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Wandsworth Living Streets – Inaugural Meeting, Monday, 8 November 2010

November 21, 2010

Author: Robert Molteno, Secretary

Present: Over 30 people present.

Apologies: Nearly 20 people who could not be present sent their apologies, good wishes for the formation of Wandsworth Living Streets, and requested that they be kept informed.

In the Chair: Susie Morrow and Robert Molteno.

Preliminaries:

  • Name tags were worn to make it easier for everyone to communicate informally.
  • Shortly into the meeting, we went round the room with each person saying who they were, and their organizational affiliation (if any).
  • Those present filled in their contact details and what issues they are particularly concerned with.

1. Welcome:

All present welcomed, including Cllr Russell King (Conservative), Chair of Wandsworth Planning & Transportation Overview & Scrutiny Committee; and Cllr Leonie Cooper (Labour Party spokesperson on the Environment).

The purpose of the meeting, Robert stressed, was to give a distinctive voice for Wandsworth residents who use our local streets for travelling, shopping, meeting one another, and getting to schools, libraries etc. To this end, Susie and Robert proposed starting a local Living Streets branch, and thinking about what issues we consider important and need action on.

2. Introduction to Living Streets:

Susie outlined the current role and some of the history of Living Streets national charity. Formerly known as the Pedestrians Association, it is now 81 years old. It helped introduce the Highway Code, speedometers in cars, compulsory driving tests, and pedestrian crossings.  The aim of a local Living Streets branch would be to work towards safe, attractive and enjoyable streets in our borough.

Susie gave a visual presentation (Download HERE) of the history of traffic and road use over the past century, examples of highway design that discourage walking, and some dramatic examples (e.g. of New York) of how road space can be re-designed to create a more people-friendly environment which supports walking and cycling and using busy streets as social spaces.

She explained that Living Streets:

a. Delivers various national schemes – e.g. Walk to School.

b. Supports local groups campaigning in their areas to encourage a view of local streets as public spaces used by us in different ways, rather than simply conduits for motor traffic.

c. Influences legislation and policy at national and local levels as they affect those of us using local pavements and streets as pedestrians.

3. Local Issues that Wandsworth Living Streets might take up:

Susie and Robert stressed that what this new local group does depends entirely on what we at this and future meetings decide we want to do. On each issue below, after a short introduction, discussion and suggestions were made.

  • Transport for London’s Proposed Removal of traffic lights at 8 Pedestrian Crossings in the Borough:

Susie introduced. Details of specific sites where traffic signals have been highlighted for possible removal are available as a pdf from the BBC’s website at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/10472683.stm

On 1 July. Transport for London announced that it proposed to speed up vehicle flow by abolishing 145 traffic signals across London. Little systematic thought or data gathering seems to have guided this selection. And if TfL or local boroughs thought they were needed originally and spent so much money installing them, why do they now think they are not needed? Some local people —  (Susie Morrow (WCC Campaigns Coordinator), Valerie Taylor (Chair of the Wandsworth Society), Mike Grahn (member of Living Streets), and Robert Molteno (Wandsworth Friends of the Earth)  — met on 28 September with GLA member, Jenny Jones, at the Kimber Road crossing on the Wandle Trail; and the Wandsworth Guardian ran the story (see:  Wandsworth Guardian).

TfL is now approaching each Borough to discuss the sites. Cllr King said that Wandsworth Council thought that the exercise had been very poorly handled, and hoped for an outbreak of sanity.  Public consultation will be required in relation to each proposed site. While some local people – e.g. along the Avenue (A205) – already know about threatened crossings in their locality, there is a need for residents in all 8 localities to be alerted.

ACTION: Wandsworth Living  Streets could press TfL to explain why each particular site has been chosen (the Freedom of Information Act is being used to obtain more information). We need to keep in touch with Wandsworth Council re what is happening and its responses, and it was suggested we ask the Council to use Brightside to alert residents . We could visit each site and form our own view as to what choices might be best (e.g. retention or upgrading of crossing signals, zebra crossings etc).

