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.


Anonymous said...

Cars on paths....grrrrrr....don't get me started!!

They will be peeing money down the drain laying quality paving materials as they will just crack if cars continue to drive on the paths.

I don't have a car but can understand why people rat run rather than queue on Evelyn street. Getting traffic off the high street is good, but it will only displace onto Evelyn. With all of the building schemes planned for this stretch (Convoys and the bit near the petrol station/car wash), Evelyn is going to be a standstill. Stationary traffic equals more pollution than moving traffic so things are only going to get worse.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dame - just saw your tweet - I guess my posting re petrol station got you hunting :-)

A few more shots here

Deptford Dame said...

@anon 23.20 I'm afraid I don't know anything about a post re a petrol station, nor will anyone else reading this post! We should probably try and resolve this discussion on Twitter! On topic please!

DeptfordFolk said...

Excellent analysis on how the impacts of road layout changes on DHS ripple out far beyond their location. DeptfordFolk had a recent success getting TfL (and the cycle quietway) to look at putting a proper pedestrian/cycle crossing between Woodpecker Road and Folkestone Gardens. They've gone back to the drawing board so we wait and see. The road layout changes are often the most tedious and inaccessible of consultations but, as you rightly point out, make a huge difference and very difficult to change once set in stone.

Anonymous said...

II came across some planners in the library on Friday and was a little concerned about some of the things they were proposing. Widening the pedestrian area in the north of the high street and sharing the space with parking doesn't seem a good idea. If vehicles are already mounting the pavement having no clear demarcation is a recipe for disaster?. I also don't see the point of a taxi rank, it's elitist and taxis even if full to capacity which they probably rarely are, can't carry nearly as many people as a Hoppa bus, which could ferry people on a tidy little circular route between Deptford Rail, Evelyn Street for connections to Greenwich/Surrey Quays and the bus stand at Deptford Bridge. Also the consultation time seems really short. and I'm not convinced they've done enough to reach a fair number of people.