Mayor and council clash as plans to pedestrian Oxford Street are shelved

LRSC Oxford Street

Oxford Street in May 2017. Image: Captain Roger Fenton, via Flickr.

Westminster Council has pulled the plug on plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street, a move described by Sadiq Khan as a ‘betrayal’.

First announced in July 2016, the proposals would have seen all east-west traffic restricted from entering Oxford Street between Orchard Street and Oxford Circus, while maintaining north-south routes through that section.

In 2017, a public consultation on the plans was launched, with TfL hoping to use the feedback to ‘radically’ reduce the volume of traffic on Oxford Street, address ‘very poor’ air quality and improve road safety for all users.

However, following this consultation, Westminster Council has rejected the proposals, saying it is ‘sticking up for people who know best’ – those who live and work in the area.

Cllr Nickie Aiken, leader of Westminster Council, said:

“Westminster City Council is hugely ambitious for Oxford Street and we will do everything we can to ensure the district’s long term success in the face of a challenging and ever changing economic and retail environment.

“We will now look to develop fresh plans to achieve this, but 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. 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.”

Responding to the announcement, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan says Westminster Council’s decision ‘poses a real threat to the future of Oxford Street’.

Mr 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.

“All the main mayoral candidates agreed on the need for the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street at the last election, as did Westminster Council until today.

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

“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.”

As part of wider efforts to tackle air pollution, Sadiq Khan has announced that the Capital’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will be expanded up to the North and South Circular boundary in 2021.

The ULEZ is set to begin in central London from April 2019 – with the expansion meaning it will cover an area 18 times larger.

It is estimated that 100,000 cars, 35,000 vans and 3,000 lorries could be affected by the expanded zone, and tighter standards, every day.

Mr Khan said:

“We’re doing everything in our power to tackle this issue and are starting to see improvements in air quality with the wide-ranging action we’ve taken already on tackling the most polluting cars, and cleaning up our bus and taxi fleet.

“An expanded ULEZ, in conjunction with the central London ULEZ, will really help transform the air that millions of Londoners breathe.”

08 June 2018