London mayor Sadiq Khan has criticised Westminster Council for blocking a proposal to make Oxford Street pedestrianised.
The council has ruled out the possibility of transforming the shopping thoroughfare into a traffic-free zone, citing a lack of community support.
Khan, who pledged to deliver the project when he ran for office, branded the decision as “a real threat to the future of Oxford Street”.
“This will be seen as a betrayal of the millions of Londoners and visitors to our city who would have benefited from making Oxford Street a safer, healthier and better environment,” Khan said.
Plans to transform the retail-destination road into a pedestrian zone filled with art were announced last year, with traffic restrictions due to be enforced by the end of 2018.
The plans involved bringing roads up to pavement level, for better wheelchair accessibility, and re-routing buses, to cut down emissions on what is one of the most polluted roads in Europe
According to de zeen, council leader Nickie Aiken said she could only support a proposal if everyone can benefit from improvements and not just certain groups.
“I utterly reject any suggestion that there is any kind of betrayal,” Aiken stated. “Quite the contrary, we are sticking up for the people who know best, those who live and work in the district.”
The first stage of Khan’s proposal was to pedestrianise the stretch to the west of Oxford Circus, filling the street with plazas, benches and an 800-metre artwork.
This was due to be followed in 2019 by the pedestrianisation of the eastern section culminating at Tottenham Court Road, while the final section near Marble Arch was to be converted by 2020.
Over a million people were reportedly contacted in the consultation process. Of the 14,377 respondents, 9,000 people either fully supported the project or had only “some” concerns.
However, Westminster Council suggested that with cars and bus routes diverted, additional vehicle traffic pressure would be placed on nearby side streets by the plans. Aiken is now calling for a rethink of the whole strategy.