Fitzrovia: Neighbourhood Profile

Executive Summary

 

This profile, commissioned by the Fitzrovia Centre aims to provide a summary and an exploration of the demographic and social characteristics of the neighbourhood of Fitzrovia, defined as the area to the west of Great Portland Street to Gower Street, and to the south of Euston Road, to Oxford Street. Its purpose is to support the work of Fitzrovia Centre in engaging with the wider community and supporting local cohesion.

Fitzrovia contains a diverse mix of residential, commercial and community buildings; which has led to some tension between the interests of business, developers, and existing residents. Residents and visitors to the area alike appreciate the outdoor spaces, architecture and commercial opportunities Fitzrovia offers – yet our research indicates a clear and growing divide between different sections of the working and resident population These tensions are exacerbated by a massively varied and in many cases somewhat cramped housing stock and competing claims to an already limited amount of green and public space.

As might be expected from an inner-city area, the population of Fitzrovia is subject to high levels of churn; both in terms of a changing daytime population of workers and tourists and an annually shifting population of students and short term tenants. The consequent lack of ‘shared experience’ has made it difficult for these disparate elements to coalesce around common concerns and aspirations.

Fitzrovia is not a deprived neighbourhood. However, it is an area characterised by contrast – between the character of the area in living memory and in the present day, between the needs of temporary, long and short term residents and those of workers, visitors and business; and between the conspicuous affluence of some residents and commercial presences in opposition to the comparative social exclusion and poverty experienced by others. it is home to a great disparity in wealth and living standards, and significant minorities facing very specific forms of deprivation, with needs that are often at odds with one another. There are two clear pockets of comparative deprivation in the area - the first across the majority of the Westminster side, with the notable exception of the south westernmost portion of the neighbourhood; and the second in the north east of the Camden side of the neighbourhood, around Warren Street.

Fitzrovia is not lacking in nearby opportunities for shopping, socialising, exercising, learning and experiencing culture. However, it lacks in the range of cheap or free services and activities which areas less well served by the private sector and less proximal to central London attractions benefit from One of the key experiences of the local area is that while individuals feel a sense of the neighbourhood quite strongly, there is not a feeling that the individuals who live, work learn and play in the area are part of a community which makes up that neighbourhood.

Fitzrovia is also a scene or regular and on-going development. Older residents and community organisations are particularly disadvantaged by changes to the area, which have increased prices for housing and services, changed the constitution of shops and altered the priorities of local funders and development bodies. Over the last 50 years, this has involved a continual commercialisation of the borders of the area, and an increasing level of footfall from commuters, students and visitors alike due to the proximity of universities, rail hubs and attractions. Most recently, this has involved the redevelopment of the former Middlesex hospital site and the construction of a large Crossrail hub at the south of the neighbourhood. In combination with further planned redevelopments of former University College Hospital property and the possible arrival of HS2, Fitzrovia is likely to see continued churn in public space availability and usage in coming years; alongside a significant increase in both residential and commuter levels within the area. 

This is the situation in which Fitzrovia Community Centre came into being and continues to operate. While for the first two years of its life, Fitzrovia Centre focused internally on ensuring that the organisation was legally compliant and offered a model of best practice as a self-sustaining, open access centre – and has been successful in developing a working model involving local workers, volunteers and community figures in collaborative delivery and strategic activities both inside and outside of the centre – the organisation is now moving into a new phase of focused external development, engagement with ‘harder to reach’ and disadvantaged residents and positioning as an outlet for community discussion and voice.