The much-mocked Marble Arch Mound has claimed his first scalp with the resignation of the vice-chairman of the Westminster Council.
Mervyn Caplan was the city councilor who led the project, which was meant to bring shoppers and tourists back to Oxford Street after the pandemic decimated the West End’s economy.
Instead, the 25 meter high artificial hill became an international mockery and the cost has almost doubled to 6 million pounds.
Caplan resigned last night and the council launched an internal investigation to “understand what went wrong and make sure it never happens again”.
The originally estimated cost was £ 3.3 million but has now risen to £ 6 million, the council admitted in a statement.
Westminster leader Rachel Robathan said, “The hill opened too early and we apologized for that. It has been shown that costs have increased more than expected, and that is completely unacceptable. “
The Mound is part of the city council’s larger £ 150 million investment in Oxford Street. Traffic on Oxford Street is still 54% below pre-pandemic levels and nearly a fifth of shops on the nation’s “high street” are closed, the council said.
By way of comparison, the council said visitor footfall in the Greater London area has decreased by 15% and has largely recovered in the south-east.
The hill was supposed to be an Instagram attraction that would draw people back to the West End in great numbers for the view from above.
But it opened up to a series of damning press reports and social media posts showing patchy planting and promised views of Oxford Street and Hyde Park obscured by trees and buildings. It has been referred to as a “slippery slope to nowhere” and compared to the blocky landscapes of a low-fi video game. Visitors complained and received refunds on ticket prices, which cost up to £ 8 for adults.
MVRDV, the celebrated Rotterdam architect behind the project, has refused to comment officially, but founding partner Winy Maas told the Guardian ahead of the opening that he was “fully aware that more substance is needed” and stated that a heatwave was taking Plants. “I think it still opens your eyes and stimulates an intense discussion. It’s okay if it’s vulnerable, ”he said.
The attraction is now free for the whole of August.
Councilor Rachel Robathan’s full statement
Central London has a fight ahead of it. After suffering from the pandemic for 18 months, we need to get people back to the city. Visitor numbers are currently lagging significantly and that is having a serious impact on Westminster’s economy, which provides more than one in eight jobs in London and creates billions for the rest of the country. What happens in Westminster really matters to Britain as a whole.
The Mound is a small part of the City Council’s broader £ 150million investment in the Oxford Street District, which aims to reinvigorate the country’s High Street. This is a critical investment and will help London and the UK build better and unlock over £ 2 billion of additional economic value by 2030.
The Mound is also an initiative in a wider campaign, Westminster Reveals, which aims to bring the buzz and visitors back to London. We have developed an exciting program of events that includes galleries, theater, art rehearsals and free shows. The Inside Out arts festival started this week and we have the hugely popular West End Live weekend that draws hundreds of thousands of people to Trafalgar Square to look forward to in September.
The hill opened too early and we apologized for that. It has been shown that costs have increased more than expected, and that is completely unacceptable. Our original cost was £ 3.3 million. The total cost is now £ 6 million and covers every aspect of the project: construction, operation and possible removal. I regretted the resignation of my deputy director Melvyn Caplan, who led the Mound project. We also launched a thorough internal review to understand what went wrong and to make sure it never happens again.
August the tickets are now free. We are working hard to create a new showroom and to ensure that the 130-step climb is the best experience, with a cafe for a drink and snack at the end.
We are determined to continue our hard work to restore the vibrancy of our city, bring visitors back and ensure people can keep their jobs. Doing nothing was never an option. When the hill fully reopens in September, I hope people will come and see it for themselves. The Mound may delight or divide views, and that’s fine, but we’re confident that in the end it will fulfill its original mission – to bring people back to the West End and remind them why this is a world-class city is.