Politicians accused of ‘headlong rush’ into traffic free Oxford Street
Council chiefs back project before Christmas 2018 despite massive backlash from residents groups
10 November, 2017 — By Tom Foot
How a pedestrianised Oxford Street could look
A CAMPAIGN group representing several major residents’ associations in Westminster has blasted a “headlong rush” to pedestrianise Oxford Street.
Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan and Conservative deputy council leader, Cllr Robert Davis MBE, united this week to unveil “bold plans” to make the famous shopping street traffic-free by Christmas 2018.
But the Better Oxford Street group said the £60million scheme would lead to buses and cars spilling into quiet neigh- bourhoods, raising already illegal levels of pollution and jamming streets with traffic chaos.
The group represents the Marylebone Association, the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association, the Charlotte Street Association, the Mayfair Residents Group, and the Residents’ Society of Mayfair & St James – and all the members of the West End Community Network.
A statement from the group said: “This gradual development has now turned into a headlong rush to pedestrianise the street all day, every day, with no solutions to the damage threatening residents and businesses or to the myriad accessibility issues.
“What sort of reality does the Mayor live in where he thinks that all this traffic should be taken out of an almost 100 per cent commercial area and pushed through its surrounding residential streets? Shifting congestion, pollution and road safety issues, rather than tackling them, is unacceptable.”
The group estimates that 350 more buses would run through Marylebone every day with extra bus stops.
Under the scheme, the western section of Oxford Street – between Orchard Street and Oxford Circus – would be traffic-free by December 2018.
New cycle routes, wider pavements, and more taxi ranks would be introduced along with an “800-metre-long work of public art” as part of the changes that aim to “rival Paris and New York”.
Westminster Council has for many years resisted the pedestrianisation scheme. In 2016, Cllr Davis said: “Our many years of experience as the local authority for the area tells us that the plans described by the deputy mayor for full pedestrianisation are currently unachievable without significant impact on those who live, visit or run a business in the area.”
And this week, Cllr Davis said: “With the opening of the [Crossrail] Elizabeth line next year and expected increase in visitor numbers, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform
the Oxford Street district into the world’s best out- door shopping experience and an unrivalled place to live, work and visit.
“There is a huge amount of public and private investment happening across the West End which is so important in generating opportunities and prosperity for Londoners. We want Oxford Street and the surround- ing neighbourhoods to be the jewel in the crown.”
A final decision on the proposals will be made at a council planning meet- ing on December 17
The aim is to launch the newly pedestrianised street to coincide with the opening of Crossrail.
Mayor Khan added: “Whether you’re a local resident, a business, or shop in some of the area’s famous stores, our plans will make the area substantially cleaner and safer for everyone, creating one of the finest public spaces in the world.”