The Council’s comprehensive new Place Shaping and Delivery Plan has now been approved by Westminster Council’s Cabinet, in much the same form as originally presented in the recent consultation.

The new Strategy emerged from the wreckage of the Mayors previous pedestrianisation scheme for Oxford Street and its new district wide approach was broadly welcomed by our organisations. The fact that many suggestions previously made by our various individual amenity societies and other groups had clearly been listened to and incorporated in the new plan meant that we were, and still are, happy to endorse much of what has being proposed.

However, as the details of the proposals emerged it became clear that certain concerning aspects, reminiscent of the previous scheme, had also re-emerged. Some very significant proposals – those that advocate the closing or the severe restricting of Oxford Street traffic – were contained amongst the large amount of detail about much else. The extent and severity of these will not yet have been readily appreciated by many of those who would be affected by them.

These proposals appear to undermine the principle and purpose of keeping Oxford Street open to traffic and would result in outcomes that we previously understood had been unambiguously abandoned by Westminster Council. Further they appear to contradict statements made by Westminster both during the recent elections and since the abandoning of the joint Transport for London consultation when we were told that pedestrianisation had been taken off the table for good. They even appear to contradict statements made elsewhere in the Council’s own Strategy, such as the promise to keep Oxford Street open: “to maintain Oxford Street’s role as an important traffic corridor in the West End”…and “Oxford Street will continue to provide a route for 2 way traffic and not be pedestrianised”.

There are three particular proposals that give us cause for concern. Given their relative importance to residents and businesses, and given that they would re-introduce in part what was widely found to be unacceptable in the previous scheme, they need to be clearly stated:

A. The proposal to investigate options to close the section of road around Oxford Circus between John Prince’s Street and Great Portland Street to all east-west traffic and pedestrianise it.

B. The proposal to restrict the width of Oxford Street to 2 carriageways only, along its entire length.

C. The proposal to close certain sections of Oxford Street to all traffic other than buses at certain times of the day.

These proposals are wrong for all the same reasons that the Mayor’s previous pedestrianisation scheme was wrong and we are disappointed, and not a little surprised, to see their re-emergence now after the latter had been so comprehensively rejected in the previous consultation and at the ballot box. In addition they will please few: the Mayor is “underwhelmed” by them, businesses unimpressed; as for the residents, most are at present totally unaware of their existence. Indeed our member societies only gradually became aware of the true extent of the scheme as the consultation progressed.

Why have they re-emerged? Possibly because the figure for all the works proposed by the Council is estimated to be £350 million. The allocated Council budget for them is £150 million over the next three years. It therefore will need to be substantially supplemented in some way. The Mayor has already made clear that his proposed £80 million funding is being allocated elsewhere – so WCC need to look to business, particularly the large local stakeholders to help fill the gap. The problem with this is that the interests of these stakeholders is focused on their immediate area of interest rather than the neighbourhood as a whole.

The most worrying of all the three proposals is the scheme to pedestrianise Oxford Circus. This not only violates the promises made by WCC  to abandon pedestrianisation for good, both during and after the election, but resurrects some of the worst aspects of the Mayor’s discredited scheme. In routing all traffic around neighbouring roads it reintroduces pedestrianisation by recreating a miniature version of the previous plan – that is by creating a needless diversion around a straight line.

Only in 2009, £5 million was spent in upgrading Oxford Circus to the new diagonal crossing and since then it has become one of the roads most famous features. At the time Westminster Council welcomed this as a major triumph in accommodating safely the many numbers of pedestrians in the area. The figures have not changed appreciably since then.

However this proposal appears to have come not from Westminster Council but from the Crown Estates. They are the owners of Regent Street and see this as an opportunity to create a gateway project for the area and are prepared to underwrite the costs of undertaking the scheme. Westminster find this attractive as they need to take the pressure off their allocated budget for the reasons stated above.

The principle reason cited for the proposal is that of pedestrian safety: that the opening of the new Elizabeth line and the resulting extra footfall will lead to dangerous overcrowding on the pavements and crossings around Oxford Circus.

