Thursday, 28 January 2016

Lewisham Council scraps plans for 3G pitch in Deptford Park

The recent consultation by Lewisham Council over plans to build an all-weather football pitch in Deptford Park did not go down well with local residents and park users.

In fact it created sufficient opposition to galvanise said residents into forming a group called Deptford Folk: Friends of Folkestone Gardens & Deptford Park.

They are today celebrating their first major victory, with the council announcing that it does not intend to proceed with the plans for the football pitch as a result of the opposition.

The council said: 

'A number of objections were raised during the consultation which all essentially focused on the disproportionate impact that a project of this nature would have on a relatively small Victorian park. As such it has been decided not to proceed with the Deptford Park project and consider other sites to deliver much needed facilities across the borough.'

Hopefully this will give the new organisation a boost and help them to grow and gain more local support. Personally I'm delighted there's a new group focussed on this part of Deptford - I've not visited Deptford Park much but I regularly go through Folkestone Gardens and am often saddened by the neglect and abuse this little park suffers. Of which more later.

In the meantime for anyone who wants to get involved with Deptford Folk, they are holding their first AGM on Saturday 13th February at Deptford Park Playclub.

More information on the websiteFacebook page and Twitter account.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Consultation on proposed Deptford High Street improvements

Lewisham Council is consulting on proposed improvements to the north end of Deptford High Street, being in possession of some funds from Transport for London to tart it up a bit. Which is music to my ears, given I've been banging on about its unloved state for some years now.

The intention is to improve the street for pedestrians and cyclists, which would make a huge difference to those who use it on a regular basis. There's some good stuff in here, but I'm don't believe the proposals go far enough, and in one respect, they miss the target completely.

Yes it's already a 20mph zone!
The overwhelming threat to the safety of pedestrians and cyclists on Deptford High Street is the traffic - not just the volume of traffic that uses it, but the way that traffic behaves.

Bowling along: a popular rat run with all sizes of vehicles

In the morning rush hour, from 6am or earlier, great convoys of vehicles bowl down Giffin Street and Deptford High Street seeking to escape the traffic jams of Deptford Church Street and Evelyn Street. As the shops start to open and vehicles begin parking along the high street, delivering goods to businesses or building sites, speeds are tempered but space is restricted and the pavements are seen as fair game by drivers.

Woe betide any pedestrians strolling unsuspectingly along those sections which don't have bollards - they are likely to find themselves face to face with scaffolding lorries, tipper trucks, white vans and even mopeds who mount the pavement and drive along it to pass traffic coming the other way, with no regard at all for anyone walking past.

If you live or work in Deptford, or use the high street regularly, you'll be totally familiar with this.

Unfortunately it seems that the people devising the scheme, or those advising them, have no idea about traffic in Deptford.

For example, where is it going and how does it behave?

Naturally in the morning rush-hour, the traffic is all London-bound, following rat-runs in an effort to cut the drive time. But the measures proposed by TFL/The Project Centre/Lewisham Council suggest that someone hasn't done their homework.

The proposals are to put a restriction at the end of Deptford High Street 'to reduce rat-running' and 'create a new public space'. It might do the latter but it sure as hell ain't going to do the former! 
It's clear to anyone who has spent even half an hour observing traffic movements on the north end of high street that the vast majority of vehicles are rat-running down Edward Street, not Evelyn Street. 
They follow the well-worn route along Edward Street and Sanford Street to Surrey Canal Road, where they either turn right to take Trundleys Road towards Surrey Quays/Rotherhithe Tunnel or left towards Ilderton Road and on to the backroads of Bermondsey. 

To eliminate rat-running, any one-way restriction should be on Edward Street or on the high street south of this junction, but this will still only resolve the problem when traffic is in one direction.

(Although of course there's always the possibility that a one-way restriction will be treated with the same contempt as motorists treat the one-way restriction at the end of Crossfields Street.)

A public space would be good though. Can anyone think what kind of iconic monument or sculpture we might put there to celebrate Deptford's incredible history? (Click here for a hint if you can't guess).

