Westminster City Council has unveiled fresh plans to future-proof the Oxford Circus area, after its initial proposal to pedestrianise Oxford Street was scrapped.
The council plans to set aside £150m for the new Place Strategy and Delivery Plan, which aims to provide major improvements across the shopping district, including Oxford Circus, Marble Arch and Cavendish Square.
An extra 60 million people a year are expected to visit the area from 2020 once the new Elizabeth Line stations open, though the launch of the new line has been delayed by nine months already. Proposals put forward by the council a year ago set out plans for a pedestrianised area between Oxford Circus and Orchard Street to improve accessibility but were later dropped when it failed to gain sufficient backing following a public consultation.
The fresh strategy sees the council separate the district into nine zones, consisting of 85 streets, where changes and improvements can be made. It has identified a total of 94 projects to be included in the plans, which have been drawn up following recent discussions with 50 stakeholder groups, from residents to businesses, people who work in the area, young people and special interest groups.
The new proposals will see pedestrians prioritised by increasing the amount of walking spaces in the area equivalent to the size of two new Trafalgar Squares. While the council plans to create new public spaces, such as a piazza-style area at Oxford Circus, it stresses that Oxford Street will continue to have two-way traffic along its length.
There will be changes for vehicles in the area however; 24-hour bus routes will continue to run along Oxford Street, while a new 20mph speed limit will aim to be introduced in the future alongside a ban on all commercial vehicles that are not zero emissions compliant. New cycling routes will also be drawn up across the area, while an ambitious programme to enlarge green areas has been included in the proposals.
Retailers are set to benefit from the plans by having improved lighting for shop fronts and building exteriors, designed to celebrate the rich heritage and architecture in the area, while spaces higher up in the buildings on Oxford Street will diversify their offerings, from containing offices and hotels to restaurants and residential spaces.
The council plans to set aside £50m a year over the next three years to fund the new strategy and will seek investment from public and private partners to back the improvements.
Counsellor Richard Beddoe, cabinet member for place shaping and planning, said: “No other major city in the world has sought to refresh and revitalise a whole district in such a comprehensive and ambitious fashion.
“In developing this strategy we have listened carefully to those who know best – those who live, work, visit and do business in the area that has helped shape our deep understanding of what makes the place so special and what we should do to enhance the area.
“We are all well aware of the challenges the district faces and we want to bring all the available public and private resources to bear to tackle them head on and future proof the district’s ongoing success which is vital for Westminster and London. This strategy and the significant funding we have set aside is the enabler to make this happen.”
The new strategy will now be considered by the Westminster City Council Cabinet when it meets on 25 October. The formal public consultation on the plans is expected to be held between 6 November and 16 December this year.