Category Archives: Transport

Electric cars – where can we charge them (and other problems)?

I’m afraid I have shamelessly lifted this article from a recent Spectator website. It attracted a very high number of interesting comments, which I cannot begin to reproduce.

But the many problems of electric vehicles – including not just the initial cost but also their weight, the environmental impact of the raw materials, their high demands on the electricity network and of course, as mentioned below, the obvious problem of where they can be charged especially in a crowded city – are beginning to dawn on people. True, some houses on Fawnbrake Avenue have been able to convert their front gardens to a parking space, thereby solving one of the problems. But a majority of residents don’t have that option. And lamp-post charging sets off a whole number of other complications.

 

“With their private jets and gas-guzzling mansions, delegates at Cop26 have been widely criticised for an elitist attitude towards the environment. Nothing better demonstrates the gulf between policymakers and ordinary people than over the charging points for electric cars. It is one thing to install a home charging point for your car if you own a large house up a crunchy gravel driveway – indeed, according to the property website Rightmove, owners of such properties have been fitting charging points with great enthusiasm, with a 541 per cent increase in the number of homes being advertised with such a facility over the past year.

But what do you do if you live in one of the 43 per cent of homes which do not have off-street parking? In fact, you don’t necessarily have to be of modest means to live in such a house – there are plenty of city centre homes, in Belgravia and such places to boot, which open straight onto the pavement. Owning a car in a city has not been easy ever since controlled parking and traffic wardens started to appear in the 1960s, but it is just about to get a whole lot more difficult. Even if you can find somewhere to charge an electric car the electricity is likely to be several times more expensive than plugging it in to your home supply.

That said, there have been some trials with on-street recharging points, which may be coming to a street near you soon. Under the Go Ultra Low City Scheme, 1000 on-street charging points were installed in London in 2019 – utilising existing lamp-posts. You are not going to get a rapid charging point from the electricity supply to a lamp-post – they are limited to 3.7 kW – but it is enough for an overnight charge. Reading, too, has been experimenting with fixing sockets to existing lamp-posts.

But there are still many problems to overcome. In Reading, many street lamps proved to be unsuitable because there are installed on the nearside of the pavement, which would have required a cable to be dangled dangerously across the footway. Pedestrians face enough obstructions without having to step over an electric cable every few yards. That problem could be overcome by excavating small channels beneath the pavement so that a cable can be run across without tripping people up. One company, Greenmole, in association with Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Salford has been installing just that: channels which lead from a motorist’s own home to the roadside, to enable charging. It comes at a price – such an installation will cost you around £3000. But there is a bigger problem, too: very few people have a reserved parking place directly outside their home – even where parking permit schemes exist they tend to allow parking on a street-by-street or area-by-area basis, not to individually-designated parking spaces.

As more electric cars come into use, there are going to be intense battles over this. Should homeowners be allowed to claim parking spaces directly outside their homes so they can charge their vehicles more easily – and if so, what should they be charged for the privilege? After all, the public highway is supposed to be a facility for all, not for bits effectively to be privatised for the exclusive benefit of nearby property-owners. In any case, reserving parking spaces outside homes is not going to help everyone. If you have a house, say, divided into three flats, who, if anyone, gets to bag the single streetside parking space?

One thing is for sure, until the problem of charging electric vehicles on the streets is solved, properties with off-street parking are likely to command an even greater premium than they already do. The Battle of Cable Steet is long remembered as the struggle between communists and fascists in the 1930s. The Battle of Street Cabling has yet to come.”

Crossrail draws ever closer

The Elizabeth Line, its official name, now seems almost within reach.

Although the full stretch of the route from Reading or Heathrow all the way to Brentwood and Shenfield in  Essex may not be ready next year, we are now being assured that the busiest, central section, from Paddington to Abbey Wood, is on course (fingers crossed) to open to passengers in the first half of 2022.

 

It’s a fiendishly complicated project with many features that need to be severely tested before passengers are allowed on. The ‘Trial Running’ phase (operating timetabled train movements in the central operating section) is almost complete now, and the more real-life ‘Trial Operations’ testing phase is scheduled to open later this year.

At the moment, Crossrail is running 12 trains per hour (tph) in the 42km of tunnels that have been built below London, increasing train mileage, building reliability and flushing out issues with the systems and signalling software. Already seven of the new stations have been commissioned and handed over to TfL following successful completion of testing and integration work. Canary Wharf and Bond Street will follow.

12 tph is the initial level of service on the Elizabeth line, but they will also be testing 24 tph train movements on the railway later this year – this will be the service frequency in the central section when the full Elizabeth line is operational. Which is pretty fast.

