Plans to pedestrianise the West section of Oxford Street have been scrapped and are off the table “for good” says Westminster City Council; a move described as a “betrayal” by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
A section of the world-renowned shopping street from Oxford Circus to Selfridges had been due to be pedestrianised under bold plans tabled by the Mayor’s office and Transport for London.
The plans appeared to be green-lighted earlier this year when a public consultation appeared to show unanimous support but doubts began to arise in April after residents in nearby areas such as Marylebone, Fitzrovia and Mayfair raised concerns about traffic and claimed they had not been able to respond to the enquiry because an incorrect email address had been published.
Westminster Council stepped in to make it clear that any decision to forge ahead with the plans would lie with them since they owned the street, which is Europe’s busiest shopping street but also its most polluted.
They Mayor claimed the plans would secure Oxford Street’s future as a world-class shopping destination and make it a cleaner, safer place to shop. The pedestrianisation was also designed to co-incide with the arrival of the new Elizabeth Line in December of this year, which would bring a 40% growth in the number of visitors to the street, which already attracts 500,000 visitors a day.
But Westminster Council has kiboshed the plans, seemingly decisively. In a letter to residents, it said: “We believe there is a very strong democratic mandate that the pedestrianisation scheme that was under consideration is not what local people want. As a result, Westminster City Council has taken the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street off the table for good.”
Khan responded with dismay to the news, calling it a “betrayal” and saying it posed “a real threat” to the future of the area, which yesterday received the news that it was losing one of its biggest stores House of Fraser. The department store takes up a whole block of the street and is set to be closed along with half of all of the retailer’s stores by early next year.
As part of the public consultation about a million people were contacted between 6 November 2017 and 3 January 2018, asking if they supported the proposals. Transport for London and Westminster City Council received 14,377 responses, with 64% either supporting the project outright or backing the plans with “some concerns about certain elements”. An earlier consultation received 62% support.
Westminster City Council Nickie Aiken said the consultations did not constitute strong public support and the project needed a complete rethink. “It was clear through two public consultations and recent council elections that local people do not support the pedestrianisation proposals,” Aiken said.
The council had previously supported the plans but it is understood they were forced into taking an opposing view during the recent local elections. Jace Tyrrell, CEO of the New West End Company, which represents businesses in the area said it wasn’t giving up the fight saying: “Our businesses are more determined than ever to see urgent measures in place to address safety and air quality concerns.”