New vision for London's Oxford street unveiled

London’s Oxford Street needs to be transformed says the New West End Company, which represents the retailers who trade there, and it has come up with a plan of what it thinks needs to happen.


New West End Company


It believes the plan will create 27,000 new jobs and will tackle major issues such as traffic congestion and poor air quality in the area.

So what’s on the NWEC hitlist? In a study entitled A future for the Oxford Street District, it sets out a plan to create a more diverse district “capable of providing a world-class experience” for the 260m projected annual visits following the full opening of the new underground extension, the Elizabeth Line, by 2020.

It’s recommending “rebalancing modes of transport in and around Oxford Street” and the creation of clear pedestrian and cycle routes to ensure the safe movement of people and improve air quality. This move towards pedestrianisation has long been an aspiration of NWEC and many of the retailers that form part of the group, although implementing it in one of London busiest areas has always been an issue.

Additionally, the group wants to recognise that the street isn’t just about retail and is urging the enhancement of the evening economy by diversifying the range of uses and “encouraging diverse informal cultural and community events”.

NWEC is also recommending the improvement of the overall environment and experience for shoppers with the creation of play spaces, as well as enhanced lighting and wayfinding, and the addition of flexible and green open spaces.

It said that clear routes between Oxford Street and the surrounding neighbourhoods of Mayfair, Marylebone, Fitzrovia, Soho, Bloomsbury, Covent Garden and Hyde Park would encourage exploration and connections to the wider West End.

One interesting recommendation is to “curate variety in retail, and other public uses, through innovative intermediate uses of buildings and spaces which capitalise on and engage with the development process.” That would mean reviewing current planning policy to allow letting to entry-level retailers for short periods of time if a building is vacant.

And another recommendation would address the issue of multiple flagships from the same brands dotted up and down the street (and in the surrounding thoroughfares). That would mean “considering the assets and needs of the whole district when choosing new occupiers in order to provide the greatest possible retail mix.” NWEC wants to encourage brands with multiple units within the district to “enhance the identity of individual stores and to provide a unique retail experience in each that responds to the local character and demographic of shoppers at that location.” In short, less uniformity, more variety.


Oxford Street today


The group believes that all this could add up to almost 2,000 new jobs a year over a 15-year period and would also generate up to £206m planning contributions for Westminster City Council and the Mayor of London and up to £160m additional annual revenue in Business Rates to invest in West End priorities and improvements.
 
The study will form the basis of NWEC’s formal response to the consultation launched in April by Westminster City Council and Transport for London on the transformation of Oxford Street.

CEO Jace Tyrrell said: “The West End’s businesses have an aspiration for Oxford Street district to be transformed from a single shopping street into a varied, entertaining and well-connected district. Their vision for the area is that is becomes a vibrant centre for civic life, culture and commerce with the world’s best retail district at its heart. Our study brings this to life and makes implementable recommendations for its realisation to ensure that the West End can compete with fierce international competition and leads the way as a global retail and leisure destination.”
 
Sue West, Director of Operations at Selfridges, who is also an NWEC board member, added: “This is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to reimagine one of the world’s most famous shopping streets as the world of retail continues to evolve. We have the opportunity enhance Oxford Street’s standing as an integral part of a global shopping, cultural and commercial centre, restore its position as a focus for experimental design, culture, spectacle and entertainment while at the same time maintaining its historic character, not least it links to its established residential neighbourhoods.”

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