The Marble Arch Mound
I normally have a certain admiration for pointless follies and architectural foolishness. However, this story features something far less loveable.
Oxford Street has for a long time attracted a rougher clientele than Regent Street or Bond Street. As its fortunes declined into discount stores new ways were sought, most of them misguided, to bring back foot traffic. Nobody thought of the obvious answer; to improve the quality of the terrible stores leasing the street and to ban vehicles.
Instead, Westminster Council came up with this.
Beside the Marble Arch, obscuring it in fact, they have constructed what they hope to be a tourist-attracting money spinner. A natural hill which you climb through verdant greenery to discover new views across the capital. It would look like this;
The reality is this.
The public reacted with derision and appalled laughter. The press scented blood. Here we have a disaster on the scale of the Thames Dangleway or the Lumley Floral Millionaires’ Bridge.
Westminster Council’s PR team failed to define or name it, so Londoners christened it the Marble Arch Mound. It cost £2 million to build and so, the thinking went, it should cost the user. It’s between £4 and £8 per person to climb.
But wait – there’s even less! The Health and Safety people ruined the climb with giant municipal prison railings. The landscape is scabby and has been likened to an 8-Bit video game render. Worse, once you get to the top you can’t come back the way you came. You must go down through the centre of the scaffolded mound, which turns out to be – you guessed it – a retail opportunity.
The view of Hyde Park from the summit isn’t there. People are posting photos that show rubble, scaffolding and the backs of houses. Westminster Council gave everyone their money back and closed the doors. They swear they’ll reopen very shortly when ‘the trees have grown in’ as though they expect nature to spring to the rescue overnight. In the same spirit, whenever the council thinks of ‘greening’ it comes up with concrete planters that fill with rubbish.
It may already be too late for the Marble Arch Mound. It has been set in the public mind as a horrible, greedy mistake that deserves its fate. There’s a chance its fortunes could be turned, just as the awful Millennium Dome became the equally awful 02, and the Dangleway, a cable car system with not one regular customer, still operates.
Perhaps the Prime Minister will like it. He has no sense of shame or embarrassment.
I probably won’t be bothering to look in on this again as Labour councillors are now checking into the finances of the £2million ‘Marble Arch Slag Heap’, and it now looks as if rumours of it reopening are just going to remain that.