Early in July, the Traffic Section of Merton Council issued a consultation leaflet about proposed traffic calming measures in Grand Drive. These proposals relate only to the southern section of the road, from the junction of Southway to the Beverley roundabout. Most of this part of the ward falls into Lower Morden ward, and is therefore outside the Association area. However, need I say, any calming measures in any part of Grand Drive are bound to impact on the whole of the road.
The leaflet was careful to explain that the primary measure of the objectives is to reduce traffic speed. Yes, I know - apart from school holiday periods, traffic along the road is already down to a crawl much of the time. Many of you will feel that we do not need to slow the traffic any more.
Let me just point out that the Government has issued new targets for casualty reduction on our roads. It has set a target to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured by 40% by 2010, with a specific 50% reduction rate for children. The council leaflet says that the most effective way of reducing road casualties is by implementing traffic calming measures around schools and areas of "high pedestrian flow". It goes on to explain that in the last three years, there have been fifteen accidents involving injury between Southway and the Beverley roundabout.
The main focus of the proposals is the junction of Cannon Hill Lane and Grand Drive, which is very close to St. John Fisher primary school. Consultees were asked to consider two options for this junction :
The second option would also include a gate closure at the top of Queen Mary Lane in order to avoid a "rat-run" along Queen Mary Avenue.
In addition to either of these options, the proposals include :
As with any proposal afecting the car user, these proposals will no doubt generate heated debate. Whatever your views, it is worth remembering the underlying objective - to improve safety for pedestrians and motorists.
As far as I can judge, the first option seems to be the more popular, because local residents do not like the idea of the gate closure at Queen Mary Lane. However, whatever its merits, a raised junction does not require traffic to actually stop at the junction itself. A signalised junction (option 2) would of course bring the traffic in both directions to a halt, and allow traffic an easier exit from Cannon Hill Lane. At present, it is very difficult for much of the day to turn right from Cannon Hill Lane into Grand Drive.
There cannot be much doubt that if all these calming measures were introduced, the effect would be to force the traffic in Grand Drive, in both directions, to move and remain in single file along most of the southern section of the road. It is also possible that a by-product of the scheme would be to deter some traffic - perhaps in particular large heavy vehicles - from using Grand Drive at all. If that was the outcome, I suspect many of us would be grateful.
The results of the consultation will be considered in due course by the Street Management Overview and Scrutiny Panel of Merton Council, and I imagine will be on the agenda for the Raynes Park and Lower Morden Area Forum meeting scheduled for Wednesday 29th October at the Morden Assembly Hall, close to the Beverley roundabout. However, I learn that two of the councillors for Lower Morden ward, Maurice Groves and Leslie Mutch, are trying to defer the consultation process so that we can have a discussion about the proposals at the October Forum meeting before the council committee get to grips with the responses to the consultation. This is an entirely sensible suggestion from Maurice and Leslie, and I hope it is accepted.
In July, two planning applications were submitted by London Electricity : the first to demolish and re-locate its sub-station in Coombe Lane, and the second to erect fourteen flats (mostly one- and two-bedroom units) in a four-storey development on its site where the existing sub-station sits. The location is a small triangle of land between Milburn House and the Thames Water offices.
If nothing else, these applications explain why we lost the re-cycling facility in Coombe Lane. If the applications are approved, London Electricity would rebuild the sub-station in the front corner of its site, just where the recycling bins used to be. The flats would be on the rest of the site.
There is one rather puzzling aspect about these applications. You may recall my notes in January 2003 about a site proposal for the Raynes Park car park. This so-called proposal was originally intended to relate only to the area of the car park, but was later extended to include the whole of the Thames Water site, including the builder's yard behind it and the garage in West Barnes Lane. The description of the site proposal is "residential, foodstore and public parking".
Bearing in mind that the land within the boundary of the site proposal is about ten times the size of the London Electricity site immediately adjacent, it does seem odd that these two applications have come forward and that re-development in this area might proceed in piecemeal fashion. You begin to wonder whether the two utilities are speaking to each other.
As far as London Electricity's application for the flats is concerned, it is still early days, but I have to say that it looks as if it would be a rather tight fit, with very limited on-site parking provision. Moreover, the only vehicular entrance - which is very little used at present - would be straight out into Coombe Lane, just in front of the bus stop and across a pavement and the cycle path. Hardly an ideal arrangement. This looks like a case where there is a clear need for some "joined-up" planning.
Returning briefly to the site proposal (please note this is not a planning application), let me mention once again that as matters currently stand, it is not envisaged that we would lose the public car park. In fact, the thinking is, or at least was, that the foodstore - if it ever came about - would have its own dedicated customer car parking. So hopefully there would be a net gain in public car parking in this area.
We learn that McCarthy and Stone, the sheltered housing specialist, has put in an application to erect two rather large hoardings at the front corners of the library site to advertise its proposed flats.
I am not privy to the financial wheeling and dealing between the applicants and the council, but hopefully this points to the financial difficulties about the off-site provision of "affordable housing" having been solved. We may be one step closer to the new library - we hope.
Chris Mountford in Merton's Leisure Services Department tells me that shortly after the meeting held in the pavilion on 5th June, the Dons' Trust (AFC Wimbledon) announced that they were no longer interested in using the playing fields. In some ways, this is a rather sad outcome. However, I know that many of the residents living close to the playing fields will greet this news with much relief. It has to be said that the Dons' Trust did themselves no favours in the way they put their proposals forward. Perhaps a more reasonable and better-structured proposal would have been viewed with more sympathy.
I am not up to speed with any of the details, but I learn that residents in the Marina Avenue area have formed some sort of committee designed to help with management of the facilities at Joseph Hood. On the face of it, this is encouraging news. I wonder whether the emerging secretary would like to tell us more about this, in particular what they hope to achieve and how they plan to co-operate with the council.
The Planning Committee at Merton has approved a change of use - and no more than that - for the ground floor of this property. The change is from office use (class B1) to a health centre (class D1). The proposed re-design of the interior of the ground floor indicates provision for a doctor, a nurse, a reception area and a small waiting-room. We shall see what emerges.
This application comes in the wake of the refusal on appeal of two earlier planning applications for extensive re-development of the site. That result was due to some very impressive work by a group of local residents.David Freeman