Oxford Street


COPY OF RESPONSE FROM Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum

I represent Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum.  Our forum is a 200 strong group that represents both residents and businesses in Fitzrovia. Our mailing list covers a further 500 small, medium and large businesses in the area.   In our area both residents and businesses are united in wishing to improve the environment, making it a pleasant place to live work and visit.

We have already been in touch with Val Shawcross, officers from TFL and our local councillors to share our concerns for an unbridled pedestrianisation scheme that we feel would put far too much pressure on adjoining streets and communities.

We were gratified to learn that a simplistic approach was unlikely to be pursued and that any scheme that comes forward would consider the whole of the West End and not simply Oxford Street.

We support the careful consultation that TFL/WCC are establishing. Our chairman, Wendy Shillam and treasurer Yoram Blumann have been invited to attend meetings so that the views of local people and local businesses can be included in the work.  However we recognise that these meetings are convened by Westminster’s PR department and we are concerned that consultation should continue to be just that – dialogue.


We have a number of concerns that we wish to raise:

  1. Phasing of the work – reducing the range of the modelling system
  2. Coordinating with neighbourhood plans and ambitions for the wider West End including:

a). Linking Oxford Street improvements to improvements in the Oxford Street hinterland,
b). Great Titchfield Street/Mortimer Street local hub and
c). Closing the Great Portland Street gyratory

  1. Impact on congestion and road safety
  2. Servicing the West End
  3. Impact on local movements (occasioned by reduction/redirection of buses)
  4. Pollution

A detailed response can be downloaded here:



We do not wish to be purely negative about the prospect of improvements to the West End.  We would like to work more closely with your engineers and transport planners to achieve a better result.  We feel that we have knowledge and ideas that could help.  We truly hope that this consultation isn’t hiding a foregone conclusion and that genuine dialogue can occur before decisions are made.  Thus we also include, at the end of our consultation response some ideas that we believe should be entertained.



  1. Phasing of works – reducing the range of the modelling system

Since the pedestrianisation was first announced, we now understand that it is to be made in two sections, from Orchard Street to Oxford Circus and then from Oxford Circus to Tottenham Court Road.  We think phase 1 will adversely effect Fitzrovia, tending to push all vehicular access to this end of Oxford Street. We are also concerned that phase two might simply happen on the back of phase one, without the careful work that needs to be done to establish an integrated solution.

For example, we understand that no detailed junction traffic modelling for phase 1 will be done east of Portland Place and Regent Street.  Thus, there will no way of knowing what the impact of phase 1 will be on major junctions in Fitzrovia or in Soho.

  1. Improvement of The Oxford Street Hinterland
    One crucial aspect of our neighbourhood plan, triggered by strong public support, is to improve the streets where we live and work. There is no public green space in our area, little sitting-out space and hardly any pedestrian streets. We suffer from some of the worst pollution of any residential area in Europe.  Pollution is influenced by traffic, by an intensity of carbon based heating and ventilation systems (we have a lot of development around here) and by the urban heat island effect, which intensifies pollution in the area and works to restrict the dissipation of bad air.

    FitzWest Strategy Diagram – highlights certain streets and spaces to be traffic calmed, where we wish to see better pedestrian facilities, more green space and fewer traffic movements.

    We support the intention to design for improved pedestrian access to side streets, but we are concerned that new bus routes, taxi routes and delivery routes will break the camel’s back.   WQe have heard of no proposals to tackle these important issues:

    • Deliveries
    • Pedestrian movement
    • Parking and Servicing
    • Road safety
    • Improving pedestrian crossings
    • Cycle routes and cycle parking

    So far FitzWest public consultation has strongly prioritised the greening of streets, the reduction and calming of traffic and the improvement of arrangements for pedestrians.  We see three key areas:

    a). The Oxford Street Hinterland – this is the zone of streets and alleyways between Market Place and East Castle Street and Oxford Street itself.  Many of these streets have great potential to provide services that Oxford Street itself cannot offer, like cafes, smaller shops, sitting out space and services like banks, stationers and copy shops.  But in order for these streets to become attractive they would need improving.  We support a grid of pedestrian streets running off Oxford Street and we are prepared to supply the necessary detailed planning policy in order to allow such streets to thrive and take some of the pressure from Oxford Street itself.

