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Delay to Tooting Bec Road consultation

Sadly we’ve heard that following the consultation on the proposed changes to Tooting Bec Road (further details here) which were due to be implemented last year, TfL have announced that this has now been put on hold.

Whilst TfL have restarted some of the investment projects they had developed before the pandemic, they will need further funding before they can start work to build the Tooting Bec Road scheme.  For this reason, it’s necessary for them to put delivery of the Tooting Bec Road scheme on hold for the time being. 

Clearly this is disappointing news, but we understand that this is owing to a lack of support from central government.

We will remain in contact with TfL on this subject and hope that the Tooting Bec Road scheme can be considered in the near future.

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Contra-Flow Cycle Measures – Cloudesdale Road – Have your say!

Contra-flow cycle measures have been introduced on Cloudesdale Road in Balham under experimental traffic orders. What this means in practice is that as Cloudesdale is a one-way street, the trial measures provide a more direct route for cyclists to be able to use the road in both directions.

The required changes include:

• New cycle signage and road markings to formalise two-way cycle flow and to raise driver awareness of the presence of cyclists.

• Convert existing single yellow lines to double yellow lines to protect accesses and visibility at junctions.

• Some reduction to the existing parking arrangement will be required at key locations along the road to allow cyclists to safely pass from on-coming traffic.

As this has been introduced on a trial basis, feedback from residents gained throughout the 6-month trial period will be taken into account throughout.  Depending on this, the scheme will either need minor amendments, be withdrawn or made permanent via a permanent traffic order after the 6-month trial ends.

Details of the trial can be viewed below, and those wishing to submit their thoughts on the scheme can do so here.

Please also let us know your thoughts directly by email:

cllr.h.denfield@wandsworth.gov.uk

cllr.c.fraser@wandsworth.gov.uk

Click the image to see a larger version

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Public inquiry for Tooting Triangle development

The Government’s Planning Inspectorate intends to hold a public inquiry into the development of Tooting Triangle – as noted here by the Friends of Tooting Common

https://twitter.com/TootingCommon/status/1420339179179941890

A public inquiry enables people/organisations to speak in front of the Planning Inspectorate for or against the application. It appears that only those who are invited may participate, and we assume those who are invited were those who submitted comments to the Planning Inspectorate (per our previous post).

In regards to our position as ward councillors, these were set out in the statement we gave to Wandsworth Council’s Planning Applications Committee in May 2020: The same considerations in that speech continue to apply today. Indeed, the value of the common to the local community has significantly increased since the pandemic, which strengthens the argument that to fence off part of the common would be a sad loss to the many people who use the redgra pitch on a daily basis and something we are against.

For reference, we include below the statement delivered in 2020 at Wandsworth Council’s Planning Applications Committee.

Representation from Councillor Clare Fraser

Thank you chair for reading this representation on my behalf.

I have consulted with local groups and am asking the committee to defer agreement on the proposal this evening but to return the plans to the developer for reconsideration.

This application will have a negative impact on:

  1. the stay and play provision;
  2. Balham Boxing Club;
  3. gender equality in the provision of facilities;
  4. local wildlife and biodiversity;
  5. light pollution;
  6. common use of common land; and
  7. urbanisation of common land.

When this proposal was discussed at the Education and Children’s Services Committee – with huge opposition from local parents – we were told that there would be some reduced continuation of the stay and play provision. But, the developer’s plans do not include any firm statements in regards to the current stay and play provision, which is a vital service for our local pre-school children, parents and carers. The plans do not state if TFC will charge lower than £2.50 per session or indeed continue the current free provision, what the provision offer will be or if it will reflect the current offer.

I know the committee have received a statement from Balham Boxing Club (BBC), who, despite being part of this site for many years, have been kept in the dark in regards to this application. The plans presented this evening present a vast departure to those presented to BBC at initial stages, and something they would never have agreed to.

Paper 18-432, which was agreed at the Finance and Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee in November 2018, states at paragraph 10:

“The proposed development of the current building will provide toilets, showers, changing rooms, office space, a reception area and space for the BABC, together with publicly accessible toilets and a publicly accessible refreshment facility, all within a building that would be approximately 100 square metres larger than the current one.”

This is not what tonight’s application promises. Tonight’s application shows BBC losing their kitchen, storage and a reduction in gym space to their current provision, and female changing rooms which are an insult in comparison to the male changing room. These plans almost guarantee BBC will not be able to survive: they will not be able to sell as many tickets to their fundraising events because their maximum spectator capacity will be much reduced, and they will not be able to sell refreshments to spectators. These fundraising events provide the club with its only source of revenue, which in turn gives it the ability to provide provision and outreach to vulnerable groups. Tonight’s application is not fit for purpose for BBC and reneges on previous promises. For this reason it should not be agreed and should be sent back to the developer for reconsideration.

