By Peter Whyatt and Linus Rees

Tight squeeze. Delivery vans travelling east down Hanway Street. A new loading bay is proposed on the right hand side of the street to allow 11m long lorries to service the new Primark Store.

The ancient lane of Hanway Street is threatened by proposals to create a loading bay for a major new Primark store in Oxford Street. A planning application was submitted to City of Westminster and London Borough of Camden in December last year. The street is on the border of the two boroughs.

If allowed it will mean 11 deliveries per day: one delivery an hour  by 18.5 tonne lorries that are 11 metres long from 5am until 11am, then one an hour between 2pm and 4pm, then one delivery after 7pm daily; plus two overnight deliveries between 7pm and 7am by 40 tonne lorries to the Oxford Street entrance.

As each lorry will take about ten minutes to enter and another ten minutes to manoeuvre out it will mean Hanway Street being blocked during deliveries.

Hanway Street was designated as a conservation area in 1990 because of its “intimate character and charm, created by the narrow, curving streetscape and piecemeal way in which it has developed”. The street is one of the last late-medieval routes through Fitzrovia and St Giles and is recognised as having significant historic value by both Camden and Westminster.

“This is an ancient lane and the route probably existed here as early as 1600. The route has retained the historic curving street layout and is just wide enough for one car, with narrow pavements on either side. Northwards, the street turns into Hanway Place, Fitzrovia, which continues the pattern of small-scale buildings laid along narrow thoroughfares. This whole ‘backland’ development is a remarkable survival of this part of London and an area of considerable townscape interest,” state City of Westminster’s conservationists.

Construction on the vast 85,000 square feet Primark clothing store opposite Tottenham Court Road station (where Virgin, Zavvi and Sports Direct used to be) started earlier this year and it is expected to be open by Christmas 2011.

The company, a subsidiary of Associated British Foods, has applied to site a loading bay in Hanway Street to both Camden and Westminster councils. They have to apply to both authorities because although the site is in Westminster, Camden roads and pavements are affected.

Back and fore. Drawing showing the 11 metre lorry's turning in and out of the propsed loading bay.
Back and fore. Drawing showing the 11 metre lorry’s route in and out of the proposed loading bay.

It is being proposed that part of the street be widened to allow two-way traffic for the heavy goods vehicles. Objectors say this would completely destroy the character of the street which is a quiet road of small scale shops and bars, with a “Victorian feel”. Camden Council plans to develop this relaxed feel by creating a series of lanes to house boutiques and small shops from Oxford Street to Charlotte Street (through its Site Allocation Preferred Approach which is now in consultation).

Hanway Street and Hanway Place include residential accommodation, and the proposed bay will generate considerable noise nuisance, say residents. Residents fear it will cause other problems. Lorries turning into Hanway Street from Tottenham Court Road (as proposed) will require a wide turning circle and block two lanes of traffic on Tottenham Court Road – just as is the case when buses turn from Tottenham Court Road into Great Russell Street. As Hanway Street and Great Russell Street are opposite each other, there will be chaos whenever a bus is trying to turn into Great Russell Street at the same time as a lorry into Hanway Street. There is also considerable pedestrian traffic on Hanway Street, and pedestrians will be forced to dodge between the lorries, which could well lead to accidents. Deliveries and customers to the small shops along Hanway Street will also be adversely affected, say residents and small businesses.

Hanway Street conservation area
Hanway Street conservation area

Formal objections to Primark’s plans have been submitted to City of Westminster by the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association. The Charlotte Street Association have formally objected to the Primark development to both Camden and Westminster councils.Many local residents have also sent in objections.

A local resident told Fitzrovia News that this development will ruin this historic street. “Primark should be ashamed of themselves for putting forward this ridiculous proposal for lorry traffic in this tiny street. And the New West End Company Business Improvement District should be condemned for supporting the destruction of this conservation area,” said the resident who wished to remain anonymous.

