The following question was raised at a full Council Meeting Wednesday 18th April 2018
Can the Council assure us that the current status of the Oxford Street project is not a pre-election pause but a full review of the project?
Councillor Daniel Astaire - Cabinet Member for Planning and Public Realm replied “When I took over responsibility for the Oxford Street agenda, the results of the consultation had just been received. Despite the errors, which led to its reopening, it was clear that the overwhelming majority of Westminster’s residents and businesses were opposed to the concept. TfL and the Mayor are the main proponents of the changes to the street, but it belongs to the Council and the decision rests with us. I have informed them (much to some surprise) that detailed work on a scheme is to be stopped. They had even wanted to appoint an artist to design street concept art, but I have stopped this too.
At present, there is no scheme nor a proposal which is acceptable to the Council. There are, as I see it three hurdles for there to be any scheme for full consultation:-
- The detailed concerns reported in the consultation must be addressed and only once a scheme which can adequately and to the satisfaction of the council address those stated concerns will something be put on the table for further development;
- Any such scheme must also meet the 8 pledges set out in writing by the Leader last year. Again, if the council is not satisfied that any proposals meet these pledges, it will not be pursued.
- Funding commitments for any scheme which meets 1 and 2 must be in place for a period of at least 10 years: both to build, pay, maintain and monitor any scheme. Without such clear and committed funding, a scheme will not progress.
Westminster’s residents are at the heart of this project. There will be no scheme put forward if these concerns cannot be met. I have been asked how this meets the Leader’s comment that “doing nothing is not an option”. That remains the position. but doing something does not mean full or partial pedestrianisation. There are many ways to solve the issues of air quality, environment, movability along Oxford Street and these can in tandem be explored. We asked residents and businesses in the consultation for ideas and many have been given to us for consideration.”
Councillor Astaire repeated much of this announcement at the recent Marylebone Forum AGM and added it could "take the Mayor over 4 years to take over the road from the Council”.
Where do the parties stand on Oxford Street?
The Conservative manifestostates “The Mayor of London is determined to pedestrianise the entire length of Oxford Street. Even though the street is the responsibility of Westminster City Council, the Mayor could invoke powers to take over the street if the council does not co-operate with City Hall. Only the Conservatives can stand up against the Mayor to protect local amenity, ensure that the voice of local people is heard and fight to prevent a scheme being implemented which would be damaging to our precious community.
Westminster Conservatives were very concerned to learn that a number of resident’s comments were left out of the last consultation. We lobbied TfL successfully to reopen the consultation to ensure everyone who had attempted to comment was able to resubmit their submissions.
We are standing up for our residents, ensuring their wide range of views are clearly heard and understood. That is why we have set out our Eight Pledges to ensure that the streets surrounding Oxford Street are protected from rat running and to safeguard air quality. If our red lines are not adopted and funding streams to maintain the road are not guaranteed we have made it clear we will not support pedestrianisation.”
“No plans exist to pedestrianise Oxford Street" Your local Conservative Council Candidates, Iain Bott, Ian Rowley and Karen Scarborough say: “As a team of three experienced community campaigners, we will oppose any ill-conceived proposals by the Labour Mayor to pedestrianise Oxford Street. We feel strongly that the Mayor should listen to local residents on the issue. It’s local residents in the surrounding area that are going to be most affected by any proposals. Their views must be prioritised.”
We are standing up for our residents, ensuring their wide range of views are clearly heard and understood. Working with local people, we have drafted our Eight Pledges which the Mayor's proposals must satisfy to ensure that the streets surrounding Oxford Street are protected from rat-running and to safeguard air quality. If our red lines are not adopted and funding streams to maintain the road are not guaranteed, we have made it clear we will continue to oppose pedestrianisation. A vote for any party except the Conservatives will see Labour running the Council and no effective opposition to the Labour Mayor's proposals.” Despite the Mayor's 'consultation', there is no plan to pedestrianise Oxford Street
Your local Conservative Council Candidates, Richard Beddoe, Barbara Arzymanow and Eoghain Murphy say: ‘Our honest opinion of the Labour Mayor’s proposals for pedestrianising Oxford Street is that they were simplistic and ill-conceived, and they have failed. TfL’s ‘consultation’ invited comments to a mistaken email address which neither the Mayor nor TfL can access, so that all comments sent to that address have been lost. Although we were all invited to resend comments to the correct address, we believe this mistake has deprived the consultation of any claim to statistical validity. Meanwhile, we understand that the ‘consultation’ responses sent to the Westminster address indicate that almost all residents and local businesses have strong reservations about the Mayor’s proposals, even if people are broadly-sympathetic to his aims of improving pedestrian safety and reducing pollution. Interestingly, our residents’ comments on the consultation have offered some useful suggestions on how Oxford Street might be made safer and less polluted, without turning the neighbourhood upside down. This is the way such discussions should be framed, beginning with the views of local people, and considered carefully over a suitably-extended period. Such changes should never become a Party-political matter – but in this instance they are: If Labour gains Westminster Council on 3rd May, the Labour Mayor of London will have a free hand to push his proposals through without hindrance. Please don’t let that happen!’”
