Friday 30 November 2012

Tank Manoeuvres and Fire Breathing Tubas

I'm working with two local primary schools, Crampton and Charlotte Sharman, running an after-school bike club one afternoon a week in each. The pupils in Charlotte Sharman had been taking part in a Southwark Council funded after-school club last term which they loved.The biggest request was to have rides on the streets so they could get to know their area.but the funding only allowed for one instructor to be present and so it wasn't permitted for the pupils to leave the playground.

I saw the Elephant and Castle Community Fund was looking for projects and the Onion Shed applied to run a bike club with four schools - the two I'm working with this term and two others I'll work with next term - focussed on riding in the area.

So far each club has had a Dr Bike, a playground session and a couple of rides. We've also got four pool bikes, a couple I already had and a couple that the lovely Squeaky Chains local community bike shop have provided for the rides.

During the rides, amongst all kinds of excitements, we've:

 Seen the Street Art in Leake Street
 Admired City Hall and Tower Bridge.
 Visited the Christmas Market at the Southbank, seen doughnuts being made, and eaten them
 Checked out the Berlin Wall in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park
 and had an urgent loo stop there too
Danced  in a stone circle to music from a fire breathing tuba
I kid you not - here's the top-hatted musician and the flame from the tuba with every note
And watched a tank being manoeuvred onto a low loader
 in preparation for the Imperial War Museum's refurbishment.
As you can probably guess we're all really looking forward to the next rides!

Friday 23 November 2012

Sun 25th Nov Lambeth Cyclists Architecture Ride Postponed

For those who picked up on the event, unfortunately I can't do the ride this Sunday.  I'll aim to reschedule it for next year.

Sunday 18 November 2012

Lambeth's proposed Levy to pay for infrastructure

Large developments such as new tower blocks housing many new residents are likely to increase the demand for transport, health care, school places, parks etc. in the local area. As a consequence developers are required to pay to the council a negotiated sum towards these costs, referred to as 'planning gain, or more normally as an S106 agreement.

With the wholescale redevelopment of Vauxhall and Waterloo in particular, Lambeth is now considering adopting a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and has just held its first consultation with another due in early 2013. The CIL differs from the S106 in that developers will pay set charges depending on the floorspace, location and use of their building. Smaller buildings will be exempt and some uses will pay no charge in certain parts of the borough.

Getting the set rates and locations wrong could allow certain developments to pay way less than they should, meaning no funds for gyratory removal or a new school,  or could unintentionally make some desired developments unfeasible.

The more involved that Lambeth residents get, with as much expertise as possible, in consultations means the better the outcome is likely to be. I thought I'd publish in full the following response (which I played no part in) by the Kennington Association's Planning Forum to the draft CIL. It's not really easy reading to those without some knowledge of the subject, but I think that a skim through it gives a feel for the time, effort and skill that some residents volunteer to the benefit of strong local decision making, and for which I'd like to thank them.

Consultation on Lambeth’s Preliminary Draft Charging Schedule for CIL
1 This is a representation in response to Lambeth Council’s Consultation on a Preliminary Draft Charging Schedule for the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), on behalf of the Kennington Association.
Who we are
2 The Kennington Association is a voluntary membership association of about 400 members drawn from the wider Kennington area in the north of the Borough of Lambeth, an area that abuts the east side of the Vauxhall area. Our aim is to promote and maintain the Kennington area as a good place to live and work, and the Kennington Association Planning Forum is a group of Association members with interest in and experience of planning and development issues, that develops planning policies and makes planning representations on behalf of the wider Association.
CIL – The Infrastructure Schedule
3 We think the list of "needed infrastructure" and available funding is needlessly padded by inclusion  on both sides of the account of items like the Tideway Tunnel, (£3,600m !) which is going to be fully funded by London wide charging or charges to individual developers. In this context we note the reference in the DIFS Study to it being fully funded out of the Thames Water's Asset Management Programme (AMP), and its consequent exclusion from the DIFS tally of VNEB Infrastructure. A similar point could be made of the Vauxhall Underground access improvements (£41m ), which are declared by the March 2012 VNEB OAPF (page 52) to be fully funded from TfL’s Business Plan.  Fully funded items, to which CIL cannot now be expected to contribute, should be relegated to memorandum item level, so that discussion and prioritising can focus on the gaps that CIL could reasonably be contributing to.