    b). As we move further north into Fitzrovia West we come to the Great Titchfield Street/Mortimer Street local hub.  This is a critically important part of our area offering local shops and services to the businesses and residents around us.   This has become a dynamic focus for local and specialist shops, small businesses and provides the area’s vitality.  But it is already stymied by the fact that Mortimer Street is used as an emergency bus by-pass street for Oxford Street.  We are very concerned that current plans for phase 1 will increase traffic in our streets and that a phase 2 would sign the death knell for Fitzrovia.

    c). In addition we have identified the area around Great Portland Street Underground Station as one where improvements and traffic calming could be made.  A lot of people live in this northern sector and there are two hospitals (Portland Hospital and The Royal Orthopedic Clinic) both of which require good pedestrian access)

    We would hope that in deciding on new access streets for public transport and taxis something can be done to close down the Great Portland Street tube gyratory, thereby reducing the conflict between pedestrians and traffic turning south into Fitzrovia.

    1. Impact on congestion and road safety

    Fitzrovia has a much higher population density than other parts of the West End. There are over 4000 people living in very dense flats in FitzWest alone.  We understand this represents approximately half of the population of the West End   Our population is not dominated by West End Wealthy, but by ordinary people, many of whom have lived in the area for years, whose children attend the local schools and who work in local businesses.  Many people live in social housing, or housing for the elderly.  They cannot choose to move out of the area if it becomes even more devastated by traffic and pollution.

    This week’s announcement that pedestrianisation in Oxford Street shall go ahead leads us to fear the implications for our area, especially Mortimer Street and Newman Street.  While the cross rail project has gone ahead we have had several long term bus diversions through our area, along Mortimer and Newman Street.  This has resulted in lines of jammed busses belching out exhaust.  I enclose a photograph of Newman Street, taken during one of those diversions, to indicate how unpleasant those short term diversions were

    If the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street results in a permanent diversion of taxis, delivery vehicles and bus routes along these streets it would be devastating for the area.

    1. Servicing the West End
      There is a growing problem in this area associated with deliveries, development vehicles, servicing, rubbish collection and public transport. For example rubbish collections have collapsed, the amount of uncontrolled rubbish bags and dumped rubbish has become embarrassing. If we are also to suffer more service traffic the continual degradation of our pavements will be exacerbated.  Despite this our streets are already choked with rubbish collection vehicles, white vans, motorcycle messengers and cycle delivery.  This is all completely unmanaged and unplanned.  Night time deliveries are not the answer in our area because of the prevalence of residential buildings right down to the boundary of Oxford Street.
    2. Impact on local movements (occasioned by reduction/redirection of buses)

    Despite many of us who complained about the proposed reduction in bus services, especially the C2,  these have gone ahead, unaltered. Further pedestrianisation will further reduce bus services.  Cross rail does NOT take the place of local cross West End trips. We do not support the reduction of bus services in the West End. People who live and work here use buses to get about the West End.  We use the bus to do our food shopping, to take our children to the doctors and to hospital appointments, to go to work and to visit our Council Offices on Victoria Street.  We need hop-on, hop-off services which cannot be supplied by tube or Crossrail.  Tourists need this even more than locals.

    We have a high proportion of elderly and disabled people living round here and they cannot use the underground so easily (if at all).  Local bus services are equally important for visitors to the area.  No-one in their right minds would entertain a journey for example from Tottenham Court Road to John Lewis by underground.  So we need some form of local bus system along Oxford Street.

    We support the hopper fares and we support the intention to electrify (de-carbonise) Central London buses and taxis.

