Reinventing the nation’s high street – Oxford Street District case study

This 2021 resource from Westminster City Council presents a future vision for the Oxford Street District in London, to overcome challenges such as deteriorating public realm, pedestrian and traffic congestion, and, more recently, the Covid-19 pandemic. It centres around revitalising the high street in four key areas: 'greener’, 'smarter’, 'future’, and 'together’, and provides plans alongside creative illustrations for each. Although the case study focuses on London, other places could also take inspiration from this forwards-facing vision.

Date added 3 June 2021
Last updated 3 June 2021

This document presents a future vision for the Oxford Street District in London, to overcome issues around a deteriorating public realm, pedestrian and traffic congestion, and, more recently, the Covid-19 pandemic, which has created both challenges and opportunities. It aims to "strengthen the district’s world-renowned status as a great place to live, work and visit" (p. 7), and the vision centres around four key areas: 'greener', 'smarter', 'future’, and 'together’, with key plans regarding these main pillars summarised below:

Greener

"A clean, green destination where signature green spaces and nature may be found across all buildings and streets. A world-class neighbourhood with clean air and streets, zero-carbon energy and transport, locally sourced produce, and... a habitat for wildlife and a haven for city-dwellers..." (p.8). To be achieved through:

  • Zero-carbon retro-fitting of heritage buildings
  • Creating a zero-carbon transport network
  • Thriving bio-diversity network across streets and buildings
  • Better accessibility to parks and the Thames
  • Creating a reputation for sustainable and circular economy businesses.

Smarter

"A hotbed for experimentation that showcases smart city-making... A dynamic, creative urban quarter, responsive to, and creating change in, technology, retail, culture, working practices and social trends, shaped by collaboration and intelligent design” (p.10). To be achieved through:

  • Creating an environment to test new ideas and technologies
  • Sharing resources and skills, and creating efficiencies of services
  • Celebrating the smart sectors already hosted in the district
  • Attracting talent and crowdsourcing ideas
  • Empowering local users, partners, and small and medium-sized enterprises.

Future

"A centre of commerce that continuously adapts to change by unlocking the potential of its existing civic spaces. A future district that showcases the unique character of local neighbourhoods, while strengthening connections with the extensive commercial, cultural and leisure offerings of the West End as a whole” (p. 12). To be achieved through:

  • Flexible indoor and outdoor spaces and uses responsive to change
  • Supporting diverse consumer, social, and cultural offerings
  • Designing adaptable public realm fit for multi-modal patterns, buildings, and active frontages
  • Reusing and reimagining existing buildings
  • Offering distinctive cultural experiences to attract visitors to wider West End.

Together  

"A vibrant and inclusive neighbourhood in which people of all ages and backgrounds are proud to live, visit, work and play. A unique place where strong partnerships maximise the potential of the district’s broad and diverse attractions, amenities and experiences of modern city life” (p. 14). To be achieved through:

  • Offering inclusive public realm and amenities to welcome a diverse range of audiences
  • Designing features to support play and wellbeing
  • Taking a collaborative approach, with a range of stakeholders supporting flexibility of uses
  • Creating spaces enabling a wider range of cultural events and activities
  • Creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment, with features to draw pedestrians through the district.

The resource then continues to highlight the key challenges and opportunities brought about by the pandemic for the place; a three-stage approach to putting the above into place in the short, medium, and longer-term; a series of key next-step actions across the four above areas; the importance of partnership working to the vision; and several criteria for success, including:

  • Collaboration
  • Integration
  • Strategic focus
  • Place of many places
  • Investment and funding
  • Community and heritage
  • Showcase (global reputation); and
  • Flexibility and adaptability.