A consultation on the future of Oxford Street has begun. This “Transformation” project is aimed at improving the street and helping to cope with the predicted increase in visitors with the arrival of Crossrail. It is, however, taking place in the light of the Mayor’s wish to pedestrianise Oxford Street, initially from Orchard Street to Oxford Circus, with the rest to follow soon afterwards. We have previously expressed great concern at the potential for such a scheme to blight our area with much of the traffic that presently uses Oxford Street.
This initial consultation contains only three questions, but the first key question seeks only to measure support for “transformation”. It is easy to support improvements but, as there are no actual plans to assess, this becomes a trap. The background information to the consultation points out some of the issues for the surrounding area – increased congestion, pollution etc and mentions unspecified “mitigation measures”. There is insufficient information to judge the possible serious effects on the area at large and traffic modelling data is not yet available to consider the potential impacts.
As the number of responses for and against “transformation” may ultimately be very influential in helping the Mayor reach a final decision on pedestrianisation, we have no choice but to encourage members to select the third answer to question one - “I do not support the transformation of Oxford Street”.
This will strengthen our argument that time must be taken to assess the improvement brought by the planned 40% reduction in buses along Oxford Street and the introduction of low emission vehicles. Efficient enforcement is also needed against traffic which flaunts the current restrictions. There is too much at stake to rush into hastily drawn-up plans.
The consultation contains statements like: “We could divert some buses to a suitable alternative route such as Wigmore Street”, failing to mention that this would require two-way traffic on Wigmore Street which struggles to cope with its existing traffic levels. Many vehicles will seek to avoid this extra congestion by using the narrow residential roads of the area.
A number of “roadshows” have been arranged to give the opportunity for questions, but the election has delayed these until the period of 10 to 16 June, shortly before the consultation closes on 18 June.
Removing all traffic from Oxford Street does not solve the problems, it simply moves and worsens them. People need to reach the shops and to take their purchases home. The disabled, in particular, need transport which works for them. Staff need to reach their places of work and businesses need to restock. On Oxford Street a third of businesses have no rear access.
With traffic reduction measures and improvements to the public realm, Oxford Street can be made an even more attractive and very civilised place to shop and to work without further harming the lives of those in the surrounding areas. With pedestrianisation it could become a blight on Marylebone and other surrounding areas.
Please reply to the consultation which can be found here Oxford Street Consultation