Backlash as Oxford Street plans scrapped

June 13 2018  

Backlash as Oxford Street plans scrapped

Betrayal, frustration and disappointment are felt by those in favour of pedestrianising Oxford Street following Westminster City Council’s decision to cancel the proposed transformation scheme.

The council had been developing plans alongside Transport for London to close the capital’s busiest shopping street to east-west traffic and improve the public realm for people on foot.

But council leader Nickie Aiken confirmed in a statement on Friday that the council no longer supports the pedestrianisation of the street and believes “a rethink of the whole strategy is now required”.

This comes after almost two thirds of Westminster residents said they were either opposed to or had concerns about the scheme, including fears over the impact of traffic displacement to surrounding streets. But outside of the borough attitudes towards the proposals were much more positive at consultation.

Commenting on the council’s decision, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “This will be seen as a betrayal of the millions of Londoners and visitors to our city who would have benefited from making Oxford Street a safer, healthier and better environment.”

He added: “I won’t walk away from Oxford Street. It’s too important for our city.”

Business group the New West End Company’s chief executive Jace Tyrell said: “This is a disappointing and frustrating situation we find ourselves in after two years of work.”

Plans to transform Oxford Street were being developed quickly to meet an expected increase in pedestrian numbers following the opening of the Elizabeth Line at the end of the year. The street also suffers high traffic flows, a poor road safety record and illegally high levels of air pollution.

“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,” added Jace Tyrell.

London Assembly Transport Committee chair Caroline Pidgeon urged the Mayor to find a way to make the scheme work. “We believe the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street could transform the area for the better, but it must be done carefully, taking into account the needs of residents, people with disabilities and cyclists,” she said.

“The Mayor and Westminster Council need to work together to agree a scheme that works for everyone using Oxford Street and the surrounding area.”

Westminster City Council confirmed that it remains committed to ‘future proofing’ Oxford Street and the surrounding district so it maintains its position as ‘the nation’s high street’.

“We are now working on our own proposals to improve the Oxford Street district and will share them with residents, business and visitors for discussion in the early autumn,” said council leader Nickie Aiken.

She added: “I utterly reject any suggestion that there is any kind of betrayal. Quite the contrary, 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.”

♦ Plans to expand London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) as far as the North and South Circular roads from October 2021 have been confirmed by the Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The move will follow the introduction of the Central London ULEZ next year, where drivers of the most polluting vehicles will pay a daily charge of £12.50 on top of the existing congestion charge.

(Photo: Transport for London)

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