Oxford Circus is to be transformed into two pedestrian-friendly piazzas as part of plans unveiled by Westminster City Council and The Crown Estate in a project described as becoming “London’s front door”.
Westminster City Council says the “reinvention” of the Circus as a “world-leading, forward-facing, urban space”, is “the latest step in the council’s ambitious plans to revive Oxford Street and the wider District, for its vision for a greener, smarter future for the West End”.
Westminster says it’s already committed £150m to kickstart the OSD programmes and attract inward investment, taking full advantage of the Elizabeth Line opening in 2022 and the area’s links to the wider West End and beyond.
Westminster City Council Leader Rachael Robathan said, “These new bold plans to reinvent Oxford Circus will see the first significant redesign of the nation’s favourite high street in decades. We hope the creation of these pedestrian-only piazzas at Oxford Circus, surrounded by newly planted trees and large seating areas, will instil much needed confidence in the West End and support local businesses severely affected by the pandemic. We want to bring the excitement and buzz back to these famous streets and make Oxford Circus London’s front door.
“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, accessibility and but create an iconic destination at the heart of London.”
The final design will be the subject of an international design competition.
In a statement the planners further say:
The new Oxford Circus plans will be delivered through a phased approach, starting with two ‘car free’ piazzas on Oxford Street, either end of the Circus, with a target delivery by end of 2021.
The plans for Oxford Circus will improve the experience for people living in, working in and visiting the area. The safety and security of pedestrians is paramount, and will be improved through the introduction of pedestrian-only piazzas at Oxford Circus to reduce pedestrian congestion; a much-needed measure that will be made even more necessary with the arrival of the additional people who will come to the district on the newly built Elizabeth Line. Traffic will continue along Regent Street, north and south of Oxford Circus.
By prioritising people over vehicles, the changes also aim to improve air quality. Works on Oxford Circus are expected to reduce vehicle traffic and improve efficiency of bus journeys across the area. The scheme is linked with Westminster City Council’s ‘Greenways’ project, which is designed to improve the experience of cyclists across the Oxford Street District and in the borough.
These new plans respond to massive changes to shopping habits and working patterns, that have been accelerated by Covid-19. It reimagines the nation’s favourite high street through the following themes; GREENER, SMARTER, FUTURE and TOGETHER to create a globally competitive centre for innovative retail, commercial activities, culture and living.
(Picture – Westminster City Council/Publica)