Sadiq Khan still keen on Oxford Street pedestrianisation

Sadiq Khan still keen on Oxford Street pedestrianisation

Pedestrianising Oxford Street is still firmly on the City Hall agenda, despite continuing opposition from Westminster Council, Sadiq Khan confirmed at yesterday’s Mayor’s Question Time session.

Plans for a traffic-free Oxford Street were a prominent part of Khan’s manifesto ahead of his election in 2016, but despite an initial positive response from then Tory-controlled Westminster, the council, which is responsible for the shopping street, torpedoed the scheme in 2018.

A change of political control in 2022, with Labour winning the council for the first time, has not brought a change of heart, Khan said. Agreeing with Liberal Democrat Assembly member (AM) Caroline Pidgeon that “Oxford Street isn’t what it used to be”, the Mayor nevertheless welcomed the council’s more limited makeover now getting underway, including environmental improvements and action to close down a rash of “US-style” candy stores.

Pidgeon argued that that scheme itself, which includes 12 new pedestrian crossing points and improvements to 45 existing crossings along the 1.8 kilometre street, “surely underlines the need to go the whole way and pedestrianise it,” again winning Khan’s agreement.

Removing traffic from Carnaby Street in 1973 had seen footfall increase by 30 per cent, she said, while Khan cited the recent “transformation” brought about by pedestrianising part of the Strand at Aldwych. “High streets need to change to become more attractive to visitors, and we know that pedestrianisation can boost footfall and sales,” said Pidgeon, urging the Mayor to consider setting up a fund to support pedestrianisation plans for high streets across the capital as well as continuing to make the Oxford Street case.

Setting out his existing support for the city’s high streets, including his £4 million High Streets For All Challenge and £50 million of Good Growth funding, Khan also criticised new government proposals to extend permitted development rights, which allow shops and offices to be converted to housing without needed planning permission.

The proposals, which would allowconversion of properties up to 3,000 square metres – medium department store size – as well as conversion of hotels and boarding houses, would “damage high streets and the central activities zone (covering the West End and the City), and undermine borough-level decision-making,” he said.

Khan was lukewarm, however, towards a proposal from Pidgeon’s AM colleague Hina Bokhari that Sunday trading laws restricting opening hours for larger shops should be scrapped completely to support high streets, suggesting the government could initially run pilot schemes in the West End.

And the Mayor was also not convinced by calls from Green party AM Sian Berry to get tough with councils refusing to implement “healthy streets” schemes for active travel, or removing schemes introduced with mayoral funding, including  the Kensington High Street cycle lane and low traffic neighbourhood schemes in Tower Hamlets.

“Londoners need you to stand up for them where policies are affecting their lives,” Berry said. Khan should be using powers set out in the Greater London Authority Act 1999, which established the mayoralty, to block council decisions at odds with City Hall transport policies, she said. “I don’t think the powers were put into the Act thinking they would never be used,” she added.

However, Khan replied that those powers are difficult to use successfully. “Councils should be in charge of their roads,” he added, “I  believe in devolution, and I’m cautious about giving the impression that City Hall will force councils to change their minds.” There were other possible options, including withholding TfL funding for borough schemes where there was non-compliance, he said.

Watch Mayor’s Question Time in full here. X/Twitter: Charles Wright and On London. If you value On London and its writers, become a supporter or a paid subscriber to publisher and editor Dave Hill’s personal Substack. Thanks.

Categories: News


  1. MilesT says:

    Pedestrianisation of Oxford Street will make access by low mobility disabled significantly harder, and is likely to increase snatch and grab crime enabled by criminals using wheeled vehicles of all sorts.

    Mobility access would need significant extra support baked into the design.

    Preventing increase in crime would require access to be limited, really only possible if the street is fully enclosed and/or significant barriers put in place to limit free movement (ensuring no straight through paths down the centre). And if I wanted to go to a shopping mall I would go to Brent Cross, Croydon, Shepherds Bush, or Stratford

    None of the visualisations to date have shown any such mitigations to either problem.

    Carnaby Street is not a good comparator as it is narrower, curved, and has fewer side streets for rapid ingress and egress.

  2. Soho says:

    I believe that some streets in London should be pedestrianised, and indeed, Oxford Street should be pedestrianised. Let’s consider other streets such as Carnaby Street in Soho, which has already been pedestrianised, and Leicester Square, which has also been pedestrianised. These are excellent examples that demonstrate with proper planning, anything is possible, and these areas can flourish. This benefits not only sales and the revitalisation of the area but also enhances security

    1. DAVID KANER says:

      When streets are pedestianised the question is where does the traffic go. Many plans assume it will vanish – but there is a limit to traffic evaporation.
      Pedestrianising Oxford Street will push traffic onto other streets, which has impacts on other areas. Leicester Square, Carnaby Street were not major thoroughfares, Oxford Street is, particulalrly at night.

      Timed pedestrianisation is a possibility, but this wasn’t on offer in 2018 and sin’t now.

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