New face for Broad Street

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2027

The front of the New Bodleian will be transformed into a outdoor café and Broad Street barred to traffic under plans to change the face of the road.

The University confirmed that they planned to open a café in the New Bodleian. Oana Romocea, Bodleian communications officer said, “The idea is to open up the front of the library.” The University also expressed support for ideas to pave over the east end of the street, suggested by a committee made up of Oxford Council, the University and local groups.

A spokeswoman for Oxford Preservation Trust (OPT), a group involved in the decision, said, “before, never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined a council who would pedestrianise the city centre.”

Designs for the transformation had stalled after an urban designer made the suggestions in 2004. She said, “now, politically, there’s a lot of goodwill towards change.”

Many students voiced support for the plans. One Somerville student said he thought the ideas were “interesting”, and that it would be “a good idea to make Broad Street look a bit more busy.”

“At the moment Cornmarket is sort of the main street in Oxford,” he said. “It should be Broad Street really because its more iconic.”

He added, however, that he feared the paving of the street’s east end “might make cycling difficult, which would be a shame because that’s one of the great things about Oxford as it is.”

A St Anne’s second year agreed, saying she felt that the current semi-pedestrianised situation on Broad Street was confusing. “It’d be nice if it was completely pedestrianised. At the moment you’re just walking along down the road and then a van goes by.”

She also said she hoped that the paved square would encourage cafes and pubs to invest in more outdoor seating.

Oxford Council’s transport chief, Ian Hudspeth, has expressed strong support for pedestrianising parts of the city. During the heated debate following the announcement at a council meeting, he pointed to a picture of buses congesting a street and asked his audience, “is that really what we want from a world-class city? Is that what Oxford is really all about?”

An earlier study commissioned by OPT said that other parts of the plan included reopening the street’s western end to traffic, planting trees around the street and removing intrusive signs and placards.

The spokeswoman for the group explained that she believed that “the new ideas could actually be much more exciting” than the original ideas drafted in 2004. OPT said, “it was always crucial that something happened to enliven the street.” 

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