Westminster council presses ahead with Oxford Street strategy – without TfL's help

 
Alexandra Rogers
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This is how TfL wanted Oxford Street to look

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."

Read more: Mayor warns Westminster of funding freeze for Oxford Street alternative

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

Timescale

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

Public consultation

November 2018

Adoption of the Oxford Street District Place Strategy and Delivery Plan by Cabinet

January 2019

Source: Westminster City Council

TfL's original plans

The timescale of the transformation plan:

First stage of Oxford Street pedestrianisation:

  • All east-west traffic restricted from entering between Orchard Street and Oxford Circus
  • North-south routes would be maintained through that section
  • New seating placed along the street
  • Cyclists to dismount when travelling the section
  • Just two bus routes to operate along Oxford Street
  • More than 2km of pavements widened to provide more space
  • Six new pedestrian crossings along Wigmore Street
  • New taxi ranks created close to Oxford Street to allow black cabs to pick up and drop off passengers

Read more: Oxford Street pedestrianisation alternative: Council sets out next steps

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