This argument has a superficial attraction which evaporates on further analysis, for this is the very area that, as a result of the opening of the Elizabeth Line, is forecast to have some of the pedestrian pressure removed and to see a relative decline in numbers. The new Bond Street/Hanover Square stations will take on many of the journeys that previously terminated at Oxford Circus. And this will continue into the future – on WCC’s own figures, by 2023 numbers at Bond Street will be up by 22%, at Tottenham Court Road by 25%, whereas the increase forecast for Oxford Circus is 6%. Does this really merit permanently closing Oxford Circus to all east-west traffic?

Where is the sense in closing the one part of Oxford Street that has been most recently upgraded at considerable expense, with the one station in Oxford Street that is forecast to have a relative drop in footfall in the future? To accommodate this the scheme proposes to substitute no less than 4 major turns for all traffic travelling along the length of Oxford Street where at present there are none. Each one of these new turns runs across very busy streets which will bring traffic into conflict with pedestrians. Rather than improve safety the potential for accidents will merely be displaced to the smaller roads behind Oxford Circus and indeed, due to all the additional turns made necessary, it could well be dramatically increased.

Although it is recognised that there is room for further improvement we would have hoped that this could be realised within the context of the work previously undertaken. For instance, buses and other vehicle turns at Oxford Circus could be banned whilst retaining an east west flow. Also, the proposals for Oxford Circus appear to be in conflict with the Strategy’s own aspirations for John Prince’s Street which will hardly benefit from having all the Oxford Street traffic routed through it.

Yet a further problem with the closure of Oxford Circus will likely arise in accommodating the additional traffic crossing Upper Regent Street as this will require longer red light phases against north-south traffic. However, this traffic already faces considerable congestion from the single lane at Oxford Circus often backing up beyond Langham Place and into Portland Place.

The proposed diversions will therefore be dangerous, will cause more pollution and will no doubt result in drivers using alternative routes through the surrounding areas, causing yet further traffic displacement into our neighbourhoods.

It is significant that whereas the Westminster consultation experienced a high positive response overall, it actually failed to get approval for this scheme. The consultation analysis (taken from the Steer Report dated February 2019) shows that the proposals for Zone F. – Oxford  Circus – 45% strongly opposed or tended to oppose the proposals, with only 39% of Westminster residents strongly supporting or tending to support them. Also, the most frequent comments from stakeholders regarding the draft Place Strategy was fear of traffic displacement – approximately 40% cited this, by far the highest of all the concerns listed.

The other proposals of concern involving traffic restrictions, or removal, on Oxford Street did not get a specific question in the consultation but they did emerge in part under the proposals for Zone C (the part of Oxford Street containing Selfridges department store, where Oxford Street connects Baker Street and the Mayfair streets of Duke Street, Orchard Street and North Audley Street). Here also, respondents generally opposed the proposals outlined in the draft Place Strategy.

In summary, all three of the proposals listed above will result in non-bus traffic being deterred from using Oxford Street even in the parts that remain open. The extra time the buses will take, caused by single lanes and road closures, will inconvenience and even deter bus users. Sporadic and intermittent closure of various parts of Oxford Street and the permanent closure of the parts of the street either side of Oxford Circus will push non-bus traffic into the heartlands of Mayfair, Marylebone and Fitzrovia.

So far, we only have the outline proposals for all these schemes, the methodology to justify them is at present being developed, for instance through traffic modelling – which as previous experience has shown, cannot be trusted. The Council has stated that issues arising from the proposals will be listened to and taken into account before deciding which ideas to take forward. But the issues arising from these proposals have been stated and they have been rejected by the majority of respondents to the consultation – but still they have been recommended to be taken forward.

Accordingly, whilst we look forward to and support the successful introduction of the large majority of Westminster’s proposals, we will continue to press our objections to this one part of the overall scheme that we feel is mistaken, both through our individual amenity societies and other groups.

Oxford Street Consultation Response

You can read our Oxford Street Consultation response here.

“A scheme not just for Oxford Street but the whole Oxford Street District.”

Westminster’s Council Cabinet met on the 26th October and gave the go-ahead to the Cabinet Report recommendations- to develop what is termed a, “Place Strategy,” for the whole of the Oxford Street area.