4 At the same time, there are a number of exclusions from the list, which should be rectified. The cost of converting the Vauxhall Gyratory to two way working is estimated as £21.5m in the Vauxhall Nine Elms Public Realm Study, and this should be shown, instead of the current blank. There is no express mention of funding for Vauxhall Park, which will suffer extra pressure of use from the Vauxhall cluster development, though we understand there may be mistaken labelling of an item in the list. Express provision should be included, consistent with that park’s development plan. And despite Lambeth’s recognition that Vauxhall City Farm’s development plans for educational and open space use are S106 worthy, they are not included in the list. An express provision for £350,000 should be made, to include legal title changes to facilitate outside fund raising.

CIL – The Comparators for Viability
5 We welcome the detailed analytic work done to analyse viability, but think this needs to be extended, particular in relation to the dense luxury residential development coming forward at Vauxhall and along the Albert Embankment. The exemplar developments used to develop the model to show what level of CIL was feasible to extract from residential developments do not go above a density of 500 units per hectare. But we know that the Vauxhall cluster goes way above that, with build costs in excess of the £2,200 per sqm shown. Eg the Kylun Vauxhall Triangle twin towers have a density of 800 units per hectare and an aggregate build cost of nearly £5,000 per sqm; 81 Black Prince Road would build 101 units on 0.08 ha, a density of about 1260 per ha; and Vauxhall Sky Gardens puts 239 units on 0.155 ha, a density of no less than 1542 per hectare. Many developments are mixed use, with plot ratios of 15 or 20, and these ultra dense developments should also be assessed. We suspect that the luxury developments of the riverside edge will sustain higher rates of CIL.

6 In addition, while we note the Lambeth “headline” policy of 40% affordable housing, this is subject to a viability caveat which generally eats up the policy, and Lambeth rarely sees anything like 40%, unless the land is or was council owned. A more realistic stance on likely affordable housing rates might well boost viable tariff rates somewhat. On a more general point, we wonder if sufficient consultation has taken place between nearby authorities to consider respective approaches and share relevant transaction evidence. Looking at the BNP Paribas' report the number of transactions considered is low in a number of areas, and not revealed in some sectors. In this regard, a number of potentially levy worthy developments, such as restaurants and some leisure uses have not been adequately appraised.
CIL – The Zoning
7 Consistently with our view about the riverside edge, we do not support an undifferentiated Zone B for residential charging. As regards nomenclature, Kennington is no longer (if it ever was) principally south of the Oval.  For example, 68% of the members of the Kennington Association live in the SE11 area, and only 27% in adjacent postcodes, with 6%, often those with a previous connection with Kennington, in more distant postcodes. This is consistent with the detailed post code analysis of property sales in the background material, which notes the SE11 postcode as Kennington.  Zone B is actually Vauxhall and Kennington, and the Kennington label should be removed from Zone C.

8 As regards subdivision, we think property values and current development point to a split of Zone B into a riverside element and a hinterland element. The boundary is a matter of debate, and might be informed by the more detailed analysis we suggest at paragraph 5 above, but either the CAZ boundary, the OAPF boundary or the SPD study area boundary (if not sensibly aligned) are possibles. For simplicity, it might be best to carve out from Zone B and the top part of Zone C the area covered by the non Zone A area of the Waterloo and Vauxhall Office charging area. We think this area should be charged for residential CIL at nearer the Waterloo rate, leaving only the hinterland to be charged at the suggested Zone B rate. This would be consistent with the view and zoning of the DIFS study, which reckoned the riverside area to be capable of sustaining a higher DIFS levy than the rest of the OAPF DIFS area.

