Plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street scrapped

Plans to pedestrianise the West section of Oxford Street have been scrapped after Westminster City Council withdrew its support, a move that London Mayor, Sadiq Khan has called a “betrayal” to Londoners.

Khan, who had been a vocal supporter of Oxford Street being traffic-free from Selfridges to Oxford Circus, took to his Twitter and said: “This will be seen as a betrayal of the million of Londoners and visitors to our city who would have benefited from making Oxford Street a safer, healthier and better environment. All of the main mayoral candidates agreed on the need for the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street at the last election, as did Westminster Council.

“The project was a good example of political parties putting politics aside, working together to improve our city for everyone.”

In response, Westminster City Council leader, councillor Nickie Aiken said in a statement: “We can confirm that the council does not support the full scale pedestrianisation of Oxford Street and believes a rethink of the whole strategy is now required.

“As the local council, we need to make sure that everyone can benefit from improvements, not just certain groups. I utterly reject any suggestion that there is any kind of betrayal.”

Westminster City Council withdraws support to pedestrianise Oxford Street

Earlier this year the plans appeared to moving forward following “widespread support” from the public consultation, which revealed that 64 percent of respondents expressed support in “some form”.

However, Aiken added: “We are sticking up for the people who know best, those who live and work in the district. It was clear through two public consultations and recent council elections that local people do not support the pedestrianisation proposals.

“But doing nothing to improve the area is not an option either if we are to maximise the potential benefits from the opening of the Elizabeth Line. We must future-proof Oxford St and the surrounding district so it remains the pre-eminent shopping district in the UK and maintains its crown as the nation’s high street.”

Khan added on Twitter: “This now poses a real threat to the future of Oxford Street. I won’t walk away from Oxford Street. It’s too important for our city.”

The council, which previously supported the plans, are understood to have changed their mind due to opposing views during the recent local elections, and have now stated that they will be working on its “own proposals” to improve the Oxford Street district and will share them with residents, businesses and visitors for “discussion” in early autumn.

The idea of pedestrianising Oxford Street has been an ongoing discussion with New West End Company, which represents retailers in the area, first unveiled plans in 2010. However, it was thought that with the Mayor behind the plans and the opening of the new Elizabeth Line in December this year, which will attract 40 percent more visitors to the street that it would finally get approved.

“The project was a good example of political parties putting politics aside, working together to improve our city for everyone.”

Sadiq Khan, London Mayor

In response, Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of the New West End Company, said in a press statement: “This is a disappointing and frustrating situation we find ourselves in after two years of work. We are deeply concerned that the partnership between Westminster City Council and the Mayor, which we believe is vital for the successful financing and delivery of a project of this scale, appears to have broken down.

“Westminster City Council recognise that something fundamental needs to be done to Oxford Street and therefore it is imperative that these radical changes and pace for change remain its top priority. This investment is also essential to ensure that local residents lives are not worsened by the massive influx of new visitors.”

Tyrrell added: “We welcome the Mayor remaining fully committed and stating he will not walk away from Oxford Street. With 60 million extra people arriving a year by 2020 from the Elizabeth line our businesses are more determined than ever to see urgent measures in place to address safety and air quality concerns and that a scheme is brought forward which is fit for 21st century retailing. It is imperative the politicians protect and safeguard the jobs of the 80,000 employees on Oxford Street and we will continue to do all that we can to ensure that this generational opportunity is not lost for the nation’s high street.”

Image: courtesy of TfL

 

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