Proposed Improvements to Werter Road, Putney


The proposal is for discussion as an example of what could be done to improve the pedestrian and general environment of a busy area in Putney Town Centre. It accords with council policies to enhance the role of town centres, to promote active travel and to establish low traffic neighbourhoods.

1          Existing Situation

Putney Town Centre is notably short of civic space. The proposal provides an opportunity to address this omission by creating a more friendly environment at the western end of Werter Road, immediately adjacent to the High Street. It is an area with high pedestrian flows. Sainsbury’s supermarket attracts considerable pedestrian movement whilst the Baptist Chapel (Community Church) is directly opposite and has become a meeting place for the congregation as well as local groups. As such the proposal is well located to become a civic space.

At present the area lacks any visual quality. At street level Sainsbury’s frontage comprises opaque panels often adorned by sales offers. A ponderous canopy provides weather protection to pedestrians on the southern side of the road. However, the building directly opposite the entrance to Sainsbury’s is being replaced which may improve the ambiance of the location.

9 parking bays occupy more than half of the road width, two of which are reserved for disabled drivers. Cycle parking stands are located close to the supermarket entrance and constrict the movement of people entering or leaving the premises, or merely passing by. Owing to the lack lustre character of the supermarket, together with the clutter or parked vehicles and cycles, the general environment is shabby. See Figure 1.

An additional negative aspect is the high volume traffic using Werter Road. The road is one way westbound and is lined with vehicles parked on both sides for most of its length. Traffic comprises visitors to Sainsbury’s, residents and drivers wishing to gain access to Putney High Street. The latter accounts for at least 70% of vehicles using the road due traffic management arrangements, as can be seen by the vehicle shown in Figure 1. 

No right turn at the High Street junction obliges westbound traffic on Upper Richmond Road to turn right into Oxford Road. 

Some of this gains access to the High Street via Disraeli or Putney Bridge Roads (see route marked in blue on Figure 2) whilst a significant proportion uses Werter Road as a rat run (see route marked in red on Figure 2). Similarly, no left turn at the junction of Putney Bridge Road and the High Street obliges vehicles wishing to travel south west to turn into Oxford Road as shown by the line in black. 

A proportion of vehicles continue to the junction with Upper Richmond Road, to make an awkward right turn, whereas most prefer the left turn into the High Street by using Werter Road. 

The volume of traffic is a potential hazard, for several reasons :-

  • Despite the introduction of a 20 mph limit vehicles often speed the length of Werter Road, a tendency recognised by signs attached to lamp posts informing drivers to watch their speed.
  • A kink to the alignment at the western end obstructs sight lines at exactly the point at which :
  • vehicles are entering or leaving Sainsbury’s basement car park,
  • the carriageway narrows, and is further restricted by vehicles parked on both sides of the road, at a point where pedestrian volumes are high.

2          Proposal  

It is suggested to :-

  • designate the portion of Werter Road between the entrance to Sainsbury’s basement car park and the High Street as a civic space, replace the surface material with appropriate paving and install street furniture, greenery and planting.
  • change Werter Road to a two way street and close the portion mentioned above to all traffic except westbound emergency vehicles and Sainsbury’s deliveries (at permitted times only). Cycles may be permitted at all times in either direction.

Figures 3 and 4 compare what is proposed with what exists. Figure 5 shows the proposal as a plan. It should be stressed that the proposal will require more detailed consideration as well as consultation with residents and Sainsbury’s. At this preliminary stage it’s submitted as a suggestion subject to further examination. Key features of the proposal are :-

  • Replacement of the existing road surface with a durable pavement material that extends for the full width of the road, including the sidewalk adjacent to Sainsbury’s, from the exit of the basement car park to the High Street.
  • Raised plant beds, trees and other green features as well as seating and ornamental lamp stands.
  • Cancellation of all street parking spaces within the civic space.
  • Removal of the central traffic island (close to the entry to Sainsbury’s basement car park) together with the addition of street parking spaces on Werter Road (to the east of the civic space), two for disabled drivers and one for deliveries to the Baptist Church. See Figure 5.

The proposal is contingent on the removal of 9 parking spaces, two of which are reserved for disabled drivers. Whilst there may be some objection from residents and shoppers there are clear advantages as follows :-

  • The enhanced amenity of the proposal is in line with the policy to promote active travel within London. It should be noted that this branch of Sainsbury’s is not a mega-store that depends on clients arriving by vehicle. Rather, it is a local facility that serves residents, most of whom are pedestrians.
  • The potential hazard that results from vehicles parked at this location is negated. 
  • The two disabled parking bays could be relocated to the basement car park. A lift from the basement to the store ensures easy access for the physically impaired. 

3          Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury’s cooperation is desirable, although not a pre-requisite. In particular :-

  • Their heavy canopy should be replaced with a more elegant structure. This could be done in isolation or as part of an overall renovation that might include additional accommodation.
  • The street level façade could be made more interesting by the display of products in the form of a typical shop window, or the sale of fresh vegetables from a stall.
  • Delivery to the store will continue to operate in the same way, although it would be beneficial if smaller vehicles were employed. The existing arrangement involves heavy vehicles reversing into the delivery bay, a procedure done despite a large number of pedestrian in the immediate vicinity. It is not envisaged that any additional danger will be incurred within the civic space.

