Pedestrian Priority Proposed for High Street

Putney Society puts forward series of radical ideas in discussion paper

Full report can be found here

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The Putney Society has just published a discussion paper called 'Enhancing Putney High Street'. They make a wide-ranging series of proposals which would transform the centre of town in response to a high level of local dissatisfaction with the current state of the main shopping road in the area.

The Chair of the Society - Carolyn McMillan - has written to Cllr Jonathan Cook at Wandsworth Council sending him the discussion paper and and calling for a meeting to discuss what might be done using this as a catalyst for ideas going forward.

Carolyn told PutneySW15:"The discussion paper on how to enhance Putney High Street was prepared by David Irwin for our Transport Panel. It gives just one example of many possible solutions to the problem of pollution and congestion in our High Street. We welcome the Council's latest consultation on HGV loading and parking to improve air quality and TFL's updates to the bus fleet travelling along PHS to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions. But more is still needed to make Putney High Street even better, and we look forward to sitting down with the Council and all stakeholders to discuss what might be done, using this report as a catalyst for new ideas."

In her letter to Cllr Cook Carolyn states that: 'Putney High Street is the principal shopping centre of Putney but heavy traffic, congestion and air pollution can make the experience of people using the High Street unpleasant and stressful. David Irwin is a town planner with considerable experience. He has studied Putney High Street in depth, and he conducted a user survey last year which showed high levels of dissatisfaction with the heavy traffic and associated pollution, overcrowded narrow pavements, shabby appearance and lack of greenery. Our findings were later confirmed by a subsequent (unpublished) survey carried out by the Town Centre Visioning exercise that the Council commissioned.'

The Putney Society has requested the Council to host a discussion with the society, TfL, Living Streets and other interested bodies on how Putney High Street might be improved, perhaps using the paper as a catalyst to generate ideas.

The report breaks down the salient features of Putney High Street as:

• A narrow, confined stretch of road with shops fronting either side.

• The carriageway varies from 2 to 5 lanes. Between Disraeli Road and Felsham Roads traffic converges to a single lane in both directions on a carriageway width of approximately 9.5m.

• Putney Station forecourt has the highest pedestrian flows. Other busy sections include the narrow section between Disraeli Road and Lacy Road (particularly on the east side).

• There are only two trees tree on the entire length of the High Street and no soft landscaping. However the Council have recently planted 5 saplings with mixed success.

• Multiple services beneath the footways complicate the planting of trees.

• Due the narrow width of footways provision of seating is limited.

A survey was carried out to ascertain what pedestrians thought of the High Street. 159 persons
were interviewed. Of these, 69% expressed dissatisfaction with the environment of the High
Street. Their opinions are summarised as follows:

• 39% gave a traffic related reason, which included concerns about pollution and heavy goods vehicles.

• 22% thought that footways were too narrow/crowded and that the bus stops create congestion, especially outside of Boots.

• 20% were unhappy with the range and quality of shops.

• 14% felt that the general environment was poor, lacked vegetation/planting, had ugly shop fronts and needed improvement.

The Society believes that their proposal accords with government policy, as stated in Re-
imagining Urban Spaces to help Revitalise our High Streets, “Our high streets cannot simply rely on retail - they have to offer something new and different… with creative use of public spaces
and a vibrant evening economy. The Government's response lays down a challenge for local partners to re-imagine their town centres and high streets. It also outlines a new package of
measures to help high streets reclaim their role at the heart of our communities”.

One example of how this might be achieved, for all users.

• Between Disraeli Road and Putney Bridge Road it is proposed that the High Street be made a pedestrian priority zone in which drivers are aware that they must give way to pedestrians.

• resurfacing the entire road (building to building) with an appropriate durable material that
indicates to drivers and cyclists that they are entering a pedestrian priority zone,

• signs informing drivers shall be placed at all entrances to the zone,

• narrowing the road carriageway to 6m, sufficient for wide vehicles to pass one another,

• demarcating the carriageway with different coloured paving with an edge defined by a
sloping kerb in decorative brick or stone,

• on either side of the road carriageway (where appropriate) there shall be a 1.5m “reserve” for
vehicles to pull off the road (when emergency vehicles pass), or to park when making deliveries. The reserves shall be demarcated in a different colour/textured surface material.

• greening the environment by placing planters at intervals along the reserves. These will prevent the reserves being used as an additional vehicle lane.

• inducing a maximum traffic speed by means of design features together with a general
wariness of drivers to a different environment,

• removing all traffic lights and railings, apart from crossings to facilitate the blind and disabled to cross the road,

• replacing the street lights with more attractive lamp standards fitted with hanging baskets of
flowers and installing seating at convenient locations.

cross section through a narrow portion of the street and shows potential gain for pedestrians

cross section at a bus stop 8m to enable buses to overtake one another without impeding oncoming vehicles

The report does not give an estimate of cost: "Paving is not cheap and underground services may need to be realigned. However, at very little cost, the proposal could be tested prior to any substantial financial outlay by merely painting white lines on the road to delimit the road carriageway."

However it does identify that local businesses could sponsor planters on the understanding that they will maintain them in return for advertising rights and that Grant funds are available;
• Following the Portas Review the government has offered a £1million “Future High Street X-Fund”, for effective and innovative plans to bring town centres back to life.
• Also, the Mayor of London has an “Outer London Fund” for high street improvements

We have invited the council to comment and will add when available.

September 5, 2014