Sally Humphreys of the News West End Company responded: “The eastern end of Oxford Street is sad and in need of regeneration. We would certainly not support the destruction of a conservation area. However, we don’t believe Primark’s proposals will ruin the historic character of the street. We support Primark as they are a member of our organisation and our job as the New West End Company is to support our members. We are not in the business of criticising our members. We represent our members’ interests. We are no different to residents’ groups who represent their members’ interests. Likewise conservation groups represent their interests,” said Ms Humphreys.

The New West End Company Business Improvement District is funded by a levy on retail, food and beverage and leisure occupiers where the rateable value exceeds £250,000.

Camden’s Development Control Committee will make a decision tonight (13 January, details here) and City of Westminster’s planning committee will make a decision in the near future.

Update: Disappointing result for local people and conservationists. Camden’s Development Control Committee voted by four votes to three to approve Primark’s proposals. The only concession was a change of the first delivery time from 5am to 6am.

Update: Friday 4 February. City of Westminster granted planning permission subject to further conditions being agreed, including deliveries starting no earlier than 7am. However, this is a disappointing result for local residents and conservationists.

Comment: Primark buys planning permission

See also: Pictures of Hanway Street and Hanway place on Urban75, and history of Hanway Street on British History Online; and current discussion on Oxford Street on SkyscraperCity, and discussion on Hanway Street and Hanway Place on Urban75.

12 replies on “Hanway Street conservation area under threat from giant clothes retailer”

    1. Corrected. I also had to make other corrections as it was pointed out to me that the first daily deliveries in Hanway Street would start from 5am (not 7am as we had also reported in the print edition of Fitzrovia News).

  1. Sally Humphreys “[does not] believe Primark’s proposals will ruin the historic character of the street.”

    Er…what planet is this woman on? Supporting Primark to widen this historic street to allow 18.5 tonne lorries to drive through it every hour is clearly going to do just that.

    It sounds like she hasn’t even read her manifesto published on the front page of her own website – “To maintain the West End’s predominance needs…to be done in a sensitive way to ensure a healthy balance between business, visitors and residents.”

    Clearly NWEC doesn’t give a hoot about residents – all it cares about is stripping our historic streets of their character and charm and filling them with chain stores and the associated disruption/noise/lorries in the name of “improvement” and “regeneration”.

  2. I’ve loved Hanway Street since the first time I found it, about 24 years ago when Vinyl Experience used to be in the street. It’s a bloody disgrace that Primark, supported by the foul New West End Company, should seek to change it from a quiet backwater into a glorified goods yard entrance. It’s not their street, but the plans above show how – if permission’s granted – you might as well rename it Primark Way as they’ll be driving juggernauts up and down it all day long.

  3. There are 150 Primarks across the UK. In the entire world there is only one Hanway Street. Hanway Street existed when the surrounding area along Oxford Street was still the King’s hunting fields. Hanway Street started as an ancient path connecting Oxford Street with Tottenham Court Road. It pre-dates the rest of Fitzrovia and Soho.

    As far as regeneration goes, you do not have to be a rocket scientist to realise that Hanway Street offers amazing potential for regenerating the eastern end of Oxford Street as a home for specialist shops. It will do nothing for the regeneration of the area to turn it into a loading bay for a store that will in time either close or move on.

    Ken Titmuss
    London Trails: Walking tours with old maps.

  4. Utterly dismaying. I read up on Hanway Street when there were rumours that it was going to be demolished to make way for Crossrail and realised how historically important it is. It is so depressing when Primark – a company that does much much more harm than good can just trample all over the past and the current needs of locals.
    On top of that, I can’t believe we need another massive Primark at this end of Oxford Street. It’s hard enough trying to get around at rush hour and lunchtimes without now having to push your way through crowds of excitable schoolkids with their brown bags full of tat.
    Can you imagine the chaos during, say, half term when the shop with be overflowing with people getting in the way of the crowds outside We Will Rock You, both of which will be thwarting commuters trying to get into TCR station? It is going to be MISERABLE!

  5. In 20 years the whole of London will have become one gigantic hideous homogenous load of corporate tasteless shit. Aside from anything else Primark make rubbish clothes.

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