Public Meeting: The Future of Putney High Street
Thank you to everyone who attended the public meeting held by Putney MP Fleur Anderson in February. 90 residents attended to give their views on Putney High Street. Many more shared their views in writing. Improving the High Street is an issue of great importance for Putney residents and they are very keen for their voices to be heard on this and to have meaningful and wide-ranging consultation on future public realm improvement projects.
The main theme that emerged from the meeting was that in order to make Putney High Street a more attractive to visitors, priority must be given to making it a cleaner, greener and safer area to spend time in.
The Future High Streets Fund award is a welcome and much needed investment in Putney High Street. The business case and plans for spending the funding represent a real opportunity to begin to revitalise and improve the area. With further phases of change and improvement by the Council to follow, many residents are keen to engage with the consultation process and put forward innovative ideas for improvement.
At the public meeting there were a myriad of ideas put forward by local residents with insight into the area. These ideas for improving the area broadly fell into the categories below.
Congestion and pollution
Putney High Street is severely congested and as a result dangerously polluted. Traffic is currently prioritised which does nothing to solve the problem. Residents have said that this is the least attractive aspect of the High Street and are very keen to help resolve this.
There is genuine concern over the dangerous pollution levels and the health impacts this is having locally as well as the effect it is having on businesses.
Poor traffic flows and idling engines are contributing greatly to the issue. Many are keen to see a traffic flow solution, or a traffic gate implemented.
‘Gating’ traffic in response to bottlenecks has been successfully implemented on other roads such as the A3. The results have shown that journey times are not impacted but that the controls do significantly reduce vehicle emissions.
In ‘gating’ traffic signals are optimised to reduce the number of times vehicles stop and crucially the amount of time they spend idling on the high street.
Other traffic restrictions
Some are so worried about the congestion that they are willing to support restricting the types of vehicles using the High Street to public transport.
As one resident pointed out, when Putney Bridge was temporarily closed traffic was managed and this could provide some insight for a permanent solution.
There have been some simple to implement suggestions to effect immediate improvement such as stopping delivery trucks making deliveries on the High Street at rush hour.
Of course, solutions to congestion always come with concerns that problem will be moved elsewhere. Residents would like to explore options that will ensure the traffic is not simply rerouted. Residents are imploring the Council to address the underlying issue, local reliance on cars, so that residential areas do not become the next to suffer from undue levels of pollution.
The move to electric buses has meant a significant reduction in air pollution, and identifying more major polluters on the road and making changes was welcomed. Getting Hammersmith Bridge fixed is essential.
Relocating bus stop
The benefits of moving the Southbound bus stop were discussed. Some residents believe that relocating it from outside of Sainsburys to the railway station would have benefits for traffic flow, cyclist and pedestrian safety.
There are of course accessibility concerns about those who would have to walk further to use the bus service, particularly those who use it for shopping.
Encourage more active travel
Many residents are urging the Council to do more to encourage active travel. There were many comments that it feels that cars are the most catered for, then pedestrians but that cyclists haven’t been considered in the High Street but the new funding is an opportunity to put this right, although the narrow street is a challenge. A better uptake of cyclists could be achieved by making Putney High Street more accessible for cyclists, and for cycle routes on the parallel roads to give a safer option for people cycling from the East or West. It will be important to link to Deodar Road and the cycle route through Wandsworth Park and across to the Embankment.
Contra flow cycle lanes were suggested and supported by a wide number of residents and should be looked into as an urgent priority.
To encourage cycling, wholesale improvement is needed. More accessible bike parking and bike hangers close to the High Street is essential to enable cyclists to stop for retail and leisure activities in the High Street.
Businesses and empty shops
Putney High Street needs to be made more attractive and accessible to small businesses.
Residents expressed disappointment in the number of closed shops and empty spaces. They are keen to see options for pop up shops or financial incentives for new businesses. In particular there is a great desire to see key lost businesses like M&S replaced to enable the High Street to thrive.
Residents feel strongly that lower congestion levels, active travel, bike parking and more greenery will attract customers to the High Street to and have a catalytic effect for small business growth and retainment.
At the meeting concerns were raised over recent and future planning decisions which could lead to ‘canyonisation.’ Residents are concerned about the 10-storey hotel and the proposed development at Charlwood Road which will replace green space. Greater consultation on the overall vision for Putney High street would allow greater input into these decisions which impact the character of the High Street.
Many residents are calling for more trees and planting on Putney High Street.
Whilst recognising that this is not in itself going to solve the problem, planting would go some way to making the area greener and more inviting. It could be also be rolled out quickly as part of a wider strategy.
Furthermore, certain plant species, such as Cotoneaster franchetii, are excellent at absorbing pollution.
Residents want to see more green areas with seats and planters, more greenery and to look at previously proposed initiatives such as “greening” building façades such as the Odeon.
Planting would simply make the environment look and feel so much more attractive.
Widening of the pavements
There is a debate over the widening of pavements, some welcome improvement but concerns remain that the High Street has become more dangerous for cyclists as a result.
There is a considerable debate over whether pedestrianisation of Putney High Street is the ultimate desirable goal or whether the through road is valuable to the community. Some residents would strongly like to see a hybrid system similar to that on Oxford Street with the High street open to buses but not other traffic. Whilst there is no consensus on the best way forward, there is definitely an appetite for further consultation and change.
There is a strong feeling amongst residents that motor vehicles take precedence over all other users of Putney High Street and that this must change. During the meeting the insufficient number of pedestrian crossings was highlighted. Residents would welcome further discussion with the Council on improving access to crossings and the High Street more widely for pedestrians.
There are developed proposals from residents who are in favour of the benefits that would arise from pedestrianizing a portion of Werter Road.
Suggestions include designating the area of Werter Road between the entrance to Sainsbury’s car park and the High Street as a civic space with street furniture, greenery and planting for all to use. The area would remain open to cyclists.
Many residents remain concerned with aspects of this proposal, including about the removal of disabled parking bays and closing the street to traffic.
The author of the proposal is currently seeking to engage with the Council further on this and would welcome public consultation.
Park and ride
During the meeting the suggestion of a park and ride was made at Tibbets Corner. Residents suggested that this could tie into the Council’s active travel plans and climate goals by incorporating not just a traditional park and ride but a park and scoot or a park and cycle scheme.
What was clear is that residents have some innovative ideas on how the Council could deliver their environmental priorities in Putney and that further consultation would only enhance engagement locally.
Policing and security
During the meeting some High Street users shared concerns of the need for better security measures and additional policing than they are currently experiencing. Safety on the High Street and roads near it is a concern felt by many residents.
Cycle thefts were a specific cause for concern with many looking to see secure cycle parking increased as a result.