4          New Development on the corner of Werter Road and the High Street

The corner site, which previously included W.H.Smith’s on the High Street, is undergoing redevelopment and will house financial and professional services (Class A2) on the ground and basement whilst the upper floors will be used as offices (Class B1). Although the absence of retail is regretted the new building will significantly improve the appearance of Werter Road. The upper facade to the High Street remains unchanged and the premises formerly occupied by W.H.Smiths will house the National Westminster Bank which is to relocate from the corner of Disraeli Road. The photo above shows the old building, now demolished.

5          Baptist Chapel/Community Church

A civic space immediately in front of the Baptist Chapel will assist the building to fulfil its community functions. Deliveries may take place by allowing vehicles to temporarily park within the civic space. In addition a designated parking bay could be provided as shown in Figure 5.

6          Traffic management

Variation is required to the existing traffic management arrangements.

  • Werter Road will operate as a two way road. It may be necessary to cancel 3 or 4 on-street parking spaces at intervals on the road to allow vehicles to pass one another.
  • Entry into Werter Road from the High Street will continue to be prohibited.
  • Signs need to be installed at the eastern end of Werter Road informing that entry is access only. 
  • Additional signs will be required at the eastern entrance to the civic space informing that vehicles may not enter. A removable bollard may be necessary to ensure compliance. This can be removed to allow emergency vehicles to access the High Street and for Sainsbury’s deliveries to reach their loading bay.

Creation of a civic space on Werter Road will limit traffic to residents as well as visitors to Sainsbury’s or the Community Church. It is anticipated that this will significantly reduce the volume of traffic. Operation as a two way road is not envisaged to be a problem as evidenced by many roads of similar width that are two way and operate satisfactorily, Fawe Park Road being a good example.

Rat running traffic will divert to either Disraeli or Putney Bridge Roads. The volume of this diversion is uncertain. The phasing of existing traffic signals at the junction of Disraeli Road and the High Street will determine driver decisions, as will the signals at the junction of Putney Bridge Road and the High Street. These can be adjusted as required. 

Another option might be to allow westbound traffic on Upper Richmond Road to turn right into the High Street. This could be achieved by adjusting the present traffic signals or introducing a roundabout. Either way there is sufficient space to accommodate an appropriate junction design. A similar modification could be introduced by permitting westbound traffic on Putney Bridge Road to turn left into the High Street. Sufficient space exists to adapt the present layout to accommodate a filter left. Either or both modifications will negate the obligation for traffic to use Oxford Road and hence reduce the flow on Werter Road. This would be consistent with the council’s policy to eliminate traffic from residential streets by establishing low traffic neighbourhoods[1].

A further option is Montserrat Road. This has a relatively low vehicle flow because it is one way eastbound, with a time restriction for right turns into the road from the High Street. By making this road two way a proportion of the through traffic that uses Werter Road to access the High Street would divert to Montserrat Road.

7          Trial the proposal

Wandsworth Borough Council are concerned to improve the amenity of Putney Town Centre and address the issue of traffic congestion and associated poor air quality. To this end a scheme “Improvements to Putney High Street” has been approved and is under construction. The proposal presented in this document was submitted as a possible addition to this project. Although it was not included a decision was made to investigate it’s feasibility for later consideration.

As part of the Improvements to Putney High Street project Copenhagen crossings have been installed at the junctions of lateral roads to the High Street. The crossing at Disraeli Road was recently completed (June 2020) after a long period during which the junction was closed (to allow construction) whilst the road operated as two way with a dead end. No problems arose. 

The crossing at Werter Road has been delayed pending the completion of the redevelopment on the corner site with the High Street. See section 4. It is understood that construction of the crossing will commence early in 2021 and continue for 6 weeks during which the junction with the High Street will be closed and the road will have to operate as two way traffic. This provides a perfect opportunity to trial the proposal contained in this document.

8          Consultations

In view of possible objections to the proposal it would be wise to carry out consultations with residents of concerned roads and the public in general. This could be conducted in combination with the closure of the junction (as mentioned above) in the form of a trial so that respondents can experience the changes and be more aware of the implications. 

Trial costs should be minimised. To this end it is not suggested to immediately implement the re-surfacing, planting and street furniture additions mentioned previously. Instead, these should be shown in display panels, leaflets and other presentation material to illustrate how the civic space will look, if approved. In this manner the cost of the scheme can be deferred until sufficient funds are available.

Finally, the consultations should not be confined to residents and vehicle users. Their objections (if any) are valid but may derive from personal circumstances that override societal judgements. The potential benefits extend to all sections of society, many of whom are often not consulted and do not live within the project area.

Members of the public were asked if they support the proposal and would sign a petition. Over 405 persons signed on one day, the 20thof March. You can sign too by going to the council’s e-petition site.

[1] Paper 20-134, Improving and Encouraging Active Travel, dated the 4th of March 2020) which resolves, “working in conjunction with TfL and local residents, scope out potential Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, –  such as known incidence of rat-running, “.