NORTHWOOD’S VOICE LTD.
65 Green Lane
10th October 2015
Dear Ms Greig
This is a joint response from the 2,800 people represented by Northwood’s Voice who have signed a petition against the total redevelopment of the conservation area of Green Lane and Station Approach.
1. Departure from Vision 2: The Design
6% of Northwood residents gave their approval to Vision 2 on the strength of the provision of an attractive public pedestrianised piazza in the centre of Northwood as a place to meet and gather.
In the current scheme, a new building (providing access to the underground car park) introduced in the middle of what was once a long piazza visually and spatially splits the public space into two parts – the public part enclosed by shops (pedestrianised station approach) and the other is likely to have a more private feel as it is a garden space shared by three residential blocks.
This front part of the piazza is likely to serve a multitude of purposes; people will criss-cross it for access to the station, shopping, parking and their homes. It will also be used for retail delivery services and collection of rubbish from those units, out of hours, which means it could be heavily used all of the time with associated noise pollution. It will have 4 storey buildings on its east, west and south facing sides (original Vision 2 showed 3-storey buildings on the West side) obstructing sunlight and creating shaded areas, and will have a bus stop on its only open side!
In our view, this is a substantial departure from what was promised in Vision 2.
Far from being a relaxing place the open area in front of the station would be a busy hub. Vision 2 showed a mix of three and four storey buildings and varying roofscapes. Now, all new blocks are four stories high, and taller than any other structures in the centre of Northwood. It is our view that any new development should enhance the conservation area in which it will be located and not be a dominating presence over Northwood that currently retains a much loved village-like character.
2. Traffic and Public Transport
The transport consultants appointed by TfL, Buro Happold, state that the proposed layout junction at Eastbury Road and other measures would increase capacity and reduce journey times for vehicles travelling along Green Lane by 3% despite the increased vehicular traffic. They will achieve this by the following means and we would comment as below.
a. Reducing road width at Eastbury Road junction with Green Lane to create a larger holding space for pedestrians.
b. Reducing crossing time at junctions.
We believe that shorter crossing times at lights will make it more unsafe for both children and the elderly trying to cross and risks could be taken in order to cross. Further, coordinated lights could encourage drivers to travel at greater speeds to clear these junctions.
b. Coordinated lights at junctions mean green lights for cars but also means red lights for pedestrians at the same junctions. In the absence of hard evidence, we only have to think of Oxford Circus where a similar arrangement is in place, and people cross the roads diagonally. In TFL ‘s modelling they have not accounted for this possibility. So we feel that pedestrian safety could be at a greater risk with the shorter crossing times.
The off carriageway bus stop for 3 bus routes travelling westbound in front of the piazza is supposed to reduce congestion westbound. Will it in reality, when up to 3 buses could be pulling out to join the junction?
The study concentrates on mitigating the impact on Green Lane only. It has not been stated if the traffic on the Eastbury/ Green Lane junction and the Waitrose roundabout will also clear as quickly. This modelling is important to Northwood as we all know that besides the station, the main destinations and peaks are around the school drop off and pick up times for both St Helen’s School and Northwood College, both of which are off Green Lane. So greater waiting times at Green Lane junctions with these roads (Maxwell and Eastbury) would add travel time for school pupils and parents and would have a detrimental impact to families in Northwood.
The above indicates TfL’s ability to demonstrate the 3% improvement in traffic management on Green Lane only to get the scheme past planning, but we are not convinced that it shows sufficient regard for pedestrians or for practicality. We would like to see the modelling extended to indicate the impact of the development on the main routes into Green Lane at peak times i.e. Eastbury and Maxwell Roads to prove to Northwood residents the point about congestion as this is of great local concern.
3. Traffic Issues on the new Central Way
The carriage way of Central Way will be narrower than the current Station Approach, but will be the route for many new residents, all vehicles using the underground car park, bus stop, deliveries for shops and homes, council rubbish & recycling collection, minicar service and drop off and pick up points. We are reassured that this will still somehow be an improvement on the current situation. What about the access for the Emergency services?
