One of the West End's most atmospheric streets may lose some of its appeal if approved street works go ahead. Hanway Street, perhaps best known for Bradley's Spanish Bar, is set to become an access road for a new Primark store on Oxford Street. If the scheme goes ahead, the small street will be widened to allow hourly visits by 18.5 tonne lorries.
Hanway Street is one of the oldest roads in the area, following the route of a possibly medieval track to St Giles that pre-dates most of Fitzrovia. It's also a welcome bypass for pedestrians who want to avoid the congested corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street. Fans of dingy basement bars will also be familiar with the likes of Bradleys and Sevilla Mia (and the entrance to London Below in Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere is just round the corner on Hanway Place).
The unique character of the street, which is supposedly protected as a conservation area, is threatened by the Primark deliveries, say locals. The plans linked to above show how the 11 metre-long vehicles will manoeuvre through the narrow lane before reversing into the store. Works to widen the entrance to Hanway Street have now been approved by Westminster and Camden councils (the site is on the boundary), and should be in operation by the end of the year. This street of 'intimate character and charm' (the words of Westminster Council, believe it or not) is about to get a whole lot less intimate.
With permission granted and the Primark store under construction, there's probably no means to prevent this now. The new shop will be a welcome fillip for business growth at this tatty end of Oxford Street, but the besmirching of Hanway Street is a sad development for anyone who cherishes London's special places.
With thanks to Jane Parker for the tip.