Making Holborn a liveable neighbourhood

“The ambition is to transform the streets and public realm of Holborn to create a truly liveable neighbourhood – one which supports healthier lifestyles, more active and sustainable travel, thriving communities and sustainable growth.”
Sophie Thompson, Director, LDA Design

Camden Council, in partnership with LDA Design, Norman Rourke Pryme and Urban Symbiotics, is looking to transform Holborn into a place that works better for people and nature.

The £40m Holborn Liveable Neighbourhood scheme aims to create a place which is more comfortable and safer for pedestrians and cyclists, with less pollution and more attractive and greener streets and spaces.

Situated between the West End and the City, Holborn is a place of contrasts, of heritage and highways. Stretching from Bloomsbury Street and Drury Lane in the west to Gray’s Inn Road and Chancery Lane in the east, Holborn is home to national institutions including the British Museum, Great Ormond Street Hospital, and the Inns of Court. In parts, however, it is heavily trafficked, with junctions which are sometimes dangerous for workers, visitors and residents.

Camden Council is engaging the public on ideas for changes to key streets and places, including New Oxford Street, Great Queen Street, Red Lion Street, Great Ormond Street, Great Russell Street which is home of the British Museum, Bedford Place and Kingsway.

Sophie Thompson, a director at LDA Design and public realm lead, commented: “The ambition is to transform the streets and public realm of Holborn to create a truly liveable neighbourhood – one which supports healthier lifestyles, more active and sustainable travel, thriving communities and sustainable growth.”

New Oxford Street links High Holborn to the east and Oxford Street to the west. It is currently a wide, bland street, a place to hurry through. Ideas being explored include closing an easterly part of the street to traffic to create a new type of green sanctuary, with safe pedestrian and cycle connections. There could be a plaza, a sequence of biodiverse gardens, signature trees, play on the way, long table dining and comfortable seating. A new kiosk could provide a sculptural centrepiece and activate the space.

Other ideas include turning Great Russell Street into a green boulevard by closing it to through traffic. This could create a new entrance square for people visiting the British Museum and provide a more fitting setting for one of the world’s best known cultural destinations.

Some squares in the area are recognised to be in need of a refresh. Ideas for Red Lion Square, off Theobald’s Road, include improving connections along current desire lines, plus water play, raised lawns, ‘outdoor room’ night-time lighting and new planting.

LDA Design has also been working with partners including Central District Alliance, Great Ormond Street Hospital, Great Queen Street Properties and the Masonic Charitable Foundation and Bedford Estates. One proposal is to turn Great Ormond Street into London’s healthiest hospital street. Currently the street is often blocked with traffic yet many of the hospital’s patients are children with acute respiratory problems. The ambition is to create a greener and more playful environment that better supports patients, their families and hospital staff, as well as local residents.

Further improvements could be made to the junction at High Holborn, Southampton Row and Kingsway, including transforming the experience outside Holborn tube station which can feel hectic and stressful, by removing clutter, improving wayfinding, and enlarging pavement space by relocating the existing kiosks. Other moves being explored include changing the stretch between Southampton Row and Procter Street to two-way traffic, adding cycle lanes separated from traffic on both sides of the road up to Gray’s Inn Road.

Councillor Adam Harrison, Cabinet member for a Sustainable Camden, points out the Holborn Liveable Neighbourhood scheme would yield benefits beyond the area. “It connects the major public realm transformations which have been delivered under the West End Project to the west, Gray’s Inn Road to the east, and Strand and Aldwych to the south. It also ties into wider public realm improvements being delivered in Westminster, Islington and the City.”

For more on Holborn Liveable Neighbourhood, head here.

Visualisation by LDA Design

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