City of Westminster street signs for Newman Street and Mortimer Street in Fitzrovia.
Newman Street will change from one-way northbound to one-way southbound. Photo: Fitzrovia News.

Work will be done this month to make changes to the traffic direction and highway layout of Berners Street and Newman Street in Fitzrovia, as part of Westminster Council’s “Oxford Street District” plan.

Westminster Council’s contractors Murphy and Careys have announced that the work will be carried out from 6 October and be completed on 24 October 2021.

“Changes will be made to the traffic direction on two streets to help improve pedestrian safety, improve the traffic flow in the wider district, reduce congestion, improve the experience for cyclists travelling through the area and facilitate further improvements to Berners Street, Newman Street and Eastcastle Street,” states a letter sent to residents and businesses.

The work is being done under an Experimental Traffic Order (ETO) which was first announced in June this year.

Traffic direction changes for Berners Street and Newman Street. Image source: Westminster City Council / Murphy and Careys.

“These changes will allow the Council to monitor and assess the changes, and listen to feedback from stakeholders, before any changes are considered for permanent inclusion,” states the letter.

The work includes the widening of the footpaths at the junctions of Newman Street and Mortimer Street, Berners Street and Mortimer Street, and Eastcastle Street and Berners Street. New traffic signals will be installed at four junctions and new signage and road markings will be installed to indicate the new direction of travel.

Newman Street, which is currently one-way northbound for vehicles, will be changed to southbound. Berners Street, which is currently two-way between Eastcastle Street and Oxford Street and one-way southbound from Mortimer Street to Eastcastle Street, will become one-way northbound along its entire length.

The traffic switch itself is scheduled to take place over the weekend of 23 and 24 October when the junctions will be temporarily closed until the change in traffic flow is complete.

Diversions will be in place and traffic marshalls will be onsite at all junction closures to assist with any questions, say the contractors.

One resident told Fitzrovia News that the change to Berners Street is bad news for air quality in Fitzrovia as it will create a more direct route for drivers avoiding Regent Street and travelling through Soho along Wardour Street from Shaftesbury Avenue. “When Westminster Council say they will ‘improve the traffic flow’ — they mean make it easier to drive through Fitzrovia, and make things better for the Crown Estate who own Regent Street.” they said.

Other changes to streets in the Westminster part of Fitzrovia were due to take place. This would have included changing Mortimer Street to two-way along its entire length; and reversing the current southbound traffic flow of Great Titchfield Street south of Mortimer Street.

However, these changes along with Oxford Circus have been put on hold until a public consultation has been carried out due to concerns raised by residents groups about Oxford Street motor traffic being displaced into the surrounding neighbourhoods.

Fitzrovia is already blighted by motor traffic passing through its narrow streets particularly eastwards along Mortimer Street and Goodge Street, and also Clipstone Street and Maple Street.

Westminster Council has been reluctant to make public all details of the proposed changes under its “Oxford Street District” plans and has refused a Freedom of Information request made by Fitzrovia News. That decision is currently under review.

The Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum wants to see through traffic restricted to major roads such as Marylebone Road and Oxford Street. “A strategic assessment of traffic movement in the area is a priority and a Low Traffic Neighbourhood will be assessed as a means to reduce through traffic, promote walking and cycling and improve air quality,” states its Neighbourhood Plan.

Further details of the temporary road closures can be found at westminster.gov.uk/osd

Documents: Oxford Street District Project – Berners / Newman Streets – changes in traffic direction.