Tuesday, 29 May 2012

3 road collisions this morning in St Leonard's Ward - and actions that can be taken

There were three separate incidents this morning, including one fatality, on the roads in St Leonard's Ward this morning.

I visited each of the sites, and police told me that at one, a female pedestrian had been killed.

The three were as follows:

1. On Tooting Bec Road, at the bottom of Tooting Bec Gardens next to Tooting Commons, a female pedestrian appears to have been hit and killed. I am told that she was crossing in front of a bus from the bus stop on the common side, and was hit by a car as she did so.

2. Up near the new hub development, around the junction of Natal Road and Streatham High Road a cyclist was hit. I don't have any more details.

3. Outside Morrisons Supermarket on Streatham High Road, a motorcyclist was hit by a van.

The changes in the traffic outside the new hub development and with the works due to be carried out on the High Road soon, provide an opportunity to change things for the better. The crucial question however is whether TfL and Lambeth Council are willing to take the string decisions that are required, to re-establish a road hierarchy in Streatham which puts pedestrians and cyclists first, followed by public transport and then other motor vehicles. And this is a question, not just of safety, but the kind of place we want Streatham to be.

Three measures which should be taken:

Lower Speed Limits

We need to bite the bullet and lower speed limits right across Streatham - including the High Road - to 20 mph. The facts are simple. If you lower speed limits, you save lives. We need to create a slower traffic culture. Not only with this save lives, but it will also move Streatham away from being a just somewhere that people drive through, towards being somewhere more pleasant to stop and stay in. It will also actually improve traffic flow, as numerous studies have shown, with less stopping and starting, and of course less noise pollution.

Longer crossing times

Right across Streatham I hear from people who say repeatedly they don't have enough time to cross the road. Crossing times need to be longer. The mayor of London has pursued a policy of shortening crossing times, but this causes many problems - particularly for those with children, older people, those with mobility impairments, and those using wheelchairs etc.. It is also about reclaiming Streatham for the pedestrian.

Dutch style cycle lanes

All four main political parties (eventually) came around to the idea that Dutch-style, segregated cycle lanes, were a good idea. Cycling has repeatedly been identified as something which needs to be encouraged in Streatham, and made safer, but very little in the way of political action has been forthcoming. Again the new hub and development of Streatham High Road presents a real opportunity to put in safe road spaces for cyclists.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

'Supporting Streatham High Road' campaign

The Streatham Guardian has today announced that it is launching a campaign to 'Support Streatham High Road'.

This is very good news. The paper is promising to:

"Shine a light on the issues affecting our high street and hold councillors and council officers accountable for proposed changes to the town centre – and for a lack of action."

This should help to address some of the huge failures over the last few years with regard to Streatham High Road including:

- An inadequate Savils survey. Savil’s report on which Transport for London (TfL) and Lambeth Council have been drawing up their plans for the High Road was very limited in who it canvassed in restricted locations – no cyclists, no one on the Common or at Streatham Hill, or from the coffee bars. No comparisons of better or worse high roads were offered. No Green options for people to comment on.

- The neglect of the findings in the 2009 Streatham Masterplan which identified some of the key issues which need to be addressed, but many of which have been ignored.

- The huge local disappointment over how the successful bid for £375,000 (in Round One of the Mayors Outer London Fund) was spent in the area near the Odeon Cinema, with trees that are only green for six months of the year.

- The consistent failure of the Council to stand up for Streatham, and a general lack of political will to make the creative and pioneering decisions that need to be made in order to change Streatham High Road for the better.

The Streatham Guardian is asking for ideas and a public debate on the high road's future. This is something Streatham Green Green Party intends to contribute to, and indeed have already been thinking about. Here are some preliminary thoughts and ideas to begin our contribution to the debate. They are not exhaustive, but designed to help to get the discussion going.

The Vision

The central issue for Streatham High Road which has been consistently identified (for example in the Streatham Masterplan) is not just how to attract people to the High Road from outside the area, but how to attract local people who often go elsewhere for leisure and shopping – for example to Clapham and Brixton.

