In a guest post, Guy Mannes-Abbott celebrates Tree Week with stories of the Foxglove tree (Paulina tormentosa), one of many species that make up the Heygate Legacy. He led what became a community campaign to force Southwark Council and developers Lendlease to recognise the public welfare or commons value of the urban forest of 458 trees on the old Heygate Estate at Elephant and Castle.
Early in the first lockdown this year I decided to tweet a Tree of the Day from my account @leaftoleaf; images and notes about a new network of trees that I had an intimate relation with in my neighbourhood. Those trees included Persian ironwood and silk trees, Indian bean and horse-chestnut trees, hornbeams and field maples, black pines and poplars, and the trusty London plane in estates, streets and parks centring on the Elephant and Castle.
With so many fewer cars on the streets during lockdown, air pollution has fallen by up to 50% and people have been walking and cycling to local shops and parks, as well as to work.
But now, as lockdown eases, cars are returning to the streets. If Southwark doesn’t act to provide more space for pedestrians and cyclists, all Southwark residents will suffer.
- Many people will not be able to travel safely to work. The majority of residents don’t have access to a private car and there will be reduced capacity on public transport for months to come.
- More people will choose to drive, creating gridlock - causing delays for those who do need to use motorised transport, including delays to buses.
- Increased air pollution means more heart disease, asthma and strokes, as well as exacerbating the impact of coronavirus.
It's a question of social justice: 60% of Southwark residents do not have access to a car. With limited capacity on public transport, they need safe ways to walk and cycle. Workers in health care, retail and construction who can’t work from home are more likely to be on lower incomes and most in need of safer ways to commute.
If Southwark Council doesn’t act quickly, there’s a real risk that as people avoid public transport, Southwark will become a corridor of choking gridlock, from the southern suburbs to the river.
Meanwhile, people still need extra space on pavements for daily exercise, recreation and essential tasks while keeping a safe distance from each other.
But the last few months have shown that rapid changes are possible.
Photo (above, and top): the Low Traffic neighbourhood around Van Gogh Walk, LambethRead more
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.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).Read more
Derwent Grove before and after the commuters go home – photo courtesy of @edstnparking
If you live in Peckham West or East Dulwich, you will have received a consultation survey from Southwark Council, called “Parking zone and healthier streets.” The Peckham West consultation closes today; the East Dulwich one on 28 February.
The council explains the reason for the consultation: they have received many requests for permit parking from residents in East Dulwich since 2015 and they expect parking pressure to increase.
Please respond to the consultation. Here are some points you may wish to consider.Read more
We've just responded to Southwark Council's consultation on proposed changes to streets between Burgess Park and Commercial Way. Some of our members took part in the three public walkabouts and workshops last year to identify problems in the area.
Eleanor said: 'It was the first really integrated transport consultation process I'd taken part in - thinking about walking, cycling and parking together. There was also valuable input from Dutch transport consultants who brought a very positive attitude and some new ideas.'
Problems identified included:
- the dangerous crossing of Peckham Road from Kelly Avenue to Lyndhurst Way, where cyclists get no clue as to when it's safe to cross,
- the hostile atmosphere for cyclists on Commercial Way - especially noticeable when other sections of the route (Kelly Avenue, Chandler Way) are pleasant for walking and cycling because there's access for residents and deliveries in motor vehicles but no through traffic,
- lack of capacity for an increase in the number of people cycling via Burgess Park - and thus the need for safe routes on the parallel roads (East-West on St George's Way and North-South on Wells Way),
- the need for cycle routes that are safe 24 hours a day, i.e. benefitting from the 'eyes on the street', rather than being directed through Burgess Park,
- commuters parking on St George's Way early in the morning before heading into central London, with vehicles blocking parking for local residents,
- vehicles for sale parked up on Wells Way.
It's really good to see how the proposals have taken on board the observations made by people on those walkabouts.
What's more, the council is making use of an 'experimental' approach with its suggestion for changes to St George's Way. The changes will be open for public comments for 18 months before a decision is made whether to make a permanent change. This is a really welcome approach. Local residents can experience the difference, rather than having to make a decision based on drawings.
You've got till Friday 11 January to respond - do send in your comments if you live in this area or walk/cycle through (or would, if only it was safer). It doesn't take long, and you can choose just to answer on sections relevant to you.
Read on for details of our response ...Read more
When Caroline Russell first became a transport campaigner in the early 1990s, she was courted by both Labour and the Lib Dems to stand in local elections. But, she says: “I knew I always trusted what the Greens said on transport.”
Twenty-five years on, Caroline is a councillor in Highbury East ward, Islington – the only Green on a council that is otherwise 100% Labour. With Sian Berry, she is also one of two Green members of the London Assembly and chair of the assembly’s environment committee, holding mayor Sadiq Khan to account to ensure he delivers on promises to reduce air pollution and make travelling around London safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
Caroline works tirelessly for environmental and social justice, and we were delighted to welcome her as our guest speaker at Southwark Green Party’s AGM, held on 15 November at the Albrighton Centre, SE22.Read more
We support the Liveable London campaign and are pleased to see the London Cycling Campaign and Living Streets working together, showing that we have common interests as people who want safer, more pleasant streets, whether on foot or on cycle.
If elected as councillors, we will do everything we can to implement policies to make it easier and safer to walk and cycle.
Southwark Greens have been working for more action on air pollution in Southwark since 2011. Our actions include:
• triggering the first full council debate on air pollution
• putting up nitrogen dioxide pollution monitors near schools in Peckham, Camberwell and Dulwich
• taking a 500+ signature petition to the Mayor for cleaner buses through our area
• running a free Travel Clinic at Brunswick Park summer fete to help people work out how much they could save by giving up a private car
• planting a pollution screen round Goose Green Primary school playground
More details here.
Southwark Greens have opposed Southwark Council’s plans to demolish Peckham Arch and asked the Mayor to look at how these plans fail to take into account TfL’s identification of a high potential for walking and cycling in Peckham.
We support CS4 - a cycle route going between Tower Bridge and Greenwich - and would like Southwark Council and TfL to work together to fill in the missing pieces. We support the idea of a new bridge across the river for pedestrians and cyclists - the Brunel Bridge.Read more
Southwark Council is consulting on the status of Camberwell Grove. The road goes over the railway via a bridge, just south of the junction with McNeil Road. This bridge has been closed to all motor traffic since October 2016, due to structural failure.
The council website says: 'Repairs to the bridge will soon be completed by Network Rail, which will allow it to be reopened for small motor vehicles (under 3 tonne) with traffic lights allowing alternate one-way flows to cater for both north and south-bound traffic'. The council wants to hear your views before taking a final decision on reopening the bridge. The consultation page is here (closing Monday 30 October).
We encourage Southwark residents to respond. Read on for our comments.Read more
Overview: Some of the elements are genuinely useful. We support the new pedestrian crossing between Camberwell Passage and the Green, and the repositioning of the St Giles bus stop, to improve sight-lines.
But the plans offer far too little to improve safety. We cannot see that it is worthwhile doing this 'interim' work at great cost when it offers so little. We urge TfL to withdraw the plans and replace them with plans that consider Camberwell as a town centre with shops and community services, and consider how people actually need to move around it on foot or on bike. This is an essential step in tackling the current dangers of the junction as well as the wider public health emergency of air pollution.Read more