, and nationally significant cultural and creative organisations.
Cannon Ivers, a director at LDA Design and project lead for Strand Aldwych, says: “Reclaiming the Strand from traffic for people will create a greener, healthier and safer piece of city, freeing up the wonderful St Mary Le Strand Church and making the street visually rich and resilient.
“For the first time, visitors will be able to properly appreciate the Grade I listed architecture which frames the space and benefit from new collaborations as the public realm brings together some of London’s leading cultural and educational institutions. I see a transformed Strand Aldwych as a place where the creative process is made visible – where art is made, not just displayed, where performances are rehearsed not just performed, and where knowledge is shared not stored away.”
The project is being delivered by Westminster City Council along with key partners including Northbank Business Improvement District, King’s College London, Somerset House Trust, St Mary Le Strand, The Courtauld and Society of London Theatre.
The works will deliver benefits to the area, including:
- 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 greenery and trees on both the Aldwych and Strand.
- A people-centred approach providing a better experience for pedestrians and cyclists.
- Greatly improved connections to Covent Garden, the City, Holborn and the West End.
Public realm improvements in the Strand Aldwych area started earlier this year and are due to be completed in late 2022. At the end of August, the Strand was permanently closed to vehicular traffic between Waterloo Bridge and Surrey Street. This new pedestrian and cycle zone will be protected by static physical measures preventing vehicular access to create a car-free zone, with time-limited access for deliveries and local access.
The final scheme design is being 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 plans at St Mary le Strand and King’s to take forward the permanent scheme.
Cllr Matthew Green, Cabinet Member for Business, Licensing and Planning at Westminster City Council said: “Covid-19 has changed how people visit and work in London. More and more people are beginning to return to our city, so there is an urgent need to tackle issues with pedestrian congestion and safety, poor air quality and noise. Our new plans for Strand Aldwych give us an opportunity to build back better and create a new green oasis in central London for people to relax and come together to enjoy, while continuing to celebrate the strong theatre and culture offering the Strand is known for.”