Sadiq Khan has confirmed that he still wants to see Oxford Street pedestrianised, as he admitted that the famous shopping destination “isn’t what it used to be”.
Asked this week about his ambition to ban cars from the street, which he first committed to in 2016, he said he was trying to use his “charm” to persuade Westminster City Council that pedestrianisation “is the right thing to do”.
The council is opposed to the move, citing concerns raised locally “about the potential impact on public transport, traffic diversions and disabled access in the area”.
In his 2016 election manifesto, the mayor told voters he wanted “to turn one of the world’s most polluted streets into one of the world’s finest public spaces – a tree-lined avenue from Tottenham Court Road to Marble Arch”.
The topic was raised by Caroline Pidgeon, the London Assembly’s Liberal Democrat group leader, at a Mayor’s Question Time session on Thursday.
She told Mr Khan: “Oxford Street is London’s flagship high street and yet it’s struggling, like so many others.
“The pedestrianisation of Oxford Street was in your 2016 manifesto – yet despite your efforts in 2018, Westminster Council withdrew from the plans.
“Given the change in administration in Westminster [from Conservative to Labour in 2022] what conversations have you had with Westminster Council about fully pedestrianising Oxford Street?”
The mayor said that while he “loves” Oxford Street, he acknowledges it “isn’t what it used to be”.
He added that City Hall has been having “really good conversations with the new [Labour-run] council, who have already invested significant sums in regenerating Oxford Street.”
The mayor continued: “They’ve begun the process – that begins with getting rid of these candy shops, [as] many of them may be acting illegally. We’ve also had good news in relation to new businesses going into Oxford Street.
“They’re also working on schemes to look at different parts of Oxford Street. I’m afraid – it’s just the reality – they’re not in favour of the full street being pedestrianised. I still try and use one’s charm to persuade them that’s the right thing to do.
“In the meantime though, they’ve got some really exciting plans in relation to regeneration, and I’m fully supportive of their plans.”
Ms Pidgeon pointed out that Westminster’s plans include the installation of “twelve new controlled pedestrian crossings and improving 45 existing crossing points”.
She pressed the mayor on whether he will push the council “to go the whole way, and pedestrianise it”, adding: “When Carnaby Street was pedestrianised back in 1973, they saw a 30 per cent increase in the number of pedestrians entering the area.”
Mr Khan agreed that pedestrianisation has had positive effects elsewhere, pointing to the section of the Strand outside Somerset House, which he said had been “transformed” for the better.
He reiterated: “To give the council credit, and it’s important we do, they’ve moved a long way since where we were in 2022…
“And also, they’ve managed to attract good new businesses to come as well, which is interesting and it shows that their strategy is working.
“I’ll continue to try and persuade them to go even further, but we should welcome the movement there’s been there.”