    1. Pollution

    We think a diffuse public transport system could work very well, as long as buses are smaller and less polluting (which means changing engines and wheel formats to reduce both NO2 and particulate pollution.)  Trams, guided by rails are, we understand less likely to cause accidents – pedestrians know where they are!  A light rail system running from one end of Oxford Street to the other – running along Oxford Street is the no-brainer solution.  For public transport to work it must be able to deliver passengers closer to the destination than they can travel by private car.  By pushing the busses out and by reducing their number the effect would be counterproductive.  It would mean that a visit to the West End would become more convenient by private car – not less so!  This is especially true as the Congestion Charge (and parking fees) do not apply on late night shopping nights, or throughout the weekends.  Thus during late nights and on Sundays there is nothing limiting private car trips into the West End, for shopping or any other function.

    Unfortunately it is not just Oxford Street that subjects the population of Fitzrovia to life threatening pollution.  The diagram below (taken from the Kings College Model commissioned, as I understand it, by the GLA) identifies Mortimer Street and New Cavendish Street as highly polluted as well.  This pollution is exacerbated in the centre of London because of the urban heat island effect, which can trap a bubble of polluted air, stopping it dissipating, as it might do in greener parts of the capital.  I am sure that enlightened traffic engineers in the GLA have already considered these limitations and are proposing alternatives.  For example a bus hub at Tottenham Court Road and a further hub at Hyde Park Corner would be well supported by our community. (As long as there is some way of getting to them)

    We are especially concerend that All Soul’s Primary School,  our excellent local primary school,  which lies only yards from the Mortimer Street/Newman Street junction.  The prospect of diverting transport onto a minor road and increasing pollution levels so close to an area where children are taught, is not worthy of the new GLA administration.


We’ve mad a comment regarding Westminster’s proposal to change mixed use policies in the city plan.

Our general concern is the proposed relaxation of the requirement to provide an increase of residential use as part of larger commercial developments in the Core CAZ and Opportunity Areas such as Tottenham Court Road. The West End and central parts of the City are characterised by a mix of commercial and residential uses adding variety, interest and enhancing interaction between different sized businesses and residents. The proposed change in wording will lead to more large scale, single use, ‘iconic’ developments which, although highly profitable, add very little and often detract from the quality of the built form in the City as a whole, or indeed in areas such as Fitzrovia.

 For the full text go to: EXTERNAL CONSULTATION

 Please add your comments if you agree or disagree with our response.

Delivering the Green Oasis

market place

Market Place could be a much greener oasis than it is today. Do we really need this wide delivery bay?

Now that our public consultation exercise is coming to an end we are delighted to report that we are in a position to start delivering one of the most popular aspects of our proposals ahead of time. Many of you supported the idea of greening small oases that would bring some welcome calm to our busy city as well as provide opportunity for pollution busting planting and locations for wildlife to flourish.  In fact new green oases in the streetscape received the most votes when we asked what community Infrastructure money should be spent on.

Fitzrovia is one of the least green areas in Central London.  The only public blade of grass in FitzWest is the new development at Pearson Square.  That pocket handkerchief, delightful though it is, cannot hope to serve all our needs.  It is our intention to recommend to Westminster City Council that more spaces like this are built as part of developments.  But what about the concrete jungle we already inhabit?

Regents Park Hotel

Consider places like this above. It is the pavement on Great Titchfield Street, right outside the Regent’s Park Hilton.  It’s the view that people living in the sheltered housing across the street view daily.  Now we have some hope of doing something about such spaces (where development might not happen for years)

FitzWest Neighbourhood Forum is delighted to announce that we have been selected as one of the areas to receive Tesco’s BagsofHelp funding.

Tesco has teamed up with Groundwork to launch its Bags of Help initiative in hundreds of regions across England and Wales. FitzWest applied for a grant and we are the lucky recipients of a regional award.  How large the funding is will depend on votes cast in our local Tesco.

The scheme will see three community groups and projects in each of these regions awarded grants of £12,000, £10,000 and £8,000 – all raised from the 5p bag charge.  The public will now vote in store from 27 February until 6 March on who should receive the £12,000, £10,000 and £8,000 awards. To learn more about the initiative please look at www.tesco.com/bagsofhelp


Making it easier for you to comment

credit dmitry 9

Credit Dmitry just.photo.lab@gmail.com

We’ve had a few complaints that the web version of our consultation is not as easy to follow as the exhibition itself.  So we re-arranged the pages for you and hopefully, made it easier to follow and to comment.  Click here to go to the exhibition pages

We had an amazing response at the exhibition, but we still need your comments if you didn’t have a chance to go. You can download the questionnaire and send it to us, or you can browse through the panels leaving, your thoughts on each page on the website.

