Westminster City Council’s plans for the Oxford Street District in Financial Times

Following the release of Westminster City Council’s plans to enhance the Oxford Street District, Chief Executive Jace Tyrrell spoke to the Financial Times and BBC Radio London to give his initial response to the proposals, stating that while West End businesses welcomed the plans and the significance placed on Oxford Street, they want the street to be “pedestrian first”. To read the full Financial Times piece see below.

Click the below button to listen to his interview with BBC Radio London:

 

New West End Company’s reaction was also picked up by Property Week and Fashion United.

 

Financial Times piece:

Westminster proposes banning polluting buses from Oxford Street

Westminster council has proposed banning all buses and commercial vehicles that are not zero-emission from Oxford Street, a day after the City of London’s financial district set out a similar plan for its streets.

The council published draft proposals for revamping and reviving the country’s busiest shopping street and the surrounding area months after deciding it would not pedestrianise the road, provoking a row with the mayor of London. It will spend £150m over the next three years on its changes.

Its other proposals included:

  • A new “piazza-style space” at the busy Oxford Circus junction
  • A 20mph speed limit
  • Two new east-west cycle routes to the north and south of Oxford Street

Richard Beddoe, cabinet member for place-shaping and planning, said on Thursday that the council’s plans were “comprehensive and ambitious”. The council did not set a date for its zero-emission target.

Oxford Street is Britain’s best-known shopping artery, with £5bn annual turnover, according to the New West End Company, which represents 600 local businesses.

Craig McWilliam, chief executive of Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, which has large landholdings in Mayfair, to the south of Oxford Street, said: “We hope these proposals can bring an end to the perceived trade-off between economic growth in the West End and a better experience for residents.”

The proposals came in the face of bleak news for Oxford Street’s flagship department store tenants: House of Fraser intended to close its branch there as part of a restructuring deal before being rescued, while John Lewis’ profits fell 99 per cent in the first half of this year.

Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, said the £150m commitment was “remarkable” and made it clear that while his members did not want Oxford Street to be fully pedestrianised, they did want it to be “pedestrian first”.

The City of London Corporation intends to introduce interim zero-emission zones covering the east of the City and the Barbican by 2022 and will lobby the mayor’s office to create a wider zero-emission zone across central London. The corporation’s Chris Hayward, chairman of the planning and transportation committee, said: “Air quality is probably one of the most important political priorities today. We’re at war with air pollution.”

After Westminster’s decision in June, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan banned the council from using any funds from Transport for London, the city’s transport authority, to develop another strategy without his approval. In July Heidi Alexander, his deputy mayor for transport, called Westminster council “hugely selfish” for abandoning plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street.

Responding to Westminster’s new proposals, a spokesperson for the mayor said “nothing short of a transformation is required” for Oxford Street and plans must deal with air quality and overcrowding.

They refused to indicate whether the mayor would allocate or deny funding planned for the original pedestrianisation. Oxford Street is visited by 200m people a year and is a main east-west route for buses and black cabs. It regularly breaches air pollution limits. The opening in late 2019 of the £15bn Elizabeth rail line, which runs under the road, will add another 60m people to the crowds every year and was the impetus for change.

Fri 19 October 2018