Westminster to move on with Oxford Street plans without Mayor and TfL
The battle for the future of London's Oxford Street goes on with Westminster City Council – the local authority ultimately responsible for the street – now planning to proceed without the backing of London's Mayor and its transport body TfL.
The Mayor and TfL had fully supported pedestrianisation proposals but the council withdrew its support after consulting local residents and finding considerable opposition.
Now Westminster councillors have agreed to draw up the body’s own strategy, a process that will cost over £700,000, which the council will have to meet in full itself without any mayoral or TfL funding.
The council is working on an "area-wide strategy" that will take in the space from Marble Arch up to Tottenham Court Road, but no major pedestrianisation will be part of the plan.
The earlier, now-axed, strategy had been to ban traffic from Selfridges to Oxford Circus, but while that plan is off the table, the council has called on the Mayor to further reduce the number of buses and taxis travelling along Oxford Street.
While public transport vehicles have been the only ones allowed on the street during business hours for several decades now, the banning of private vehicles hasn't reduced congestion or pollution. And indeed, the large number of buses (many of which have few passengers in them) often running bumper-to-bumper along the street have created their own problems.
There remains significant opposition to Westminster’s go-it-alone strategy with campaigners saying that only pedestrianisation can deal with pollution problems and create a more consumer-friendly shopping neighbourhood.
However, there's no denying that diverting traffic from the street would have put huge pressure on surrounding roads and this is perhaps why the Oxford Street pedestrianisation issue has been tossed back and forth with no result for so many decades, because there are no easy solutions.
So what happens now? Westminster is engaging with residents and other stakeholders during this month and next and in early autumn will produce some concrete plans. November will see a public consultation with decisions being made by next January.
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