Oxford City Council plans to create new public square on Broad Street

Image Description: A photo mock up of the new public square on Broad Street.

The Oxford City Council are planning on creating a temporary public square in Broad Street this summer, and have submitted an application to close part of Broad Street to traffic. The project will create a new city centre destination for Oxford residents and visitors to relax and enjoy, with places to sit and meet friends and family in a safe outdoor environment. 

The new public square would create one of Oxford city centre’s largest outdoor public spaces, at a time when the city hopes to welcome significant numbers of shoppers, visitors, workers and students to the city. Currently, the proposals aim to help green this part of Broad Street with wild flower meadows and lawns, and to use materials that are recycled, and reusable where possible. The City Council also hopes to include high quality community and arts events in the space over the summer.

The project is one of the ways through which the City Council aims to support Oxford’s economic recovery, and will also inform the development of longer-term options for creating better civic spaces on Broad Street and in other parts of the city in the future. The Council is prioritising the use of local suppliers, recycled materials and the re-use of furniture after the scheme is finished.

Following extensive consultation with city centre stakeholders, the City Council has applied for a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order from the highway authority, Oxfordshire County Council, which will ultimately decide on the application.

The aim is to temporarily restrict vehicles on part of the road, between Magdalen Street East and just before the junction with Turl Street, from early July through to the autumn. The proposal will not impact the bus stops or the public car park in Broad Street, and a two-way cycle route will be retained throughout Broad Street. Access will also be maintained from Broad Street to Market Street, which is the main route for deliveries to and from the Covered Market.

The proposals have been developed and informed through discussions with technical experts and local stakeholders, as well as with businesses and advocacy groups. In April and May, the project team, led by Oxford-based landscape architects LDA Design, gathered the views of more than 60 organisations through informal conversations, workshops, drop-in sessions and its consultation portal. These include the University of Oxford and its Broad Street colleges, businesses on Broad Street, transport operators, cycling and walking groups, and event organisers.

LDA Design has also worked closely with the Council’s Inclusive Transport & Movement focus group, which features people with disabilities and representatives of disability organisations, and intend to ensure the scheme is as inclusive as possible.

Councillor Tom Hayes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon at Oxford City Council, said: “Oxford’s iconic Broad Street is one of the best streets in Europe, and it’s set to get even better. On a perfect summer day, children will be able to play, people will be able to pause for cool refreshments. With a beautiful meadow and some flower power, we can bring Broad Street back to life.:

“In the longer term, this Council wants to pedestrianise more of the city and give the whole of Broad Street back to local people. For the summer, we will keep the cycle through route on Broad Street and seek to do the same for a permanent scheme.”

Dafydd Warburton, Director at LDA Design, said: “Framed by listed buildings, Broad Street is a popular destination, loved by many. But space here is heavily contested and pedestrians are confined to narrow pavements, with few opportunities to sit and spend time. This project is a fantastic opportunity to test new ideas for a more inviting public realm that’s fitting for such a historic street, enhancing the city centre’s appeal to residents and visitors alike.”

Image Credits: LDA Design and the Oxford City Council