Oxford Circus Piazza plan cancelled after Marble Arch Mound fiasco
Plans to create two temporary pedestrian piazzas on either side of London’s Oxford Circus before Christmas have been shelved. The decision by Westminster City Council is linked to the costly public relations failure of its £6 million Marble Arch ‘Mound’ attraction earlier this summer.
The announcement came as the council’s leader insisted full pedestrianisation of the street was “not an option”, despite a need to lure back shoppers as 20% of the famous street’s stores have been closed, hit by both the pandemic and the increasing digitalisation of retail.
Council chiefs decided this week to axe plans to start work on the Oxford Circus scheme, telling The Standard newspaper that its officials decided on a much more cautious approach to long-awaited changes to Oxford Street following the Mound fiasco that had forced deputy council leader in charge of the project to quit last month.
The aim had been to close a 150m-long section to vehicles before the end of the year, and “calm” traffic in adjacent Regent Street with longer green phases at pedestrian crossings and other measures.
This also means the new Crossrail train system, which will have two stations on Oxford Street (at Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road), 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.”
London 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 told the newspaper: “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 Oxford 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 [its] pedestrianisation. 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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