When consenting to Vision 2, people specifically asked for drop off and pick up spaces. In the current scheme there are 5 ‘dedicated’ drop off and pick up spaces shown. It was explained at the exhibition that in fact these spaces are likely to be shared by the minicab service, vehicles bringing deliveries to shops and rubbish collection, and on the plans no other space has been allocated for these.
Central Way will have a bus stop. We are told that the carriage way is wide enough for cars to pass by the side of a stopped bus, but it does not appear to be so on the drawings. This could create a potentially dangerous situation as cars wanting to get past might get in the way of oncoming traffic, or delays if they have to wait behind especially at peak times. Perhaps this could be redesigned?
The underground car park is for 180 cars and Central Way can accommodate a maximum of 10-15 car lengths between the car park exit and the junction with Green Lane. When most of the commuters are attempting to exit to go home at the pm peak time, only a few cars will be able to exit the junction and that too if there are no delays due to bus/ drop offs/ delivery vans pulling in at the same time. There is a concern that this is not likely to ease congestion as promised and if cars are unable to exit there may be backlog up to and inside the car park.
The above suggests that there could be increased traffic congestion particularly at peak times, which will result in increased pollution. This remains of grave concern to local residents as Hillingdon already suffers from poor air quality. TfL would have been monitoring air quality in the town centre as this needs to be submitted as part of the Environmental Assessment for the Planning Consent. This information was not available and was in fact refused to us at the exhibition, so we can only comment on this when we have access to this information. But we would like to state that this is of great concern to Northwood residents.
5. Parking Provision
Vision 2 showed provision of 189 commuter & retail parking spaces and 23 residential parking spaces.
The current scheme indicates 180 commuter and retail spaces, 70 spaces for the 34 town houses (a sensible provision) and 50 spaces for the 93 flats. But we wonder if the scheme can deliver this?
On page 17 of the exhibition material it is stated that the underground car park will have 180 commuter/ retail spaces and 50 for the flats. The additional 50 car parking spaces for flats within the underground car park is only possible with the use of ‘parking stackers’ as indicated on page 15, not on the main plate relating to Parking.
Parking stackers are expensive automated systems that allow two cars to be parked in one space, i.e. one over the other. The system needs high ceilings sufficient to stack two cars, longer parking bays than standard to accommodate the support structure, some systems need a pit below, and the equipment needs regular maintenance. The system is sometimes employed in the most expensive London homes where parking space is limited and to store valuable cars indoors. Rarely have they been used even in central London in public car parks due to the cost.
It is hard to imagine such an expensive system being used to bridge the gap in parking provision in Northwood, it could be abandoned due to its cost. Your own sectional drawings do not actually show these stackers or the room to accommodate them; the drawings show regular parking bays. If this system is not used, it would incur an overall loss of 24 spaces.
Parking provision for houses and flats has been increased in the current scheme following consultation with Hillingdon so the scheme is likely to maintain provision of 50 car parking spaces for the new flats to achieve planning consent. Room for additional parking bays within the underground car park seems limited so the commuter & retail car parking might have to be reduced to maintain the residential parking. Commuter/ retail parking provision could reduce substantially from current and original Vision 2 which promised to retain the 189 commuter/ retail car parking spaces, to 156 spaces. With the retail provision doubled and parking reduced, this overspill would inevitably spread to nearby residential streets.
Kindly provide an explanation as to whether parking stackers are indeed to be provided and have been costed into the scheme, and what provisions would be offered if their use was not feasible due to cost or other factors.
6. New Housing
The Mayor has recently published, i.e. adopted the Future Alterations to London Plan 2011. This has increased the amount of homes that each council have to deliver in a year. For Hillingdon, this increased from 425 to 559 each year. Hillingdon published their report in March 2015 where they explain that for compliance they would need to supply 1,810 new homes, however they have identified a healthy supply of specific deliverables sites that have the capacity to deliver 2,781 net additional dwellings over the next five years, thus meeting and exceeding the target requirement of Para 47 of National Planning Policy Framework. Northwood’s TfL owned site is not listed as one of these deliverable sites. So any housing provided on this site will be surplus rather than essential to the targets of Hillingdon Council.
