Oxford Street is set to become part-pedestrianised under the latest plans to revitalise the UK’s premier shopping street.
Buses would be re-routed north of Oxford Circus to enable a new “public piazza” to be created on either side of the junction with Regent Street (see below).
In addition, the busy sections of Oxford Street in front of Selfridges, around Bond Street station and between Soho Street and Tottenham Court Road are being “considered for a high level of pedestrian priority”.
This could include restricting traffic at “critical times of the day”, an outline of Westminster council’s £150m plans states. The proposals were approved by Westminster’s cabinet last night.
There would be “fewer and slower” buses in the busiest pedestrian areas, with speed limiters potentially fitted to buses, the Standard was told.
Vehicle speeds rarely exceed 15mph but the limit would be reduced from 30mph to 20mph to improve safety.
The Tory authority drew up plans to “future proof” the street, prepare for an influx of visitors when Crossrail eventually opens and help traders compete against online retailers and shopping centres such as Westfield.
It followed a council decision last April to withdraw support for Mayor Sadiq Khan’s alternative £43m plan to part-pedestrianise the western end of street, causing that scheme to collapse.
The council’s proposals, which have received between two-thirds and three-quarters backing from residents and businesses, would narrow Oxford Street to one lane in each direction to allow pavements to be widened. Work could start in the autumn.
One property expert said the proposals were “sensible” rather than exciting but praised the council for securing the backing of residents.
There would be no outright ban on traffic. Buses would continue to run “but at a reduced volume”. Regent Street would remain open to north-south traffic.
The council wants to ban diesel buses and taxis from Oxford Street “as soon as is practicable”, with only electric or hybrid vehicles allowed.
Seven bus routes currently run west of Oxford Circus and four east of Oxford Circus. There are about 200 taxis an hour.
Buses would be redirected away from Oxford Circus via Great Portland Street, Great Castle Street or Margaret Street, and John Prince’s Street.
Cyclists would continue to be able to use Oxford Street but there is the aim of building two east-west cycle routes, one north and one south of the street.
One would “connect Sussex Gardens, west of Edgware Road, with Torrington Place, east of Tottenham Court Road” (roughly where the Q2 quietway starts).
The other would “connect Hyde Park to New Oxford Street”. In neither case a precise route specified.
The council wants to “do more” to help homeless people to relocate but insists it does not “forcibly remove” rough sleepers.
There would be a “reinvigorated gateway to the West End” at Marble Arch. A total of 90 projects are proposed across the Oxford Street “district”.
A council spokesman said: “The district strategy proposes to close Oxford Circus to east-west traffic movements but north-south traffic movements on Regent Street would continue.
“Oxford Circus would become a pedestrian crossing over Regent Street which will relieve traffic congestion on Regent Street and provide a much better environment for pedestrians.
“Measures are being developed to make sure that volumes of traffic do not significantly increase in nearby streets where residents live.”
A spokesman for the Mayor said: “We await the full details of Westminster’s plans, but from the sketchy proposals seen so far it appears that they nowhere near match the ambition of our joint plans the council unilaterally pulled out of last year.
“Small cosmetic changes would mean Oxford Street will continue to be polluted, congested and dangerous for the millions of pedestrians who use it every year, and they wouldn’t address the real challenges London’s major shopping street faces as consumer habits change.
“Through the introduction of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone and cleaning up London’s buses and taxis the Mayor is taking bold action to make central London a clean and pleasant environment, but Westminster’s plans seem to fall woefully short of the transformation the area needs.”
- An edited version of this story appears in tonight’s Evening Standard.