Thank you for taking the time to comment.  We hope to be able to show you very soon that we have listened and are responding to your ideas.

You can also email us at info@fitzwest.org

Happy Christmas from Georgina Davies (and Cllr Paul Church)

151218 All Souls Christmas Card Georgina Davies Paul Church

Congratulations to Georgina Davies, aged  nine years, from All Souls C of E Primary School in FitzWest for her stunning Christmas card design.  And thanks to Councillor Paul Church for sponsoring such an excellent competition and turning the winning design into a stunning greeting card.

I can’t help but observe that here is more proof that Fitzrovia is definitely the most creative part of the West End. Georgina’s work illustrates this perfectly.  She has portrayed a London Christmas, as it is; a decorated city with tower blocks, welcoming lit windows and garlanded front doors. What a good idea to put a Father Christmas hat onto top of the Swiss Re tower!

Christmas Cards

151213 Christmas Card from councillor Roe

We have received a Christmas Card from Westminster City Council, signed by the leader Councillor Philippa Roe.  As we have nowhere to display it, it will have to remain on my mantelpiece, but I thought that it would be worth circulating the very pretty picture of ice skating in Hyde Park.

Complements of the season to all our readers!

Cycle Quietways – Too little? Too Late?


Westminster Consultation on Cycling QuietWay from Edgeware Road to Fitzrovia

The Greater London Authority has developed a cycling strategy, which involved super highways and quiet routes which criss-cross the city.  In Westminster several of these proposed routes run through FitzWest.  The Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Forum welcomes the attempt to link up the city and to devise routes where less experienced cyclists might feel more comfortable.

The proposals are modest.  They include a cycle waiting area at the head of junction stop lines on major roads and a small cycle priority path leading up to the junction.  The proposals do not designate an area of the carriageway for cycles, do not provide cycle only phases to traffic lights and do not attempt to calm or restrict traffic in any way.  There is a modest section of cycle contra-flow adjacent to Holcroft Court.

We dont believe that cycle quiet routes can be achieved without closing roads to vehicular traffic or (at the very least) reducing access, type and speed of traffic on the proposed cycling quiet routes.

In principle we believe that cyclists and pedestrians should have priority over vehicles on all but the most major thoroughfares, throughout the West End.  Many people live and work here.  We agree with the GLA that the best method of transport for many of those people is walking and cycling.  But we also see that a plateau of cycle road users will be reached unless cars and other vehicles are not also restricted in their use of side streets. This could be achieved with quiet zones, speed limits, traffic calming and cycle/pedestrian priority areas.

A Dutch Quiet routes

In Fitzrovia the narrowness of the streets, the quantity of on-street parking and the volume of deliveries, all mitigate against a successful cycling system.  We believe that quiet routes should be introduced, but we don’t feel that the measures taken, which are minimal, will make a lot of difference.  Vehicles, deliveries and parking must be better managed on these roads in order for them to be useful for novice cyclists.

In addition the measures taken to allow cycles to cross major road junctions seem flimsy.  Putting a priority waiting space in front of traffic is a useful measure, but it is not enough.  Cycle priority lights would be one solution, where cycles have their own green phase – perhaps linking with better pedestrian crossing facilities.

We enclose some images of quiet routes from Dutch and Danish cities to illustrate the difference between Westminster’s proposal and more enlightened cities.

We will be commenting formally to Westminster CC soon.  Please leave your views here and we will take account of them in our response.

Thank you.

Cycle priority routes in Copenhagen

Read the full details

Upcoming consultations

There are a few important issues for discussion at the moment.  Westminster City Council is considering its policies for Community Infrastructure Levy, HS2 consultations are commencing with a meeting this week for local organisations.  There is also a very important consultation our regarding planning obligations.  Sometimes called S106, this is the levy that the council; takes from developers of private residential in order to fund social housing.