  • 20mph as the new default speed limit on local residential and shopping roads:

Robert introduced this issue. He presented some startling facts and figures. There are now 33 million vehicles on our roads, one for every 2 persons in the UK. In the half century, 1951-2006, 309,000 people died on the roads – more than our military casualties during World War II. In that time, 17 ½ million people have been injured. The consequences of the takeover of our roads by motorised vehicles over the past century have been far-reaching: Highway engineering has seen its role as primarily to keep motor vehicles flowing as fast as possible; cycling almost died out as a significant way of getting about; children were forced to stop playing even on local residential streets; noise levels soared; air pollution from coal fires was replaced with air pollution from motor vehicles; people walked less, with consequences for their health as well as the sociability of our streets; and carbon dioxide emissions increased, contributing to climate change. But things are now changing. There is a reclaiming of the streets as public space to which pedestrians and cyclists have a legitimate entitlement. A movement, led by Living Streets and 20splentyforus, has grown up to press for the ‘standard’ or ‘default’ 30mph speed limit to be brought down to 20mph. Over the past 3 years, towns and cities like Portsmouth, Oxford, Norwich, Leicester, Newcastle and others – and nearer to home, Islington —  have adopted 20mph. And there are largescale pilot schemes in Bristol, Cambridge and Edinburgh. Nearly 5 million people now live in areas  in the UK where 20mph is the norm. (See http://www.20splentyforus.co.uk)

In Wandsworth, the Putney and other amenity societies and Wandsworth Cycling Campaign have raised the issue, as has Wandsworth Friends of the Earth. The Wandsworth Environment Forum met with Cllr Ravi Govindia, Cabinet Member for Transportation, on 19 October, and put a proposal to him for a joint residents and councillors working party to investigate all sides of the question with a view to adopting 20mph as the speed limit on Council roads in Wandsworth; his decision on setting up the working group has been promised for April 2011.

Much discussion took place.  One person stressed that, of all the issues before this meeting, there were 2 strategically important ones which could make a big improvement to our lives  – making town centres more people-friendly, and the 20mph speed limit.  He argued that the other issues were more technical, or time-bound, or specific to a particular locality (like the 8 traffic signal abolitions proposed by TfL). Cyril Richert, Clapham Junction Action Group, pointed out that the Clapham Junction Exemplar Scheme, approved by the Council’s Transportation Overview and Scrutiny Committee, had turned down the Wandsworth Cycling Campaign’s proposals to reduce speed and implement safer roads in Clapham Junction town centre.

ACTION: Wandsworth Living Streets could support the WEF initiative; engage in a public education campaign around the issue; lobby local councillors; start a petition; and reach out, Vicki Carroll of WEF suggested, to various local organizations including schools.

  • Making Town Centres more People-friendly:

Wandsworth has 5 designated town centres. Susie highlighted the particular case of Putney High Street which is often choked with traffic, and suffers from high levels of air pollution., necessitating the recent introduction of an air quality  monitoring station. (Post-meeting note: Putney High Street has failed to meet the government air quality strategy objectives for 2010 for nitrogen oxide – see http://www.londonair.org.uk/london/asp/publicstats.asp?region=0&site=WA7&la_id=&statyear=2010&postcode=&MapType=Google

Sue Roscoe-Watts, chair of the Wandsworth Town Centre partnership board, urged Wandsworth Living Streets to dialogue with each of the town centre managers and partnership boards; and to make specific proposals to them.

ACTION: Wandsworth Living Streets action not discussed in detail. Up to members concerned with this issue to see what might we might do.

  • Wandsworth’s Local Implementation Plan (LIP):

Each London borough is required to produce a plan (LIP) showing how it will put into effect the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy, published in May 2010. Wandsworth Council has begun the process of consultation on its LIP. Wandsworth Living Streets is included among local bodies to be consulted. It is expected that the draft LIP will be published, with a two-month period for comments, just before Christmas.

