BUSINESSES IN THE HISTORIC HOME OF JOURNALISM WRITE THE FLEET STREET QUARTER'S NEXT CHAPTER

New vision launched to create a greener, more welcoming area as London gears up for recovery

A partnership representing businesses across Fleet Street and its environs has launched an ambitious blueprint for enhancing public spaces and making the area more welcoming, accessible, and greener.

Once the bustling hub of the UK’s print journalism industry, teeming with hundreds of reporters, thriving pubs and a wider ‘eco system’ of businesses, the departure of the newspapers over 20 years ago had a dramatic impact on the area now known as the Fleet Street Quarter, leading to the closure of many shops, cafes and bars and a period of decline for the area. Although still one of London’s most recognisable locations, today the Fleet Street Quarter lacks vibrancy and relevance to visitors and workers alike.

Fast forward to now, and much is changing. With new businesses investing and relocating and an office development pipeline on a scale rivalling Kings Cross, the local business community has been motivated to work together to act as custodians and champions of the evolving Fleet Street Quarter. The new Area Based Strategy published today is a cornerstone of the Partnership’s plans, which places the increasingly important ESG ‘environmental, social and governance’ agenda at the centre of its ambitions. Recommendations include pavement widening, new green space creation, additional cycle routes, cultural activities and events to drive footfall and dwell time, tree planting, improved lighting and better signage.

The Partnership was established in 2019 and locally based businesses including Deloitte, Farebrother, Charles Russell Speechlys and property owners such as Landsec are part of the collective. The Partnership will shortly be balloting eligible local businesses on the establishment of a Business Improvement District (BID), which will secure the delivery of its plans. The ambition is to bolster the Fleet Street Quarter’s economic and environmental resilience, creating a desirable and robust global destination. A future Fleet Street Quarter BID will bolster the valuable historic character and identity of the area, while also creating a new narrative for the well-known location fit for the 21st century.

The Area Based Strategy was developed by Publica working closely with the Fleet Street Quarter Partnership and representatives from the City of London Corporation. It sets out a clear plan for prioritising investment in public realm projects and curating activities to enhance the area’s character, and crucially, what role the private sector can play in delivery. Long term, transformational projects are recommended, alongside medium and short-term enhancements, with the emphasis on the projects being implementable and able to deliver tangible improvements to the street scape and visitor experience across the area.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fleet Street Quarter is set to see significant growth due to the ongoing development pipeline. Across the area there is between 2.5 – 3 million sq ft of office space in the pipeline, comparable to major regeneration locations such as King’s Cross and Victoria. While some working practices are likely to stay permanently changed as we learn to live with COVID, there is growing confidence among businesses about the future and all indications suggest a recovery boom in the coming months. Whilst this presents substantial opportunity for the area, it also poses significant challenges including issues such as traffic congestion, increased air pollution and the potential over-crowding of public realm.

Ensuring London can attract the world’s best talent, and in time, domestic and international leisure visitors and business travellers must be a top priority. The quality of the capital’s public spaces and enhancing the visitor experience as people move through the City will become more important than ever. With the opening of the Elizabeth Line this year to add to the Thameslink line, the Fleet Street Quarter will draw in an exciting new generation of daily occupiers and visitors from the north, south, east and west of the country.

Launching the publication, Chair of the Fleet Street Partnership, Alistair Subba Row said:

We believe that public spaces play a vital role in strengthening our societies and should be designed to function with people and their wellbeing at their very heart – as we face the all-important recovery this is more crucial than ever. We are committed to translating a commitment to the ESG agenda into tangible action. From re-energising iconic locations like Fleet Street and Chancery Lane and adding more green space, to providing workers and visitors with compelling reasons to visit and even more reasons to stay, I am confident that the Fleet Street Quarter’s next chapter is set to be its most exciting.   

“We know our vision is ambitious, but it’s achievable. With its unique role and mandate, the Fleet Street Quarter Partnership, which is on course to become one of the UK’s leading BIDs, can pull the right people together from across the public and private sectors to get these bold projects moving. I am eager to secure a successful BID ballot outcome in February, which will be the green light for our ambitious business plan, including our area-wide vision.”

Public realm improvements will create an inviting, varied, and attractive network of neighbourhood streets and open spaces that will soften the character of the area and provide spaces to dwell and attractive pedestrian routes. Activation through creative and cultural activities will bring life back into the area and attract visitors from beyond the area. Four key strategies have been identified in the Area Based Strategy:

 

  1. Celebrate Fleet Street Quarter’s diverse character areas
  2. Connect to surrounding areas
  3. Encourage activation
  4. Deliver public realm strategies

 

Carter Lane – good illustration of the potential for an enhanced night-time economy and ambitions for a 24/7 destination

Gough Square / Fleet Street lanes – re-imagining the iconic squares that the area is well known for

Fleet Street / Ludgate Hill – major transformation of the well-known street

The Area Based Strategy has been developed through dialogue with the City of London Corporation and led by the local business community through the Fleet Street Quarter’s Public Realm Steering Group. It supports the City Corporation’s vision for the Square Mile and delivery of projects will be a collaborative effort between the City Corporation, other statutory partners and the private sector. The vision is subject to further consultation, permissions and funding but aims to provide a framework for future projects, some of which could be led by the private sector.

Martha Grekos, Chair of the Fleet Street Quarter Partnership’s Public Realm Steering Group, said:

“I am proud of what has been achieved by the Public Realm Steering group, working with Publica and the City Corporation. It’s been a great team effort and I want to thank my colleagues and peers who have worked together to produce this ambitious blueprint for the Fleet Street Quarter. As stewards of change we want to harness growth and opportunities to breathe new life into the area. Our aim is to create a vibrant, resilient, inclusive, green and sustainable district through modern placemaking, and this publication is an important marker on this journey.”

 

The proposed Fleet Street Quarter BID, which goes to ballot on 18th January, will have the mandate and the resources to drive this agenda on behalf of the private sector. With an income of more than £12 million over a five-year period, invested by the local business community, a future Fleet Street Quarter BID will be in a strong position to drive an ambitious programme of enhancement, curation and evolution benefitting the whole area and its communities of workers, residents, and visitors.