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Seven Dials’ seven-day ‘pedestrianisation’

Pedestrianised streets seven days a week in a bid to help struggling restaurants and shops recover from the coronavirus lockdown

24 July, 2020 — By Tom Foot

Seven Dials packs them in for its summer festival – but this picture is from the 2019 event

SEVEN Dials is to be pedestrianised seven days a week in a bid to help struggling restaurants and shops recover from the coronavirus lockdown.

Streets in and around the famous Covent Garden Sundial Pillar will be sealed off to traffic through “timed road closures” agreed between landlords Shaftesbury and Camden Council.

Under the plans, Monmouth Street, Earlham Street, Neal Street, Shorts Gardens, Neal’s Yard, Endell Street, Shelton Street and Mercer Street will be shut in phases between 10am and 6pm seven days a week from August 1.

Barriers will prevent vehicle access and a security team has been hired for enforcement.

Seven Dials is in discussion with the council about relaxing licensing laws to allow restaurants to put tables on wider pavements in a continental-style outdoor dining scheme similar to that taking place in Soho.

Shaftesbury’s Charles Owen said: “We’ve been working very closely with Camden Council to support our independent businesses as they reopen and ensure the area is safe for both new and returning visitors.

He added: “Imple­menting timed road closures will allow us to widen walkways for social distancing and with the possibility of open-air dining in our iconic streets making Seven Dials an even safer and enjoyable experience for all.”

A one-way system is being introduced around the Neal’s Yard courtyard of shops to help with social distancing. Extra spots to lock up bicycles are also being set up in the hope that shoppers will come by bike instead of car.

A mystery new piece of public artwork that “aims to celebrate the Seven Dials community” has also been commissioned. Several independent restaurants and retailers have reopened following the relaxation of the lockdown.

The Sundial pillar was commissioned by The Seven Dials Trust and was unveiled by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in June 1989. It contains seven dials on a high sculpture that give readings based on “apparent solar time” – the length of a solar day.

The readings can be recalculated to tell the actual time using a conversion graph at the base of the plinth. The pillar is owned and maintained by the Seven Dials Trust.

In 1974 Seven Dials was named a conservation area with outstanding status. It has some 95 shops and 90, restaurants, cafés bars, and pubs.

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