The Oxford Street district
Following the local election in May 2018 and well-broadcast discussions with the Mayor, which are still ongoing, Westminster City Council is now developing a new strategy which seeks to strengthen Oxford Street’s world renowned status as a great place to shop, live, work and visit whilst responding to the ‘retail revolution’. The vision for the district, as well as how this will be delivered, is set out in two documents which are currently out for public consultation: ‘The Future of the Oxford Street District’ and the ‘Draft City Plan 2019-2040’. The emerging plans are almost certain to provide development opportunities in the area which have not previously been possible.
What is in and outside the Oxford Street district?
The City Council’s scope for improvement works extends along Oxford Street from the Marble Arch gateway eastwards to Tottenham Court Road. However, to reflect how the area functions, the scope of the proposals extend to the north and south of Oxford Street and include roads both parallel and perpendicular to Oxford Street, (see map below).
The change in planning policies is likely to provide opportunities on Oxford Street for a level of F&B, leisure, events, hotel and office development which has not previously existed.
What is the City Council proposing to do?
- Following the City Council scrapping plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street, it is proposed to maintain two-way vehicle movement, although the width of the highway will be reduced;
- 96 projects across 87 different streets and spaces are proposed. The most notable of these are a new piazza style open space at Oxford Circus and a reinvigorated gateway to the West End at Marble Arch. The City Council has safeguarded £150 million to help fund these;
- A 20 mph speed limit may be introduced and zero emission buses are proposed to operate along Oxford Street 24 hours a day;
- Trees, planting and improved lighting would be promoted throughout the District;
- Historic garden squares just off Oxford Street would be revitalised, including Cavendish Square.
Will the planning position change?
Yes. There will likely be fundamental changes to longstanding policies. The Draft City Plan, which is due to come in to effect in 2019, is proposing the biggest change in policy approach with regard Oxford Street for a number of decades. It will seek to provide an improved retail and leisure experience for visitors to Oxford Street that responds to innovation and change in the retail sector. The key planning changes put forward at this stage are:
- The West End Retail Special Policy Area, which Oxford Street is within, is proposed to be expanded and re-purposed as the ‘West End Retail and Leisure Special Policy Area’ (WERLSPA);
- On Oxford Street alone, some loss of Class A1 would be permitted, where the proposed use maintains an active frontage, enhances the vitality of the area and does not undermine the primary retail function of the area by leading to more than three non-A1 uses consecutively in a frontage.
- As well as opportunities for food & beverage (F&B) and leisure uses at the lower levels of buildings there will be an opportunity to introduce offices or hotels where retail floor space can be condensed;
- There will be more support for non-retail ‘meanwhile uses’ along Oxford Street;
- Retail development / new retail floor space would not be subject to the emerging replacement mixed-use policy so would not be expected to contribute towards affordable housing;
- New world-class architecture will be supported where it is to replace buildings which have no townscape or heritage value;
- The potential for new development with increased scale and massing along Oxford Street. Although no specific guidelines are given it is noted that a new Supplementary Planning Document containing more detailed guidance may be brought forwards.
WCC has indicated that it will release a formal draft of the City Plan in January 2019 for consultation whilst Cabinet will meet in early 2019 to agree how works within the Oxford Street District should progress.
Gerald Eve will remain closely involved regarding the evolution of both documents. Should you wish to discuss these in more detail please contact Hugh Bullock or Graham Oliver.