Oxford Street: Sadiq Khan still hopes for full pedestrianisation, admits it is ‘not what it used to be’

Previous plans to make Oxford Street traffic-free were blocked in 2018 by the council, and in 2022, proposals to create a pedestrian “piazza” were also canned.
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Sadiq Khan has praised Westminster Council for coming “a long way” in its approach to Oxford Street since 2022 - though said he will continue to try to persuade it to pedestrianise the world-famous shopping destination.

The London mayor has long-backed removing vehicles from Oxford Street, and it featured heavily in his 2016 election manifesto.

Currently, Oxford Street is limited to buses, taxis and cyclists, plus pedestrians, from 7am to 7pm Monday to Saturday, between Portman Street and Great Portland Street eastbound, and Oxford Circus and Binney Street westbound.

Previous plans to make it traffic-free were blocked in 2018 by the then-Tory council, and in 2022, under the Labour administration elected in May last year, proposals to create a pedestrian “piazza” were also canned.

Oxford Street is one of London’s flagship shopping destinations. Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.Oxford Street is one of London’s flagship shopping destinations. Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.
Oxford Street is one of London’s flagship shopping destinations. Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

During yesterday’s (October 12) Mayor’s Question Time, Liberal Democrat assembly member Caroline Pidgeon raised the potential benefits of looking again at removing vehicles from the city’s flagship shopping street.

She said a current scheme being put in motion by the council, which includes increased space for pedestrians, improved lighting, more green areas and greater traffic restrictions, “surely underlines the need to go the whole way and pedestrianise it”.

Ms Pidgeon went on to reference Carnaby Street as a local success story, which, after traffic was removed in 1973, experienced a 30% increase in the number of pedestrians entering the area.

The plans include greater space for walking down Oxford Street. Credit: Oxford Street Programme.The plans include greater space for walking down Oxford Street. Credit: Oxford Street Programme.
The plans include greater space for walking down Oxford Street. Credit: Oxford Street Programme.

Mr Khan, who had early in the session conceded Oxford Street is “not what it used to be”, quipped that he could have “written your words for you” in response, noting the additional example of The Strand as an area which had been part-pedestrianised to great effect.

“But to give the council credit,” he continued, “they’ve come a long way since where we were in 2022, if not before then, and also they’ve managed to attract good new businesses as well, which is interesting, and it shows that their strategy is working. And I’ll continue to try and persuade them to go even further.”

Pushed as to whether he will introduce a fund as part of his next budget to help pedestrianise more high streets through the city, Mr Khan was however less forthcoming, saying it is “not as simple as that” and refusing to commit.

Following Mayor’s Question Time, Cllr Geoff Barraclough, cabinet member for planning and economic development at Westminster Council, told LondonWorld: “There are no plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street. The council’s priority is to create an exciting and unique shopping experience that is accessible for everyone, and that is what our new programme of £90m investment will deliver.”

The council’s current plans were revised down from an initial £120 million, partially due to the previous administration’s failed Marble Arch project.

They encompass the entire 1.8km length of the street, from Marble Arch to Tottenham Court Road.

As well as more space for pedestrians, they also include 12 new crossings, and 16 “designated amenity spaces”, providing gathering and resting spaces for visitors.