The Oxford Street redevelopment has been quite the saga – now, the new plans have been revealed.
A plan to pedestrianise the perennially crowded Oxford Street has been in the works as far back as 2016, and whilst we were rather excited for the car-free street, plans hit a snag when Westminster Council threw up objections to TfL & the Mayor’s vision, on the grounds that residents (yes, people do live around here) were unhappy with the scheme. Anyway, the council then proposed their own Oxford Street redevelopment plans, with a £150m investment to transform the shopping paradise. This was announced back in 2018, and things went pretty quiet as the council earmarked three years of fundraising to bring it to life. Now, however, the plans have been revealed, and there’s plenty to be excited about.
At the heart of the redevelopment are a pair of pedestrian-friendly piazzas, billed by a council press release as “London’s front door”. These will be found either side of Oxford Circus, which has been a lovably chaotic part of town for over 200 years. One will stretch from the western edge of Oxford Circus to John Prince’s Street (where you’ll find mini-golfing spot Swingers, and a lot of bus stops), and the other from the east side of Oxford Circus to Great Portland Street (the stretch which includes the main Tube exit, and the dearly departed “big Topshop“). In each case, traffic moving along Oxford Street will be directed north, up John Prince’s Street and Great Portland Street.
It’s not a huge area to be pedestrianised, but it’s a significant one, allowing traffic to only flow up and down Regent Street, rather than in four directions across the current layout. In fact, Regent Street itself saw a pre-Christmas renovation, including wider pavements, dedicated cycle lanes, more plants and greenery, and reduced road space in a bid to encourage walking and cycling. Coupled with the new plans for Oxford Street, this will all add up to a rather drastic (and welcome!) change for the area.
Work is set to begin later this year on the Oxford Street redevelopment, including the launch of the RIBA International Design Competition this summer, a gambit to invite architects, designers, and city planners from across the world to submit their vision for the new piazzas. The focus is on ‘world-class’ designs and value for money, so if you know a decent architect, put ’em on the case. Elsewhere, the work will focus on adding planters and extra seating to improve aesthetics, improvement to public spaces (think eating, drinking, and shopping spots), and improved access to Oxford Circus Tube station.
The council will experiment this summer by closing parts of Oxford Street to traffic. These will be the stretches of road where the piazzas will eventually be located, to check how it affects traffic flow in the area, and to improve the efficiency of bus journeys in the area, and is expected to begin in July. Eventually, the street will be served by Crossrail stations at Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road, but putting a timeline on that has proved notoriously tricky. In fact, it’s wariness of the extra 1.5 million people per year ferried to the district by Crossrail that’s help drive these changes, with issues such as poor air quality, congestion, crowding and safety all hopefully addressed by the redevelopment. Plans to add two extra entrances to Oxford Circus station are tentatively scheduled for 2024/2025, but require further consultations and more cash.
The rest of Oxford Street will remain open to two-way traffic, although previously-mentioned plans such as 20mph speed limits, and the banning of any commercial vehicles that aren’t zero-emission, are expected to be enforced for the street. Overall, the target is “a greener, smarter future for the West End”, and the planned date for the pedestrian piazzas to open is November 2021 – just in time for the Christmas rush! We’ll keep you updated as works continue.
In other news, a giant mound is being built at Marble Arch this summer, offering the public great views over Hyde Park.
Also published on Medium.