But we aren’t on Crossrail

No indeed, so why does this matter to us?

Well, because Herne Hill Station is in the fortunate position of offering not only a swift direct line to Victoria but also the Thameslink route which takes us to Farringdon, where there is a major interchange with the Elizabeth Line. From Farringdon it’s only a few stops west to Paddington or east to Canary Wharf, cutting out some of the tiresome interchanges on the tube network.

Farringdon Elizabeth Line Station (c) Crossrail

A couple of years ago, we asked some local estate agents if they thought Crossrail would make an impact on property values in Herne Hill. We got some blank looks, and the impression that they hadn’t even thought about this.

It’s often true that people buy flats or houses here without first carrying out a deep study of transport options. But those potential incomers who do take such things into account must see these improved travel options as being another positive feature about SE24 – as might many of us who already live here.

Except, of course, for people who are permanently WFH? Nice if you can get it, and many observers think that it is now embedded in work culture; but  as a total replacement for commuting to the office as well? Maybe not: we’ll still need to get around.

New ULEZ restrictions – and heavy charges – fast approaching

Just a reminder that from 25 October 2021, the existing central London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will expand to create a single larger zone up to, but not including, the North Circular Road (A406) and South Circular Road (A205).

That includes us, obviously.

TfL have a link which tells us whether our cars meet the emissions standard and the charges we shall need to pay. Four out of five cars, they say,  already meet the ULEZ emissions standards, but they need owners of older polluting cars, motorcycles, lighter vans and minibuses to take action. (Meaning? … sell the offending vehicle to somewhere outside London, presumably  –  and no doubt at a loss.)

This is the link.

ULEZ expansion could cost £12.50 per day when your car moves

Cars, motorcycles, vans and other specialist vehicles (up to and including 3.5 tonnes), and minibuses (up to and including 5 tonnes) will either need to meet the ULEZ emissions standards, or pay a £12.50 daily charge when driving within the expanded ULEZ zone.  You will not be charged for a non-compliant vehicle parked in the zone on days you don’t drive it (how gracious of the Mayor!).

The ULEZ operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year except Christmas Day (25 December).

The current ULEZ emissions standards will continue:

• Euro 3 (NOx) for motorcycles, mopeds, motorised tricycles and quadricycles
• Euro 4 (NOx) for petrol cars, vans and other specialist vehicles (up to and including 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight) and minibuses (up to and including 5 tonnes)
• Euro 6 (NOx and PM) for diesel cars, vans and other specialist vehicles (up to and including 3.5 tonnes) and minibuses (up to and including 5 tonnes)

What isn’t clear is how TfL will check vehicle movements (and therefore surcharge liability). Presumably we will see an expanded network of cameras such as already exist within the present Congestion Charge/ULEZ zone.

It’s all happening at Windsor Walk

The construction works on Windsor Walk, running north of Denmark Hill station (see our post of June 2020) are in full swing.

There’s big activity both sides of this narrow street.

Updating The Maudsley

On the north, the rebuild of Douglas Bennet House  –  a major upgrade by the Maudsley Hospital, part of the South London and Maudsley (SLaM) NHS Foundation Trust  –  shows infrastructure works progressing fast, within the challenges of a tightly constrained site.  Ready-mix concrete for pouring the supporting structures has to be airlifted into the site from Windsor Walk.

Preparing for the air lift

Scheduled to open in 2023, the new facility will house inpatient services previously delivered in outdated facilities at the now redundant Lambeth Hospital.

That site, on Landor Road, Stockwell, will be redeveloped for housing  –  tower blocks, inevitably, to the distress of local residents.   See also the report in Brixton Buzz.

We can see an architects’ design of the new hospital building on Windsor Walk.

Denmark Hill Station

Across the street, meanwhile, the expansion of Denmark Hill Station is also a very active site.

The £7.5m upgrade  of this busy station will open up a much-needed new entrance/exit that will greatly ease the overcrowding that has caused concern in the past, as traffic at the station has grown exponentially. Indeed, passenger numbers at the station have tripled in the last fifteen years, with the expansion of King’s and the Maudsley and the introduction of London Overground.

It is due to be finished in July/August this year.

Rescuing orphaned bikes

We’ve just heard from one of our Councillors, Becca Thackray, about a new initiative to collect, reclaim or recycle (ha ha) abandoned bikes.

Next week a team will be going out to tag abandoned bikes in the borough. Residents are given two weeks to move the bikes and if they have not been moved, they are collected by the Street Care team. The bikes will then be offered to upCYCLE, who will use them to teach young residents bike maintenance skills. Those that are beyond saving will be taken for recycling.

