Terry Farrell gets job of giving mid-London back to pedestrians

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The Independent Online

Sir Terry Farrell is to create a blueprint for revitalising London's Holborn, Bloomsbury and St Giles districts in an attempt to better reflect their position at the heart of the capital city.

The world-famous architect has beaten a host of other leading architects to advise Inmidtown, the central London Business Improvement District (BID) set up in 2005, on drawing up a detailed masterplan to transform the historic quarters.

"This is an extraordinary area between two cities," said Sir Terry. "Oxford Street is the high street of the West End and Cheapside is the high street of the City and in between these two great high streets is Holborn. It is a link between the two cities. It has areas of great character from the British Museum to Lincoln's Inn, Coram's Fields, Great Ormond Street Hospital and the University of London but I think that over the years there has not been enough attention paid to these neighbourhoods."

Inmidtown, which is the second largest UK BID following the extension of its mandate in February to include Bloomsbury and St Giles, has tasked Sir Terry with creating a plan to establish the district as a "destination in its own right".

He will look at ways to handle the areas' congestion and transport infrastructure and improve its public realm. Redressing the balance in favour of pedestrians will mean modifying a labyrinthine system of one-way streets and bus-only lanes and improving the environmental quality of streets. Sir Terry will also review amenities and retail facilities as well as the potential for landscaping areas such as Holborn Tube Station, New Oxford Street and St Giles Circus. Tass Mavrogordato, Inmidtown's CEO, said she represented the interests of 562 business, 200,000 workers and thousands of tourists, and wanted a cultural and commercial centre that rivalled the City and West End.

"Three hundred thousand people come into this district every day and at any one time there are 6,000 people in the British Museum. It seems almost extraordinary that it is a relatively unknown area that does not have a definite identity. We feel there is a need for a commercial centre that's different and we are the geographic centre of London," Ms Mavrogordato said.

Sir Terry, whose proposals to link holistically the four quadrants around Holborn Circus beat off competition from HOK, Gillespies and Dixon Jones, said: "If you have a vision it creates a set of objectives that lift people's hopes and expectations in a coherent way and give that agenda visual clarity."

A "Framework for Change" document will now be drawn up ahead of a public consultation next spring.

Sir Terry added: "The problem is that in the 1970s and 1980s it was felt that in order to make London work you had to give higher priority to traffic than pedestrians. With the realisation that most people are on foot there needs to be high streets and a collection of urban villages in London. This can be done incrementally. It does not have to be the big bang every time. I think bottom up [improvement] is good but as long as you agree which way is up."

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