By Owen Sheppard, Local Democracy Reporter
Long-awaited plans to transform Oxford Circus and return it from the dead are a step closer.
Westminster Council unveiled new artist’s impressions of two huge piazzas in Oxford Street, on either side of Regent Street yesterday.
Work will begin in November on creating the two pedestrianised areas that will be lined with new trees, greenery and benches.
It will also include new entrances to Oxford Circus Station from the west and east-side piazzas, with stairs pointing along Oxford Street in both directions.
The council has been touting ideas to revive the iconic high street after some of its biggest names closed during the pandemic.
Last week, the Retail Gazette reported that 36 out of 125 retail units in Oxford Street are currently vacant.
The council announced in February that it will spend £150 million on projects to improve the 1.2 mile-long shopping district. Another £85 million is due to be raised from private investors.
New pocket parks on side streets, as well as free WiFi infrastructure and smart lamp posts are also promised.
The delayed opening of Crossrail – to spring 2022 – is expected to bring huge numbers of new visitors to the West End, although there are still questions about when international tourism will fully recover.
Council leader Rachael Robathan said: “These new bold plans to reinvent Oxford Circus will see the first significant redesign of the nation’s favourite high street in decades.”
She added: “We want to bring the excitement and buzz back to these famous streets and make Oxford Circus London’s front door.”
It is hoped that the piazzas’ impact on traffic will be limited, as buses and taxis will be re-routed through Marylebone and Fitzrovia along Margaret Street, which runs parallel to Oxford Street on its north side.
Only two bus routes, the 98 and the 390, pass the entire length of Oxford Street via Oxford Circus. In recent years, TfL has been re-routing buses that previously used the length of the street.
The idea of creating the piazzas was suggested by the council in 2019. Years earlier TfL had proposed plans to fully pedestrianise a large section of Oxford Street, only for the council to veto the proposal.