Friday 26 October 2007 11.30am
I was astonished by the anti-democratic snow-job perpetrated by Southwark at last night's meeting to discuss the Council's proposals for Bermondsey Street
Two plans were presented which were virtually identical, with both featuring a two-way traffic flow with varying pavement/cycling arrangements and abolishing all parking all the time (except disabled) on BS. Participants were then given free rein to discuss the merits and flaws of these two plans. And yet neither addressed the main concern of the clear majority of the people who attended meeting : the 24-hour use of BS as a high-speed conduit for large vehicles.
The illusion of being given a "choice" of two similar plans is a classic deception. No scheme was offered with a one-way traffic solution (the status quo before the Thames Water works now mercifully blocking the street), nor a partial pedestrianisation, which also seemed a popular topic for discussion from the floor.
When challenged, the consultant said that they had pointed out to Southwark the close similarity between both schemes, but were told that Southwark had decided as a matter of policy to make BS two-way. There has been no credible consultation with residents to arrive at this conclusion (the 22-person walkabout organised on a mid-week mid-day by Southwatk earlier this year cannot be assumed to be a basis for policy for the whole street!) and it smacks of shabby manipulation to then spend half of the meeting discussing the details of the two schemes then answering questions about preferences just betweeen these two schemes and admitting no other topic. Scheme 2 gained most "votes", and so no doubt will be judged the "winner" in a non-contest.
The most chilling fact to emerge from the meeting was that the average speed of a car in BS EXCLUDING THE FASTEST 15% OF THE SAMPLE is 23 mph, while the average speed of a London car journey in the rush hour is 6.8 mph (www.bikeforall.net). OK, so BS is not in permanent rush hour, but it is a busy street and there are a lot of heavy trucks making up that speed statistic - bottom line : traffic flow is extremely fast on BS. By the way, I would also like to exclude the 15 % of speedsters of all shapes and sizes from MY sample (especially when asleep), but unfortunately I can't, since I live in the real world, not in Southwark's Planning Department
My view is that prevention of high speed through-traffic by non-resident heavy vehicles is (a) a road safety issue, (b) 24-hour noise nuisance and (c) highly detrimental to BS's "village" character. I believe that we should be concentrating on these issues, which were clearly uppermost in people's minds last night, rather than voting on hair-splitting non-issues, such as which scheme would provide a superior feeling of "personal space" when alking on BS.
Whatever your views, I would urge all BS residents to actively make their priorities known to Southwark, rather than be railroaded into a Council-knows-best miasma of loopy priorities and anti-democratic spin.
For the sake of fairness, here is Southwark's website address for this issue :
and the next meeting to discuss this is on Saturday 27th @ 11am-2pm at Central Hall 256 Bermondsey Street
If you cannot go, then you are encouraged to contact the project leader :
Senior transport planner
Tel: 020 7525 52295
I think that as many voices as possible should be heard - and Southwark should start listening to its taxpayers !