Oxford Street pedestrian piazza plans put on ice after Marble Arch ‘mound’ fiasco

·2-min read
Artist’s impression of the Oxford Circus piazza   (PA)
Artist’s impression of the Oxford Circus piazza (PA)

The £6 million Marble Arch mound fiasco has scuppered plans for a major make-over of Oxford Street before Christmas.

Westminster council has shelved plans to create two temporary pedestrian piazzas on either side of Oxford Circus.

The announcement came as the Tory council’s leader insisted full pedestrianisation of the street was “not an option” despite 20 per cent of its shops having been closed by the pandemic.

Council chiefs decided this week to axe plans to start work at Oxford Circus after the poorly-planned mound became an international laughing stock.

Its costs doubled to £6 million, plans to charge visitors had to be abandoned and the deputy council leader in charge of the project quit last month.

The Standard was told that, as a result, officials decided on a much more cautious approach to long-awaited changes to Oxford Street. The aim had been to close a 150m-long section to vehicles by the end of the year, and “calm” traffic in Regent Street with longer green phases at pedestrian crossings and other measures.

This means Crossrail — which will have two stations on Oxford Street, at Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street — could open next year before extra space is created for pedestrians.

Matthew Green, Westminster’s cabinet member for business, said: “Having listened to residents and reviewed the cost-effectiveness of the proposal for a pilot for the Oxford Circus piazzas, we have decided that it’s better to move forward with a focus on permanent schemes. Therefore, the temporary piazzas previously planned to open at Oxford Circus later this year will not now go ahead.”

Mayor Sadiq Khan, whose 2018 plan to part-pedestrianise the street near Selfridges was blocked by the council, said he was disappointed that the plans had been postponed.

A mayoral spokesperson said: “The West End has hugely suffered over the past 18 months and making our high streets cleaner, greener and more attractive is more important than ever as we work to entice visitors back and support businesses.

“It’s disappointing that Westminster City Council has decided to stop work on the temporary piazzas, and we hope the council, working with local communities, will now bring forward proposals for permanent improvements to Oxford Circus as soon as possible.”

Westminster leader Rachael Robathan said she had no wish to fully pedestrianise the street. She told BBC Radio London: “We don’t see it as inevitable. Back in 2018 there was very clear feedback that people didn’t support the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street.”

She added: “Do we need to do something about Oxford Street, with one in five retail outlets now shut? Absolutely we do… But the pedestrianisation of the whole street is not an option.”

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