We asked Cllr Nickie Aiken Leader, Westminster City Council what her position was on Pedestrianisation “As I have said publicly on numerous occasions Westminster is at the table with the Mayor to ensure our residents have a voice. I have given my word both verbally and in print that we will not sign up to anything unless the 8 red lines or pledges are met and that there is a 10 year finance agreement in place. At present there is NO plan to sign up to!”
The Labour Party'smanifestostates “We will continue to exert pressure on TfL to ensure restrict additional traffic from being diverted on to residential streets north and south of Oxford Street as part of their transformation proposals. We will work to ensure the views of local residents are listened to by TfL.”
West End Labour message “We, Pancho Lewis, Patrick Lilley and Caroline Saville, West End Labour candidates, continue to oppose the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street because residents’ concerns have not been answered by Westminster Council’s leaders, by Transport for London (TfL) nor by the Mayor of London. Westminster Council are entirely responsible for Oxford Street. The plans could never have got this far in the face of residents’ fears without Conservative Council leaders, including Nickie Aiken and Robert Davis and their colleagues, fully supporting it. We oppose the plans; they should be paused and all options remain on the table. The West End Labour team believe there has been:
- insufficient information or planning on traffic displacement,
- a lack of ideas on how those with limited mobility will continue to enjoy Oxford Street
- uncertainty on safety on Oxford Street at night.
- later night visitors to Soho needing buses would have to walk a few blocks north past Oxford Street increasing potential related ASB into Fitzrovia and other wards.
- the consultations appear to residents to be rushed and unprofessional. This has made residents fear they were not being listened to.
- ideas to improve Oxford Street need to include the whole area to reduce traffic, including how they could enhance life Fitzrovia, Mayfair and Soho and beyond.
West End Labour’s position has consistently put residents of the West End first.
For years of Conservative rule in Westminster, residents have not been allowed a voice and the council has had far too close a relationship with powerful property developers. The Conservatives had years to oppose pedestrianisation and put forward alternatives – and they have done nothing. The West End Labour Team have been listening to residents for over 2 years, having thousands of conversations. We have consistently said we would oppose the plans if residents’ genuine fears about traffic displacement are not addressed; if those with limited mobility are not able to access Oxford Street fully and if ASB is not reduced. We have raised these issue for many months with TfL and the Mayor. It is now time to pause the scheme and continue to listen to residents.
Failure to do so could ruin Oxford Street itself and the 1,000 businesses that are already threatened by out of town shopping malls and crippling rent and business rates.
Rushing could also ruin the wonderful character and lives of many in neighbouring areas of Fitzrovia, Soho and Mayfair who we seek to represent. We have spoken to thousands of residents and they want less pollution, cleaner air, less traffic and fewer accidents for the whole area, not just moving traffic around. We have consistently passed on these concerns to TfL and the Mayor. If elected we will continue to put residents of Soho, Fitzrovia and Mayfair at the heart of decisions, not the big property developers.” - Labour’s West End Ward Candidates April 21, 2018
We asked Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg – Westminster Labour Business and Public Realm spokesperson the following question: as you state you are putting residents first and the majority of Westminster residents are against pedestrianisation, will you simply rule out pedestrianisation of Oxford Street, categorically? We had to ask the question three times before we got the following response from Paul. “You have our statement and I know your members are intelligent enough to make up their own minds.”