We do not believe therefore that the proposed residential development is catering for the shortage of family homes. Rather, the proposed scheme could probably add to the market of buy-to-let/ investment homes for commuters investing in season passes to reach their offices in central London. 93 flats are being created with only 50 car spaces shared between them. Where is the evidence showing that the need in this area is for intermediate homes?
Further, affordable housing provision is not clarified but it was indicated that this may be placed over the old Blockbuster building and on top of the building next to Waitrose. Placed in the most disadvantaged spots, these homes will suffer most from light, noise and environmental pollution. Is this fair?
7. Existing businesses and the mix of retail offer
Vision 2 showed small retail units as per residents wishes. Businesses established over a long period in an area become community assets that people come to rely on for their needs so local residents are naturally concerned for existing businesses and livelihoods and asked for these to be preserved and in the past TfL have promised to do this. At the summer exhibition we were asked for the mix of new and existing shops we would like to see and this was summarised in the comments following the exhibition.
Inspite of this consultation, the scheme that will be submitted for planning has no space earmarked for the shops residents said they would like to retain, and many residents did ask for small independent shops. We feel this is a departure from the narrative set out in Vision 2 and consultation thereafter. Retail units could be let as per TfL’s choice, at competitive market price and not necessarily respecting the resident’s views.
Even though we hope TfL will be helping to rehouse existing businesses in the new development, these businesses will probably have to compete with bids from all other chains and could be priced out and suffer a loss to their livelihoods. The current plans are representative of this.
8. Impact on Commuters
Northwood is a commuter town. The station car park is at full capacity during the working week. With 127 new homes created as proposed, there will be a large new population, many of whom are also likely to be commuters to central London. When these new commuters take the train during the morning peak times, how will the Metropolitan line cope with this influx when the trains are already full at these times? Would this not disadvantage other towns down the line like Pinner, Northwood Hills and Harrow. Further, as the new station at Watford is completed (likely to coincide with this development – according to their website, in 2018), trains will already be full when they reach Northwood. What provisions is TfL making, will they provide more fast trains at peak times to mitigate this problem?
9. Objection and Petition
Northwood developed due to the advent of the railways, it was one of the earliest stations to be built on the Metropolitan line. The buildings along Station Approach/Green Lane conservation area retain the character of well preserved early C20 developments linked to railway expansions of the period. The community have expressed that they want these character buildings representative of Northwood’s history and its true mixed use town centre to be preserved and not replaced by generic modern buildings as has happened elsewhere in London.
It has been stated that the buildings are dilapidated and the area run down. It is not for us to comment whether the buildings have been neglected by the owners, but they seem to be in good condition and on the whole they retain many original features.
The loss of these character buildings will be a loss to Northwood and a loss to London’s history as well. Besides it will be against Hillingdon Council’s own directive which is to preserve and enhance conservation areas.
We and our supporters are reluctant to agree to a development that offers little value to Northwood residents, has now changed from what was laid out in Vision 2, but will blight our town by its dominating presence, increased traffic congestion and pollution. It will change the character of Northwood forever.
The changes from Vision 2 and what we consider to be negative impacts of the proposed development are listed above.
The positive aspects of the scheme are the provision of step free access to the station and we understand that development is necessary to fund this. However, development should not have to be at the cost of change of character of a place.
10. An Alternative Approach which enhances existing heritage and raises funding for the station improvement works
The buildings on Station Approach/ Green Lane are heritage assets, in good condition, an integral part of the Green Lane Conservation Area and represent the development of Northwood due to the railway over time. They should be retained and enhanced as per the Council’s policy on conservation areas.
They could act as a gateway to a pedestrian piazza behind them (currently Coach works which could be relocated) with shops and flats over, the new station could be moved further down to provide level access. The current Station Approach could be pedestrianised. Central Way could become the new approach to the site and its new facilities. Flats over underground commuter parking, townhouses to the rear of the site or indeed taller blocks with flats at the rear of the site are all acceptable options for raising funds necessary to provide improved station facilities.
These would represent a reasonable solution and generate reasonable profits to TfL as well, while maintaining the character of Northwood. Such a proposal would be acceptable to local residents.