CIL – Other Development
9 As regards the proposed charge of £125 per sqm for office development in the Waterloo and Vauxhall area, and nil elsewhere, we recall the views of Messrs Tuckerman to the Bondway Inquiry:
“Vauxhall as a location is well provided for by transport facilities, benefiting from the train and tube lines as well as the new bus station. It is also a short walk to Westminster and Victoria. However, retail amenity is poor and the local environment has no ‘heart’ from either a community or business perspective. It is also viewed as a harsh environment due to the one way system, the clubs and the vagrant population. It is therefore generally seen as a secondary office location by the property industry and business community.”

10 The draft Vauxhall SPD and Lambeth Core Strategy contemplate a further 8000 new jobs at Vauxhall, which at 25 sqm per job for office jobs amounts to a need for a further 200,000 sqm of office development, which seems slow in coming forward, compared to residential development. At a time when office accommodation along the Albert Embankment is standing empty, indeed being converted to residential use (eg Eastbury House), and the current development emphasis at Vauxhall is on residential, student and hotel use, it seems risky to equate Waterloo and Vauxhall rates in this way. £125 per sqm seems high compared with neighbouring borough areas, and we think a lower, encouraging rate should be set for the Vauxhall part of the area, at say £50 to £75 per sqm.

11 As regards retail development, we agree that the charge is best targeted at stores over 2,500 sqm “superstores”. But some supermarkets will develop incrementally from below the 2,500 sqm level to above it, and we think the retail charge should catch both new developments of  2,500 sqm and above, and new developments of smaller size that take an existing retail development over the 2,500 sqm threshold.                      

CIL – The Meaningful Proportion
12 Now that the CIL can be raised in one part of Lambeth and spent in another, (breaking the S106 principle of direct relation between the development and its mitigation that the S106 money was meant to be spent on), we note that the Government has suggested that "a meaningful proportion" should still be spent locally to the development paying the CIL, and has consulted (without conclusion) on what that proportion should be. Suggestions have been as low as 5%, reaching to 40%. We think that  anything as low as 5% would be an insult to those who actually suffer the disruption to amenity, education and transport of a large development embodied in a tall tower, and we would pitch the proportion higher.
13 How much higher should be susceptible to analysis, eg by comparing, for any given development, how much S106 it would generate under the Lambeth S106 SPD Tariff with the CIL it would expect to pay. As the S106 payment is taken to meet local needs, what proportion it was of the CIL would give a lead as to a sensible “meaningful proportion”. We think officers should do this comparison on at least the comparator developments (and the additional examples we propose at paragraph 5). Informal checks on S106 paying developments approved in 2011 suggest that the CIL might be two or three times the S106 payments, for normal residential developments, but a distinctly higher multiple for student accommodation. At first blush, we would argue for a meaningful proportion of about one third, but this area needs to be informed by more analysis by officers.
CIL – Procedure and Administration
14 The short description of any proposed development in a planning application should give up front the metrics (in terms of   Gross Internal Area (GIA) less the GIA of the existing building, which is allowed as credit against the new build area) so the amount of CIL can be checked without resort to toiling through Design and Access Statements and plans. This should be covered in the proposed Development Management Document when the Core Strategy and Site Allocation Document are settled in 2013.
15 Paragraph 6.2 of the Preliminary Draft Charging Schedule notes that the Council will have a discretion to provide CIL relief if the developer demonstrates that there is an unacceptable impact on the economic viability of a development, but (paragraph 6.3) that the Council does not expect to implement any discretionary exemptions. Nonetheless, the discretion will be statutory, and the Council will have to consider fairly any application for its exercise. If any such “confidential” viability study get outs are ever allowed, such studies should be made public, else we will get the same "black box" explanation for unusually low CIL charges without any way of challenging or understanding them, just like low affordable housing offers, which without transparency now discredit the 40% policy.
16 As we understand matters, to spend money on infrastructure in another borough, or pool CIL revenues with another borough, you need to have a joint charging schedule, and a joint Examination in public. We should be grateful for an assurance that in the absence of such a joint charging schedule, CIL revenues raised in Lambeth will be spent in Lambeth.

