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WLS response to Wandsworth Town Centre proposals

sent to TfL on 17 January 2016:

FAO Chris Hall

Dear Chris,

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on TfL’s latest proposals. I append the response from Wandsworth Living Streets below.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need more info/clarification.

Best wishes,

Susie

Dr Susie Morrow

(Chair, Wandsworth Living Streets)

07803 723425

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Wandsworth town centre proposals 2015/2016

Response from Wandsworth Living Streets

The primary purpose of Wandsworth Living Streets, a local group of the national charity Living Streets, is to promote walking as a healthy, enjoyable everyday activity and to enable this by ensuring that the urban realm across the borough of Wandsworth is safe, pleasant and inviting for people.

1. Having looked at the proposals, what best describe your views overall?

An improvement on the current dire situation – but proposals could be so much better.  We think that this [once-in-two-generations] opportunity needs to be taken to maximise ‘wins’ for active travel and the quality of our public realm; the proposals as presented do not firmly grasp this opportunity.

2. What impact do you think our proposals will have on pedestrians?

Positive; a case of ‘good in parts’.

The High Street, East Hill and Fairfield Street will be more pleasant and accessible to people than at present, and this should have a positive impact on the economic and social life of Wandsworth town centre, given that according to TfL pedestrians spend more per month than any other mode user.  However, access through central Wandsworth as outlined on these plans will remain somewhat patchy, with narrow footways in places, staggered crossings, and an expectation of continued subservience to motor traffic.  It is unacceptable for ANY arm of signalised junctions not to incorporate signalised pedestrian crossings.

3.  Comments on pedestrians:

We welcome the removal of some motor traffic from Wandsworth High

Street. The High Street and town centre generally would be enhanced by the introduction of a 20mph speed limit, as a complementary measure.  We are concerned that N-S motor traffic moving through the High Street will marr the ambience and pedestrian amenity of this locality.

Worryingly, the proposals do not show evidence of credible efforts to connect the emerging riverside residential area with the existing town centre; and as a consequence Armoury Way is likely to increase as a source of community severance.  The lack of effort to make pedestrian-friendly (and cycle-friendly) connections represents a significant missed opportunity.

Given TfL modelled journey times for pedestrians we fear that the staggered crossings shown on the proposals will introduce substantial delays for pedestrians.  An example is at the Armoury Way junction with Wandsworth Plain and Frogmore, where the plans show an existing straight-across crossing being replaced by a two-stage crossing. Delays introduced by this and other staggered crossings will make walking less attractive, and safe, since understandably some people will cross whenever there is an opportunity to do so.

The proposed new pedestrian crossing at the western end of Armoury Way is welcome.

On modelled journey times: we note that TfL has quantified average increase in pedestrian journey times [15% and 14% in am and pm, respectively]; these may be compared with decreases in average motor vehicle journey times (1%, am and 6%, pm). We understand, however, that TfL is revisiting its modelled journey times for pedestrians with a view to reducing them. We look forward to an update on these figures.

The proposals unhelpfully show the Ram Brewery site as a ‘black box’ and do not appear to be integrated with the access points to that development (which will in effect form the heart of Wandsworth), referred to on the Ram Brewery’s website. We also note that there is zero provision in the proposals for the Wandle Trail, a much valued long-distance largely ‘green’ path, in central Wandsworth. A carefully thought out, legible, people-friendly route connecting King George’s Park with the mouth of the River Wandle via The Causeway is required – but the proposals omit this.

4. What impact do you think our proposals will have on cyclists?

While there will be improved access to the High Street itself, which has to date been effectively closed to most people who might wish to cycle, the proposals overall are very weak in their provision for cycling. Therefore it seems likely that the narrow demographic of people cycling to and through central Wandsworth will be largely maintained.

The loss of cycle parking indicated in these proposals is likely to (a) result in informal cycle parking, and (b) also suppress mode shift from driving to cycling – which would in itself result in a less pleasant and more dangerous environment for pedestrians.

5.  Comments on cyclists:

We are surprised at the lack of provision given for cycling in and through Wandsworth town centre indicated by these proposals. The design approach taken here seems to be to divert people who are cycling off direct ‘desire lines’ and shift them to peripheral roads.  We contrast this with other recent major London schemes which have clearly provided safe space for cycling on main roads. In particular, although Fairfield Street is likely to be improved a little from its current ‘racetrack’ layout – especially with the introduction of a 20mph speed limit – we do not think it will form a pleasant environment for cycling given likely high-remaining motor traffic levels and the fact that there are no proposals to prevent people from driving from Fairfield Street into St Ann’s Hill.