Additionally, part of the Council’s future land use planning framework is open to consultation (deadline 10 December 2010).  Cyril Richert, Clapham Junction Action Group, expressed willingness to help us make an effective response. More information on the Council’s website at:

http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/info/856/local_development_framework/1029/ldf_consultation/1

ACTION: Wandsworth Living Streets could feed in its views to this consultation process.

  • Albert Bridge roadway:

Susie explained that the bridge’s structure is currently being repaired and strengthened by the the responsible borough, Kensington & Chelsea. The bridge is due to reopen in Summer 2011. Wandsworth Living Streets has been invited in collaboration with the K&C London Cycling Campaign group and Wandsworth Cycling Campaign to push for a rethink of the surface layout when the bridge reopens, to make  the bridge easier to use for people on foot or pedal cycle.

ACTION: Susie invited anyone interested to join her and an action group of residents on the other side of the river to meet, and examine what we might want for the bridge.

  • The Mayor of London’s Year of Walking in 2011:

Due to time running out, this issue was dealt with very briefly. The current year, 2010, has been designated by the Mayor as  the Year of Cycling in London. It has seen 2 major initiatives – the first two cycle ‘super-highways’ (including one through the east of Wandsworth), and the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme. The Mayor’s Year of Walking, by comparison, will have a tiny budget. But Living Streets nationally has already made 5 suggestions to promote walking in 2011 and to leave a legacy for future promotion of walking, including a Central London Pedestrian Network; and street openings (to pedestrians).

ACTION: Wandsworth Living Streets could engage Wandsworth Council re what concrete plans (if any) it has to give effect locally to the 2011 Year of Walking. And we could make locally specific suggestions of our own.

  • Other possible issues:

Several were suggested, and need to be discussed at future meetings, including:

  • Dog mess: Senia Dedic of Women of Wandsworth raised this.
  • Parking on the Pavements: A number of Wandsworth roads now have pavement markings authorising cars to mount the pavement and park half on them (or in some cases, fully on them). This greatly reduces the space for pedestrians, and the pleasantness of walking along our streets. It also damages pavements not designed for the weight of motor vehicles. [Post-meeting note: this issue is now a national Living Streets campaign.]
  • Civic Voice’s event on Reclaiming Streets, 25 June 2011: Wendy Deakins, Battersea Society, suggested we might take part in this.

4. Practical Arrangements:

The meeting closed with discussion of the following:

a. General Agreement to form a Wandsworth Living Streets group.

b. Postholders were decided as follows (following this agreement to form the group):

  • Chair: Susie Morrow was proposed and seconded.
  • Secretary: Robert Molteno ditto.
  • Media: Reg Francis volunteered to lead up on this;
  • Internet: Cyril Richert said he may have time to undertake this.

c. Constitution: Susie explained that Living Streets is finalising new legal arrangements for local groups. A Local Groups Constitution is being finalised. ACTION: To be considered  by Chair and Secretary, with a view to ratification at next meeting.

d. How Wandsworth Living Streets might operate: Robert suggested that the real work takes place between full meetings. We envisage the setting up of informal working groups around particular issues, so that those interested will be able to meet and decide what they can do.

ACTION: The Committee to put people around each possible issue in touch with one another.

e. Next Full Meeting: Monday 17 January 2011: Venue to be announced. On the Agenda, we might invite an outside speaker relevant to one of our issues. Suggestions welcome.

f. Information Sharing:

ACTION: Robert undertook to write up a Note of this inaugural meeting.  And to send it to everyone who has given us their contact details, including those who could not be present.

Living Streets Forum: There is also a forum on the Living Streets website at: http://www.livingstreets.org.uk/forum/ Everyone interested in supporting/getting involved in the work of Wandsworth Living Streets Group are encouraged to register and contribute to the forum (if you have Internet access).

g. Campaign Materials: Susie gave out I Love My Street – Let’s keep it 20mph stickers for windows.

ACTION:  We will need to develop locally appropriate campaign materials.

Note: This is merely an account of our meeting; and does not claim to be a formal Minute. Many thanks to Jeannette Leigh and Cyril Richert (Clapham Junction Action Group) for their notes of the meeting.



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