The radical plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street tying in with the Elizabeth Line launch in December were given a boost today, as the results of a massive consultation revealed public backing for the project.
More than 22,000 responses were received on the plans to switch up the capital's famous shopping street, with nearly two-thirds of the replies backing the proposals in some form.
It's not all smooth sailing though, as a third said they did not support the proposals, with an even split among residents for those in favour of pedestrianisation and those opposing it.
Work to refine the plans needs to be carried out, with around 700 unique issues identified from the consultation, ranging from specific comments on localised elements of the plan to suggestions for changes, and then wider concerns about the scheme's impact.
In November, the mayor said the capital's busy shopping district will be pedestrianised this year to provide a traffic-free space in central London. While a final decision is still to be made on the scheme, to take on board the consultation feedback, work is already underway around Oxford Street to prepare for the Elizabeth Line in December.
Black cabs and buses getting the boot were among some of the initial plans drawn up, with east-west traffic to be restricted from entering Oxford Street between Orchard Street and Oxford Circus. The original plan said a traffic-free area would be developed in the West End by December this year.
Today, Val Shawcross, deputy mayor for transport, said:
I’m delighted that so many Londoners have got involved and given us their backing to transform Oxford Street and the surrounding area. Our plans will make Oxford Street one of the finest public spaces and shopping streets in the world, while investing in widespread improvements to make the area cleaner and safer.
We will now look at all the consultation responses in detail to ensure that everyone’s views are taken on board. Whether you’re a resident, a business, or regularly shop in the area, we must ensure the final details of the plan truly provide benefits to the millions of people who use the area every year.
The pedestrianisation is intended to tackle air quality concerns, the high frequency of collisions - around 60 a year, and severe overcrowding during peak times. The introduction of the Elizabeth Line is expected to significantly increase visitor numbers in the area, according to Transport for London.
Alex Williams, director of city planning at TfL, said:
The introduction of the Elizabeth Line later this year will significantly increase the number of people walking along Oxford Street and this creates a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform the area into an unrivalled place to live, visit and work.
The results of this consultation show that there is a strong desire to improve the West End and make Oxford Street more pedestrian focused. All points raised in the consultation are being considered and we continue to work with Westminster City Council ahead of a final decision on the scheme later this year.
Work between TfL and Westminster City council is also ongoing to develop proposals for an easy-west cycle route to the north of Oxford Street.
The timescale of the transformation plan:
Some 3.5m people visit Oxford Street each week, and the Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street area alone contributes around £7.6bn each year to the UK economy, so the hope is that this will be boosted further by making the shopping hub somewhere people want to spend more time.
Cllr Daniel Astaire, cabinet member for planning and public realm at Westminster City Council, said: “We’re pleased that we have had such a significant response to this important consultation and we now need to take our time to look in detail at every issue raised before we take any final decision to make sure we get it right.
"We know that people are very passionate about this iconic part of London and that is why we are clear that it has to be the right scheme that works in the best interests of those who live, work in and visit the area.”