Sunday, 27 January 2019

MCC comments on Transport Chapter of Merton Draft Local Plan

Merton Cycle Campaign (MCC) is the local group of the London Cycle Campaign. MCC promotes cycling and seeks to make Merton’s streets better and more pleasant places, for the benefit of individuals, local communities and the wider environment by raising awareness of cycling issues, campaigning to improve conditions for cycling and providing a range of services for our members.

Merton Council extended the deadline for commenting on the Draft Local Plan to 28 January after MCC alerted them to the fact that they had not published the Transport section of the Infrastructure Chapter online.

We submitted our views on the rest of the Plan in time for the original deadline, and you can read them here. After review of the Transport section, MCC are concerned that Merton’s draft Local Plan 2020 does not demonstrate the necessary determination or assertiveness to significantly increase the number of people cycling in the borough or improve the current position of cyclists and other vulnerable road users. You can read our full submission on the Transport section here.

The Policy offers no Borough-initiated action, except in the new (yet to be published) LIP. Section 6.4.2 states that the LIP will be the means by which the Draft London Plan’s Policy T5 requirement will be met; based on the experience of the previous LIP in which cycling was largely ignored by the Borough, MCC have little confidence in this as a means to achieve the objectives of the Plan.

The ‘contented cycling’ cover photo of the Transport Section 6.4 is an example of the only time Merton has shown the necessary determination and assertiveness; however this was implemented in the mid 1990s. This now-vintage example of segregated infrastructure has not been repeated, and is now is very poorly maintained. Not only has this visionary approach not been repeated in 20 years, it is an example of a piece-meal approach to cycling infrastructure that does not truly encourage cycling across the borough – just outside of shot the cyclist has ridden through a forest of bollards, and is approaching a give way sign that will see her potentially join a line of cars.

We hope that Merton Council will take on board our comments in future drafts of the Local Plan.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Pedalling the Bounds

On 7th January a small, but perfectly formed, group of Merton cyclists set off to pedal the boundary of Merton, all 36.9km of it! Thanks to Chris and David's excellent route-planning we took in the borough in all of it's wonderful diversity, from the hilly heights of Wimbledon Park to the wonder of a horse yard, to the river Wandle and back roads and cycle routes we didn't know existed!

To conclude we enjoyed a well earned pint and toastie sandwich back at The Sultan.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

MCC comments on Draft Merton Local Plan

MCC has submitted our response to Merton's consultation on the Local Plan 2020, closing 6 January 2018. Commenting on the Draft Local Plan in relation to cycling, active transport and healthy streets has been hampered by the fact that the online consultation draft of the Infrastructure Chapter (which was stated as incorporating Transport policies) was not correctly published to the Merton website, a fact that MCC drew to the attention of the Council. You can read our submission here.

Merton Council quickly offered an extension to the deadline, however we are particularly concerned that this crucial chapter has not been available to residents, local groups and businesses to review and comment on for the full consultation period as Strategic Objective 5 of the Plan aims to  ‘make Merton a well-connected and accessible place where walking, cycling and public transport are the modes of choice when planning all journeys” by “creating streets and routes that encourage the use of cycling, walking and other modes of sustainable travel’.

MCC agrees with, and welcomes, the introduction from the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health, that acknowledges the built environment is a major driver of health inequalities and that unhealthy high streets and poor air quality impact negatively on health and the desire for the Local Plan to incorporate health and wellbeing into policies and the vision so everyone has a fair chance at a healthy life. It is therefore disappointing that the role that cycling and active transport can have in achieving in this objective is not embedded across the policies set out in the Draft.  On the evidence of the Draft Plan Policies, it does not appear that the Healthy Streets approach is yet embedded in the Council’s thinking. Most policies make more references to main roads, car parking and vehicle access to sites than they do to sustainable transport.

There is a limited scattering of meaningful ‘active transport’ aspiration in Merton’s 2020 policies but not in a way that suggests a proper support of the Draft London Plan‘s improved cycle infrastructure.
It is not enough for Merton’s 2020 policies to relate to control of new building development, they must also look to upgrade the existing environment. Merton cannot currently be called welcoming to cyclists because not enough people find it a healthy environment in which to choose to cycle.

For anyone in Merton an urban center is no more than 10 minutes away by bicycle. But, in most cases, there is little prospect that the cycling route to get there will look accommodating or feel safe. If the public realm is to be designed to prioritise active transport (Policy D5) then it is essential that Merton take account of the Draft London Plan’s Policy T5 requirement that, throughout the Borough, barriers to cycling are removed and infrastructure improved to create a healthy environment in which people choose to cycle.'

Cycling needs to be front-and-centre in a strategic plan if there is to be any chance of implementing a coherent network of quality cycle routes – because in individual developments cycling almost always isn’t considered. For 'Housing' the Merton Local Plan 2020 admirably takes serious account of the Draft London Plan’s target uplift in housing of 228% proposed for Merton, yet Merton’s 2020 Plan takes no account of the Draft London Plans Policy T5 requirement that such Plans should help remove barriers to cycling and create a healthy environment in which people choose to cycle. To be achieved ‘through supporting the delivery of a London-wide network of cycle routes, with new routes and improved infrastructure’.

MCC comments on Future Wimbledon Master Plan

Merton Borough Council have prepared the Future Wimbledon Masterplan to create a long-term vision for the future of development of Wimbledon town centre.

Wimbledon Station is described in the Plan as the most multi-modal in the UK, and one of the modes included is ‘cycle connections’. But commenting on the Master Plan in relation to cycling, active transport and healthy streets has been hampered by the fact that the consultation draft of the Infrastructure Chapter (incorporating Transport policies) of the Merton 2020 Local Plan was not correctly published to the Merton website. Whilst the relevant section of the Chapter was shared with MCC on 4 January when this was drawn to the attention of Officers, this has left little time to review the two Policies side by side before the deadline of 6 January, and presumably other responses will have also been hampered by not having this policy available to them.

MCC believe that if the multi-modal reputation of Wimbledon is to be maintained it is necessary for the Masterplan to integrate cycling infrastructure effectively, including cycle hire provision and charging points for electric bicycles/mobility scooters within developments and on the streets. You can read our response to the Future Wimbledon Masterplan here, and our comments on the Transport section of the Draft Local Plan here.