"All I would add is that the Campaign against Oxford Street pedestrianisation has put up candidates in three of the 20 wards in Westminster and that is a powerful indication of the concern amongst residents. We take these concerns very seriously and have been pressing the Mayor and TfL on the issues raised by residents and local groups repeatedly over the past 12 months and more. Our concerns have increased following the recent consultation fiasco and TfL will need to work a lot harder to convince us that they can successfully implement their plans without damaging the local environment and increasing traffic in residential streets. As things stand now, we cannot support the current plans. If TfL come back with considerably revised plans which take on board residents’ and our concerns then we will look at them afresh. "
Campaign Against Pedestrianisation of Oxford Street
Is a ‘single issue’ party with a pledge to campaign against pedestrianisation of Oxford Street and to work with all the stakeholders for improvement, not closure.
Zack Polansk who is standing for the Green Party in Marylebone High Street Ward, told us. “Being a member of the Green Party it won't surprise you to know that I'm very concerned about the pollution and carbon emissions particularly around the Oxford Street area (and Euston Road.) I am very open to reading ideas and consultations around what can be done to reduce this terrible problem. Whilst I support the idea of pedestrianisation of public space in principle, I am particularly concerned about the current consultation particularly in relation to cycling. By funnelling cyclists down the already congested side streets into what will be even more traffic, it feels like before we've even started we need to go back to the drawing board with these proposals. Especially as the areas who will suffer from more noise and congestion are likely to be residential rather than commercial. Currently, as they stand, my personal position is against them for this reason.”
The Liberal Democrats are the only party who are fully supportive of pedestrianisation although are silent on the issue in theirmanifesto. Patrick Ryan a spoke for them told us “Some of the arguments for pedestrianising Oxford Street are now even stronger since the publication of the report. For example, within two years there could be a new Westfield shopping centre in Croydon (in addition to the one in the Olympic Park and Shepherd’s Bush). Oxford Street and the West End faces increasing competition as a shopping and leisure destination”. Caroline Pidgeon Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member “I fully support the proposals for the transformation of Oxford Street. It is long overdue that the severe problems of Oxford Street being severely congested, highly polluted and dangerously crowded are finally addressed. The changes to Oxford Street are also necessary due to the impact of the opening of the Queen Elizbeth Line on pedestrian flows in Oxford Street. I support the plans for the complete removal of motor traffic from Oxford 24 hours a day, indeed such a development is essential for the success of the scheme. I also fully support proposals for pedestrian improvements across the wider Oxford Street area, including new crossings, better seating and an improved public realm.”
A full list of candidates standing in our area the Westminster City Council Elections on Thursday 3 May 2018. - Polls open7am
Bryanston and Dorset Square Ward Candidates
Arzymanow, Barbara Jolanda - Conservative Party Candidate
Beddoe, Richard Martin - Conservative Party Candidate
Browne, Nicola - Liberal Democrats
Coyne, Kevin Richard - Campaign Against Pedestrianisation of Oxford Street
Fry, Michael - Green Party
Hammeda, Mohamed Rashid Labour Party
Horton, Rima Elizabeth - Labour Party
Murphy, Eoghain Leo - Conservative Party Candidate
Serero, Thierry Haim David - Liberal Democrats
Taylor, Neil Macrae - Labour Party
Thompson, Martin Adam - Liberal Democrats
Marylebone High Street Ward Candidates
Angel, Cheyenne - Labour Party
Barr, Alistair Graeme - Liberal Democrats
Bott, Iain James - Conservative Party Candidate
Byrne, Andrew Donaldson - Liberal Democrats
Dunn, Michael John - Campaign Against Pedestrianisation of Oxford Street
Johnston, Barbara Irene - Labour Party
Kettle, Florence Amelia - Labour Party
Nardi-Hiebl, Stefan - Liberal Democrats
Polanski, Zack - Green Party
Rowley, Ian David - Conservative Party Candidate
Scarborough, Karen Toni - Conservative Party Candidate
West End Ward Candidates
Barnes, Timothy Patrick Logie - Conservative Party Candidate
Chevoppe-Verdier, Florian David Jean Gaetan - Liberal Democrats
Fry, Minne - Green Party
Glanz, Jonathan - Conservative Party Candidate
Lewis, Pancho - Labour Party
Lilley, Patrick Eamon Joseph - Labour Party
Ravenscroft, Alan Watson - Liberal Democrats
Saville, Caroline Louise Ruby - Labour Party
Su, Hillary - Conservative Party Candidate
Taylor, Sophie Amanda - Liberal Democrats
Whelan, Ronald - Campaign Against Pedestrianisation of Oxford Street