Pedestrian sign.
Pedestrian movements are being monitored and analysed in Tottenham Court Road and Charlotte Street.

By News Reporters

Pedestrian movements in Fitzrovia are to be monitored, measured and analysed this Christmas, and two new reports looking at the local economy and the impact of Crossrail on visitor numbers will be published, say the Fitzrovia Partnership Business Improvement District. 

The Fitzrovia BID, which was set up in August 2012, is installing equipment to monitor pedestrian movements in Tottenham Court Road and Charlotte Street this month. Several locations have been identified as sites for footfall cameras which will track pedestrian flow patterns. 

The move comes in the wake of a reported reduction in shoppers visiting Tottenham Court Road and a number of retailers having left the street over the past few years. Although known for its electrical retailers it is these stores that have left, often being replaced by chain sandwich shops. But the furniture stores have also reported declining visitor numbers.

A comprehensive economic report commissioned by the BID will be published in January, and a study on the potential effect of Crossrail on visitor numbers is also due to be published shortly. But the reports are unlikely to have much to say about the quality of life for people living in Fitzrova.

The Fitzrovia BID say they will install seven footfall cameras: two at the northern end of Tottenham Court Road by University College Hospital and Warren Street Tube Station; two at the southern end of the street, close to the Dominion Theatre; two in the middle near the Heals furnishings store and Whitfield Gardens; and one at the junction of Charlotte Street and Goodge Street, close to what they are now calling the “Food & Drink Quarter”.

Retail analysts Springboard will fix the footfall cameras on lighting or CCTV columns to survey a defined zone where pedestrians pass through. Visitor numbers are then recorded using counting software.

The software will allow the BID to collect daily information, create monthly reports on pedestrian movements, and analyse the success of marketing initiatives. The new cameras will measure the impact of Christmas upon businesses.

Map of BID.
The Fitzrovia BID has commissioned a Fitzrovia Economic Report. But will it say anything about the quality of life of residents.

A Fitzrovia Economic report is due to be published in January. The highlights of the report, say the Fitzrovia BID, will include a number of statistics on the characteristics of the local economy.

Attracting 45 percent of all retail spenders, the most popular shops are the grocery stores — Sainsbury’s Local, Tesco Express, and Little Waitrose. But spending is low which suggests top-up and lunch purchases rather than full grocery shopping.

Electrical retailers still have a significant presence on Tottenham Court Road but spending is declining, with a trend for shoppers to view products in stores but purchase online from home. The percentage of electrical retailers (9 percent) is far higher than in the West End as a whole (1 percent).

Vacancy rates in the area are 12 percent which is below the UK average of 14.1 percent. The local vacancy rates are however skewed because of high vacancy rates in some streets due to ongoing construction work.

However, the report will also state that those people surveyed expressed a desire to see further independent retailers attracted to Fitzrovia and the surrounding area, rather than chain stores. It is these independents that give Fitzrovia its unique attraction compared to the wider West End.

Other statistics released ahead of the report publication state:

  • There are over 4,200 people living within the BID area.
  • A mix of owner occupancy with 30% of homes owned either outright or with a mortgage, 29% socially rented and 33% privately rented.
  • There are 16,813 workers in the BID area.

There are three main tube stations for people accessing the West End. The busiest is Oxford Circus with 70.1 million passengers entering or exiting each year. The figure for Tottenham Court Road is 34.5 million and Bond Street 36.9 million.

With Crossrail stations opening at Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road these numbers could change dramatically.

A new report commissioned by The Fitzrovia Partnership BID, The New West End Company BID, InMidtown BID, and Transport for London will reveal potential passenger flows from Farringdon, Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street Crossrail stations. The report will take into account recently revised population and employment projections for London to give new projections for Crossrail passenger inflows and outflows from these three stations.

The report seen by Fitzrovia News but yet to be officially released warns that “Without the offices, residential development, entertainment and retail offer to attract and sustain visitors” the number of visitors projected may not materialise.

But what none of this monitoring of pedestrian movements or the reports on visitor numbers will do is assess the impact on the quality of life of people living in Fitzrovia. While the economic report recognises the number of people living in the BID it mostly views them as units of consumption.

While the traditional retail on Tottenham Court Road is in decline there are an increasing amount of bars and restaurants opening in the neighbourhood. It is this shift from a mostly daytime economy to an evening and even a late night entertainment district that will be of concern to those who live here.

What residents may well ask is: where is the report that measures the impact of this food and drink quarter on those living here, and where is the report that investigates the enforcement of Camden Council’s planning and licensing policy?

Goodge Street, London

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