London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Westminster City Council’s leader are to meet over the future of Oxford Street for the first time since they locked horns over the council’s decision to block the mayor’s pedestrianisation project.

The meeting between Mr Khan and Councillor Nickie Aiken is being welcomed by the council’s leadership, as the release of letters between the pair reveals tensions had peaked between the city leaders.

Yet despite the diplomatic overtures, the capital’s transport funding pot has been shut to Westminster as a consequence of its decision.

Transport for London (TfL) this week confirmed it was considering asking for £8m in public money spent on the strategy to be repaid by the council if its still-being-developed safety plan for the new Crossrail doesn’t meet expectations.

The mayor’s office confirmed in a statement this week that it will only release more TfL cash in future for the area if Westminster can prove its plan will tackle “illegal levels of air pollution, and [address] the serious overcrowding and road danger issues that will only be exacerbated by the opening of the Elizabeth Line”.

While the Westminster side says there will be no pedestrianisation of Oxford Street, the mayor’s office is standing by the strategy as the answer to improving air quality.

In his July 3 letter, the mayor said Westminster’s decision had “torn up” the joint plan and left “uncertainty” over an alternative, also giving the council notice that TfL would be freezing £400,000 in funding earmarked for the project’s delivery as a consequence.


Cllr Aiken replied the following day, reiterating her support for reducing pollution in Westminster. She attributed the improved air quality instead to the council’s Marylebone parking surcharge pilot for diesel vehicles, its anti-idling campaign and the mayor’s central London ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) strategy , along with reduced bus numbers.

“The examples you cite of the ULEZ and significant reductions in bus numbers on Oxford Street are to be commended. But they are being delivered without pedestrianisation which is why I believe linking it to clean air is a ‘red herring’,” Cllr Aiken wrote.

In the letters, released under the Freedom of Information Act, Mr Khan pointed out pedestrianisation was supported by the majority of Londoners consulted, but Cllr Aiken said the council had to back the majority of local residents and the “significant” number of businesses that did not want it.

No pedestrianisation – then what?

The design of the Oxford District, which will span Tottenham Court Road to Marble Arch, is yet to be unveiled.

After abandoning pedestrianisation, Wesminster announced it would be embarking on its own Oxford District vision, and is working on a public safety scheme for the Elizabeth Line.

The loss of the £400k in TfL funding meant the council last month agreed to to raid its own coffers to make up the £727,000 needed to develop the scheme – and will need to produce more funds to build it.

The new Elizabeth line will pass through 41 stations, from Reading and Heathrow




It has said its priorities include developing more public green space for people to avoid pollution, improving connections to the West End, plus implementing pedestrian safety measures in anticipation of the increased foot traffic brought about by Crossrail.

In her letter to Mr Khan, Cllr Aiken also rejected his claim that he heard she told a West End Partnership meeting retail was no longer central to the future to Oxford Street.

Cllr Aiken insisted she never made the statement, saying any future vision would focus on revitalising the district and helping Oxford Street retailers future-proof against changes to consumers’ shopping habits.

Cabinet member for place shaping and planning, Cllr Richard Beddoe, said this week the council’s leadership was pleased the mayor had accepted their suggestion for a meeting to discuss Oxford Street’s future.

“Our fresh scheme will respond to safety issues related to the opening of the Elizabeth Line and transform the area into a global, iconic destination,” Cllr Beddoe said.

“Our coherent and district-wide solution will ensure Oxford Street retains its status as the nation’s high street in a rapidly evolving retail environment so that it remains renowned as a must-visit destination by visitors from London, the UK and overseas and we look forward to working with partners who can help to deliver this exciting vision.”