Page last updated at 05:57 GMT, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Makeover for Da Vinci Code street

Great Queen Street
Great Queen Street as it is, left, and as envisioned in the coming months

A road in London's West End that featured in the blockbuster Da Vinci Code novel is being reinvented as a public square.

Great Queen Street, which links Covent Garden and Drury Lane, was once a secret pathway used by royalty.

Planning officials hope to encourage greater pedestrian use of the area by creating an "oasis" beneath newly-planted trees.

The 640,000 improvement project should be completed by summer.

Great Queen Street was created in the 17th Century, as a private lane for Queen Anne, King James I's wife.

It sits close to the Freemasons' Hall, one of London's few grand Art Deco buildings from the 1930s that is still used for its original purpose.

'Spooks' HQ

The hall serves as the headquarters for the Masons of England and featured in Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown's fictional tale of the Knights Templar.

Westminster council said the freemasons supported the plan to enhance the setting of their headquarters, which also doubles as the fictional headquarters of MI5 in the BBC series Spooks.

Queen Anne used the narrow road to cut through to Lincoln's Inn Fields - which is what urban planners are hoping pedestrians will also do once the transformation is complete.

The plan, called Clear Zone, is part of general improvements being made by several central London councils to encourage people to walk short distances.

Councillor Chris Knight of Camden Council said: "The new square will transform a lacklustre junction into a new public square that will improve residents' quality of life and benefit businesses and visitors in central London."

It involves widening pavements, removing parking bays, traffic lights and guard railings and creating more step-free crossings to ease flow for people pushing prams and those who use wheelchairs.

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