We note that TfL’s modelling of the proposals suggests that motor traffic will move more quickly through the scheme whilst cyclists will be significantly delayed, by up to 23%.  From a walking perspective, the suppression of cycling in favour of driving will worsen the environment for pedestrians; there is also a very real risk of encouraging footway cycling (a regrettable but understandable response to unaddressed road danger – and a symptom of design failure).

We are puzzled by the proposal to remove the current shared-use provision on Armoury Way without concomitant replacement of an on-road cycle track. Although poor quality, this shared-use provision follows a desire line accessing the Wandle Trail and the mouth of the River Wandle via The Causeway, and onwards westwards to Putney and eastwards to Battersea.  The proposal to remove it seems especially illogical given that the Ram Brewery development will result in upgrading of an adjacent section of the Wandle Trail.  We think that the lack of provision for cycling here is likely to have a knock-on effect on walking on Armoury Way i.e. unsanctioned footway cycling.  It would be a much better and more efficient use of public space to convert some of Armoury Way’s generous carriageway provision to a two-way cycle track, as has been done by TfL in central London.

Although Wandsworth High Street will be an improvement on its current state, we are concerned that the quality of the environment for cycling here, as for pedestrians, will be compromised by motor traffic crossing the High Street. TfL has acknowledged this in its decision to terminate Cycle Superhighway 8 at Buckhold Road, a very short distance west of its current termination at the southern end of Ram Street.

If there are proposals to upgrade the environment along Smugglers Way (a road with markedly high HGV movements and a poor environment for non-motorised users) these would be welcome; but nothing has been presented to indicate this.

6. What impact do you think our proposals will have on bus users?

Positive

7. Comments on bus users:

We welcome the opportunity to make bus use through central Wandsworth simpler and quicker.  This will help support mode shift away from use of private motor vehicles.  We suggest that this could be usefully supported by ensuring that all bus stops throughout the town centre have bus ‘Countdown’ installed, since this provides a way of publicising to people, especially those who have driven to the town centre in order to spend time there, the range and frequency of existing bus services. Doing this would be a very small proportion of the overall scheme budget.

8. What impact do you think our proposals will have on cars and other motor vehicles?

Positive.  The effects on drivers is less clear e.g. if it encourages driving for short trips there may be negative effects on drivers’ levels of physical activity and hence overall health.  The GLA has commissioned modelling work in order to monetise the health effects, on drivers and Londoners generally, of different mode mixes; please see its report ‘Transport and Health in London’ (2014) and also more recent work on the health impacts of car use in London, at https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/health_impact_of_cars_in_london-sept_2015_final.pdf

9. Comments about cars and other motor vehicles:

We do not support the scheme’s overall emphasis on facilitating more rapid movement by motor vehicles at the expense of pedestrians (and cyclists).  We cannot see how this is consistent with building a resilient, sustainable and healthy London, particularly given theprojected growth in our city’s population.

10.  What impact do you think our proposals will have on streets and public spaces around Wandsworth Town Centre?

Overall improvement (not difficult!).  The likelihood that more people will be attracted to walk and spend time – and money – in Wandsworth town centre underlines the critical importance of introducing a town centre-wide 20mph speed limit.

11. Comments about streets and public spaces:

We welcome proposals to create much-needed public space e.g. on East Hill outside Book House.  Public realm enhancements should include seating and drinking fountains as well as obvious features such as street trees and planting.  If, as we hope, the scheme succeeds in strengthening central Wandsworth’s economy including its night-time economy, we think that public toilet provision will also be required. We suggest that the adequacy of provision of Santander cycle hire docking stations in central Wandsworth be reviewed. These were largely omitted from central Wandsworth when the cycle hire scheme was extended to Wandsworth in 2012, because of a recognition that the town centre is currently repellent to cycling.

The proposals show Wandsworth High Street appearing to be split into three distinct ‘zones’ of reduced motor traffic which are truncated by busy junctions which will be designed to facilitate north-south motor traffic.  This is a concern for pedestrians’ and cyclists’ safety and amenity in moving around Wandsworth town centre.  We ask that the impact of the proposed north-south traffic flows on the ‘place’ function of Wandsworth High Street, along with danger from road traffic, be carefully monitored.

Finally we ask that more consideration is given to ensuring that rat-running by drivers through surrounding residential streets is prevented.

ENDS—————

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