Marble Arch Mound set to close this weekend ahead of potentially months-long deconstruction

Multimillion pound attraction draws 250,000 visitors despite mocking reviews

Andy Gregory
Saturday 08 January 2022 00:23
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Marble Arch Mound empty on opening day after council suspends new bookings

The Marble Arch Mound is set to close this weekend, less than six months after the London visitor attraction was unveiled to widespread ridicule.

Likened to a building site by some bemused early visitors, the multimillion-pound mound – which looms large over its 19th century namesake, in the busy northeastern corner of Hyde Park – will now be deconstructed, in a process which could take up to four months.

Despite one headline-setting review labelling the man-made hill “the worst thing I’ve ever done in London”, the 25-metre mound has managed to entice 250,000 people since opening to the public on 26 July.

Tickets were initially priced at up to £8. But after costing £6m to create – nearly double the £3.3m budget set by Westminster City Council – entry to the mound was made free of charge at the end of August in a bid to boost visitor numbers.

Designed to give views of the capital’s Oxford Street, Hyde Park, Mayfair, and Marylebone, the mound was commissioned as part of a scheme to increase footfall in the busy shopping area as coronavirus lockdown restrictions eased.

A council spokesperson said: “The mound has done what it was built to do – drawn crowds and supported the recovery in the West End.

“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.

“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.”

But the council has previously apologised, following an internal review in October, saying it “must learn the lessons of the mound project”.

The review concluded that a series of errors in judgement, coupled with a "lack of sufficient oversight" led to the failure, and found that “robust” processes were “circumvented – driven by the desire to open the mound as soon as possible” – a failure which the council admitted was “unacceptable”.

The review was ordered in August, after council leader Rachael Robathan announced that her deputy Melvyn Caplan had resigned with immediate effect, after the cost of the project hit a “totally unacceptable” £6m.

The council had previously admitted to “teething problems” after the mound was forced to close just two days after opening, offering a free ticket to anyone who visited during the mound’s first week so that they could enjoy “the full experience” – once the “living building” had “had time to bed in and grow”.

Indeed, one aspect of the mound much remarked upon initially was the stark contrast between the spindly young trees and sparse vegetation covering the artificial slope, compared with the lush and verdant scenery displayed in the attraction’s marketing images.

These trees and plants, some of which one onlooker claimed had begun to die days after the mound first opened, will be reused along with other materials once the mound has been taken apart again in the coming months, and incorporated into nearby parks and gardens.

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