Seven Dials: The Road Ahead

It’s not going to look like this.

The numbers behind the Seven Dials improvement scheme are coming into focus. Some 26,000 vehicles cross the junction each day. Over the past five years there have been 41 accidents involving injury, nine of them serious (and most of them on the junction itself). The Council has £550,000 earmarked for the upgrade.

When the scheme was announced, city transport committee chair Councillor Ian Davey spoke of creating “a ‘Seven Dials village’ by bringing together all sides into a coherent whole”. But at the Seven Dials Stakeholder Meeting hosted by St Luke’s Church on 20 August it became clear that a village costs more than half a million pounds.

Robin Reed, the project manager, explained that this was primarily a road safety scheme. The safety improvements could make the place look more attractive, but there’s no chance of any radical transformation on the lines of Oxford Circus or New Road. Even if the money was available, there are limits to what can be done with a busy roundabout close to the city centre.

The possibilities do include:
A 20mph speed limit
Zebra crossings instead of the traffic lights.
Narrowing the roundabout channel to guide traffic flow; reducing double lanes to single ones
Making Bath Street two-way, with mini-roundabouts at each end.

The stakeholders, who included local traders and representatives of local community associations, were generally positive about the zebra option. There was also general support for making the place look better, though a couple of people expressed strong reservations about the possibility that the guard railings might be replaced by more attractive obstacles.

A public consultation, including an exhibition, is planned for October, and there’s talk among the community associations of holding a public meeting. If the Stakeholder Meeting is anything to go by, we can look forward to some free and frank exchanges of views.

Works could start in February, if the Council approves plans at a meeting due to take place in January.

Photo: Seven Dials in 1908, from the Regency Society’s wonderful James Gray Collection.