Council accepts retailer demands
Westminster city council has bowed to retailer demands to pedestrianise Oxford Street for one shopping day before Christmas in the face of tough trading.

Details of the proposal emerged as Oxford Street's famous lights were switched on this week. A crowd of 15,000 gathered for the event outside Debenhams, which backed the festive illuminations.

'We are looking for another day to close Oxford Street to traffic before Christmas,' said Westminster city council cabinet member for planning and customer service Robert Davis. 'We are determined to retain Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street as a premier shopping centre.'

Davis's commitment to closing the street to traffic for a day is recognition of the challenging Christmas anticipated by retailers. The London Retail Sales Monitor showed a 2.3 per cent comparable sales decline in October.

The proposal follows the success of the Oxford Street festival last month, when there was a 38.9 per cent leap in shopper numbers compared with the previous Saturday.

John Lewis managing director Charlie Mayfield said: 'Hopefully, we can have the street closed to traffic again before Christmas. Pedestrianisation would bring Oxford Street back to being a pathway for shoppers as opposed to a throughway for buses.

'Imagine a world with less or no traffic -wouldn't this be in everyone's interest? If there was a silver lining to what happened in July, it was that October 1 allowed us to see what could be done in the West End.'

Speaking at the unveiling of plans to revamp the West End, Davis said: 'In the short term, it is not feasible to totally pedestrianise Oxford Street. In the long term, we can reduce the number of buses and widen pavements.'