London Evening Standard)
Thursday 13 December 2018 11:31
Sadiq Khan has claimed that plans to keep Oxford Street open to traffic will leave shoppers at risk of a Westminster Bridge-style “hostile vehicle” attack.
The Mayor responded angrily to “underwhelming” proposals from Westminster council that would continue to allow buses, taxis and cars to drive down the street.
In a letter seen by the Standard, Mr Khan said the plans failed to tackle illegal levels of toxic air, reduce crowding or attract more shoppers. He also said the proposals failed to improve road safety, so the street would remain “one of the most dangerous in London”.
He told the Tory-run council: “Even more seriously, the absence in your plans about how the public will be protected from the risk of a hostile vehicle attack is very worrying.” Anti-terror barriers have been erected at key locations across the capital following the Westminster Bridge terror attack in March last year.
Mr Khan had pledged in his election manifesto to pedestrianise the “nation’s high street”. He had proposed banning traffic between Orchard Street — the western end of Selfridges — and Oxford Circus, and spent £8 million on preparing a scheme jointly with the council.
But Westminster council withdrew its support in April, claiming that many residents were opposed.
It published a £150 million alternative plan in October, which proposed reducing the number of bus routes from 13 to a maximum of four. It also mooted banning taxis and cars at peak times, but not if this caused “significant displacement” of traffic into surrounding neighbourhoods. Consultation on these plans closes on Sunday.
In the letter to Westminster leader Nickie Aiken, Mr Khan said the row “shattered any confidence I have in a positive working relationship with the council on the future of Oxford Street”. He also said: “By maintaining two-way traffic, the pavements of Oxford Street will remain overcrowded, a situation that will only get worse when the Elizabeth line opens.
“This means that road danger will not be reduced, and the street will remain one of the most dangerous in London due to the conflict between pedestrians, cyclists and larger vehicles.”
Councillor Richard Beddoe, cabinet member for place-shaping and planning, said: “We’d never play fast and loose with the safety of anyone on our streets … We’re working closely with the relevant security experts … to design measures to improve public safety from hostile vehicles.”
Westminster’s cabinet is due to decide early next year on the next steps. Comments can be left at www.osd.london