Not abandoned?

 

If we are aware of any abandoned bikes in our ward, we are asked to let the team know by emailing cycling@lambeth.gov.uk with the location and a description by 5pm 2 February and the bikes will be added to the list.

The bikes that have been reported to date can be found on this map.

 

 

Denmark Hill Station expansion

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, people used to go to work on the train, as many readers will have heard. And because they often travelled at the same times each day, trains got unpleasantly crowded. So, inevitably, did some of the stations.

Aspiring City Thameslink passengers at Herne Hill will have felt this pain.

But it was often much worse at Denmark Hill Station. No, it’s not in Herne Hill but for many commuters and other rail travellers wanting to touch down somewhere other than Victoria, or the City, Denmark Hill offered wider options, including the London Overground heading towards Clapham Junction and all points beyond, or north-east to via Peckham to Canada Water, Whitechapel, Shoreditch, Hoxton en route to Highbury & Islington. True, if you lived more towards the Brixton or Tulse Hill side of Herne Hill, it would have been something of a trek, but for those of us close to the Camberwell frontier, a brisk walk alongside or through Ruskin Park would get us there pleasantly. If you’re more central, the 68 bus may be the solution.

More important in some ways, Denmark Hill is a destination for visitors from other points in London and the South-East.  Every day, King’s College Hospital draws in thousands of staff members, out-patients and visitors. The simultaneous arrival of several train loads of alighting passengers is the main cause of the congestion.

Dangerous overcrowding

The station was redesigned and upgraded to ensure accessibility in a programme that concluded in 2013. But contrary to the hopes of many local residents and station users, the redesign left it with only one entrance/exit.

Today’s entrance/exit barriers. Windsor Walk visible across the station.

Meanwhile the number of passengers using Denmark Hill went up from 3.7 million in 2011-­12 to 5.63 million in 2014-15. Much of this increase was down to the introduction of the London Overground services in December 2013.

This surge in traffic meant that the station was operating in unsafe conditions – because its only ex it, accessed up quite long staircases, could present a lethal bottleneck if the station ever had to be rapidly evacuated. Traffic numbers have grown further – at least before the pandemic. Last year (2018-19) the figures suggest that entries and exits totalled some 6.9 million.

Herne Hill station, by comparison, had 2.9 million entries/exits and we know how unpleasant conditions could be at rush hour. As a benchmark, Clapham Junction was running at 29.5 million – but of course it is vastly bigger station, indeed one of the busiest in Europe, some say.

Pressure grew from local groups for the obvious remedy at Denmark Hill – opening a second entrance/exit on Windsor Walk, the quiet street that leads from Champion Park down past the Phoenix pub then, with a sharp right turn, runs just to the north of the platforms and alongside the station to join Grove Lane.

Various groups including the Herne Hill Society and the Dulwich Society lent their support to the Camberwell Society whose committee initiated and from 2016 onwards  have led a persistent and well-informed campaign, building a positive working relationship with Network Rail and Southwark’s planning team over several years.

It now seems to have been a success. A planning application (No 20/AP/0745, for planning addicts, or link here) has been made to Southwark Council for the construction of a new entrance to Denmark Hill Station on Windsor Walk. Listed Building Consent was granted last month, and the rest of the process seems on track for overall approval.

Site of proposed new entrance/exist on Windsor Walk

So if Herne Hillians feels like going to work again on the train, Denmark Hill might in due course be an attractive option. Covid–19 permitting, the new entrance is planned to be open by April 2021. It will have 4 gates plus 2 wide gates and will connect up with the existing modern footbridge. The current one-way system will be dispensed with. Platforms 2,3 and 4 will have extra canopies at the east to encourage people to use that end of the platforms.

New pedestrian access

Separately, Southwark Council has been awarded £1.5m by the GLA’s Good Growth Fund.  One slice of this funding will be used to create better pedestrian connections between Denmark Hill station and the hospitals and town centre. Our friends at the Camberwell Society think that the walk route to the hospitals and Camberwell will go through the Maudsley campus. There is going to be a new ward block on Windsor Walk called Douglas Bennet House, just opposite where the new station entrance will be. The plan is for this to have a walk-through route to the Maudsley garden and thence to the main road.

Onslaught on the twin towers

Plans for the twin tower development proposed for Loughborough Junction, featured in our last post, have been comprehensively rubbished in a formal objection now tabled on behalf of the Herne Hill Society.

The main thrust of the Society’s objection is that a decision to allow the proposed development would go against the Lambeth Plan for new developments, as well as the London Plan and indeed the 2019 National Planning Policy Framework.

