Marble Arch Mound has turned out even more expensive than people thought and a councillor has resigned over it

Marble Arch Mound has turned out even more expensive than people thought and a councillor has resigned over it

Who would have thought that a ridiculous hill plonked gracelessly in the middle of London would become the main character (sorry Geronimo) of silly season?

Who would have thought a hill that looks like something out of the Teletubbies would become a focal point of debates around urban planning, the pedestrianisation of city centres, political spending and tourism?

And yet. And yet. The Marble Arch Mound has done all those things and more as it united our once divided nation who stood horrified at its foot, declaring as one: “Why the f**k does this exist?”

In case the monstrosity passed you by, allow us to present a short history of the hill.

The 25 metre mound was designed by Westminster City Council to create footfall in busy tourist areas of the city by providing views of Oxford Street, Hyde Park and Mayfair. Of course, people will know that the area Marble Arch has no famous landmarks or attractions by it at all and so a hill was completely necessary.

After all, why else would people to go to Oxford Street – famously a ghost town, of course. When has anything happened in this ‘Hyde Park’ of yours? When?

Anyway, when it opened in late July, tickets to the temporary attraction were offered between £4.50 and £8. For this price, visitors could climb 130 stairs or take a lift to the ‘summit’. Once there, they were offered the chance to enjoy food and drink sold by M&S Food and there was even talk about some light shows in the future.

People were unimpressed and the attraction started issuing refunds to disgruntled visitors. Then, two days after it opened, it closed, after it was inundated with continued criticism. It is now open again but is free. What a rollercoaster.

A Westminster Council spokesman said at the time: “It is clear that it is not ready. People who have paid should have the right to go up. But ultimately we know it’s not ready. We acknowledge that. That’s why we are not letting people up.”

That brings us today. The hill had faded from our memories. We were unsure if it was a fever dream. We had moved on.

But the deputy leader of Westminster Council has just resigned after costs for the project ballooned to £6 million, almost double the forecasts – and everyone is talking about that damn hill once more.

The council’s leader, Rachael Robathan, said in a statement on Friday that her deputy Melvyn Caplan had resigned with immediate effect after a “totally unacceptable” rise in costs.

“The Mound opened too early, and we have apologised for that,” Robathan said.

“It has become clear that costs have risen more than anticipated and that is totally unacceptable. Our original forecast cost was £3.3 million. Total costs are now £6m, covering every aspect of the project: construction, operation and eventual removal.

“With regret, I have accepted the resignation of my deputy leader, Melvyn Caplan, who led the Mound project. We have also instigated a thorough internal review to understand what went wrong and ensure it never happens again.”

Reacting to the latest twist in the terrain’s tale, people’s outrage was renewed:

Labour MP for Westminster North Karen Buck accused the council of “staggering incompetence”:

But Robathan added that the council are not giving up on the mound, despite it being a temporary attraction that will last until January. Give us strength.

She said: “Doing nothing was never an option. So when the Mound fully reopens in September, I hope that people will come and see it for themselves. The Mound may delight or divide views and that’s ok, but we’re confident that in the end it will fulfil its original brief – to get people back into the West End and remind them of why this is a world class City.”

Turns out the Marble Arch Mound is actually someone’s hill to die on.

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