This strategy promotes a set of fifteen, “overarching place based principles”, to be presented to stakeholders and residents as part of a public consultation process between 6th November and 16th December.

The Council’s Cabinet Paper Report can be found on the Westminster Council website  From this we can summarise the main principles of the scheme:

  • Priority will be given to pedestrian space with the aim of widening footways and narrowing the existing roadway.
  • Existing public spaces and squares in the area will be improved.
  • There will be an increased and much-needed emphasis on street management, street cleaning and waste management.
  • These proposals are to go to the full Council for approval in November and any responses or feedback that the Council receives through consultation responses may lead to further changes in the Strategy and, or the Delivery Plan.

A new website has been launched at https://osd.london which provides details of the proposals for the Oxford Street District. It will also provide updates and details of the consultation and how to subscribe to the regular newsletter.

The proposals have been informed, not only by the responses from the initial joint TfL/WCC consultation but from a series of engagement meetings with over fifty stakeholders including residents held between July and September. 

It is clear that the Council has listened and acted on what these groups have said. They will look at ways of reusing surplus retail space and redeveloping it to suit the needs of an evolving economy. The importance is now clearly understood of protecting the neighbourhoods around Oxford Street: Fitzrovia, Marylebone, Mayfair and Soho. The majority of the proposals appear well thought out and sensible, embracing and complementing these neighbourhoods, not subordinating them, as previously, to the perceived benefit of one street.

Of course, all this comes at a price – £2.5 million for the development of the proposals and a projected £150 million for the whole scheme. This is a very significant sum, showing a serious commitment to the area. Indeed, it is on a par with the total expenditure that TfL and the Mayor were previously contemplating for their scheme. It is anticipated that this level of funding will require substantial contributions from external sources in addition to Westminster’s capital budget. However, in the papers we have seen, these sources have not as yet been formally identified.

In summary, we now have a pragmatic and evolving scheme which offers a holistic approach across the district, one which acknowledges local priorities from Marble Arch through Oxford Circus to Tottenham Court Road. It addresses key issues notably lacking in the previous proposals: district-wide improvements, enhancement of the neighbouring areas and an emphasis on access to and from Oxford Street. There are still concerns over future accessibility arising from the extensive proposed cuts to the buses and bus routes running to and through Oxford Street. This, however, remains in the hands of TfL and as such is not part of the consultation.

There is still also the concern that the Mayor, and certain elements in the Greater London Authority, will pursue the pedestrianisation agenda by some other means- such as attempting to take over control of Oxford Street. To do this would ignore the democratic mandate obtained from the council elections, and the popular endorsement subsequently confirmed from the extensive consultation. This would be a retrograde step and most inadvisable.

We are, though, in a far better place than we could have hoped for this time last year at the opening of the first Oxford Street Consultation. Then, on the roof garden at John Lewis, the Mayor addressed us all on a project to pedestrianise Oxford Street and he clearly saw the consultation as merely a formality prior to its endorsement. That scheme was however unworthy of the district it claimed to serve, a message that the residents sent out loud and clear to the Council by various means, both prior to, and during the elections. The Council listened and as a result, it has now been unceremoniously dumped. In its place, we have a series of sensible and pragmatic proposals which will benefit, not only Oxford Street but the whole West End area, its residents and the businesses within it. In this new scheme, Westminster Council has the support of all the West End amenity societies.

In summary, we feel that the Council are now actively attending to the concerns of residents and businesses. They have stood up for them and scuppered a scheme which was not wanted by those who live and work in the West End. We have seen the congestion and displaced traffic that has resulted from various TfL schemes in other parts of London, in spite of their claims to the contrary beforehand. We have seen how, once TfL launch a consultation, the desired outcome is usually a foregone conclusion. This time, however, the outcome has been different. This time the consultation responses were heeded and the Council’s subsequent uncompromising stance against the Mayor’s unwanted scheme finally saw it off. 

The action taken in defence of the area and its residents by Westminster Council is to be applauded. It shows that it is possible to stand up to TfL, who are unelected and accountable to no one – save the Mayor. It is an example of democracy in action and as such sets a notable precedent. 

A scheme not just for Oxford Street but the whole Oxford Street District.

