This is untrue. The Dame has been open in suggesting Sloane Street, not least because it has become a race track for the idle and ill-mannered boy racers from the Middle East, needs improvement.
The debate is now on and everybody has the opportunity to comment.
At the request of MISARA she provides its detailed evaluation of the proposed scheme
MILNER STREET AREA RESIDENTS’ ASSOCIATION
Sloane Street Consultation, July 2016: Response from the Milner Street Area Residents’ Association to RBK&C
1. On 29 June 2016, the Milner Street Area Residents’ Association (“MISARA”) received from Gary Noble, Chief Engineer, RBK&C, a consultation paper (which he described as a “newsletter”) setting out the Council’s proposals for making changes to Sloane Street. The consultation paper mentioned that further details of the proposals could be viewed at an exhibition at 135 Sloane Street during the period 6-9 July. Despite the short notice, a number of members of MISARA were able to visit the exhibition and have given their reactions. In brief, no member of MISARA has yet shown support for the scheme.
Hans Town Conservation Area Statement
2. We wish to remind the Council of the Hans Town Conservation Area Proposals Statement (January 2000) which states (p.46): “Sloane Square branches off southwards from Knightsbridge in a long uninterrupted vista line towards Sloane Square. The most characteristic visual element of the street is the long expanse of the mature gardens of Cadogan Place on its east side. In addition, the sense of openness of the street is established by the generous pavement and road widths. Sympathetic tree planting is effective in nullifying the overpowering effect of the imposing buildings which line the thoroughfare and help minimise the disruptive effect of the incessant through traffic.” The emphases are ours.
3. Referring to the junction between Sloane Street and Basil Street, it states (p.44): “At this point, the incessant presence of heavy through traffic begins to dominate the character of the townscape”.
4. It states further (p.126): “One of the most distinctive elements of Hans Town’s townscape character is the large, almost park-like gardens of Cadogan Place and Cadogan Square…..Cadogan Place and Hans Place…..are included within the “Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England” compiled by English Heritage. Such a designation highlights the fragile character of such areas and the need to protect their special character.”
5. In addition to the above statements, with which MISARA fully concurs, the principal characteristic of Sloane Street is that it is a major arterial route for buses, cars and heavy construction traffic, with northbound traffic facing severe congestion from south of the Basil Street junction up to Knightsbridge. This section of the street, which takes only a couple of minutes to walk, can take 15 minutes in a bus.
Pedestrians and Bus Passengers
6. It is striking how few pedestrians there are in the central section of Sloane Street. The reasons are obvious: (i) the shops are concentrated at the Knightsbridge and Sloane Square ends of the street, whereas the central section is predominantly residential and commercial, (ii) many shoppers may wish to visit shops at one or other end of the street but not both, and (iii) for those shoppers (or other pedestrians) wishing to go from one end of the street to the other, it is a relatively long walk and they may take the bus instead. In short, the pedestrian becomes a bus passenger. The relative lack of pedestrians in the central section has nothing to do with the pavements being too narrow (they aren’t) or the “pedestrian environment” (to use the Council’s words) being insufficiently “friendly” (it isn’t).
7. The consultation paper wholly fails to recognise that if any group of people is disadvantaged by the current setting of the street, it is bus passengers rather than pedestrians. RBK&C’s priority for Sloane Street should be to make life easier for bus passengers by improving traffic flow at the top. It is extraordinary that the consultation paper does not even acknowledge the existence of this problem, let alone seek to address it. In fact the consultation paper does not even mention the word “bus”.
8. To mitigate the problem, we recommend removing the traffic lights at the Basil Street junction and prohibiting traffic from Basil Street turning right into Sloane Street. If this does not prove adequate, we recommend that consideration be given to (i) reversing the direction of traffic in Basil Street from one way eastbound to one way westbound (coupled with prohibiting southbound traffic in Sloane Street from turning right into Basil Street), or (ii) blocking off the junction altogether (in which event consideration could be given to pedestrianising the east end of Basil Street), though the impact of these alternatives on traffic diversion into other streets would need to be carefully assessed.
