Report of Executive Director, Growth, Planning and Housing
3.1 Barbara Brownlee, Executive Director, Growth, Planning and Housing, introduced the report. She summarised the outcome of engagement with stakeholders since the last Cabinet meeting in July to inform the development of the draft Place Strategy and Delivery Plan. She then outlined the direction of travel and key themes and features that had emerged and were set out in the draft strategy.
3.2 Barbara Brownlee informed Cabinet that the Council had commenced works on Phase 1 of the Oxford Street District Programme last week. These works will address a number of underlying footway and highway maintenance issues in readiness for the opening of the Elizabeth line.
3.3 Councillor Richard Beddoe, Cabinet Member for Place Shaping and Planning recommended that Cabinet endorse the draft Place Strategy and Delivery Plan for public consultation. He stated that the case for change on Oxford Street is compelling. The Council had listened very carefully to the views of stakeholders over the summer. He explained that the overall ambition is to strengthen the world renowned status of the entire Oxford Street district. This includes securing the long term future of the retail sector which is facing pressures from online retailers. This will be achieved by enhancing the district as a destination zone with an unrivalled experience and visitor offer.
3.4 Councillor Heather Acton welcomed the district wide proposals and considered the scheme to be cohesive. She particularly welcomed the proposals for the 98 bus to continue running along the full length of Oxford Street. She hoped to see more than four bus routes remaining on Oxford Street. Councillor Beddoe advised that Transport for London is responsible for the capital’s bus routes and will ultimately make the decision on the routes and frequency of services running along Oxford Street.
3.5 Councillor Adams welcomed the proposals which he considered to be bold and ambitious. He stressed the important role that Oxford Street plays in supporting the wider UK economy as well as London. He suggested that the strategy should include additional provision for pedestrians to traverse the area around Marble Arch which was presently quite challenging. Councillor Beddoe agreed this would be a priority.
3.6 The Leader thanked Barbara Brownlee and her team for the considerable work that they had undertaken in a short space of time to develop the proposals.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet:
1. Endorsed the draft Place Strategy and Delivery Plan for public consultation commencing on 6th November.
2. Agreed to delegate authority to the Executive Director of Growth, Planning and Housing and the Director of Place Shaping and West End Partnership to approve the final public consultation materials for approval by the Cabinet Member for Place Shaping and Planning.
3. Approved expenditure of up to £2.5m for the development of the strategy and the project as outlined in section 8 of this report. This will be funded via an Oxford Street/West End budget as per the Capital Strategy approved by Full Council in March 2018.
4. Approved the re-profiling of the existing Oxford Street/West End budget of £2.5m from 2019/20 into 2018/19.
Reason for Decision
1. The Council believes that the District would benefit from adopting a place-based approach to determine how to deal with the current and future opportunities and issues. Owing to the complexities of the District, a more responsive approach to developing a range of solutions across the area needs to be adopted. The Council supports the need for a mixed use District and one that places strong emphasis on the amenity of its local residential communities. All this is essential if the District is to continue to thrive. The Council has now developed a draft Place Strategy and Delivery Plan for the Oxford Street District.
2. The Council’s commitment to the Oxford Street District is to create a long term and ambitious vision for the whole of the District that will strengthen its world-renowned status as a great place to live, work and visit. Its strategy will support the ambition and respond to the big challenges that the District faces, including: a rapidly evolving retail environment; a place that can cater to a greater numbers of people; providing more attractions; and for Oxford Street to be a better neighbour to the wider district. In the wake of strong competition from retail hubs like Westfield; online shopping; increased business rates; Brexit; and interest rates, the retailers and businesses in the district are finding the trading environment very challenging.
3. The Council will take responsibility for delivering an ambitious set of projects that are affordable but also help to bring about a significant change that will help to counter some of the external factors that the District currently faces. The Council recognises that investment in the District is required in order to retain its status as the nation’s high street and a world-renowned destination for domestic and international visitors. It is also essential that investment helps to improve the liveability of the district and provide a greater amenity for our residents. On 7th November 2018, Full Council will be asked to approve the Council’s Capital Strategy including allocation of £150 million towards the delivery of the final adopted Place Strategy and Delivery Plan. Additional funding to support the delivery of the final projects listed in the draft Place Strategy will be required from other external sources. The coherent and district wide programme will ensure that Oxford Street District strengthens its reputation.
4. The Policy context relating to this report include the Council’s City for All and City Plan policies. The draft Place Strategy reflect these policies and will contribute to delivering these over the lifetime of the project. See appendix 2 for the policies and how the Place Strategy will deliver these.