Early October has seen a flurry of announcements concerning Oxford Street. Westminster City Council have continued to honour their election pledges and listen to the West End, residents and businesses. The Council Leader has personally confirmed again that they are no longer supporting the Mayor’s plan to pedestrianise and that they are going it alone with a bold scheme to put £150 million over three years, not just into Oxford Street, but into a scheme which is genuinely for the improvement of the whole Oxford Street District- Link to Leaders Update October 2018
In this they now have the support of all the West End amenity societies, who are already being actively consulted by Westminster as part of their engagement process. The Council now understands the importance of protecting the iconic neighbourhoods around Oxford Street: Fitzrovia, Marylebone, Mayfair and Soho. They are aiming to unveil their scheme at the end of the month, and go out to public consultation on it in November for 6 weeks.
At that stage Westminster Council will be seeking the views of those who live, work or have an interest in the area on the new Oxford Street strategy and to that end a new website has been launched at https://osd.london. This will provide details of proposals for the Oxford Street District as well as information about the forthcoming consultation and how the public can give their views. We would urge all those who have shown so much interest in the future of Oxford Street to visit that website and use this opportunity to help develop the scheme with their constructive views on the area.
Westminster have also launched an Oxford Street District newsletter to keep people updated which can be subscribed to from the Oxford Street District website.
All good news then? – So far, so good, but watch this space and we will keep you updated. The next key date is the meeting of the Westminster Council Cabinet on 25th October where the decision on the draft Place Strategy and Delivery Plan for Oxford Street will be formally set out and sanctioned.

Sadiq Khan’s letter to Cllr Nickie Aiken

Sadiq Khan’s letter to Cllr Nickie Aiken

Click here Cllr Nickie Aiken letter Jul 18

Our views on this will follow shortly…

“Westminster City Council has taken the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street off the table for good and we have informed the Mayor and TfL of our decision”

The Future of Oxford Street

I am writing to update you about our plans to improve Oxford Street and the surrounding district.

As you know, two consultations have taken place in the past twelve months and after listening carefully to what local people have told us, we can now make Westminster City Council’s position absolutely clear.

What is very apparent is that the majority of Westminster residents who responded to the consultations did not support the proposals to pedestrianise Oxford Street. We also know that in the recent council elections, local people also essentially rejected pedestrianisation through the ballot box. Therefore, we believe there is a very strong democratic mandate that the pedestrianisation scheme that was under consideration is not what local people want. As a result, Westminster City Council has taken the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street off the table for good and we have informed the Mayor and TfL of our decision.

However, we do think that most people, ourselves included, feel that doing nothing is also not an option. We need to make the street and surrounding roads safer for everyone to accommodate the increase in people coming into the West End via the Elizabeth Line, which opens later this year. We also need to future-proof the Oxford Street District in a rapidly changing business and retail environment. We need to make sure that the experience of visiting Oxford Street and the surrounding area is fit for the future to ensure it maintains its crown as the nation’s high street for many, many years to come. Today’s news that House of Fraser will be closing their Oxford Street store only reaffirms our view that we have to help the retail industry to grow and evolve in line with changing consumer behaviour.

In doing this, we must also ensure that residents’ quality of life is enhanced with any improvement plans, with local amenity and cleaner air the absolute priority. For example, we want to continue to work with the Mayor of London, as many of the ways air quality can be improved are within his gift, such as the reduction in buses and introducing cleaner taxis. We will also ensure that the street and surrounding district is accessible and easy to navigate for everyone.

Moving forward, the council will now work on completely new proposals and come back to you after the summer break with some thoughts as to how we can proceed with improving the Oxford Street District. We also give you our absolute commitment that we will keep you informed at every stage and try to engage with as many people as possible throughout this process.

Only by working together can we help to ensure that we deliver a transformation of Oxford Street and surrounding district that is as inspiring for those who live, work and visit the area now as well as for future generations.

If you would like to be kept up to date with future Oxford Street updates could you please e-mail robincampbell@westminster.gov.uk to register your email address. If you have any questions please also direct them to Robin.

Promises must be honoured on Oxford Street, pedestrianisation is not on!