To address this successfully it is clear that we need to look more broadly at the whole environment of the high road, not simply as local business and shopping, important though they are.

Streatham High Road need to become somewhere interesting, engaging and surprising - a creative place that people want to come to relax, meet other people, and enjoy shared space. The vision certainly musn't be of yet another clone town - which would be economically and socially disastrous.

Jan Gehl is a Danish architect credited with transforming Copenhagen so that four times as many people now go to the centre of Copenhagen than in the past. This achievement was realised by recognising that shopping should never be the main reason for coming into an area. However, when people do come into an area, they shop. But public well-being needs to be the priority, not shopping. The key question is whether Streatham High Road serves local people’s needs. And when it does, people will come there to shop.

On that basis these are just some of the issues and provisional ideas that we suggest need to be explored:

Independent Shops and Local Economy

It isn’t just the prevalence of pawn shops, betting shops and money shops on the high road which is a problem. It is also chain stores. As the NEF has pointed out, for every pound spent in a chain store the majority of the money leaves the local economy. For every pound spent in an independent local shop, the majority of the money stays in the local economy.

The campaign to Shop in Streatham is a great initiative, but we musn't fall into the trap of thinking that all shopping in Streatham is good shopping. It is independent, local traders, which need to be prioritised.

Indeed, there is a real threat to the high road posed by big supermarkets like the new Tesco, which will be part of the Streatham High Road Hub development. It is likely that many people will drive to the new Tesco, park, and do all their shopping at Tesco. Independent shops in the High Road may see very little benefit. Indeed, there may be a loss of trade. We must therefore look as ways of protecting the high road against this.

Planning rules can be used to encourage more local and independent shops. This is something that we will be looking at as part of Streatham Action, in particular whether a Neighbourhood Development Plan can help in this respect.

In order to keep money in the local economy a local currency might also be considered, following the success for example of the Brixton Pound. (The Streatham Pound or Streatham Shekel?)


The problem of the A23 which is dangerous, creates pollution and noise, discourages visitors from enjoying a good high road experience and takes people through Streatham (as opposed to taking them to Streatham) needs to be tackled head on. This problem has long been acknowledged. The Streatham Masterplan for example identifies problems such as:

“The speed at which cars travel down the High Road, which reduces safety for pedestrians”

“Traffic congestion along the High Road, which contributes to an unpleasant pedestrian environment (air and noise pollution)”

It identifies the need to:

“Promote sustainable travel through measures to encourage walking and cycling and reduce dependence on car travel”

But the current proposals to spend £1.6m given by the mayors outer London Fund to develop the high road north towards Streatham Hill, looks as if it may make problems worse rather than better. Proposals to put car parking along the sides of the high road mean that it will look something like this with two linear car parks.

But there are creative measures which should be considered including:

- Dropping the speed limit to 20 mph along the high road would reduce noise and air pollution, easing traffic flow and cutting collisions and fatalities.

- Introducing “dutch style” cycle lanes and many more facilities for secure bike parking. Cycling, under current plans, looks as if it is going to continue to be given a very low priority. This may be partly to do with the poor Savills survey on improving the high road which was fundamentally flawed in that it only consulted pedestrians, not cyclists. But there are huge numbers of people who cycle in Streatham, and their needs are not being met. If we meet them, then we will attract more people to the High Road.


Many of the shops on the high road still aren’t properly accessible, and create barriers for people with wheelchairs, mobility impairments or those with buggies and prams. Streatham High Road must be fully inclusive for all people in the community.

Street Furniture

If we are going to make the High Road a truly unique, interesting and creative place, we need to think creatively about its street furniture.

The Belenden Estate in Southwark for example has 6 different lamppost designs, which are all energy efficient.

The local community needs to be involved properly in the built environment – for example getting local artists to design installation art.

Greening the high road

The trees planted down the central reservation around the Odeon cinema are only green for six months of year, giving a very bare look to that section of the high road.