Friday 16 November 2012

Dangerous road users at E&C - sign the petition

Short cut if you're pressed for time: Sign this petition now.

This week I have been teaching on-road cycling to Year 5 and Year 6 pupils from a primary school off the Elephant & Castle. Some were going on afterwards to an SE1 Safe Roads Campaign, furious that almost 300 people have been killed and injured on the roads in and around the Elephant and Castle, including four fatalities since last Christmas.

As my little contribution to today's event I'd like to highlight three motorists who were inconsiderate to vulnerable road users today on the back-streets..

The first was the driver of a Metropolitan Police white van parked on double yellow lines at the junction of Brook Drive and Elliott's Row (part of Cycle Superhighway 7). It wasn't an emergency vehicle; it was used by two fingerprint dusters and I could see no reason for the van to park on the double yellows so close to the junction. I presume the double yellows are there to increase the safety of cyclists and other road users turning into and out of Elliott's Row through giving a clear sight-line. The van's location blocking the sight-line posed a real challenge to the children.

The second was the driver of a Dial-a-Ride bus. My co-instructor was demonstrating a right turn from Brook Drive into Dante Road. He was riding near the centre of the road ready to make the turn, had looked back, and had signalled that he intended to turn right to the bus driver behind him, who it turned out also intended to turn right. In accordance with our teaching my co-instructor did a last look over the right shoulder just before making the turn (the lifesaver) in time to see the bus driver attempting to overtake him on the turn by cutting fully across the oncoming lane of Dante Road - a major and dangerous slicing of the corner.

The third was the elderly driver of a car who quite simply turned right off Brook Drive into the oncoming lane of Dante Road and continued to drive on the wrong side of the road for some considerable distance.

As you would expect, the children, being novice road users and children, also did things wrong.

So long as vulnerable adults and children on bicycles are expected to share the road with  big, heavy and fast vehicles, surely it is up to the the fully trained and examined adult drivers of the vans, buses and lorries to drive with grown-up thought and full consideration for the easily squashable road users

And now read this, and don't forget to sign the petition.

Monday 12 November 2012

Northern Line Extension - best mass transit option?

There's an interesting chance on Wednesday, set up by the Vauxhall, Nine Elms, Battersea Development and Transport Action Group (VNEB DATA) to discuss whether the costly Northern Line Extension that is currently being consulted on is the right mass transit option for this area and the broader region.

The DATA Group is an umbrella organisation covering many residents associations in the VNEB area. A number of residents associations share our aim of ensuring that an appropriate transport strategy is adopted for the VNEB development area. Please contact DATA via your residents association by email at:

An invitation from Councillor Ishbel Brown and Caroline Pidgeon:
Northern Line Extension - what are the alternatives?
When: 7pm-9pm Wednesday 14th November
Where: Montgomery Hall, 58 Kennington Oval, SE11 5SW
Chair: Caroline Pidgeon
Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group
Organised by: Councillor Ishbel Brown
Liberal Democrat Councillor for Oval Ward

There have been a number of meetings and consultations about the Northern Line extension and the impact it may have on local residents. However, there has been little discussion about how the Northern Line Extension was chosen to be the main plank of the VNEB OA transport strategy and whether it really is the most suitable transport solution. The NLE project will cause huge disruption, cost vast amounts of
money and do nothing in itself to address the complex transport problems faced across Lambeth. Are there no viable alternative transport options that can address the broad range of transport problems, such as the gyratory, in an integrated manner?

We would like to invite you to a public meeting to hear a presentation from local group VNEB Development and Transport Action Group (DATA) that asks whether extending the Northern Line is the best way to help solve the transport challenges we all face.

DATA will explain that the decision to opt for a Northern Line Extension was taken three years ago without full consideration of possible options by the very people who stood to gain from building this tube extension. Since then it has been shown that the assumptions made to support this tenuous decision are incorrect, and
several more factors have come to light that need to be taken into account. DATA feels strongly that before a great deal of your money is spent on a Northern Line Extension, there should be a new, independent and comprehensive transport needs analysis to identify how to address the broad range of transport challenges in
Lambeth and the VNEB OA in an integrated way.

