Oxford Street buses
Oxford Street buses

Labour Councillors have warned about Westminster Conservatives’ ability to deliver their ambitious plans for massive changes to Oxford Street.

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Labour’s City Management and Environment spokesperson said:

“The Oxford Street project will require huge amounts of finance and world-class project management skills. There is no evidence that Westminster has either the money or the project management skills to complete this project. Recent bad experiences with Council’s estate regeneration projects and the mis-management of City West Homes demonstrates a failing organisation that that cannot be trusted with probably the biggest ever project undertaken by a Council in the UK.

Having rejected the Mayor’s pedestrianisation proposals, Westminster Conservatives now say that they plan to not only transform Oxford Street, but the entire West End district north and south of Oxford Street, too – as well as keeping the busiest shopping street in Britain working, keeping the traffic flowing and out of nearby residential streets, reducing traffic accidents and keeping the local economy going – all at the same time.

But has the Council got the necessary finance and skills required?

Recent experience suggests not.

Let’s look at Church Street regeneration. It was started in 2013; supported by a strong vote by residents; millions of pounds have been spent on plans that were drafted, torn up and then redrafted. And 5 years later, just three new show flats have been built

And there is Ebury Bridge estate regeneration. Also started in 2013 with another strong vote in favour. Since then over £30 million has been spent acquiring flats that have been empty and boarded up for years. Five years later not one single new brick has been laid and not one single new home has been built.

It’s the same tale of woe with smaller projects.

Take the redevelopment of a Council-owned block at 90-104 Berwick Street – a project that was supposed to finish in 2017 but will not be ready until 2019. Huge misery has been caused by contractors to residents and local businesses and it continues today despite promises by the Council to sort out the problems.

And in Luxborough Street – a new Marylebone library was promised over a decade ago. Today, the site is still vacant and boarded up. £1.5 million has been wasted on plans that were shredded years ago

This is the record, this is the reality of Westminster Conservatives when it comes to major project procurement and management. It is a record of failure, broken promises, delays and financial waste

And then there is City West Homes, an arms-length creature of the Council, with leading Conservatives on the CWH board directing policy and practice.

This Council-sponsored organisation let down 22,000 tenants and leaseholders so badly that it has had to be scrapped and put out of its misery because of its failure to do basic repairs, keep appointments, and failed to get it ‘right first time’ again and again and again.

It is the same old Westminster story – Over promise and under deliver. Spin before substance

On Oxford Street, all we have had so far are warm words and vague promises. There is no detail, no depth, no programme and crucially no explanation of where the money will come from to complete this project.

There are huge unknowns

  • Will the £150 million allocated over the next 3 years be enough? Where is the rest of the money coming from?
  • How will the Council’s proposal for a ‘piazza’ at Oxford Circus work? Where will the north-south and east-west traffic go?
  • How will Oxford Street’s vital Christmas trade and thousands of retail jobs be safeguarded while the wider Oxford Street area is turned into a building site for the next decade?
  • How will the plans to reduce traffic lanes along Oxford Street impact on pedestrian safety and traffic speeds?
  • Where are the skills at City Hall to do this massively complex capital project? If the Council does not have the necessary skills, how much will it cost to buy in these skills?
  • Will the private landowners who stand to benefit from the huge investment of public money be contributing to the costs of the work?”
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