Last Friday our friends — I use the term loosely —  at the Fitzrovia Partnership Business Improvement District (BID) were tweeting away about the latest chain sandwich shop to open. “Who’s heading to @Pret!? That’s right – it’s opening today! What a Friday treat!” they gushed full of excitement. What they probably didn’t do was count how many of these cloned sarnie outlets are cluttering up the neighbourhood. Sad to say, but my colleagues at Fitzrovia News did just that.

Pret a Manger on corner of street.
Cornering the local market. The tenth Pret a Manger to open in Fitzrovia.

There are now 10 Pret a Manger shops in Fitzrovia — a neighbourhood that is barely one square kilometre in size. Fitzrovia is now one neighbourhood under an identical stock of sandwiches (almost). And those clowns at the Fitzrovia BID seem to think this is a cause of celebration and an occasion for a “treat“. Or are they, too, victims of emotional labour?

Whilst I have nothing against Pret or the people who work in their stores I really don’t want to see them every 100 metres throughout my part of town. In fact when I go out for my occasional girly jog around the area in an effort to beat the ravages of ageing I’m likely to pass most of them. So now I have to change my running route just so I don’t start thinking I’m going around in circles or not getting anywhere. I could end up feeling I’m stuck in perpetual world of Pret!

Tottenham Court Road now seems to have more sandwich shops than computer shops or shops selling anything other than sandwiches. I’m beginning to wonder is there any point to Tottenham Court Road or any other street in Fitzrovia when they are all starting to look the same. I’m sure I’m exaggerating — I hope I’m exaggerating.

I like it when new shops open. When they are different and add variety to the area. It’s somewhere new to visit, say “hello” to the staff and enjoy the experience of seeing somewhere new.

But why are the Fitzrovia BID celebrating another clone shop on a street corner in Warren Street that is highly likely to put out of business the neighbouring smaller shops and cafes? Is that improving the district for business?

One neighbour pointed out that the latest Warren Street Pret should not be allowed because it was a cafe and the building is classed as retail not a cafe. But the planning officer glibly responded by saying, well it doesn’t matter because Pret a Manger have shops in retail premises all over London and those premises aren’t cafe use so if other boroughs are doing so, so can Camden.

With that logic I can be a planning officer. Gis a job!

Talk about de-professionalising your own profession. It’s bad enough that government have ripped up most town planning legislation so that you now seem to be able to stick what you want, where you want, when you want and how you want. You’d think that might create variety.

But it doesn’t, it just creates the same bland streets.

Between The Fitzrovia Partnership and Camden Council’s planners Fitzrovia is a doomed district. It’s going to suffocate under an avalanche more or less identical fast food.

*10 Prets: 3 on Tottenham Court Road, 1 on Charlotte Place, 2 on Great Portland Street, 1 on Eastcastle Street, 1 on Oxford Street, 1 on Regent Street, and 1 on Warren Street.