Westminster and The Crown Estate unveil plans for ‘iconic’ Oxford Circus

16 Jun 2021
Artist impression of the western piazza with new access into the London Underground, improved public realm and greening. Viewpoint is taken from Oxford Circus looking west into Oxford Street.

Image credit: Publica

Design competition to create rival to Times Square in the centre of the Oxford Street District. New piazzas will become ‘London’s front door to the world’.

Oxford Circus will be transformed into two, pedestrian-friendly piazzas as part of plans unveiled by Westminster City Council and The Crown Estate today.

Cross section of Oxford Street
Section through Oxford Street showing two new Piazzas either end of Oxford Circus with improved access and new entrances from the piazzas directly into the underground station.

Image credit: Publica

The new piazzas will become London’s front door and will be the subject of an international design competition.

Works on the transformed Circus will begin later in the year with the scheme also set to include:

• significant improvements to the public spaces in and around Oxford Circus, creating more pleasant places to eat, drink, shop and enjoy the centre of the city.

• additional planting and seating to improve the overall look and feel of the area and encourage dwell time.

• significant improvements to public realm, including working with Transport for London to create improved access to Oxford Circus tube station.

• road closure through the introduction of Experimental Traffic Orders, between Oxford Circus and Gt. Portland Street to the East, and Oxford Circus and John Princes Street to the West, turning it into a pedestrian-first zone.

• the launch of the RIBA International Design Competition in Summer 2021 to deliver the final scheme, ensuring ‘world class’ designs and value for money. The competition will be run by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and will be a fully open competition, inviting entries from around the world.

The reinvention of the Circus as a world-leading, forward-facing, urban space, is the latest step in the council’s ambitious plans to revive Oxford Street and the wider District, for its vision for a greener, smarter future for the West End.

Westminster has already committed £150m to kickstart the OSD programmes and attract inward investment, taking full advantage of the Elizabeth Line opening in 2022 and the area’s links to the wider West End and beyond.

Westminster City Council Leader Cllr 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. We hope the creation of these pedestrian-only piazzas at Oxford Circus, surrounded by newly planted trees and large seating areas, will instil much needed confidence in the West End and support local businesses severely affected by the pandemic. We want to bring the excitement and buzz back to these famous streets and make Oxford Circus London’s front door.

There is an urgent need to tackle issues with pedestrian congestion and safety, poor air quality and noise. The serious congestion of Oxford Circus, of people and of traffic, is unsustainable and demands action. In the aftermath of the pandemic, and with the arrival of the Elizabeth Line, there is an overwhelming need and a compelling opportunity to build back better; a business-as-usual approach will no longer work. We hope the creation of these pedestrian-only piazzas at Oxford Circus will not only improve safety, security, accessibility and but create an iconic destination at the heart of London.”

Dan Labbad, Chief Executive at The Crown Estate, said:

“We’re delighted to be working in partnership with Westminster to deliver a transformation of what I think we all recognise as one of the most iconic locations in the World. It is essential, as we rebuild our capital, that we create places that better serve all those who use them – improving air quality, reducing congestion, prioritising safety and delivering a world class visitor experience.

These latest plans build on the recent improvements to Regent Street, and will help create a fitting gateway to all that the West End has to offer.”

RIBA President, Alan Jones said:

“We are delighted to be partnering with Westminster City Council to help shape the future of Oxford Circus. This international RIBA competition presents an exciting opportunity to have a broad spread of entries and deliver world-class design, and we look forward to its launch in the coming months.”

Artist impression from a bird’s eye view showing future transformation of Oxford Circus with traffic continuing on Regent Street and two new Piazzas on Oxford Street, either end of the circus.

Image credit: Publica

The new Oxford Circus plans will be delivered through a phased approach, starting with two ‘car free’ piazzas on Oxford Street, either end of the Circus, with a target delivery by end of 2021.

The plans for Oxford Circus will improve the experience for people living in, working in and visiting the area. The safety and security of pedestrians is paramount, and will be improved through the introduction of pedestrian-only piazzas at Oxford Circus to reduce pedestrian congestion; a much-needed measure that will be made even more necessary with the arrival of the additional people who will come to the district on the newly built Elizabeth Line. Traffic will continue along Regent Street, north and south of Oxford Circus.

By prioritising people over vehicles, the changes also aim to improve air quality. Works on Oxford Circus are expected to reduce vehicle traffic and improve efficiency of bus journeys across the area. The scheme is linked with Westminster City Council’s ‘Greenways’ project, which is designed to improve the experience of cyclists across the Oxford Street District and in the borough.

These new plans respond to massive changes to shopping habits and working patterns, that have been accelerated by Covid-19. It reimagines the nation’s favourite high street through the following themes; GREENER, SMARTER, FUTURE and TOGETHER to create a globally competitive centre for innovative retail, commercial activities, culture and living.

Tell us what you think

We are delivering the Oxford Circus work in stages, underpinned by a six month public consultation. This is achieved by utilising an Experimental Traffic Order to allow changes to Oxford Circus, and the required enabling works across a wider area, for the piazzas to open in November 2021. This gives us the flexibility to allow us to amend, develop or stop our plans through a constant dialogue and by looking at what effect the works have.

If you have any comments on the plans, please contact stakeholderteam@murphycareyjv.co.uk