The time has come to transform St Giles, to make it a more important attribute in Oxford’s historic centre through a focus on pedestrians and cyclists, rather than cars and parking. The County Council has been proposing substantial, but piecemeal, changes since 2016, but has not activated them yet.
The public are extremely enthusiastic about the benefits of a newly-configured space. And changes, such as removing the parking, could happen now, without being dependent on any other city-centre developments. The narrowing of the traffic lanes could similarly occur, though would be more sensible if linked to the installation of the Worcester Street busgate. Any loss in revenue from the car-parking would be offset by re-invigorating the whole area with new cafés, greenery, florists, sculptures. Perhaps even an Oxford Eye (a smaller version of the London one). As the retail sector declines, post-Covid, the benefits of new attractions are needed to enhance the City’s historic centre. Similar arguments apply to Broad Street as we portrayed last year.
CoHSAT gives an inspirational overview of what this important townscape could look like. All that is needed now is the political determination to deliver a new part of the public realm for Oxford.