Today newspapers are reporting a concerning development in the long running saga of the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street. Up till now FitzWest had been assured that there would be no pedestrianisation between Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Circus because there were no suitable routes for buses and taxis through our area.
However Valerie Shawcross, London’s deputy mayor for transport, has now announced to the London Assembly that the plan is to ban all vehicles from Tottenham Court Road to beyond Selfridges and the entrance to Bond Street tube station. There is no indication of how this is to be achieved.
In response to this announcement I have written to Val Shawcross as follows:
PEDESTRIANISATION OF OXFORD STREET
I represent Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum. Our forum is a 200 strong group that represents both residents and businesses in Fitzrovia. We are united in order to create a neighbourhood plan for the area.
One crucial aspect of our plan, triggered by strong public support, is to improve the streets where we live and work. There is no public green space in our area, little sitting out space and hardly any pedestrian streets. We suffer from some of the worst pollution of any residential area in Europe.
We are in the middle of writing policies that will go public this autumn. So far public consultation has strongly prioritised the greening of streets, the reduction and calming of traffic and the improvement of arrangements for pedestrians.
In particular we wish to enhance the Great Titchfield Street/Mortimer Street hub of our area. This has become a dynamic focus for local and specialist shops, small businesses and provides the area’s vitality. But it is already stymied by the fact that Mortimer Street is a by-pass street for Oxford Street.
There are over 4000 people living in very dense flats in this area. Our population is not dominated by West End Wealthy, but by ordinary people, many of whom have lived in the area for years, whose children attend the local schools and who work in local businesses. Many people live in social housing, or housing for the elderly. They cannot choose to move out of the area if it becomes even more devastated by traffic.
This week’s announcement that pedestrianisation in Oxford Street shall go ahead leads us to fear the implications for our area, especially Mortimer Street and Newman Street. While the Crossrail project has gone ahead we have had several long term bus diversions through our area, along Mortimer and Newman Street. This has resulted in lines of jammed buses belching out exhaust. I enclose a photograph of Newman Street, taken during one of those diversions, to indicate how unpleasant those short term diversions were.
If the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street results in a permanent diversion of taxis and bus routes along these streets it would be devastating for the area.
We support a reduction of traffic in Oxford Street, and have no objection to pedestrianisation per se. In fact, we too wish to look at traffic calming schemes to support improvements to Great Titchfield Street and Mortimer Street, which is the social and economic hub of our area.
Unfortunately it is not just Oxford Street that subjects the population of Fitzrovia to life threatening pollution. The diagram below (taken from the Kings College Model commissioned, as I understand it, by GLA) identifies Mortimer Street and New Cavendish Street as highly polluted as well. This pollution is exacerbated in the centre of London because of the urban heat island effect, which can trap a bubble of polluted air, stopping it dissipating, as it might do in greener parts of the capital. I am sure that enlightened traffic engineers in the GLA have already considered these limitations and are proposing alternatives. For example a bus hub at Tottenham Court Road and a further hub at Hyde Park Corner would be well supported by our community.
We are especially concerned that All Souls’ Primary School, our excellent local primary school, lies only yards from the Mortimer Street/Newman Street junction. The prospect of diverting transport onto a minor road and increasing pollution levels so close to an area where children are taught, is not worthy of the new GLA administration.
The FitzWest Neighbourhood Forum is doing all it can to improve the environment for our inner city residents, existing businesses and the hundreds of thousands of new visitors that will be attracted by Crossrail 1, Crossrail 2 and HS2 which also arrives at our doorstep. We seek help from the GLA to achieve that result, not hindrance.
Please, can I have your assurance that no scheme will be approved which diverts public transport and taxis through the streets within our area?
Chairman Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Area Forum Executive
Caroline Pidgeon Chair London Assembly Transport Committee
Tim Steer Head of Transport
Cllr Robert Davis MBE Deputy Leader Westminster CC
Jace Tyrrell, Chief Executive New West End Company
Paul Dimoldenberg Leader Westminster CC Labour Group
I have also sent copies to our Ward Councillors.
Please add your comments below.
Excellent letter. Thank you for setting out our concerns with such clarity.
As a long term resident living in Charlotte Place/ Goodge St I am alarmed at the the thought of the increase of traffic, worst still, using Goodge St as a route for the excessive number of empty buses from Oxford Street.
In the last decade the ever increasing number of buses has increased the pollution, as the number of black taxis has dropped.
What use would all these empty buses clogging and polluting our streets be to Oxford Street?
It is a vanity project that has not been thought through properly.
Very few people live on Mortimer Street but all of Goodge Street is residential please put more emphasis where’s Fitzrovians live.
Spot on, Wendy. If diversions into Newman St or Mortimer street go ahead, I’d even be ready for some direct action – 200 people lying down in the street, for example. But hopefully it won’t come to that.
The increase of pollution, if traffic is diverted our way, will be a major issue.
On a regular basis I ask parked drivers to turn off engines and the response is often abusive.
Are traffic wardens able to fine/report drivers?
Can we report offending drivers/vehicles to the council?
If more was made of idling – we would be heard – any redirected traffic would idle for hours as your photo shows!
Thank you for this comprehensive response to a proposal which, if it led to increased traffic through the heart of Fitzrovia, would have a deeply detrimental effect on our community. I would enjoy a pedestrianised Oxford St, but only if my own neighbourhood of Fitzrovia was not destroyed in the process. As a resident of Hanson St living near New Cavendish street I already experience the dirt and noise associated with the traffic which pours down that road everyday (lessening on Sundays). I am happy to see proposals for a Cycling quietway along that street and would benefit from a reduction in traffic there. Thank you, Wendy, for writing in support of our quality of life.
Thanks for responding everyone. Rest assured your points will be put to the GLA, if we get a chance to meet with them,
Chairman FitzWest Executive Committee
Can I strongly urge FitzWest Exec Committee to insist that the GLA Transport Committee include them in the currently ongoing discussions on pedestrianisation? They have invited other organisations to attend, but none that represent the residents of Marylebone, Mayfair (Mayfair Residents Group) and Fitzrovia, who will be most affected by any pedestrianisation plans. I think it is very important that residents’ associations and groups are involved at this stage, rather than be left out until one pedestrianisation option has been selected and put out for general public consultation.
Street at a stroke with “clean”
electric or hybrid vehicles.
These could provide a shuttle service from one end of Oxford Street to the other, and people travelling on to other destinations could connect with traditional transport at either end.
The buses and cars could be sponsored by the Oxford Street businesses.
They could be run at capacity thus reducing the volume of vehicles on Oxford Street,
This would require ZERO INVESTMENT in infrastructure and cause no disruption.
And it would improve air quality. TOMORROW…
How I have not found this before is over and above me. Thanks for the awesome advice.