Promises must be honoured on Oxford Street, pedestrianisation is not on!


Will London’s Oxford Street ever be pedestrianised?

It’s one of the mayor’s election pledges to pedestrianise London’s Oxford Street.

It is not a pleasant shopping environment.

It’s full of buses and taxis and as a result of the high buildings, pollution doesn’t disperse from the street.

It also has a high level of pedestrian collisions.

Now though, the scheme to pedestrianise Oxford Street is in trouble.

The problem for London Mayor Sadiq Khan is that the road is owned by Westminster City Council.

There has been considerable opposition to the plans from local residents and businesses.

Such was the clamour that prior to the recent local council elections, Westminster City Council shifted its policy away from broadly supporting the scheme to calling the present plans “unacceptable”.

The council has now confirmed it does not think full pedestrianisation is the answer. The plans are going to have to change.

Back to the drawing board

Council leader Nickie Aiken said: “No change on Oxford Street is not an option. However, having reviewed the recent consultation we are persuaded that full pedestrianisation is not the best solution.

“We will make no formal decisions on the future of Oxford Street until all potential options have been fully considered and we have a solution that meets our eight pledges.”

Those pledges mean any plan will have to reduce pollution and prevent traffic going onto residential roads. That could be very difficult to achieve.

The Campaign Against Pedestrianisation of Oxford Street (CAPO) – who caused the shift in the council’s policy – think the project is in serious trouble.

Parts of it were due to be finished by the end of the year. They think that is impossible.

And at the moment it looks like there isn’t a plan at all and it is back to the drawing board.

This project has been talked about for decades and it always hits problems.

The mayor remains optimistic it will happen.

But without consensus from Westminster, a huge cloud hangs over the scheme.



Oxford Street pedestrianisation was never the answer

WESTMINSTER Council has shown common sense at last in rejecting the Mayor of London’s and Transport for London’s extreme plan to pedestrianise Oxford Street and disenfranchise residents and regular commuters.

This was both a vanity exercise by the Mayor as well as a cost-cutting one, in which he intended to further cut bus numbers, close down routes, and shorten other routes. Our side streets and attractive squares would have become “bus stands”.

Westminster Council now needs to follow up on its “pledges” of better traffic control and pollution in Oxford Street as well as removing pedicabs, noisy buskers and beggars.

Pedestrianisation is not a social benefit. It would turn the residential street into a tourist walkway and disenfranchise many locals and regular commuters.

With the expediential growth of souvenir shops selling fridge magnets and flags, Oxford Street is looking less and less like an “international shopping destination” and more and more like an austerity-damaged high street.

Change is needed but concreting it over with a few benches and garden centre trees is not the answer.



Council leader Nickie Aiken says talks about controversial scheme are still on

Oxford Street campaigners urge council: ‘Don’t forget promises’

WestEnd Extra – 11 May,  2018 — By Tom Foot

CANDIDATES for the Campaign Against Pedestrianisation of Oxford Street single-issue party said this week that the electorate had sent a message to Westminster Council Conservatives “not to forget their promises”.

It said that winning seats was “never the primary reason” for setting up the party and that it had “achieved its goal before the first vote was cast”.

Days before the count, the outgoing councillor Danny Astaire told full council that officers had been told to stop working on design work with the Mayor of London and implied that the council was now opposing the plan.

This week, the anti-pedestrianisation campaigners said: “No matter how much pressure the new council may be brought under to again change their minds on Oxford Street, they must stay firm. They own the road, they have said, ‘No’ and they must now be fully aware that their mandate was achieved through the election promises they made and that these promises must be honoured.”

However, council leader Nickie Aiken yesterday (Thursday) did not seem so committal.

When asked whether the council supported the Mayor of London’s Oxford Street plan, she told the Extra “there is no plan”, adding: “The people in the area have spoken. We are at the table so that we ensure their concerns are addressed. There is an awful long way to go before any plan can be introduced. There’s no work going on at the moment anyway.

We are waiting for Transport for London to come back – we have said they have got to address the concerns brought up by residents. We have eight red lines. We want to look at how we can improve Oxford Street and we want to look at alternatives that make Oxford Street a better place to walk down.