From a green perspective, great swathes of the high road remain totally barren. This is despite a mounting body of evidence that greener environments improve quality of life, and even increase High Street spending. We need to increase biodiversity, tackle the pollution on the high road and reduce CO2 emissions through much more greenery.

Again, this was something identified in the Streatham Masterplan, but has so far been ignored. Green roofs for example, were suggested, but to our knowledge not one has been installed in four years since the plan was first developed.

As suggested by local Streatham resident Leon Maurice-Jones, there could also example be Green Towers that are self contained and self watering so they are maintenance free. They would have plants growing out of the sides and they could be placed every fifty meters or so making a green corridor along the High Road. This would mean there were not too many but enough to make an impression for both pedestrians and drivers. Interspersed could be big planters and a greater variety of trees.

These are just a few ideas to get the debate going. We look forward to contributing to the debate in the months to come.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Streatham Vale Adventure Playground - public asked to look at bids

As part of its budget cuts, Lambeth council is handing over control of its adventure playgrounds, and other youth and play sites, to organisations who are being invited to bid to run them. This includes Streatham Vale Adventure Playground.

It follows substantial cuts in the youth services budget which has seen cuts to the opening hours of one-o-clock clubs staff losing their jobs, and adventure playgrounds running on tiny budgets.

Some local people like Love Streatham have been doing some great work at Streatham Vale Playground, alongside staff and children, stepping in to liven up the youth centre at a time when it is facing great hardship.

But the next stage in the cuts process is that the council in handing over the playgrounds to organisations who are being invited to bid for them. You can get to hear the proposals of the organisations who want to take over these sites if you turn up to the presentation meeting.

This will be held on 12th June 2012 from 6.00pm to 7.30pm

The address is:

Streatham Vale Adventure Playground
Abercairn Road,
Streatham Vale Park, London SW16 5AG

This isn't a consultation in which people can reject the bids, and local people won't have a majority say. But at the meeting local people will be asked to choose between the bids and score the presentations. The scores will count for 30% of the total score of the organisation in the selection process.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Streatham Vale Farmer's Market

It's great news that from this weekend Streatham Vale Farmer's Market will be up and running.

The first one will be on Saturday 26th May 2012 at Granton Road Primary School, Granton Road SW16 5AN.

It is hoped that in the Autumn the market will move to Farmhouse Road SW16 every Friday and Saturday.

Richard Laidlaw (a driving force behind it) has just announced that in attendance will be (amongst others) Animal Farm, Brambletye Fruit Farm, Spice Caravan, Rosie's Preserves, Teds Veg, Giggly Pig, The Parsons Nose and The Wild Country organics farm. Facepainting for the kids with Sarah from EyeloveLight, Free Dr Bike maintenance with Lambeth Sustainabletravel,

It all kicks off a 10.00 am on Saturday 26th May (Listen out for the advert on Radio Jackie from Tuesday)

Success: Improved access on Tooting Bec Gardens

It's taken around eight months, but we have finally got Transport for London to improve pedestrian access on Tooting Bec Gardens.

For those not familiar with the road, its a very busy one way street which runs from Tooting Common up to Streatham High Road. It is very hard to cross with two or three lanes of traffic, except at the pedestrian crossings at either end, which are about 250-300m away from each other.

There were three vehicle crossovers which were impossible for wheelchairs to go across, and also difficult for others with mobility impairments, about three quarters of the way down one side of the road. If you reached them and couldn't get past them, the only option was to go back a long way to the nearest crossing, or take your life in your hands and go into the road. But even on the other side there is a large tree at the junction near Tooting Common, which is very hard to navigate past in a wheelchair without tipping off the pavement into the road.

I approached Transport for London (who have responsibility for them as this is a Red Route) back in October last year about these issues. After a significant amount of chasing, a couple of weeks ago they finally got around to ramping the vehicle crossovers. The work it seems, in the end took less than a day to complete, but will make a huge difference to anyone with mobility difficulties. I am still chasing about widening the pavement around the tree!