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’.