Westminster Council has blocked the Mayor of London’s plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street, Europe’s busiest shopping destination, which sees more than 500,000 visitors a day.
Sadiq Khan wants to ban traffic along an 800-metre stretch from Oxford Circus to Marble Arch from late this year, as set out in his 2016 manifesto to “restore London’s air quality to legal and safe levels”.
But Daniel Astaire, Westminster cabinet member for Oxford Street, said: “the overwhelming majority of Westminster’s residents and businesses” were against the plans as diverted traffic could create a gridlock in surrounding streets.
The pedestrianisation would coincide with the Crossrail’s new Elizabeth Line opening in December, which is expected to draw an extra 60m visitors a year from 2020 according to Transport for London.
Alex Williams, TFL City planning director, said: “Wherever you go around the world, if you mention Oxford Street, people know you are talking about London. However, the area is already very busy and growth in London’s economy will bring even more people to the area.”
A recent analysis of pan-European footfall from BNP Paribas Real Estate showed that Oxford Street has the largest footfall of any European city with 13,590 visitors an hour and TFL now expects this number to increase.
Oxford Street, Bond Street, and Regent Street alone contribute around £7.6bn to the UK economy each year. TFL hope to boost this further, addressing overcrowding and providing a hub where shoppers want to spend more time.
Mr Astaire told officials to stop working on plans for pedestrianisation and warned that any legal action from TFL could take four years.
He said Westminster could only back a plan that addressed the concerns of residents and that, “at present there is no scheme nor proposal which is acceptable to the council.”
Image: TFL, Artist’s illustration of pedestrianised Oxford Street