Saturday, October 22, 2011

What to do with cars

Just what is Lewisham Council's strategic policy on cars? Let's look at their Unitary Development Plan, Chapter 6, Sustainable Transport and Parking.

Briefly, the policies are:

• To co-ordinate land use and development with the provision of transport and car parking, so as to minimise the need for car travel; provide good access to premises, especially in Town Centres; and safeguard the environment and amenities of residential areas. (STR.TRN 1)

To seek improvements to the public transport provision in the Borough, which benefit residents and minimises any adverse impact on the environment.(STR.TRN 2)

• To ensure that adequate and safe provision is made for cyclists, pedestrians and people with disabilities in new development and to improve access and facilities to and within existing land uses for people using them with particular reference to safety issues. (STR.TRN 3)

• To adopt an integrated car parking strategy which contributes to the objectives of road traffic reduction while protecting the operational needs of major public facilities, essential economic development and the needs of people with disabilities. (STR.TRN 4)

Generally it says let's keep cars to a minimum, let's expand our public transport networks.

Crossfields has seemingly generous parking facilities. It sometimes appears more so because some people insist on parking in non-parking spaces to avoid getting bird shit on their paintwork, leaving even more free spaces which are then used by those employed on Faircharm, who would otherwise have to pay for a parking bay on the trading estate.

There is an ample car park there, but as well as charging for it, owners Workspace intend to build a tower block of luxury apartments on it. Workspace have no plans to include underground parking (like there is at Creekside Village). At a TRA meeting earlier in the year, they said, "Lewisham Council's policy is to reduce car use in the area." In this instance, the UDP is working very much in the developer's favour, since without the luxury flats, Workspace say they cannot finance the redevelopment of the business centre (even though they are turning quite a few of their business centres into luxury home developments). There is little likelihood that the businesses and their employees will stop using their cars; they will instead be forced to use the surrounding area – Crossfields. Car-owners on the estate may find themselves subjected to a permit scheme.

Down at Convoy's Wharf, it is planned to have 2,300 car parking spaces. No sign of the UDP in operation here then. The high-rise blocks are designed to have two floors of parking (1800 spaces for residents). It is obvious to anyone who lives round here that the last thing we need is more cars on Creek Road and Evelyn Street, when traffic is often gridlocked.

Deptford Is... points out that "the recent granting of outline planning permission to the massive redevelopment of the Surrey Canal site around Millwall's stadium was inextricably linked to improvements in transportation at the site."  After a long local residents' campaign backed by Joan Ruddock, which hit the rocks when the Department for Transport refused to provide the funding to build the station, the developers finally agreed to stump up the cash. Deptford Is... says the transport improvements agreed are quite comprehensive in order to mitigate the impact of 2,400 new residential units.

However, at Convoy's Wharf, no such comprehensive proposals are in place. Apart from a lack of new transport routes to and from the site to service 3500 homes, the proposal to accommodate 2300 cars can hardly be seen to fulfil Lewisham's objective to reduce road traffic. Nevertheless, Deputy Mayor Alan Smith is pretty gung ho about the development. Estates Gazette reports that "the deliverability of the scheme remains questionable for some, such as Joan Ruddock...But Lewisham Council's Smith is more upbeat. He says: 'I'm pretty sure it will deliver. As far as I can make out, the finance is in place and it is getting its figures to stack up.'"

The deputy Mayor has said off the record that Hutchison Whampoa paid over the odds for the site, and need the 3500 flats to return a minimum of profit. Conversely, he also has said the only reason HW were continuing with the project was because they are an extremely cash rich company that doesn't have to service a debt (the fate of some other developers).

There is now very little time for Hutchison Whampoa to consider sufficient provisions for improved transport in the area before their proposals go before committee. If Lewisham were serious about their sustainable transport policies, the answer would be simple: build fewer flats to relieve pressure on the roads, increase the PTAL (Public Transport Accessibility Level) rating to free up more space to improve the environment and increase green public spaces, which in turn will increase the value and profitability of the development.

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