Camden Council will next week present its plans for the Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street area. “Public consultation on the West End project will take place from Monday 9 June 2014 until Friday 18 July 2014”, says the Council. “The West End Project will transform the Tottenham Court Road area making the area safer and more attractive for everyone, creating new public spaces and boosting business.”

Road and construction site.
More visitors than Heathrow every day. Camden Council will unveil plans to change Tottenham Court Road to two-way traffic and restrict the road to buses, pedestrians and cycles for most of its length.

According to Camden the proposals will:

  • Create or improve five public spaces, and create a brand new park.
  • Replace the one-way system with two-way roads, some protected cycle lanes and improved public spaces.
  • Create 18,000 square metres of new public realm, with nearly 300 new trees planted in the area.
  • Reduce congestion and pollution, widen pavements and improve access to public transport.
  • Be delivered by 2018 in time for the opening of Crossrail, when Tottenham Court Road station will have more visitors than Heathrow every day.
  • Help to make this a thriving district, enabling businesses to capitalise on the opportunities of increased visitors.

However, Camden have been reluctant to give much information about how the changes will affect traffic in the smaller streets either side of Tottenham Court Road. Pre-consultation sessions held with community groups have presented the developing ideas but detail on predicted vehicle movements has been absent.

Max Neufeld of the Charlotte Street Association told Fitzrovia News: “We need to see the traffic modelling figures, but Camden have not made them available. How can we have a proper consultation if we don’t know the effect of the proposed changes?” said Neufeld.

Under plans shown so far, Gower Street will be reduced to one motor vehicle lane in each direction and open to all traffic. It will also have segregated cycle lanes. But no buses will serve Gower Street, with the existing services moved to Tottenham Court Road.

Tottenham Court will also be reduced to one lane in each direction but will be restricted to buses and cycles only. No taxis would be allowed. In the proposals presented in the spring this year, time restrictions for other vehicles would be put in place and a complicated system where vehicles would be allowed to use certain stretches to cross the road and for loading. It is these vehicle restrictions that some residents fear will push more traffic into the side streets.

Some have commented that Tottenham Court Road will come to resemble Oxford Street with its famous “wall of buses”.

Local residents who have been pressing for more public open space will welcome plans for Alfred Place to become a new park.

However, questions about providing the first public toilet for the area have been met with silence, or dismissed as a “detail”. Many residents and business owners have complained that the area around Tottenham Court Road is used as a toilet and the advent of Crossrail and the forecast large number of visitors will make matters worse if no new public conveniences are built.

The West End Project is estimated to cost about £30m paid for by Camden Council, with contributions from Transport for London, Fitzrovia BID and InMidtown BID. There will also be a levy on new building developments, reported the West End Extra.

Work on the the scheme is due to start in 2015 and be completed at the end of 2017 in time for the opening of the Crossrail station at Tottenham Court Road.

Camden have been feeding the media with a number of statements over the past couple of weeks and have produced a video as part of its softening up process ahead of next week’s full announcement of the proposals.

Local community groups will be expecting the council’s planners and traffic engineers to come up with actual details about how the project will work and be delivered rather than be presented with the marketing puff churned out in the last few days.

Detailed proposals by area

Tottenham Court Road

  • Tottenham Court Road two-way for buses and cyclists only (from 8am-7pm, Monday to Saturday)
  • From 8am-7pm, Monday to Saturday local access for cars, taxis and loading would be allowed on short sections of Tottenham Court Road via side roads
  • Up to 2m wider pavements with trees and safer pedestrian crossings
  • New diagonal crossings at the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street
  • New public space between Percy Street and Windmill Street with trees and seats
  • Raise the road to the same level as the pavement, in certain areas, to slow traffic
  • Bus passengers will be able to arrive and leave from Tottenham Court Road
  • New loading bays for local businesses
  •  Replace existing kiosks with a more attractive design and a wider range of goods for sale
  • Improvements to Whitfield Gardens, including improved seating and planting and restoring the mural.

Gower Street and Bloomsbury Street

  • Gower Street and Bloomsbury Street two-way for all vehicles
  • Protected cycle lanes in both directions. The protected cycle lanes would separate cyclists from traffic using ‘light segregation’ – rubber blocks sometimes called ‘armadillos’, similar to those recently used on Royal College Street.
  • Declutter pavements so it becomes a more pleasant environment for pedestrians
  • Move all bus routes to Tottenham Court Road
  • Provide safe and convenient pedestrian crossings
  • Remove all parking from Gower Street and Bloomsbury Street (loading bays would be available on Gower Street between 10am and 2pm, Monday to Sunday)
  • Raise the road to the same level as the pavement, in certain areas, to slow traffic

New Oxford Street

  • Provide safe and direct pedestrian crossings
  • New diagonal crossings at the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street
  • Raise the road to the same level as the pavement, in certain areas, to slow traffic
  • Remove unnecessary signs and railings

Public spaces

  • A new park on Alfred Place
  • A new plaza for St Giles – next to Centre Point
  • A new public space at Princes Circus – the junction of Shaftesbury Avenue and High Holborn
  • Improved Whitfield Gardens
  • A new public space on Tottenham Court Road “Windmill Square” (between Percy Street and Windmill Street)
  • A new public space on Huntley Street

Update 13 June 2014: Visit the public exhibition at the Building Centre, 26 Store Street, WC1E 7BT on Thursday 19 June (10am to 5pm) and Monday 7 July (5pm to 8pm) where council officers will be available to answer questions about the scheme.