This sounds academic, but demonstrating how the proposal is fundamentally inconsistent with the Council’s own planning guidelines makes it very difficult for the Lambeth planners to give it the green light – though of course there’s no guarantee that they won’t find a way to wriggle out of this.

The draft new Lambeth Plan lays down many requirements that new developments must respect, including the principle that the design of a new development must be a response to the good aspects of the local context and historic character in many detailed ways.

The proposal flouts Lambeth’s own standards

As the Society’s magisterial demolition of the proposal states, the architects have signally failed to meet these policy criteria. “Two towers rising to 29 and 20 stories are not a positive or contextual response to the character of the area. On the contrary, they are wilfully antagonistic to the character, creating densely congested structures with an overbearing presence out of any reasonable scale with neighbouring buildings.”

They go on to say: “The rationale of the designs stems solely from the maximisation of housing capacity on a small site, not from any response to local context.”

Rules for tall buildings

There is more. They note that the London Plan and the Lambeth Plan emphasise that tall buildings require excellent design and should be of “exemplary standard”. But as the Society points out, “the towers stand out for their gross incongruity in the local context not for any outstanding design quality or distinct architectural expression.”

They also flag up the proposed towers’ harmful effect on heritage assets, particularly views from Ruskin Park and Brockwell Park where what is proposed is a “markedly intrusive, permanent alteration to views from the park, one that makes no positive contribution to the park and its local context.”

The proposal’s airily dismissed references to potential bottlenecks in public transport (mentioned in our last post) are also painfully exposed and politely savaged in the Society’s response.

There is more: it’s well worth a read, and shows the importance of having a strong local Society, supported by experts who know their stuff. The upshot is that their demolition of the tower development proposal,  while elegantly written, is comprehensive and enough to make its architects blush. (Don’t count on it.)

Read it all

The full text of the Objection can be read in a PDF found via a new page on the Herne Hill Society’s website, through this link.

A LOOMING FOREST OF TOWERS

Many neighbours (including Fawnbrake Avenue residents plugged into the Fawnbrake Street Party WhatsApp group) have already heard about the plans to erect a massive building sprouting two tower blocks of 20 and 29 storeys at Loughborough Junction, where Herne Hill Road approaches Coldharbour Lane. Yes it’s in Loughborough Junction, but this eyesore would dominate much of Herne Hill too, particularly on the Lambeth side.

The site is bounded by Hinton Road (the short extension of Milkwood Road), Wanless Street (right up against the back gardens of the houses), Herne Hill Road, and one of Loughborough Junction’s many railway viaducts, this one carrying trains to and from Denmark Hill Station.

The proposed new building (it is nominally one “podium building” with two towers superimposed) would offer some employment and retail floorspace, and 170 flats.

Time to send in our comments

Few of us would argue that these two sites  are perfect as they are. Redevelopment is overdue, with the emphasis on more housing accommodation, but with some space for businesses too.

But why the looming towers? The crass unsuitability of such an intrusive development has provoked an unprecedented torrent of predominantly hostile comments on Lambeth Council’s planning site. There is still time for others to lodge their objections. It’s easily done and now is the time, before the website closes for comments. The site can be reached by clicking here.

A host of objections suggest themselves, including the grotesque disturbance of the traditional, mainly low-rise landscape and views around this part of south-east London including from Ruskin Park.

Proposed towers viewed from Ruskin Park

 

 

 

 

 

Herne Hill Society on the case

The Herne Hill Society’s highly expert planning group have already posted  a report, available by clicking here. They are currently  preparing a major, detailed objection to this plan. We will post a link to this when it becomes available.

Meanwhile, this post focuses mainly on the transport issues.

But first … another 16-storey tower looms

What makes things worse is that the proposed development would sit alongside another earlier one, in the pipeline already, featuring a 16-storey tower, on the neighbouring so-called Higgs Estate. This lies just the other side of the same railway viaduct and abuts on to Coldharbour Lane. Lambeth granted planning permission for this development in December 2019. Local societies including the Herne Hill Society and the Brixton Society strongly objected to this application too, but were overruled by Lambeth.

So if the current application were to be granted, Loughborough Junction would “benefit”, as the estate agents say, from three highly intrusive tower blocks – see the picture.

In our view, one’s enough.

The 16-storey Higgs Estate tower (L) – already approved, and the two new proposed 20 & 29 storey towers (R).

Rail transport links? Wishful thinking

What is particularly nonsensical is the claim that the development is well served by public transport.

It is literally true, as the application blandly states, that “The application site is well served by public transport and Loughborough Junction Station, which is within a two-minute walk of the site, offers mainline train services to central London and elsewhere.”