Following the presentation there will be a Q&A session and an open discussion on what would be the best transport option(s) for current and future Oval residents. The meeting will also consider how these ideas can be taken forward with TfL and Lambeth Council. This meeting is open to all so we look forward to seeing you there.

Cllr Ishbel Brown and Caroline Pidgeon AM
The meeting is open to everyone and you do not need to register, but it will help the organisers get an idea of numbers if you could please RSVP to Rosie Loveland: 
By email: or phone 020 7926 2926

Sunday 11 November 2012

Wrong Royal Parks 'No Entry' sign to be changed

The Thames Cycle Route (National Cycle Network route 4) runs across Richmond Park from Ham Gate to Roehampton Gate according to the Royal Parks website but it is contradicted in the park by the 'No Entry' sign shown above.

I wrote to the Royal Parks asking about this and am pleased that Richmond Park's Assistant Manager emailed me on 24th October to say, "The road sign is less than helpful and I have asked for it to be changed for one that reads 'except disabled permit holders and cyclists'."

That's two places with incorrect 'No Entry' signs this year that the Royal Parks have told me they'll change. The other signs are/were in the Mall on Sundays.

I'm seldom in Richmond Park so hopefully a reader will tell me when the sign there has been changed, and I'll have a look at some point in the coming weeks at the Mall on a Sunday to see if they've been changed yet.

Anyone know of any other suspect 'No Entry' signs in the Royal Parks?.

UPDATE 13/12/12. A regular cyclist in Richmond Park has told me the sign has been changed as promised. Great to have such prompt action from the Royal Parks.

Learning from Somerset House Ice Rink

I was lucky enough to be invited to a pre-season skate at Somerset House today, and grabbed the chance, not least because ice rinks are quite often cited as a parallel example of 'Shared Space' on our roads The theory is that by removing signage and kerbs, creating an ambiguous space without priority, people pay more attention and are more considerate to each other. This reduces collisions and conflict.
There's really only one stated rule at Somerset House; skate in an anti clockwise direction. Adults and children took the opportunity to try out skating, and some refreshed dormant skills.

Interestingly, given the slippery and hard surface we were travelling on, some quite speedily, there was no pressure on anyone to wear helmets. And there are no helmets available to use by anyone who wish to hire one. I was quite surprised to find a friend, who's very keen on cyclists wearing helmets, skating around without wearing one, just as erratically as I was.

So despite it being the first or second time on ice for many of the skaters, overall people felt happy to have children and adults mingling, and not to wear helmets or knee, wrist and elbow pads. The ice rink company's insurers are also presumably happy that the risks are acceptably low.

People who don't accept skating rinks as an analogy for shared road space tend to say that it's all well and good sharing space, except when there are heavy motor vehicles near the squishy humans. 

The managers of the rink, who were so sanguine about people not wearing personal protective equipment, only allowed the ice-smoothing lorry on the rink after the people had left. If they let people and machines share the space they could probably get another session in each day and significantly increase their income. I suspect that they're seriously worried about the greater likelihood of serious injury from a collision between their vehicle and a skater, and also understand that skaters would hate to have to mingle with it.
The other thing that was apparent was the high level of monitoring to ensure considerate behaviour by all users. There were three marshals on the rink in blue jackets - clearly anyone who skated aggressively would be challenged immediately. This is very different to the road situation where there is very little policing against  inconsiderate behaviour.

Lastly, you can get a very large number of people travelling around on a skating rink, but very few large vehicles.

If, as they must be, the authorities are serious about getting all people (nervous and confident) cycling more, the conclusions from an  ice-skating comparison seem clear:
1. It makes sense to segregate heavy, fast vehicles from people on foot, skates or bikes, either by allocating separate space or by zoning short periods of time for vehicles to make deliveries etc.
2. Helmets aren't really important
3. Have a good number of people checking for considerate behaviour and taking action against those behaving in a dangerous or off-putting way.
4. Where space is limited encourage people to move around in a way that uses space efficiently, and penalise those who hog large amounts of space without good reason.

