Monday 20 February 2012

Albert Square & Fentiman Road: Tranquil with Free Range Kids or Rat-Run?

Residents of the Fentiman Road,  Tradescant Road, Dorset Road and Albert Square enclave have an exceptional opportunity before them as Lambeth Council is working with them on a two year neighbourhood enhancement programme. At present the residential triangle bounded by the A3 (Clapham Road), A203 (South Lambeth Road) and A202 (Harleyford Road) invites drivers to rat-run through the residential streets rather than follow the main roads.

Rat-running isn't a problem that the residents of nearby Cleaver Square or Trinity Church Square face. Passing an estate agent at the weekend I noticed the photo below advertising 10 new houses adjacent to Trinity Church Square, Southwark, priced at upwards of £2.35m (yes, each).  Let's see what Homes and Property include in the key selling points,
"The conservation area is one of the few neighbourhoods in this part of Southwark (postcode SE1) that survived the Blitz relatively unscathed. It is a tranquil, traffic-free enclave within a 15-minute walk of the South Bank, Tate Modern and Borough Market."
"You turn off busy Borough High Street and take a sharp intake of breath when the handsome terraces and garden squares come into view," says Tom Hawkins of estate agent Hamptons International. "It's unexpectedly tranquil and you can even hear the sound of woodpeckers."
The advantage Trinity Street (which I've also written about here) and Cleaver Square have is that the through-route is barred to motor traffic whilst remaining usable by pedestrians and cyclists. Residents can still access their parking spaces, there's still life on the streets, but there aren't the van drivers speeding through bouncing over the speed humps.

A traditional objection to stopping through-traffic comes from residents of adjacent streets who don't want the traffic blocked off from one street moving to theirs. This doesn't come into play here because Lambeth are working on the triangle of streets as a whole. This means they can ensure from the outset that the traffic remains on the main roads that it should be using, leaving the back streets as access routes for the properties there.

One huge advantage of this kind of scheme, beyond its undoubted effectiveness in stopping rat-running, is that it is cheap to implement and easy to remove or relocate if residents decide that it's not the right solution. It could even be trialled for a few months just with planters! I've doodled some thoughts here on a potential layout (not precise, taking into accounts places to turn around etc., just a starter for residents to play with - and I'm not a town planner or a traffic engineer!).

My guess, looking at the improvements that blocking through-traffic has had to the quality of life in Cleaver Square, Trinity Church Square and the area of De Beauvoir in Hackney, is that if the residents push the Council to give this kind of scheme a try they'll wonder why they never demanded it years ago.

The Council has the budget to implement a scheme of this kind strategically throughout the triangle. The alternative is continuing rat-running and children cooped up rather than able to enjoy their neighbourhood.