This weekend has seen the local community voice their strong opposition to plans to commercialise this much cherished area of the Common. It includes comments by bodies such as Tooting Common MAC and the Friends of Tooting Common. Indeed, the community and groups such as the MAC were unhappy when a proposal was presented for the site in 2008 by Goals which ultimately resulted in a judicial review, something which I could foresee happening again. The current climate crisis and COVID-19 pandemic have reinforced stronger feelings for protecting the integrity and openness of Tooting Common.

Tooting Common MAC oppose the application in its entirety because of the inclusion of floodlighting. There have not been working floodlights in this area for many, many years, and in that time the biodiversity of the area has thrived, especially the bat population. Adding floodlights to this area, especially with the long proposed hours of operation, will negatively impact upon the natural biodiversity of the site’s surroundings, not to mention the added light pollution which will negatively impact upon surroundings. The addition of floodlights represents a significant, harmful change to the area.

Should this application be approved, the redgra pitch would be taken out of the common, and out of common use. This is a fundamental shift from publicly accessible to all, to privately controlled and accessible only to a paying few. This would be a sad change to the face of the Triangle and its surroundings.

The developer’s “Green Transport Plan” notes that there is no parking provided. However, nothing is being proposed to adequately address other modes of transport, with only the minimum amount of bike parking provided. This will inevitably incentivise driving and create parking problems due to the lack of parking available on Cavendish Road.

This application will result in a loss of trees, shrubs, grassland and a resulting impact on birds, insects, other wildlife, impact on air quality, wellbeing and health of common users. An attempted mitigation by way of tree planting does not seem adequate to counteract the increased urbanisation of the site. The Design and Access Statement’s claim that the development will ‘increase community cohesion’ seems wrong in that respect.

Much as I, and my fellow Bedford ward councillors, would like to support an application which seeks to improve this site, we can only do so if it works for all the various parts and users of this site, and what has become clear to us, is that this is far from the case.

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Balham in Bloom

Beautify Balham is holding its first ever Balham in Bloom competition next month in June! For more details see this flyer or visit their website at beautifybalham.org/balham-in-bloom

Closing date for entries is 1 June and presentation of prizes by the Mayor of Wandsworth is on Saturday 26 June at 2pm in Bedford Hill Place.

Beautify Balham are also looking for business sponsors to support their campaign to green up and clean up Balham! See this flyer for more details. 

Finally, you can join Beautify Balham’s next litter pick on Saturday 5 June at 11am in Bedford Hill Place if you are free. 

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Tooting Common

Parkrun’s back!

Tooting Common parkrun is back!

Time to dust off those trainers…

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Tooting Bec and Balham

Community Roadwatch events in 2021

Community Roadwatch is where the police use a mobile speed gun to measure the speed of vehicles on a road and issue warnings where vehicles exceed the speed limit. In Bedford ward the following three events will be held this year:

  • Montana Road on 28 May 2021 from 0900hrs to 1000hrs.
  • Ritherdon Road on 25 August 2021 from 1600hrs to 1700hrs.
  • Bedford Hill on 11 November 2021 from 0900hrs to 1000hrs.

Anyone is welcome to have a go on the mobile speed gun, including children, so just turn up on the day and find the police and say hello. However, there are some rules around COVID of course. You will not be able to participate if you:

  1. are positive for COVID-19,
  2. are symptomatic (even mildly) and in self-isolation,
  3. have a household member who is symptomatic, or is in contact with anyone with COVID or who is symptomatic,
  4. have been contacted by the NHS COVID-19 Trace system and are in isolation.

Community Roadwatch requests for events on your road can be sent directly to the police using the following email address: CommunityRoadwatch-.Wandsworth@met.pnn.police.uk.

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Tooting Bec and Balham

Parkrun’s return to Tooting Common

Like many hundreds of you, we are all looking forward to the safe return of Parkrun to Tooting Common. We asked the council what the status of this was and this was their response:

The Council and its partners on the Safety Advisory Group are working to ensure the safe return of Parkrun to the borough’s parks and open spaces in line with step 4 of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown. To ensure compliance with all guidelines, event organisers must submit an event management plan and site specific risk assessment which is shared with and considered by relevant Council services and the multi-agency Safety Advisory Group. The return of Parkrun is being considered with the safety of runners and the borough’s park visitors at the forefront of decision-making.

We’ll keep you informed when we get any more information.

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Tooting Bec and Balham

Toilet provision and rats on Tooting Common

We’ve been contacted a lot recently about the condition of Tooting Common, and more specifically about the area around the lake and the problem with rats.

