Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Latham's Yard update

Last month, we reported that that Hackney's enforcement team were investigating Taylor Wimpey's breach of planning consent for its sales office at the bottom of Mount Pleasant Hill (Latham's Yard).

Taylor Wimpey has now confirmed it has abandoned its efforts to keep the office. The office, and the temporary car parking spaces attached to it, will be removed and the area landscaped before the end of the year.

Taylor Wimpey has also confirmed additional trees will be planted along Harry Zeital Way (in line with the approved planning application).

Saturday, 24 September 2011

South millfields pedestrian and cycle route

At the Millfields Users' Group (MUG) open meeting on 17 September, we discovered that a decision had been made to institute a shared pedestrian and cycle way on the Black Path (of historic and strategic significance - Market Porters' Route to central London), removing all surface markings and erecting green 'pedestrian priority' signs at the entrances (which are later to be removed).

We also learned at the meeting (MUG has met irregularly in recent months) that there is no scheme, just a proposal to remove markings and erect signs.

Whilst it contains some similar components, this is not the scheme proposed in the Millfields Masterplan on which there has been extensive consultation. Whilst MUG decided to support the principal of a shared route, this should not be read as support for any particular scheme.

Apart from liaison with MUG, which seems to have been limited only to the Committee members, there has been no other local consultation other than with London wide cycling bodies. There is a need for wider consultation proportionate to the potential impacts. This certainly extends beyond the MUG committee and cyclist bodies.

Concerns raised at the MUG meeting (notwithstanding the fact that they may have been a minority) point to the need for greater clarity on the proposals and further meaningful consultation in line with any similar traffic proposals for which, unlike here, there are formal consultation guidelines.

Whilst reference is made to potential improvements to safety (on the basis of another scheme which may or may not be relevant to the particular situation at Millfields) it is clear that there has been no
baseline assessment to monitor whether there will be any resultant improvement in safety and there has been no safety audit of the scheme proposed.

The rationale for the scheme, based on officer statements, has been reduced down to one of safety. In fact, and as the Masterplan states, the purposes are much wider than to reduce the number of accidents. They include:
*       to tackle safety, particularly speeding cyclists on the inclines and the blind corners, at the junction with the canal towpath.
*       to provide a sense of safety and reassurance
*       to allow pleasant walking in the park, free from the nuisance of speeding or aggressive cyclists; admittedly a minority, but a significant one; Etc.

Any scheme should be tested against these wider objectives. It seems to us that the proposals have been promoted by the Council's transport section and their emphasis (naturally as transport planners) has veered towards cyclists and walkers traversing the park rather than people stopping and enjoying the park.

There are clearly flaws and limitations in the scheme:
*       Without further white lining and signs at all side paths, there will be no clear distinction of where cycle routes in the park end, so that the net effect will be to make all paths in the park shared routes and so increasing cyclist priority overall.
*       The path has two-tone surfacing which cannot be burned off leaving confusing clues in the surface.
*       The point at which the south western path bifurcates and how pedestrian/cycle priority is indicated has not been considered.

The wider planned and implemented cycle network is likely to result in a significant increase the number of cyclists traversing the park. The effect of this needs to be assessed in light of the overall capacity of the path. It seems to me that the proposals address present day conditions and assume no growth in cyclists, which is incorrect. The conclusion in studies that some (but not all) shared surface schemes appear to succeed overall is, it seems to us, dependent upon there being no significant increase in congestion or pedestrian-cycle conflicts.

Finally, the proposal is being promoted alongside a further cycle route within the park along the riverside to Cow Bridge and in parallel with, and interconnected to, the Olympic cycle access routes and the Regional Parks promotion adopted policy to develop a strategic cycle route to Walthamstow along the alignment of the Black Path.

Seen in this light, the Council's proposals are in fact a component of a much larger integrated scheme of which the south Millfields proposal is a central spine. The proposals and the potential design, safety, and park amenity implications needs to be considered in light of this; and the public deserve to be consulted upon this.

We see potential for a legal challenge to the Council's actions if further details of the scheme are not prepared, published and consulted upon, and a safety audit undertaken and published, including consideration given to the relationship of these proposals to wider cycle schemes in the area.

We have therefore asked (via local Cllr Oguzkanli, who attended the MUG meeting), the Council's Assistant Director of Public Realm to address these issues prior to any work being carried out of on the path. We'll let you know when we receive a response.

This is an example from Walthamstow marshes (there was some stronger language close by which we've opted not to show) of what happens when the issues around pedestrian and cycle routes are not adequately thought through and addressed.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Spick & span

Well done to the volunteers and British Waterways for their efforts with the towpath tidy - they did a great job. 

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Towpath tidy

Looks like its time to say goodbye to the stencils (some of which we'd grown rather fond of) and grafitti on the towpath under Lea Bridge. It would be nice if, rather than just removing the grafitti, British Waterways could think about funding some art along there to make it more pleasant to walk along. We seem to recall we were also promised lighting too.