The consultation can be found here:

The draft response is here:

Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum

Observations on:

Draft Supplementary Planning Document: The Use of planning Obligations and Other planning Mechanisms

These observations are a response to the invitation to comment on the draft SPD by 25 September, 2015. They follow the order of the sections of the document.

In general, we welcome the intention to combine, clarify and explain WCC’s revised policy on section 106 agreements and CIL.

Sections 1-4: No comments

Section 5: Affordable Housing and Mixed-use Development

5.1 Affordable Housing

We strongly support the Council’s intention to secure affordable housing through S.106 agreements but have a number of observations to make regarding current practice in the Fitzrovia area:

WCC does not make full use of its current powers and policies and very rarely secures more than 20% affordable housing even on major development sites. Recent examples include:

site Date approved Total housing units Affordable Comments



Fitzroy Place/Middlesex Hospital site, W1








All on site. +£2m to AHF


Post Office sorting office, 35-50 Rathbone Place, W1






20 affordable on site – 18 off site = 17.1%


20  affordable 1 bed units to be sold at discount to people on waiting list. + contribution to AHF


25-33 Berners Street, W1







£2m to AHF in lieu of residential in development on site




Indeed, according to GLA figures WCC has consistently underperformed in relation to all other London boroughs except Redbridge and the City of London. See London Plan Annual Monitoring Report 11 2013-14, page 23:


This shows that in 2013-14 WCC only achieved 13% affordable housing as a percentage of total net conventional supply compared with 26% in Wandsworth and 37% in Camden.

WCC increasingly allows developers to provide affordable housing off-site or to make payments to the Affordable Housing Fund (AHF). It is not at all clear how monies in the AHF are used and where they are spent. There is very little evidence of any new affordable housing in Fitzrovia West or in the W1 area.

5.1.4:  Bearing in mind the lack of provision of affordable housing in the past we object to the way the proposed tariff is expressed on page 29. In our view these should be expressed as a percentage of units in the development and not in floorspace, and they should be minimum figures, not maximum. For example, the maximum floorspace proportion required for 10-11 units is 80 sq.m. This would be much better expressed as 1 unit and then be subject to GLA minimum floorspace standards.

The maximum percentage required has never been achieved so is a hypothetical issue but in our view we suggest an overall minimum target for Fitzrovia West of 30% (i.e. both inside and outside CAZ. 35% is desirable but probably unattainable.

Tables 2 and 3 (p.30) have no explanation to the sentences relation to ‘….land having a low existing use value’. How is this measured, where is it defined?

Payment in lieu (p.32): This should only be accepted as an absolute last priority and a premium of, say, 25% should be added to discourage developers seeking this alternative. The reasons for this is that the London Plan and WCC’s Plan argue for the creation of inclusive, mixed communities and we support the creation of sustainable and well designed  integrated, mixed housing, mixed use developments. Developers will always argue for keeping low value uses off high value West End sites which in the longer term simply creates super-prime housing ghettos occupied by very few ‘real’ residents.

We strongly opposed the approach adopted by WCC to a council-owned site at 87-125 Cleveland Street, where a very inferior development was approved with only 15% affordable housing but a payment of £4.6m to the Council’s Affordable Housing Fund.

In another recent application at 40-42 Newman Street, W1 (15/07438/FULL) for the conversion of offices to 12 residential units, a confidential affordability statement is referred to arguing that the provision of the required affordable units is not viable. This is becoming common practice in several recent developments.

At least £8m has been deposited in the AHF from this and other developments listed above. We would like to know how much of this will be spent in Fitzrovia or W1? We suggest a statement is published annually showing how the AHF has been spent and in which wards.


5.2 Mixed Use Policy

We consider that new development in Fitzrovia should reflect the scale, mix and design quality of the existing urban fabric. This mix is one of the most conspicuous characteristics of the area. We are aware that many landowners and developers seek as few uses as possible on a site in the belief that this enhances land values.