9. Members of MISARA have reacted with incredulity to the statement in the consultation paper that the Council would like to “reduce vehicle dominance by narrowing the width of the road, where it would not adversely affect traffic flow”. Any such narrowing would be bound to have an adverse effect on traffic flow. In the worst case, traffic in both directions would be obliged to queue in single file, adding greatly to journey times and to diesel pollution (negating one of the Council’s objectives we warmly support, to improve local air quality). Far from making the “pedestrian experience” more “friendly”, it would have the opposite effect.
10. The statement mentioned above implies that the Council would not wish traffic flow to be adversely affected. However, we were aghast to discover, at the exhibition, that the Council was promoting, as a “possible enhancement” to Sloane Street, not only widening the pavements but also introducing “raised pedestrian crossings……..which would help decrease the speed of traffic”. The admission is telling. It would have been clearer if the Council had simply stated in its consultation paper that it actually wants traffic in Sloane Street to become even slower. We do not regard this as an “enhancement”.
11. Nor do we agree that “making it easier and safer to cross the road” provides any justification for widening the pavements or slowing down the traffic. We find crossing the road quite easy and safe as it is, at places designed for the purpose; if it is considered that there are too few such places, we suggest adding a couple of traffic islands instead. There used to be a traffic island near the junction with Cadogan Gardens – why has this not been replaced?
12. The artist’s impressions of what Sloane Street would look like with wider pavements and municipal flower beds, reproduced both in the consultation paper and at the exhibition, are in real danger of misleading the consultees and, as a result, of obtaining a false result from the consultation, as they do not show the traffic jams that would result from implementation of the scheme but, on the contrary, almost no traffic at all. We particularly deplore the artist’s impression of the Knightsbridge end of Sloane Street, which portrays only one bus and only half of one car driving in the street. This is not how it is, or (still less) how it would be if the scheme were to be implemented.
13. We are reminded uncomfortably of the misleading artist’s impressions designed to encourage support in the early consultations for the Council’s scheme to turn Sloane Square into a crossroads, from which traffic was also virtually absent. It was clear at the outset that those consultations were an illusory exercise designed to provide the Council with justification for what it had already decided to do. We hope that the consultation on Sloane Street will not be the start of a similar process.
Trees and Greenery
14. As noted in the Conservation Area Statement, one of the finest features of Sloane Street is the abundant greenery provided by the gardens and trees. We are astonished to read the statement in the consultation paper that in Sloane Street “there are few trees and little greenery other than the private gardens”. This is rather like saying that in Exhibition Road there is little to see other than the museums. The statement that there are “few trees” in Sloane Street is most extraordinary – have the Council been looking at the wrong street? Why have they ignored their own Conservation Area Statement?
15. There are three sections of Sloane Street in which we feel that planting new trees would be beneficial: (i) outside the Danish Embassy building, to help conceal it – although this building would undoubtedly be impressive in another context, it is strikingly discordant with its surroundings by virtue of its colour, materials and design; (ii) four or five trees could usefully be added outside numbers 28-35 on the west side of the street, to help conceal views of the ugly Millennium Hotel;
and (iii) outside numbers 163-165 on the east side of the street, to help conceal the drab building which forms this block.
16. We strongly oppose the introduction of municipal flower beds at the base of the trees, as they would detract from the setting of the individual trees and from the splendid green vistas noted in the Conservation Area Statement.
17. We are concerned to read the claim in the consultation paper that “the street furniture is unco-ordinated and the pavements look cluttered”. We recall that the same tendentious assertions were made by the Council a few years ago to justify its unwelcome scheme to remove the black street lamps in the King’s Road and replace them with modern silvered coloured lamps, and to remove the heritage-style bins, benches and bollards and replace them with stainless steel equivalents. Fortunately the benches and bollards have survived, following protests from residents, but the street lamps have been duly replaced, at unnecessary cost.
18. In fact the pavements in Sloane Street are spacious and do not have a cluttered feel. There are a few cabinets, two telephone boxes, no benches and only one bollard. An element of co-ordination already exists in that the street lamps and street furniture – like the many attractive railings in the street – are painted black. This important feature of the street should be preserved, and the introduction of a “consistent and co-ordinated furniture palette” (specified at the exhibition as a “possible enhancement”) should be resisted.