But of course, this ignores, either deliberately and cynically, or unprofessionally, the fact that at critical times of the day (and particularly at morning rush hour between 7:30 and 9:00), the Thameslink trains stopping at Loughborough Junction are already full to bursting – so much so that passengers wanting to board at Herne Hill station, just 2 minutes up the line, often have to wait for several trains to go through before they can squeeze on. No way would the hundreds of additional commuters emerging from the proposed tower blocks be able to struggle on board at Loughborough Junction.

Lies, Damned Lies and Cynicism

A Transport Plan, one of the many supporting documents accompanying the application, concedes that a Lambeth Council study in 2014 already identified, even back then, that “Loughborough Junction … suffers from sharp peaks that contribute to relatively uncomfortable conditions for passengers both within the ticket hall and on the platform.”

Things have undoubtedly got worse in the last six years, and will get even worse when the residents of the 16 stories on the Higgs Estate start trying to get to work. But the authors of the Transport Plan, inevitably delivering what the developers want to hear and have paid for, suggest that people could quite easily walk to Denmark Hill station (already highly congested) via Ruskin Park or to Brixton Underground. We have seen no evidence that the developers or their transport planners have bothered to open a dialogue with the train operators to address these issues. Perhaps because there is no solution?

Raising the very same objections last March to the earlier Higgs Estate proposal, the Brixton Society pulled no punches:

“The present Public Transport Accessibility score is … deceptive, and new residents will experience difficulty if they wish to travel to work in Central London at normal hours. Yet that access to Central London will be the main appeal of this location for purchasers of the sale or shared ownership dwellings within this development. Claims by the applicant that only a few will wish to do so are entirely specious.”

It still went ahead.

Maybe our new neighbours in Loughborough Junction will all resort to cycling? In which case, the cycle shop on Coldharbour Lane might do quite nicely out of it. The rest of us won’t.

Parking in Dulwich Park – again

Over on Twitter, one or two people commented on our recent story about Southwark’s proposed parking charges in Dulwich Park. They said rather smugly that no-one should take their cars there anyway, and that walking is more environmentally correct.  Conventional fair comment, but not everyone is fit enough to walk two or three miles to visit a park or a gallery.  Oh, I suppose they can always summon a Uber …

A nicer and more balanced opinion has appeared from one of our neighbours here in Fawnbrake.  To save scrolling down, I’ll reproduce it here too:

“Another reason to visit the park regularly is to attend the many Dulwich & District U3A groups that meet in Rosebery Lodge. Many Herne Hill residents are signed up for these. Personally, though by nature lazy, I get out the bike and cycle to my group, so am feeling rather smug about the planned charges. But this is not an option for everyone and the absence of a good bus service makes it more difficult. But I do commend cycling. And from where I am in Fawnbrake you can always avoid the climb up Kestrel (and Ruskin Walk on the return) by taking the slightly longer way round along Milkwood Road. And from Half Moon lane turn into quiet Winterbrook Road, where soon the Japanese cherries will be flowering – a real delight.”

Rosebery Lodge, Dulwich Park

We’re going to be ‘liveable’, it seems

A recent press release from The Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) has announced an extension of the Liveable Neighbourhoods programme that promises improvements in Brixton and Herne Hill. This follows a bid from Lambeth.

The general intention – an ambitious one, for sure – is that junctions will be made safer, new cycle infrastructure built, and traffic reduced on residential streets to enable more Londoners to walk, cycle and use public transport, and clean up the capital’s toxic air. The scheme promises new walking and cycling infrastructure, new pedestrian crossings and rat runs closed to motor traffic. New pocket parks (er, what’s that?) and revamped public spaces will improve air quality and make local streets more attractive places, helping to support local high streets.

Atlantic Road (image from TfL)

The element of the programme closest to us is focused around Atlantic Road in Brixton, which will be transformed for people walking, cycling and using the bus. Local freight access will be maintained with technology utilised to better manage loading and servicing. Investment will overhaul public spaces, widen footways and add new pedestrian crossings, creating a more welcoming environment for the area’s many visitors, residents and businesses.

Brixton to Herne Hill cycle route

There is not much more detail at present, but the official TfL/Mayor’s office statement says the project will build high-quality infrastructure on three key strategic cycle routes: Brixton to Clapham Common, Brixton to Camberwell and Brixton to Herne Hill. “Low traffic neighbourhoods” will be created in the Ferndale and Railton neighbourhoods and a new, fully segregated cycle route will link to the Loughborough neighbourhood.

We await more information with interest. If the project can do something about the heavy and often dangerous traffic along Milkwood Road, and on Herne Hill Road, that would be a bonus.