We're looking forward to returning to the Somerset House ice rink again soon. I just wish that Transport for London would make the bridges over the Thames as friendly as the ice rink.

Saturday 10 November 2012

Hey mum, dad, drive your teenager to ExCel

In the post today was a glossy leaflet inviting 15-24 year olds, plus their parents/carers if they wanted, to visit London's biggest careers and skills event at the ExCel Exhibition Space. Organised by London First and Prospects, supported by Apprenticeships and the Mayor of London (who recently paid for the underused Cable Car to ExCel), the fair features employers such as Crossrail, Network Rail, NHS London, Transport for London plus many more.

As you can imagine, the organisers and supporters of such an important event for young people go out of their way to promote public transport or cycling as the ideal way to get to this venue, which has excellent public transport links and a cycling superhighway right by it. 

In your dreams.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Important dates in November

a)  Wed 14 Nov 7-9pm: Northern Line Extension - what are the
alternatives? Montgomery Hall, 58 Kennington Oval, SE11 5SW. Details shortly on

b) Mon 19 Nov at 6.30pm: Lambeth and Southwark Cyclists joint meeting with guest
speaker Dr Ruth Wallis, now Director of Public Health across Lambeth and
Southwark. I'd love to see a great turnout at this meeting (the room sits 50) as
increasing active travel brings huge benefits to our health and the NHS budget.
Venue: CAN Mezzanine, 32-36 Loman Street, SE1 0EH (just off Cycling Superhighway
7 by Union Street)\

c) Tue 20 Nov at 7.30pm. Regular Lambeth Cyclists meeting, upstairs at the
Priory Arms, 83 Lansdowne Way, London SW8 2PB
All welcome to help improve conditions for cyclists in Lambeth 

d) Tue 20 & Sat 24 Nov: Brixton Neighbourhood Enhancement programme. Lambeth is
holding two public meetings on its Brixton Neighbourhood Enhancement Programme
(NEP) proposals on the 20th and 24th November (see Calendar for details). A
series of public workshops earlier in the year helped frame these proposals
which are now going to public consultation. The proposals include
traffic-calming measures, one-way systems, cycle parking, tree planting, and new
signage. This is your chance to have your say. Details:

e) Sun 25 Nov at 10.30: Lambeth Architecture Ride - A beginners guide to
Georgian London. Meet in front of the Guns outside the Imperial War Museum,
Lambeth Road

f) Mon 26 Nov: Deadline for Vauxhall SPD consultation - see
You can complete a questionnaire online via 
Two open days will be taking place at Market Towers and will be a chance to come
and talk to members of the partnership about all aspects of Vauxhall and Nine
Elms regeneration. The dates and times are:
Thursday 15 November, 3pm to 8pm
Friday 16 November, 8am to 6pm
Further information is available at

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Grot or not? Help improve an alleyway

If you've got some time on Saturday why not get involved in helpng plant up and improve the alleyway between Wincott Street and Oakden Street. This is part of a local residents' initiative that will hopefully also see a dropped kerb introduced so that cyclists can use this alley rather than the Kennington 'A' Road. Here's what's happening:

"A skip is arriving Friday night for the weekend - parking it on Wincott Street by the alleyway as per the first Freshview. So please let folk know that this week would be a good week to gather any bulky green waste out of their gardens or overhanging into the street.
Lambeth Council's 'Freshview' team will be around on Saturday, including Jason who helped out on the last Freshview day with his van load of tools , wheelbarrows for all of us to use and help out neighbours move bulky green waste, pick up donated plants etc.
Maureen has offered plants, thank you,  please ask around your neighbours or any other plant lovers in the area if they'd like to donate dry shade plants they might be dividing and we can come and pick them up.

Freshview team will send through a photo of a structure for housing bins they completed on another project and will have the equipment to recreate if it's deemed appropriate.
Kick off 10am on Saturday till 3ish - Lets see how things go. 
If anybody wants to bring cake for a bit of moral boosting please don't hold back !"