A 150m-long section of Oxford Street, on either side of Britain’s busiest pedestrian junction, is to be closed to vehicles by the end of the year, cutting the iconic street in two.
The new plans propose that Oxford Circus will be transformed into two, pedestrian-friendly piazzas as part of plans unveiled by Westminster City Council and The Crown Estate today. The new piazzas will be the subject of an international design competition.
Works on the transformed Circus will begin later in the year with the scheme also set to include:
- significant improvements to the public spaces in and around Oxford Circus.
- additional planting and seating to improve the overall look and feel of the area.
- significant improvements to public realm, including working with Transport for London to create improved access to Oxford Circus tube station.
- road closures through the introduction of Experimental Traffic Orders, between Oxford Circus and Great Portland Street to the East, and Oxford Circus and John Princes Street to the West, turning it into a pedestrian-first zone.
- the launch of the RIBA International Design Competition in Summer 2021 to deliver the final scheme, ensuring ‘world class’ designs and value for money.
The reinvention of the Circus as a world-leading, forward-facing, urban space, is the latest step in the council’s ambitious plans to revive Oxford Street and the wider District, for its vision for a greener, smarter future for the West End.
Westminster has already committed £150m to kickstart the OSD programmes and attract inward investment, taking full advantage of the Elizabeth Line opening in 2022 and the area’s links to the wider West End and beyond.
Westminster City Council Leader, Rachael Robathan, said: “These new bold plans to reinvent Oxford Circus will see the first significant redesign of the nation’s favourite high street in decades. We hope the creation of these pedestrian-only piazzas at Oxford Circus, surrounded by newly planted trees and large seating areas, will instil much needed confidence in the West End and support local businesses severely affected by the pandemic. We want to bring the excitement and buzz back to these famous streets and make Oxford Circus London’s front door.
“There is an urgent need to tackle issues with pedestrian congestion and safety, poor air quality and noise. The serious congestion of Oxford Circus, of people and of traffic, is unsustainable and demands action. In the aftermath of the pandemic, and with the arrival of the Elizabeth Line, there is an overwhelming need and a compelling opportunity to build back better; a business-as-usual approach will no longer work. We hope the creation of these pedestrian-only piazzas at Oxford Circus will not only improve safety, security, accessibility and but create an iconic destination at the heart of London.”
Dan Labbad, Chief Executive at The Crown Estate, added: “We’re delighted to be working in partnership with Westminster to deliver a transformation of what I think we all recognise as one of the most iconic locations in the World. It is essential, as we rebuild our capital, that we create places that better serve all those who use them – improving air quality, reducing congestion, prioritising safety and delivering a world class visitor experience.”
The new Oxford Circus plans will be delivered through a phased approach, starting with two ‘car free’ piazzas on Oxford Street, either end of the Circus, with a target delivery by end of 2021.
The safety and security of pedestrians is paramount, and will be improved through the introduction of pedestrian-only piazzas at Oxford Circus to reduce pedestrian congestion. Traffic will continue along Regent Street, north and south of Oxford Circus.
By prioritising people over vehicles, the changes also aim to improve air quality. Works on Oxford Circus are expected to reduce vehicle traffic and improve efficiency of bus journeys across the area. The scheme is linked with Westminster City Council’s ‘Greenways’ project, which is designed to improve the experience of cyclists across the Oxford Street District and in the borough.