Protect our trees – and plant many more
Most of us feel a deep sense of loss when trees we're used to seeing every day are felled. Unfortunately, that's an experience all too familiar in Southwark, where many trees have come down over the past decade. The council's own figures show a net loss of around 1,400 street trees between 2013 and 2017 alone.
Southwark Transport Plan Annual Monitoring Report, 2016/17, p.45
Southwark Green Party has long campaigned to protect trees and green spaces. We welcomed the chance to reply to Southwark Council's recent consultation on its vision and objectives for tree management. The consultation has now closed, but you can read the draft Tree Management Policy on the council's consultation hub.
In March 2019 a motion to declare a climate emergency was passed unanimously by Southwark’s Council Assembly and committed Southwark to becoming carbon neutral by 2030.
Southwark Green Party believes the council's policies on tree planting and management should be driven by this target. To achieve this, it is essential that mature trees are protected and many more trees are planted along our streets, on estates and in parks.
We were disappointed to find that Southwark's draft Tree Management Policy contains no mention of either the 2030 target or the declaration of a climate emergency. The document suggests that trees are something to be managed, while bringing "environmental benefits" and contributing to "local character". But trees can do so much more! Large-scale planting schemes could transform our streets, estates and green spaces, and play a crucial role in absorbing greenhouse gases and tackling the climate crisis.
So how can Southwark make this happen? Below are some of our proposals.Read more
The Movement Plan approved by Southwark Council in 2019 (download here) claims to be a bold vision to change how we get around the borough over the next 20 years. How does it measure up in the light of Southwark Council’s declaration of a climate emergency at the end of March 2019?
Let’s start with the good news. We’re told that 77% of Southwark people who were surveyed support reducing traffic. And there’s an exciting sounding policy to introduce street closures to reallocate space for people. But as we read on, what sounded like a commitment to deliver more healthy streets turns out to be a commitment to ‘explore’ acting – is this code for commissioning more studies from consultants? In fact the whole document falls down on a lack of detailed commitments and deadlines.
Will the Movement Plan really help us to walk and cycle more?
Many more people would like to cycle if only it felt safe, rather than having to jostle with drivers cutting through residential areas.. Similarly, many people hop on the bus for a short journey because the alternative – perhaps a noisy, polluted, grubby street with a pavement that’s a bit too narrow for comfort – just isn’t appealing. Imagine how different it would be if you positively chose to walk those ten minutes because it gave you a chance to go through a small park, pick up groceries or walk side by side, chatting with friends. (This is called, in the jargon, ‘suppressed demand’ for walking and cycling).
It’s cheering to see here a map of the full cycle network proposed in 2015 in the accompanying Local Implementation Plan (under 'Action 4'). But no quality standards, funding or delivery deadlines are proposed - so about as useful as a freshly painted cycle logo on a rat-run. Nor does it show TfL's proposed routes, including the flagship Rotherhithe Bridge. (The Mayor pulled the plug on the Rotherhithe Bridge in June - Caroline Russell has called for a free ferry crossing to be put in place quickly instead).
There’s a new walking network map, but it lacks routes, particularly in the southern half of borough and on the Rotherhithe peninsula. And with funding focused on 'fun' interventions and promotion, maybe this will be a 'virtual' network, something you will only see with an Augmented Reality app?
It’s great to see that the council plans again to allow contraflow cycling on all one-way streets. Initially proposed in 2015, the only thing that has happened since is that the council lost the money it had earmarked for this. But there are no actions related to equality in cycling – making it possible for all ages and abilities to cycle safely. And the text is far too vague when it comes to promises to extend 'the cycle hire schemes' across the borough. Maybe that’s because the clear commitment to do so in Southwark Labour’s 2014 manifesto still hasn’t been met. We all know there is a massive hole in the availability of Santander hire bikes in London – and that hole is in Southwark!
Transport for London map showing hire bike docking stations in red. (Interactive version here)
So tell us, Southwark Council, will you invest in getting TfL hire bikes installed all the way to Rotherhithe and Camberwell? We don’t want another debacle like the Mobo and ofo bike hire schemes, which had to be abandoned after a less than a year. We want to be part of a reliable, London-wide scheme. Tell us where and by when we can expect them!
You’ll never miss a target if you never set one
When it comes to targets, the Movement Plan is seriously disappointing. There is still no target to reduce motor traffic before 2041. With Southwark Council having passed a motion to ‘do all it can to make the borough carbon neutral by 2030’, and emissions from the transport sector being the biggest single source,we need real leadership on the actions that will make that possible.
The Movement Plan does include a target to reduce 10% morning peak freight traffic by 2026. In other words taking seven years to reduce traffic by 3% for three hours per day! The Belgian city of Ghent reduced all rush hour motor traffic by 12% in just the first year of its 'filtered permeability' plan.
Progress in reducing collisions on Southwark streets has stalled since 2013 and has now gone into reverse. But there are no new actions proposed on road safety other than ‘working with the police’ and installing moped anchors to secure powered two wheelers safely’.
