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Official Launch of The Northbank’s transformational Public Realm Strategy

Public Realm


June 16, 2015

PRESS RELEASE 16/06/2015




  • Central London’s largest BID identifies far-reaching public realm improvements so that the district can reach its full potential as a world class destination
  • Series of proposed short term and longer term projects announced today
  • Relatively poor existing public realm identified by local businesses as one of the biggest risks to economic growth

Public Realm Strategy

 Vision illustration showing propsed character areas of The Northbank

As the famous 1940s music hall song confidently claimed, ‘Strolling Down the Strand’’* was once a most fashionable pastime and now, it is set to be once again following the publication of a visionary Public Realm Strategy for the area.

A bold new lighting and shopfront strategy on Strand, the removal of the gyratory around Aldwych and the creation of a new Riverside Promenade along Victoria Embankment, are just three of the transformational projects being unveiled today (Tuesday 16th June) by The Northbank Business Improvement District (BID).

Commissioned by the BID and developed by the specialist urban design consultancy Publica, the strategy identifies 40 distinct spaces and associated projects across the 51.5 hectare area, which seek to transform the public realm, improve access for pedestrians and cyclists and make the environment more welcoming and safer. It builds upon The Northbank’s business plan, which aims to deliver exceptional, high quality public spaces and ensure that the area develops its status as a world class destination.

 Proposed transformation of Aldwych, with the removal of the gyratory and the creation of a new public space around the church

The Northbank is central London’s largest BID stretching from Trafalgar Square to the Royal Courts of Justice, encompassing some of London’s most iconic landmarks, cultural institutions and historic routes such as Strand and Villiers Street. Despite its substantial assets, the area’s public realm was identified at an early stage of the BID to be in a relatively poor state of health. The BID has therefore been working with a range of stakeholders, including   Westminster City Council and Transport for London, on producing a comprehensive strategy to inform important procurement, planning and funding decisions in the future.

Launched at the BID’s Annual General Meeting on Tuesday, the strategy sets out five ‘families’ of projects covering all areas of The Northbank: Aldwych, Strand, Victoria Embankment, Villiers Street and then Lanes, Courts and Smaller Spaces. Within the 40 projects put forward overall, the strategy recommends that several projects are prioritised, and these include:

– the reconfiguration of the Aldwych gyratory, prioritising pedestrians and reducing the impact of traffic;

– the creation of a new landmark public space in between Aldwych and Somerset House around the St-Mary-le-Strand church;

– upgrading crossings to improve connections between key destinations and areas within our footprint;

–  a world-class urban promenade created to help improve both the riverfront and the historical ceremonial route of Strand and Aldwych;

–  de-cluttering key areas such as Charing Cross station forecourt;

–  and lighting and shopfront upgrades along Strand celebrating the architecture above ground and reinvigorating the night-time economy of the area.

The Northbank is an area on the cusp of significant change with several new infrastructure projects proposed or already underway including the Garden Bridge, the Cycle Superhighway, the Thames Tideway Tunnel, and major developments such as Arundel Great Court, the LSE and King’s College masterplans and the Aldwych Quarter. These developments provide the most significant transformation in the area for more than 200 years, and the BID recognises it is vital that the quality of the area’s public spaces keep pace and respond to the new infrastructure planned and the built environment.

Ruth Duston, Chief Executive of The Northbank Business Improvement District said:


“The Northbank combines all the elements that make London a great global city, yet despite its considerable assets the public realm has long let the area down. Pedestrians are poorly served, vehicles currently dominate and public spaces have been forgotten. Businesses understand that high quality public realm is vital for an area to thrive – it matters to employees and to customers, so therefore it matters to the ‘bottom line’.


“The Northbank’s Public Realm Strategy sets out our long term, deliverable vision – addressing the challenges, responding to the new developments in the area, meeting the requirements of businesses, visitors and residents and ensuring that The Northbank can reach its true potential as one of London’s most vibrant, commercially successful districts. At the BID we are looking forward to taking forward these exiting plans with all of our business members and partners.”

Work is already underway on a number of the priority projects. The BID has secured an initial £130,000 via Westminster City Council and Transport for London to progress the Aldwych gyratory project. The funding is allocated under the Local Implementation Plan (LIP) which requires the money to be spent on projects which support the Mayor’s Transport Strategy. In addition to the major, long term projects such as the Aldwych, the BID is keen to swiftly progress a number of the smaller, but no less impactful projects such as de-cluttering the existing public realm, and improving signage, lighting and pedestrian and cycling connections.

Cllr Daniel Astaire, Westminster City Council’s cabinet member for Housing, Regeneration, Business and Economic Development said:


“We are very excited about this strategy and are confident that major new infrastructure projects and upgrades to the public realm will mark the beginning of an exciting transformation in The Northbank.