We raised with this council officers as we believe one way this could be tackled is more toilet provision on the Common so that the bushes are not used as toilets. This is currently the case and is likely to be one of the reasons there are increased numbers of rats on the Common.

We’ve had a positive update from the Council in this regard, and they are reviewing toilets for short and medium to long term provision. In addition to this, Enable, who look after the Common on behalf of the Council, are investigating suitable funding opportunities through a number of sources. We’re hoping that this results in additional toilet provision in addition to the café soon.

On a separate but related point, the rats are enjoying a lot of the bread which is currently fed to the ducks on the Common. As part of a way to tackle this, Enable have been developing new signage focussed on the provision of food for ducks and to remind visitors not to leave food during their visit. Expect to see these popping up in the coming weeks. 

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Tooting Bec and Balham

Survey on mental health

South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust (SWLSTG) have launched a new community survey as part of South London Listens to help find the solutions to the impact Covid-19 has had on the mental health of our communities.

Share your feedback via the survey here

4,700 people from across South London have already taken part in listening events and shared their experiences and ideas for how we can solve the biggest challenges facing our communities. Join them by taking the survey now and help SWLSTG reach as many people as possible by sharing it with your family and friends.

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Tooting Bec and Balham

Tooting Common flooding and wear and tear – what the council is doing

The recent flooding on Tooting Common is the worst its been in many years. The council has told us that this is due to “rainwater run-off from the railway, poorly draining soil, and blocking drains in surrounding roads”.

The council intends to adopt a plan of “increasing drain capacity by replacing the current drains with larger bore items. General grounds maintenance will not fix this particular issue.” The council and Thames Water will be working together on this.

Before this week’s flooding, we enquired about the council’s plans to address the general wear and tear of the common after the spike in use over the past year. We received a very informative reply which we have copied here with permission:

Both ourselves and Enable are acutely aware of the impacts the pandemic, historic ground conditions, and wet weather have made in creating the environment we currently see in our parks and commons across Wandsworth, and in this particular case Tooting Common.  We have spoken to Enable’s Head of Parks for an overview of the situation, and while discussions have taken place around the strategy for tackling; endemic waterlogging in winter, new desire lines, eroded and compacted areas, damaged habitats and more, with the current lockdown #3 and no clear end date, very little can be done right now given this is the major cause of the increased wear and tear.  Remedial work will be planned for spring, as the winter conditions make this type of work difficult and often counter-productive, with even lightweight machinery on the ground likely to make the situation worse.

For now, Enable will continue to monitor areas and log damage as they see it.  This will build their priority lists for improvements that could be worked on from the spring, assuming lockdown status has been lifted.  It is extremely likely however that any significant/longer term and practical remedial works will not be carried out until well in to 2021 at the very earliest.  Space still needs to be allowed for social distancing, and attempting to close off areas, block areas either side of paths, fencing off pitches/parts of parks/commons etc. could be extremely negative for users and would likely cause any temporary obstructions/fencing to be forcibly removed to allow ‘rights to roam’.  It is a catch 22 situation to some extent as we would need to remove valuable space from use in order to improve it.  The current approach is to accept damage in some key areas in the short term, and where possible ensure that the majority of space continues to be protected and well managed.  The longer term strategic view will be to remediate those worst affected areas and/or design-out damage through planting or pathway network improvements.

In the short term we will see the following process being adopted:

  1. Site assessment and identification of priority areas to improve
  2. Tackling newly observed desire lines with temporary path closures/fencing etc.
  3. Closing off areas to allow for remedial works (such as ground breaking, overseeding and de-compaction)
  4. Re-seeding or the possible replanting of areas.
  5. Ongoing maintenance and monitoring.

Enable have already started tackling some of the newer desire lines that appear in woodland areas by blocking pathways etc with ‘dead-hedge’ structures and associated information notices.  They have also dismantled some of the dens that have been erected in wooded areas during the summer (which damage habitats for local species).  Where it has been possible to make remedial works without impacting the availability for the public to use greenspaces this is already being done, ground conditions permitting.  Longer term drainage works such as that to playing surfaces as seen on Wandsworth Common do help address short term localised flooding but require surveys, careful assessment and planning to ensure the right intervention in the right area, so are not overnight remedies I’m afraid.

In regards to the point on contractors vans, while this is something that will likely never be fully eradicated it is already documented within the new contract, and we would expect any new contractor to adhere to their obligations.

I hope that the above is sufficient information to allay fears that nothing is or will be done to address the damage being caused by the vastly increased footfall.  Works will be targeted to those areas seen as having the best likelihood of success in the short term with more work being done as weather, ground conditions and tier restrictions allow, and longer term work to follow.  A further update can be provided once we have a clearer indication of the timeline for the easing of restrictions and the consequent impact on Enable’s planning for remedial works.