We strongly support the policy set out in 5.2.3 where increases in commercial floorspace of 200 sq.m. or more are matched by an equivalent amount of residential or other approved uses. As argued above, this is not always enforced or required and there is a danger that payments in lieu will be widely accepted.

While targets are set for affordable housing there must be a good case for also having a maximum target for super-prime housing (valued at >£2m). We suggest this should constitute no more that 15% of units in any one development.

Sections 6-15 No comments


Section 17: Negotiating Planning Obligations: Assessing Viability, Procedures and Management

We have major reservations about the secrecy and processes associated with the submission of viability statements. These are never revealed to the public, although are essential in understanding the design and mix of uses in a particular proposal. Observations in the planning profession generally suggest that they are often excessively cautious and often written to support a particular pre-determined development proposal. It appears that the Council rarely questions these statements and if consultants are retained to examine them, they can often be the same consultants who advise other developers.

In our view all viability statements should be made public and consulted on as part of the planning application with the onus falling on the developer to explain why certain sections are commercially sensitive and thus should be redacted.

WCC should also investigate profit-sharing arrangements so that any uplift in residential values on completion of the development over and above those set out in the viability statement, is shared between the Council and the developer.

Appendix 1: Draft Regulations on CIL

Further information is needed on how CIL monies will be allocated to neighbourhood forums before and after a neighbourhood plan is made and how the forums will be consulted about the use of these resources.


In summary:

  • We support the intention to create genuinely mixed developments containing the full range of housing particularly on major sites and as underpinned by S106 and CIL payments;


  • Figures stated for the provision of affordable housing should be treated as a minimum for negotiation purposes and should be expressed as a percentage of the total rather than in sq.m;


  • There should be a single target of a minimum of 30% affordable housing in the Fitzrovia West Forum area and in the CAZ;


  • Super-prime residential units should be restricted to no more than 15% of any one development;


  • Payments in lieu should be strongly discouraged except for overriding reasons (e.g. legal constraints)and should carry an additional premium of 25%;


  • WCC should publish an annual report to show how and where the AHF is generated and spent;


  • Viability statements should be publicised as part of planning applications;


  • WCC should investigate the potential for negotiating profit-sharing arrangements based on value uplift after completion of a development over and above that stated in the viability statement.


September 2015




Do you live or work in Fitzrovia West (ie west of Charlotte Street) and care about safeguarding our unique environment?

 What is FitzWest?

On 6th February 2015, FitzWest was designated a Neighbourhood Forum by Westminster City Council and already over 200 local people and businesses have joined. The Forum will make a Plan for the neighbourhood, targeting housing, planning, pollution – and much more. Now we need your involvement too!

Why should I get involved?

The diversity of people and activities in this area is in danger of irrevocable change. If you want to help keep the small shops and businesses, plus the mix of housing that ordinary people can afford – please sign up to be a member of the Forum. If you want Westminster City Council to make improvements to our streets and green-spaces – get involved in shaping local policy now – join the Forum, its free and easy to get involved. Look through this website, join a topic group and have your say. Or just email your thoughts to info@fitzwest.org. Make sure you have a voice.

Will the Neighbourhood Plan have teeth?

The Neighbourhood Plan will put community priorities at the heart of town planning decisions, ensuring that developments in this area contribute to change that is locally agreed and positive. The Neighbourhood Plan will help to shape Council investment in things that local people have told us they’d like to see, such as, street improvements, street safety, management of rubbish and the building of new gardens and playgrounds. But we need your views and your support.

Priority topics for the Neighbourhood Plan will include:

  • Liveable Neighbourhood
  • Nurture Young and Independent Businesses
  • Urban Realm
  • Environment

“Our mission is to ensure that Fitzrovia develops as a habitable, sustainable and neighbourly community through all means available including planning, collaborative working and community enterprise.”

 Join us Now!

Let’s keep our neighbourhood special. By working with, and having an influence on, the Council and developers, FitzWest can ensure that any change is beneficial and that we continue to enjoy the best place to live, work, or visit in central London.

Join here.

email us here.