Marble Arch Mound finally closes after months of criticism
It will probably go down as one of London most derided attractions on record. London’s Marble Arch Mound, the £6 million, 72 ft-high hill folly that claimed the job of Westminster council’s deputy leader, closed on Sunday.
Initially introduced as a temporary additional West End attraction to draw in much-needed visitors to the capital after lockdown restrictions were lifted in the spring, the Mound opened on 26 July between Hyde Park and Oxford Street. But it soon hit the headlines for the wrong reasons facing ridicule and criticism from both visitors and businesses.
Pitched as a way of attracting footfall to the key West End shopping district, it was part of a raft of measures that should also have included an Oxford Circus piazza. However, the criticism levelled at the attraction meant the piazza plans were later cancelled.
When The Mound opened, staff admitted the attraction wasn't fully finished with the landscaped mound not as lush and abundant as expected. In fact, it contrasted sharply to the project’s artist’s impressions.
Following the launch, WCC said changes would be made, adding at the time: "We’re sorry for the delay and look forward to welcoming visitors when they’re ready to enjoy all The Mound has to offer”.
Plans for customers to be charged between £4.50 and £8 to scale the hill were also scrapped.
Deputy council leader Melvyn Caplan, who took charge of the project, also resigned in August.
“The execution was flawed from start to finish,” an insider at Westminster Council told the Guardian newspaper. “The idea of getting people back to the West End is a good one, but this was a lesson in how not to do project management – they overpromised and underdelivered.”
But was it really as bad as claimed? Marble Arch Mound was part of Westminster council’s wider £150 million investment in the Oxford Street area. In a statement ahead of the Mound’s impending closure, the council defended the project.
“The Mound has done what it was built to do – drawn crowds and supported the recovery in the West End,” a spokesperson said.
“Central London’s economy has suffered more than any other area during the pandemic. With footfall slashed and near-total loss of overseas tourists, many businesses have faced oblivion.”
The spokesperson added: “We’re really pleased that nearly 250,000 visitors have come to Westminster to see The Mound and the terrific light exhibition inside. Those visitors have gone on to spend money in shops, bars and restaurants across the West End – helping local businesses to get back on their feet.”
The Mound’s deconstruction will take up to four months and the trees and plants will be reused.
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