What would we do? Read our proposals for cutting carbon through changing the way we get around.
In March 2019, Southwark Council passed a motion to ‘do all it can to make the borough carbon neutral by 2030’. Transport is the biggest single source of carbon emissions in our borough, so we need real leadership on transport to change the way we get around and deliver goods.
Here are some proposals from Southwark Green Party for the kind of interventions we will need to meet the target of going climate neutral by 2030.
1. Green our streets
Southwark's own reports show that the borough has lost 1,000 street trees in the last ten years.
We would make sure all these lost trees are replaced, and plant new trees to absorb carbon and clean particulate pollution from the air. By replacing a car parking space with trees, cycle parking and parklets using Sustainable Urban Drainage principles, we would both improve the air locally, offset emissions and adapt to higher rainfall, reducing the risk of flash flooding.
2. Put low and zero carbon travel first
We'd radically improve conditions for walking and cycling for people of all ages and abilities. We would do this by making streets accessible to cars but not convenient as short-cuts. We’ve seen this work in Walthamstow, where traffic levels fell by 56%.
We’d create bus and cycle ‘gates’ that make taking the bus faster than taking a car or Uber. This would be useful on the Walworth Road, by Blue Anchor Library, and on Thurlow St. The council could ask TfL to do this on streets controlled by TfL, like Borough High St and on Duke St Hill by London Bridge.
We would deliver a cycling network that meets Londonwide quality standards by 2025 and create Low Traffic Neighbourhoods across the borough to prioritise walking.
Van Gogh Walk, a low traffic street in Lambeth.
3. Manage parking better to influence transport choices
We propose a rush hour ban on loading/unloading for combustion engine vehicles to reduce peak hour congestion and encourage use of zero-carbon freight cycles. We’d support freight cycle services by providing micro consolidation hubs. Team London Bridge are helping businesses based in their area to find cargo bike services that suit them. Cargo bikes take up less space than vans and offer more reliable journey times, as well as putting out zero emissions.
Photo from https://www.outspokencycles.co.uk/london-bridge-cargo-bike-expo/
At the moment there’s a confusing range of ‘click and collect’ services. We’d produce an interactive map of the best places to pick up parcels rather than getting them delivered to work or home.
Southwark has fewer Controlled Parking Zones than most other London boroughs. We think CPZs are a good way to reduce the dominance of our streets by parked cars, to help ensure car owners can park nearer home, and to discourage the most polluting vehicles.
A small but emblematic action: while parking places are needed near shops, why does Southwark Council offer private car-owners a Christmas bonus with free parking on shopping parades? Instead, we'd encourage everyone to shop local with incentives for walking and cycling, like free cargo bike deliveries along the lines of the Waltham Forest Christmas Courier.
4 Enable lower & zero emission movement
We need investment to help people choose an alternative to the private car. We would roll out the TfL Cycle Hire scheme to include the whole area within the Overground in Southwark (i.e. including Peckham Rye, Denmark Hill & Rotherhithe) by 2022. We’d work with companies providing e-bikes and e-cars for whole borough.
We support the idea of TfL taking control of south London railway lines to improve reliability and quality of the service. And we need big improvements to key stations like Peckham Rye that still shamefully have no step-free access. Denmark Hill has more passengers per day passing through it than Nottingham – and is dangerously overcrowded at peak times.
Buses, vans and cars travelling at lower speeds takes less energy, and improves safety for pedestrians. We’d make the council fleet of vans and cars, as well as their subcontractors, use Intelligent Speed Adaptation. We’d push for it to be rolled out on local buses by TfL too.
5. Engage people
It’s hard to know how we’re doing as a borough, with figures buried in official reports. So we’d create a live digital dashboard showing annual reductions in emissions and daily progress in getting people travelling actively - like a smart meter for Southwark transport. How many people are cycling down the Walworth Road today? How many delivery companies have changed to electric or pedal power? We'd talk to neighbours and community groups from early on about their ideas for the methods and locations for measures to reduce traffic and air pollution. We'd test out ideas using temporary, colourful materials – try it out with straw bales and paint for a month before installing concrete slabs!
How will we pay for it?
Getting drivers to pay a fairer contribution to the costs they impose on us all will encourage other forms of travel. All the money raised from parking charges has to be spent on transport improvements, so they help improve other forms of travel. Consider how much we are paying now to keep things as they are. Asthma alone costs the UK health service at least £1.1 billion each year, with the health service in Southwark particularly badly affected. And there's a heavy human cost too. We can’t carry on with business as usual. It’s killing us.
Other parts of our plan simply involve a redirection of money that Southwark Council already receives from Transport for London.
Some of these ideas might seem a bit off-the-wall – but measures introduced by the London Assembly like the Congestion Charge and the Ultra Low Emission Zone have been established without any of the chaos predicted by some commentators.
We’d love to hear your thoughts.