Camden Council’s cabinet will be asked to make a decision on the public realm and traffic changes for the Tottenham Court Road area at a town hall meeting next Wednesday.
Camden’s officers are recommending that the proposals laid out last year for what they call Camden’s West End Project be approved subject to some changes as a result of the public consultation.
The plans are for removing the one way system, reducing traffic lanes and providing some cycling facilities and creating new public open space and wider pavements. It would remove all buses from Gower Street and re-route them to Tottenham Court Road with passengers served by three bus stops in each direction. The project area stretches from Euston Road down to Cambridge Circus and Camden say it would reduce overall traffic levels.
It will be the largest project of its kind that Camden has undertaken and many residents are concerned that it could make matters worse not better.
Camden’s officers are pushing for a decision which will ban taxis and other private vehicles for about 40 percent of the length of Tottenham Court Road despite concerns about pushing more traffic into many side streets.
Residents living in Torrington Place are alarmed at the expected doubling of motor vehicles in the street as a result of northbound traffic that would be excluded from Tottenham Court Road between 8am and 7pm Monday to Friday.
Camden has however announced plans to conduct a traffic trial making part of Torrington Place, Byng Place and Tavistock Place one-way east bound only, east of the junction with Gower Street. This would prevent some of the anticipated westbound traffic coming along Torrington Place and past the junction with Huntley Street. But much of the future traffic would be coming north up Gower Street and turning into Torrington Place to get across into Howland Street.
Elsewhere Camden has dismissed concerns about increased traffic in Charlotte Street and streets bordering the City of Westminster as “not considered significant”. Goodge Street however, would see a reduction in motor traffic.
But the plans to exclude taxis from 40 percent of Tottenham Court Road could also exclude people with mobility problems.
According to the equalities impact assessment on the plans, the campaign group and charity Transport for All expressed concern that Tottenham Court Road could become a no-go zone for people with reduced mobility. They also asked for exemptions to the restrictions for Blue Badge holders.
Criticism from cycling groups has led to changes in the plans for cycling facilities. Gower Street, Bedford Square and Bloomsbury Street would now have “stepped cycle tracks” instead of the “armadillos” previously proposed. Torrington Place would have a new westbound lightly segregated cycle track on the south side of the street. But there are no cycling tracks planned for Tottenham Court Road. Almost all existing one-way side streets would be converted to two-way cycling contra-flows.
The solution to concerns about pushing delivery traffic into side streets has been met with alarm that Camden will make matters worse by introducing out-of-hours deliveries, according to residents who spoke to Fitzrovia News. Officers are proposing “including consideration of loading from 5am to 7am, 10am to 12pm and 7pm to 10 pm” on Tottenham Court Road, Gower Street, and Bloomsbury Street.
Under the plans the Fitzrovia Mural at Whitfield Gardens would be restored, a new public park would be created at Alfred Place, and several pocket parks and pedestrian areas would be created, improved and de-cluttered.
In a rare instance of agreement between the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association and The Fitzrovia Partnership Business Improvement District, both organisations called for a new public toilet to be provided within the project area. However, Camden have dismissed the call. “No public toilets are proposed due to the large costs that these facilities incur,” said Camden’s officers.
The whole project is estimated to cost around £40 million with £33 million already available. Camden is optimistic of filling the budget gap but they do highlight the risk that the full cost might not be met. Officers also say that Transport for London may not approve the project.
Camden’s cabinet will be asked to consider four options and decide how to proceed with the project. The cabinet will be asked to allow future decisions to be delegated to Councillor Phil Jones cabinet member for regeneration, transport and planning.
Officers are recommending that option 1 be approved which would deliver the plans subject to amendments and will only allow pedestrians, cycles and buses to use Tottenham Court Road for the whole of its length between 8am and 7pm Monday to Saturday. Taxis and other motor vehicles would have access to approximately 60 percent of the length of the road.
Option 2 would deliver the project and allow taxis to be included in the restricted parts of the road at all times.
Option 3 is to implement the improvement to open space and create new public parks, all of which were strongly supported during the consultation.
Option 4 would mean implementing only those public realm improvements around Tottenham Court Road Station to allow for an increase in pedestrian flows.
Camden’s officers say that a “do nothing” option cannot be considered because Tottenham Court Road is one of the worst locations in the borough for traffic collisions, pollution, and the council needs to make space for the expected deluge of Crossrail passengers coming and going from TCR Station.
Camden Council Cabinet meeting, 7pm Wednesday 21 January 2015. Read the report on West End Project Public Realm Improvements which includes maps and comments on last year’s public consultation, and tell us what you think below.
Update 23 January 2015: As expected, Camden’s cabinet approved the plans as recommended by officers.
Update 28 January 2015: BBC News has reported that the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) is to legally challenge Camden over the decision. LTDA has said it will seek a judicial review. The BBC reported that Camden Councillor Phil Jones said taxis and other vehicles would be able to access 60% of the street via side roads. However, it is exactly the increased traffic in Fitzrovia’s side streets that TfL’s modelling predicts and local residents are concerned about.