Environment and Customer Services Policy and Scrutiny Committee, 18th January 2016 – Nine Elms to Pimlico Pedestrian/Cycle Bridge
Following the extremely well attended Scrutiny Committee meeting at City Hall, Westminster have produced a report of the Cycle Bridge part of the proceedings. It’s a formal document and perhaps a little dry, but it does sum up the technical state-of-play. For everyone who attended the meeting, signed one of the petitions or who are concerned about Wandsworth’s project, here are some excerpts…
Opposition to the Proposed Bridge
Westminster officers have continued throughout to raise a number of concerns on numerous occasions, about the proposed bridge, in particular about its currently proposed landing site in Pimlico Gardens, namely in terms of its likely detrimental impact on residential amenity, on the road network and on the environment on the north side of the river where there would likely be a significant impact on the existing public open and green space in Pimlico Gardens which is protected both as public open space and as part of the Pimlico Conservation Area.
Such is the level of concern locally about the bridge’s likely impact that applications have been submitted for both Pimlico Gardens and neighbouring (to the north) St. George’s Gardens to be designated as assets of community value to protect them from detrimental development.
Whilst public exhibitions of the competition entry designs were held during Wandsworth’s design competition, to date no formal public consultation on the proposed bridge has taken place and we understand that Westminster’s residents have felt unable to raise their concerns over the proposals in a constructive way.
Why is a bridge being proposed?
In 2013 TfL, to meet the Mayor of London’s manifesto pledge to assess the feasibility of a new bridge in this location, carried out initial feasibility studies into this matter. Their resulting business case estimated that with a new pedestrian / cycle bridge linking Nine Elms to Pimlico that journey time savings of circa 7 minutes for pedestrians and less than 1 minute for cyclists could be achieved compared to using routes across existing bridges namely Vauxhall and Chelsea bridges.
As such Westminster officers were at that time, and remain, unconvinced of the need for a new bridge in this location.
The promoters consider there is a transport need for a new bridge in this location and have indicated, through promotional materials produced during the planning stages of the Nine Elms schemes, that a new bridge would be built here, however alternative public transport improvements are already planned and underway in the Vauxhall Nine Elms area, with the new Cycle Superhighway 5 having recently opened on Vauxhall Bridge (immediately to the east of the proposed new bridge location) providing improved facilities for cyclists travelling between Vauxhall/Nine Elms and Westminster.
Additional interventions are proposed by TfL in Vauxhall to revert the current gyratory system around the bus station into 2-way working, which would reportedly lead to a journey time reduction in buses from Vauxhall to Victoria of 2-3 minutes, where the current bus journey time is circa 17 minutes.
Similarly currently under construction improvements to the underground system will better connect Nine Elms and Battersea into Westminster with works to the Northern Line Extension (NLE) reported as being well underway.
Together these projects will enhance the area’s connectivity and potentially lessen the need for the proposed new river crossing. The NLE for example is intended to cut journey times to the West End and the City to just under 15 minutes. Additional crossings are proposed elsewhere in London, however the Nine Elms location was the first to propose a pedestrian and cycle only option.
Amongst the concerns that residents have raised is the likely impact that the proposed bridge would have on the public open space of Pimlico Gardens. Alternative locations for the proposed pedestrian/cycle bridge, should its need be proven, have been suggested including adjacent to the unlisted Grosvenor Rail Bridge, to the west of its currently proposed location. This is felt to provide a more direct route for cyclists from Nine Elms and Battersea straight into Victoria and would potentially have less of a detrimental impact on the local neighbourhoods in Pimlico and on public open spaces. However further work is required to identify need and impact of any specific proposal.
Officers feel that this option should be considered to enable a proposed bridge, if it must land in Pimlico, perhaps to cater for the needs of pedestrians only and be more slender as a result and have less of a visual and environmental impact.
Although options for a new crossing adjacent to Grosvenor Bridge were considered by TfL through their initial feasibility study testing, these options have not been taken forward by the Nine Elms Partnership or Wandsworth Council to date.
Council Procedure rules that P&S Committees should not normally scrutinise individual decisions made by non-executive committees
In the absence of a planning application in this case and given the scale of the proposed scheme, it is thought that this project is so significant as to amount to a special case, therefore, and given that the responsibility for determining the application (should one be submitted) would be that of the City Council’s Planning Committee in due course, then the Policy and Scrutiny Committee should avoid reaching a definite view on the details of the scheme, but may indicate a position on whether such a bridge is desirable in principle and on the wider ramifications of the scheme based on the limited information it has available.