London’s most iconic shopping destination Oxford Street could be pedestrianised by the end of next year subject to public approval of ambitious plans to transform the area, which were released this morning.
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and Deputy Leader of Westminster City Council, Cllr Robert Davis MBE DL revealed the plans, which would result in buses, taxis and other forms of transport being banished from Oxford Circus to Orchard Street.
The plans are currently the subject of a public consultation until 17 December this year and, if approved, could be implemented by December 2018 to co-incide with the opening of the Elizabeth Line, which is expected to increase significantly the visitor numbers to the West End.
Under the plans all east-west traffic would be restricted from entering Oxford Street between Orchard Street, which runs adjacent to Selfridges, and Oxford Circus, while north-south routes through that section would be maintained. The carriageway would be raised to be level with the existing pavements between Orchard Street and Oxford Circus during this first stage, to make the area more accessible for everyone.
New seating would be introduced across the length of the street and a new 800m-long work of public art could also be commissioned for the length of the former carriageway, acting as a centrepiece for the transformed street. The Mayor’s office has released a number of simulated images to show how the street could look once transformed (click through gallery above), though these are not intended as final designs.
Khan described the plans as “a hugely exciting moment for the capital”. “Oxford Street is world famous with millions of visitors every year, and in just over a year the iconic part of the street west of Oxford Circus could be transformed into a traffic-free pedestrian boulevard.
“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,” he said.
The Mayor added that his office would continue to work closely with residents, businesses and Westminster Council to ensure the plans were “the very best they can be”, including investing in wider pavements, pedestrian crossings, more taxi ranks and further high-quality cycling infrastructure (cyclists would be required to dismount when entering the pedestrianised area).
Among the measures planned to support the scheme are more than two kilometres of widened pavements, six new pedestrian crossings along Wigmore Street, which runs parallel to Oxford Street, and improvements to crossings in Cavendish Square. In all, at least 25 new pedestrian crossings would be installed across the area, all of which will use energy-efficient LED lighting and have Pedestrian Countdown technology. Traffic signals across the West End would also be altered and improved to manage any traffic impacts.
Chief executive of the New West End Company Jace Tyrrell, which represents the interests of businesses in the area, said the plans were “a game-changing transformation of Oxford Street”. “Removing the wall of red buses from Oxford Street will reduce congestion and improve air quality – improvements which must also be capitalised on across Regent Street, Bond Street and the wider West End.
“In just over a year, the opening of the Elizabeth Line will bring profound change to the West End as an additional 120,000 visitors arrive every day. With an expected £1 billion increase in turnover in the West End by 2020 the economic impact will benefit all Londoners as well as the wider UK economy at a time when we face the uncertainty of a post-Brexit Britain.”