In a bid to bring Oxford Street back to life, the programme aims to boost the presence of independent shops in the capital

Oxford Street has gone through a lot over the past few years. A swathe of closures – the country collectively mourned the loss of the big Topshop – combined with the development of the Tottenham Court Road end of the notorious shopping strip has almost entirely altered its landscape.

Currently, many of those shuttered storefronts remain empty, or they’ve largely been replaced by various branches of American candy or souvenir shops (marked with Candy Crush-esque signs, flashing LED lights and rows of vapes, you know the ones), leaving what used to be a beating heart of the capital a bit worse for wear.

To solve this, Westminster City Council announced plans to return Oxford Street back to its former status by bringing in a range of “innovative, cutting-edge and up-and-coming businesses” with their new programme, Meanwhile On: Oxford Street. Speaking on the planned initiative, Councillor Geoff Barraclough, Cabinet Member for Planning and Economic Development, said, “The West End has recovered quickly from the pandemic but there are still too many vacant units and poor-quality occupants. That’s why we’ve set up Meanwhile On: Oxford Street.”

After completing an application process, up to 35 small brands will be selected and given the chance to occupy a “prime store location” and for the first six months, their rent will be 100% free. The successful applicants will be granted a 70% reduction on business rates throughout their six-month tenancy as well as store design, mentoring, management and marketing support from retail consultants Someday Studios.

This news comes alongside that of Fairer Westminster’s Oxford Street Programme which intends to give the street a revamp with widened pavements, better lighting, more greenery and increased public amenities.

The programme is currently in the beginning stages and is accepting applications from eligible businesses until Wednesday 30th August 2023, so we imagine it’ll be a little while until we find out who’ll be taking those Oxford Street spaces. In the meantime, you’ll have to start looking for a new source of American snacks and vapes.

If you want to apply, find more info on the Westminster City Council website.