London's Oxford Circus to be transformed with pedestrianisation to tackle congestion and air quality

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London's famous Oxford Circus is to be transformed into two pedestrianised piazzas to create an "iconic destination" which will help to improve safety and air quality in the heart of the capital.

Work is due to begin later this year as part of major changes to tackle the area's "serious congestion" which council leaders said is "unsustainable and demands action".

The project will work with Transport for London to improve access to Oxford Circus Tube station and prioritise pedestrians.

Pedestrianising Oxford Circus has been a point of discussion for councils for many years, going back as far as the 1980s.

Plans were often paused because of difficulties with re-routing public transport, as well as increasing journey times and potential losses for taxi drivers.

The new Elizabeth Line is expected to help attract an extra 60 million pedestrians a year to the centre of London - and 70% of people will travel to Oxford Street via the underground.

Westminster City Council leader Rachael Robathan said: "There is an urgent need to tackle issues with pedestrian congestion and safety, poor air quality and noise.

"The serious congestion of Oxford Circus, of people and of traffic, is unsustainable and demands action.

"In the aftermath of the pandemic, and with the arrival of the Elizabeth Line, there is an overwhelming need and a compelling opportunity to build back better; a business-as-usual approach will no longer work.

"We hope the creation of these pedestrian-only piazzas at Oxford Circus will not only improve safety, security and accessibility but create an iconic destination at the heart of London."

The scheme is linked with Westminster City Council's Greenways project, which is designed to improve the experience of cyclists across the Oxford Street area and in the borough.

A design competition run by the Royal Institute of British Architects starting this summer will help to deliver the final scheme to ensure "world-class designs" and "value for money".

The plans will see additional planting and seating in the shopping and leisure district as part of "significant improvements to the public spaces", according to the announcement of the project by Westminster City Council and the Crown Estate.

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