(Click to see full size)

The sketch shows potential improvements in front of St Paul's Church, which would be welcome as it's a very uninspiring bit of public realm at the moment; the suggestion that 'unnecessary street furniture' would be removed to unclutter the pavements is also a welcome one.

I was a little confused by the the flyer which is provided on the consultation page, because it includes two sets of objectives, some of which are the same and some of which are different. I've tried to distill them into the objectives, and the means of achieving them

The objectives of the scheme are:
  • Make the street more pedestrian friendly and encourage cycling and walking
  • Encourage a less cluttered and safer feel 
  • Enhance and conserve the historic character of the street 
  • Improve accessibility
  • Support the introduction of a borough-wide 20mph speed limit, reducing vehicle speeds and improving safety at junctions. 
  • Control parking and loading in designated bays
  • Provide a safe, attractive and direct route between the river and the High Street 
Here's how they intend to do it:
  • Improve footways to make them wider using quality paving materials and provide level crossing areas at junctions
  • Remove unnecessary street furniture
  • Connect with proposed crossing improvements at the junction with Evelyn Street 
  • Assist the local economy by improving power facilities for the Saturday Market between Giffin St and the station
  • Retain 30 minute parking provision and provide parking improvements for Blue Badge holders
  • Extend the Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ) along the whole street 
  • Introduce a new taxi rank below the railway bridge to serve the High Street and Deptford Station 
  • Improve lighting under the railway bridge
  • Provide level crossing areas at junctions
The objectives are all well and good, but some of the measures seem contradictory; I'm not sure if there is room to widen the pavements AND retain designated parking bays without blocking the road - certainly in the stretch to the north of the railway bridge, in front of the Waiting Room, Johnny's DIY and Bearspace Gallery etc. This is already the section where pavement rally driving is rife, and lowering kerbs like they have done at the south end is only going to make that worse.

Pavements are for tipper trucks, apparently.
The two ends of the high street are totally different in their traffic patterns and usage - the south end is one-way along its whole length, has a market on it three days a week, and is not really a direct or convenient route for highway traffic. The north end is a major commuter rat run, and combines this with a large volume of pedestrian traffic going to and from the station and the two schools. I strongly believe that a different approach is needed if there are to be any significant improvements for pedestrians and cyclists.

Enhancing and conserving the historic character of the street is going to take a lot more than just some new paving stones - for a start the council's planning enforcement team needs to get to work on all those UPVC replacement windows and oversize illuminated signs that keep sprouting up without planning permission.

I'm not sure how I feel about a taxi rank at the station - it's not something that I'm likely to use as I'm within easy walking distance of the station, and in any case there are at least half a dozen bus routes within a few minutes' walk. I guess there will only be taxis on the rank if there's a demand, but it will mean taking regular parking bays out of use for something that might not be required.

Enhanced lighting under the bridge, on the other hand, will be a great improvement.

The prospect of enduring another year or so of roadworks and disruption, with only minimal improvements, is not a pleasant one. I do hope that feedback will enable a more effective approach to be developed so that the benefits can be felt.

The council is holding a drop-in session in the Deptford Lounge foyer between 3pm and 7.30pm on 3rd February where you can speak to the project consultants, Project Centre, and the Lewisham Council team about the project, and presumably give your comments.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

TFL to take over Southeastern services from 2018

The Mayor of London announced today that TFL will be taking over operation of Southeastern train services from 2018, the first part of a phased takeover of all of the capital's commuter rail services.

Much as I abhor the floppy-haired one, I will mark this historic announcement by publishing a photo of him on my blog. Mainly so that I can mock the typo.

I am sure that the devil will be in the detail of this arrangement, and it sure as hell is not going to be simple, but I can't help feeling a glimmer of optimism. It's quite a few years - decades maybe - since I felt any glimmer of optimism as far as train services from Deptford are concerned. The full details of the proposals are here, they are not set in stone as yet, they are 'open for consultation'.

So while we only have a reduction in services to look forward to in the future, there's a chance they might at least run more promptly and maybe TFL will even have the freedom to order some new, longer trains, a problem which Southeastern has been battling with for years?