19. We would have no objection to the removal of unnecessary street furniture, and our recommendations for the Basil Street junction (in paragraph 8) would help in this respect. We recommend retention of the black heritage-style bollard at the corner of Cadogan Gardens, as we fear that (if removed) it would just be replaced by a stainless steel equivalent later on. We would have no objection to installing some benches outside the shops, provided that these are heritage-style and painted dark green or black.
20. We see no justification at all for replacing the street lamps. We note the ominous reference in the consultation paper to introducing “a co-ordinated palette of materials and street furniture……to provide better street lighting”. We do not consider the street lighting in Sloane Street to be inadequate. If the Council wish to provide better lighting, this should be achieved by the use of stronger light bulbs. We do not want a repetition of the unhappy experience in the King’s Road.
21. The red telephone box on the west side of the northern end of the street has been imaginatively converted into dual use as a cash machine: it is of traditional design and should be retained. We would have no objection to the removal of the metal telephone box on the west side below Pont Street, as it is ugly and in recent years has been used not so much for making telephone calls as for the advertisement of personal services.
22. We were surprised to see the introduction of “gateways at access points” and “street identifying and wayfinding” displays described, at the exhibition, as “possible enhancements” to Sloane Street. These are unnecessary and unwelcome – surely the best place for maps is at bus stops – and not consistent with the Council’s professed aversion to clutter.
23. We are concerned to read the Council’s assertion in the consultation paper that “the street is starting to look tired and in need of refreshing”, as we recall that this was the very same claim made by the Council to justify its scheme to turn Sloane Square into a crossroads. If it means anything, it is that the Council has failed to maintain the pavements in accordance with appropriately high standards.
24. The Council appears to acknowledge this in the Conservation Area Statement, which states (p.153): “Yorkstone has traditionally been the material of the area’s pavements. Unfortunately past removal has entailed that few of the area’s streets are faced in this most attractive of materials. Many streets would be enhanced through the reinstatement of Yorkstone. However, given the high costs…..total reinstatement may not be a realistic option in the foreseeable future.”
25. We understand that the Cadogan Estate is willing to pay some of the cost of making improvements to Sloane Street, and that support may also be available from TfL through its major street contribution fund. We recommend that the Cadogan Estate and TfL be encouraged to concentrate their support on proper Yorkstone reinstatement, to remedy the Council’s deficiencies. We do not wish to see experimental paving such as the unattractive “shared street” paving outside Sloane Square underground station or garish paving like that in Exhibition Road.
26. We note the statement in the consultation paper that “local communities and businesses are at the heart of our plans”. We were therefore surprised to discover that the only residents to whom the consultation paper was delivered were those living within a narrow strip bounded by Pavilion Road and Cadogan Place. This is inadequate, and does not show that the Council has local communities at the heart of its plans. We wonder whether those residents also, like ourselves, received the consultation paper at very short notice before the exhibition. If there is to be a further consultation in the autumn, as indicated at the exhibition, the new consultation materials should be circulated to all residents living within (say) ten minutes’ walk from Sloane Street, and at least three weeks’ notice of any future exhibition given.
27. As importantly, if the Council genuinely wishes to discover residents’ views, it should draw up new consultation papers and exhibits in an unbiased and even handed manner, avoiding tendentious assertions. It should not be a one sided exercise, designed to draw the reader towards the Council’s desired conclusion. We would welcome the opportunity of being able to review and comment on new consultation materials in draft before circulation, to check them for impartiality.
28. We believe that the Council’s analysis of the issues facing Sloane Street is fundamentally flawed. It fails to identify the main problem affecting users of the street, and is instead based on the identification of “problems” which do not actually exist. Most of the “possible enhancements” portrayed at the exhibition would be retrograde and unwelcome. We cannot see how the Council’s scheme can be amended to make it acceptable.
29. We call on the Council to withdraw the scheme, and to take action instead to mitigate congestion at the north end of the street (paragraph 8), to reinstate high quality Yorkstone paving (paragraphs 24-25) and to initiate a modest programme of tree planting (paragraph 15) to supplement the wonderful green vistas we already enjoy.
Lord Grantley (8 Halsey Street, London SW3 2QH) and Mrs Margaret Moore (13 Moore Street, London SW3 2QN)
Co-chairmen, Milner Street Area Residents’ Association