“The vision outlined will provide necessary enhancement of this culturally rich and vibrant area making it a more attractive space for the public whilst ensuring its status as a world class destination. “


David Rowe, Head of Borough Projects & Programmes at TfL, said:

“We have worked closely with The Northbank on this strategy, which sets out a number of projects to improve and potentially create new public spaces and also enhance how pedestrians, cyclists and buses move around this important part of the Capital. We look forward to working in partnership with The Northbank BID to deliver transformational projects in the core part of the west end of London.”

The BID will now undertake a significant consultation process, which will include ongoing engagement with Westminster City Council, Transport for London, GLA, Historic England, Port of London Authority and other partners. The proposals require feasibility testing with transport, structural and heritage analysis and then decisions regarding planning, funding and delivery will be taken forward by The Northbank BID Board.

The Northbank secured over £8 million of investment from the private sector to implement real change and measure success.  This £8 million acts as the lever to work in partnership with the BID’s public sector providers to invest in change, generating further private sector investment for new developments. The Northbank’s work is focused around four key themed areas of activity: Clean & Green, CSR, Marketed & Promoted, and Public Realm.

Alongside the delivery of the Public Realm Strategy, The Northbank is implementing a range of programmes and enhancements as part of its wider Public Realm activity, which include:

–  Development of a tree strategy – first phase of the tree study completed, with a view to protect valuable trees in the area, identify new areas for planting and ensure that key views are not obscured in this important part of the capital;

–  A substantial street cleansing programme across the BID’s footprint, including a major deep cleaning scheme which has already seen 10,000 ft of pathways cleaned;

–  Engagement with key stakeholders, including Historic England, to consider restoration projects such as the York Watergate, which was built in 1626 and survives to this day but is now marooned 150 yards from the river, within the Victoria Embankment Gardens, due to the construction of the Thames Embankment;

–  Assessing air pollution, amenity and carbon storage and long term sustainability in addition to a major green infrastructure audit.

Details of the consultation programme will be announced by the BID shortly, and further updates will be provided as the feasibility work continues.

Proposed upgrades on Victoria Embankment



Notes to Editors


About The Northbank BID


Overwhelmingly supported by local businesses through a ballot in 2013, The Northbank Business Improvement District is a private enterprise with a sole purpose to generate improvements and to create a world class destination of choice.


The Northbank is the largest BID in central London and it is embarking on an ambitious programme of change and enhancement. Over a five year period, an injection of £8.6 million is giving this sought after area of London a makeover; enhancing and showcasing its substantial assets to new audiences – businesses, visitors and residents alike.


The Northbank, which stretches from Trafalgar Square to the Royal Courts of Justice, benefits from being one of the most diverse and historic areas of central London – rich with world famous landmarks and venues, home to large multi-national corporates and also small innovative start-ups and entrepreneurs, a hub for learning and ideas and a symbol of international diplomacy. The Northbank encompasses everything that makes London a great global city.


Despite these assets, the area is not without challenges and more can be done to ensure The Northbank realises its full potential. Working collaboratively with local authority partners and businesses, the BID is focusing on encouraging economic growth and investment, enhancing the public realm and promoting the area as a destination.  For more information about The BID visit: https://thenorthbank.london//the-northbank-bid/


For a copy of the Annual Report 2014 / 2015 please visit the website on 16th June or call Kate Hart on the contact details below.


*  Lyrics of the 1949 music hall song, by Leslie Sarony:


“Some like to stroll in Piccadilly, or Regents Street or Leicester Square.

But I go with Dick and Jack and Billy to a place not far from there.

Strolling down the Strand,

With a banana in my hand.

Hey-ho, away we go.

Boys and girls, jolly good pals, all in a row.

We go hand in hand,

And we don’t need any big brass band.

Spirits high, as we fly, eyty, yipetty, yiythy, yiy!

Strolling down the dear old Strand!”




About Publica


Publica is a London based public realm and urban design consultancy, who specialise in providing detailed advice to major land-owners, developers, Business Improvement Districts, architects and local authorities on the strategic development of urban neighbourhoods. Publica work at all scales from single buildings and spaces to large-scale masterplans and area strategies.


Publica believe that the quality of the public realm is defined not only by spatial and physical characteristics, but also by social and cultural conditions. Publica’s work is based upon rigorous local area research and analysis, used to produce evidence-based briefs, strategies and design proposals that consider the ground plane, the streets and spaces in between buildings and the full three-dimensional complexity of the enclosure of those spaces.


For general enquiries, please contact: mail@publica.co.uk


For business enquiries, please contact: Alex Arestis, alex@publica.co.uk