Westminster City Council (WCC) has pressed ahead with its plans for Oxford Street without funding from Transport for London (TfL).
At a council meeting yesterday evening, WCC agreed to draw up its own strategy work for the area after it scrapped TfL's plans on the grounds there was not a "strong democratic mandate" following complaints from residents over diverted bus routes.
The council will now have to fit the £727,000 bill without the help of TfL. Westminster council initially planned to use £400,000 from TfL's local implementation plan allocation, but in a letter to the council last week, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said no TfL funding should be used without prior discussion and agreement with the transport body. He also said his team questioned “the value of more strategy work”.
A source from the Mayor's office told City A.M: "Given the extensive work already done, the mayor has made it clear that no more TfL money should be spent on additional strategy work around Oxford Street, and the council has now decided to proceed with a new strategy without TfL funds."
The new "area-wide strategy" is a significantly scaled down version of TfL's original plans. There will now be no full-scale pedestrianisation of the area and the council says its new plans – which cover Marble Arch to Tottenham Court Road – will focus on the entire district rather than the pedestrianisation of the street (from Selfridges to Oxford Circus). It has also called on Sadiq Khan to further reduce the flow of buses and taxis in the area.
The council's decision was generally poorly received from businesses who had been expecting the plans to go ahead. They expressed concern that the area could become increasingly congested by the people traffic brought in through the Elizabeth Line, scheduled to launch in December, also the start-date for Oxford Street.
The City Hall source added: "If the council wants further funds from TfL, it is essential that any alternative scheme addresses the core challenges of improving the experience of visitors to the street, tackling the illegal levels of air pollution, and addressing the serious overcrowding and road danger issues that will only be exacerbated by the opening of the Elizabeth Line."
The council said it was looking closely at safety measures ahead of Elizabeth Line stations at Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street opening in December.
WCC leader Nickie Aiken said the council's scheme was "more than a transport scheme".
"It will ensure Oxford Street retains its status as the nation’s high street in a rapidly evolving retail environment and is renowned as a must-visit destination by visitors from London, the UK and overseas.”
Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon said WCC's proposals were "merely tinkering at the edges".
“For a long time Westminster City Council had a constructive working relationship with TfL," she said. Suddenly they think that they alone can transform Oxford Street.
“However much Westminster City Council might want to spin their proposals they sadly fall very short of the ambition and huge benefits that full pedestrianisation will bring. Their proposals are merely tinkering at the edges.
“Westminster City Council are sadly misguided in their plans which fail to address that Oxford Street is a road of strategic importance for the whole of London.”
WCC's new plan for Oxford Street
|Placed Based Strategy Stages
|A comprehensive audit and engagement with residents and other stakeholders to establish issues, priorities, vision and projects for the district
|July to August 2018
|The production of a Place Based Strategy to inform the development of preferred solutions for the district
|September to October 2018
|Adoption of the Oxford Street District Place Strategy and Delivery Plan by Cabinet
TfL's original plans
The timescale of the transformation plan:
First stage of Oxford Street pedestrianisation: