Archive for February, 2014

Oval Triangle cycling event

27 Feb

With all the Clapham Road flooding going on this evening it seems more pressing matters will be on people’s minds but I did want to mention an event that took place this morning on the Oval Triangle.  It may not be the safest or quietest venue but the Oval Triangle was chosen to launch the Transport Committees cycling report.  Those who visited were offered a little breakfast, a free bike service from Dr Bike and security marking from the police.  Val Shawcross and others from the London Assembly were there.

I was really pleased to be seeing this space used in this way and hopefully it will be used again.  TfL are expected to make some money available to improve this strategic green space in the middle of the Oval Junction. Some preliminary consultation has already taken place with the next round being held at the Oval Farmers’ Market on Saturday

Here are some pictures from this morning.






Clapham Road flood and road collapse

27 Feb

Our sympathies to all those residents and businesses affected by the Clapham Road floods this evening.  It looks like Palfrey Place has been badly affected.  If anyone needs any help please make contact.  Apparently a water main burst and after a bus passed, the road collapsed.  Nicky from Abi’s Deli was interviewed and maybe appearing on TV tomorrow morning

Here are some pictures of the Clapham Road flood from earlier  and I’ve posted a few short video clips here.

As the road has collapsed I suspect it will take some time to fix so if you are thinking about driving tomorrow think again.


Laws of Physics in the Vauxhall alternative universe

12 Feb

For those not familiar with Vauxhall,  it is best considered as an alternative universe in which the normal Laws of Physics do not apply.  To assist the unwary traveller who ventures into the area, here are some of the laws as they might apply in the Vauxhall alternative universe.


Vauxhall law of conservation of energy:
“Social housing can neither be created nor destroyed”


Laws of Vauxhall-thermodynamics

  • 1st Law: “The increase in social housing in Vauxhall is equal to the investment supplied minus the investment. “
  • 2nd Law:  “The height of buildings must always increase”
  • 3rd Law:The benefit to the community in Vauxhall-dynamic equilibrium approaches zero as social housing approaches zero”


Newton’s Laws of Vauxhall Motion

  • 1st Law: “When viewed in a planning framework, a development is either at rest or moves at a constant velocity towards planning permission, unless acted upon by  external objectors”
  • 2nd Law: “The acceleration of a development depends directly upon the planning farce acting upon the development, and inversely upon the social housing of the development”
  • 3rd Law: “Every bus station development has an equal and opposite re-development”


Kepler’s laws of Vauxhall gyratory motion

  • 1st Law: “The orbit of the Vauxhall gyratory is an elipse with the pissoir at one of the two foci.”
  • 2nd Law: A line joining a car and the pissoir sweeps out equal parking restrictions during equal intervals of time.”
  • 3rd Law: The square of the orbital period of the Vauxhall gyratory is proportional to the cube of  Lambeth’s half-a-high street”


Schrödinger’s Vauxhall Wave Equation

In the standard universe,  Schrödinger’s Wave Equation is very difficult to explain.  In the Vauxhall alternative universe it is much simpler:

“Every development In Vauxhall can be represented as a wave function: Wave hello to the developers and transport infrastructure and wave goodbye to social housing.”  


And here’s something for mathematicians…

Pythagoras’ Vauxhall Theorem

“The square of the Vauxhall high street [will never be] equal to the sum of the squares in the other developments” 



Some thoughts on business friendly parking

05 Feb

Multiple penalty notices

We are in a time of transition with cycling on the ascendency and car driving becoming an increasingly minority occupation – at least in inner city areas like Kennington/Oval/Vauxhall. However, many shops and businesses still rely on customers who drive and that is likely to remain the case for some years to come.  The challenge is to find a solution that works for everyone.

If you look closely at different commercial areas you will see a wide variety of parking restrictions in force.  For example, compare the relatively business friendly parking around Little Portugal (South Lambeth Road) with Kennington Cross and the Oval Parade  All three areas are predominately TfL controlled red routes with Lambeth controlled parking in the side streets.  None of them are even close to being ideal business friendly parking.

Consider loading bays 10:00-16:00 being a common offering on red routes. Now go into shops like Dirty Burger in Vauxhall and Abis Deli on the Oval Parade and ask them about the reality of loading bays. Legitimate delivery drivers are constantly getting tickets and some have refused to deliver. Never mind the theory, the reality is damaging local businesses.  Let’s change track for a moment and consider the big supermarkets.

The next time you go to a big Sainsburys or Tescos take a few minutes to count the cars coming in and out and ponder on what the environmental impact is. Also, count the number of bicycles in and out and the relative amounts people seem to be buying using each of those transport methods.  It should be fairly obvious that if it were not for the car parking spaces, supermarkets of that size could not exist. Look what happened to Sainsburys when they down sized. Fewer car parking spaces, higher prices. Take away their car parking spaces completely and they are on a more level playing field with other shops.Now lets go even bigger.

Large Westfield style shopping centres and retail parks
A few people have cited Westfield Stratford City as a good example of a shopping centre well served by public transport and that would certainly be true. However, let’s remember that they also have some 5,000 car parking spaces and charge £5 to park all day. In contrast, drivers wishing to shop around the Kennington Oval area would have to pay £4 per hour and as a result, very few would choose to shop

Impact of declining shops
The current situation is that many shops that people want to see in their local area have long since closed and those that remain open are suppressed.  As we lose our local shops we end up having to walk, cycle, drive  or travel by public transport further.   This adds to the demand on public transport and roads.    One strategy to reduce demand is to help local shops thrive. Unfortunately, ill thought parking restrictions do the exact opposite and have now become part of the problem. I’m not suggesting a return to the past with lots of small Victorian shops but on the other hand if we can find a parking formula that works for local shops in a particular area then we all win.

Finding a solution for an area
Now here is the rub.  In many areas like the Oval Parade there is generally insufficient pedestrian and cycling traffic for shops to thrive purely on those sources of customers.  What is particularly frustrating for  shops based in such areas is that they are subject to the noise and pollution of thousands of cars passing but get hardly any income from them .  Compare that with a well utilised supermarket car parking space each of which may be contributing to up to 10 short range car journeys per day with corresponding sales.

Different business types and their parking requirements
Of course not all businesses need car parking spaces equally. Consider an area with a mix of estate agents, take-away shops, convenience stores, delicatessens, dentists, hairdressers, butchers, pubs, restaurants etc. Estate agents generally rely on internet business these days and can survive without parking spaces.  In contrast, take-away shops and convenience stores can get away with 20 minute/30 minute bays as customers can pop in and out quickly or even take a gamble on double red lines. Cafes and restaurants on the other hand need people to stay a little longer.  Also, if a customer wants to visit several shops half an hour is not enough.

So what is business friendly parking?
Supermarkets and retail centres are the masters of this and they know perfectly well what car parking arrangements work for them – usually free parking up to 2 hours. In contrast, shops in traditional commercial areas are subject to the whims of TfL or their local authority.  I use ‘whim’ deliberately because when you start to look closely at local restrictions you quickly realise that in many cases they have little relevance to the shops they are supposed to support.  A classic example is the recent increase in ‘take-away’ friendly TfL 20 minute red route bays to 30 minutes as if one size fits all.  It may not be TfL’s policy to give a competitive advantage to take away shops and convenience stores but in a way that is exactly what they do.

Now the last thing I would argue for is free all day parking.  If you did do this, e.g. South Lambeth Road, shop owners and local residents would probably just block the spaces up with their own cars.  It may be better than nothing but comes no where near the efficiency of a supermarket car park.

There is a clear line between business friendly and business damaging parking and it is easy to tell the difference when you observe what is happening in a particular area.   I don’t pretend to have all of the answers but if the research is done then a solution will emerge.



Half a high street or a whole high street – Lambeth plans for Vauxhall

01 Feb

I don’t claim to be an expert on high streets but as a former shop owner I do have some insights on the matter. The ‘High Street'(on the site of Vauxhall Bus Station) that Lambeth are planning could never be one. Yes, you could throw money at it – build yet more residential accommodation and put shops underneath – but it still wouldn’t be a high street.

A high street is typically the main street of a town – the place where most shops, banks, and other businesses cluster. Most date from the late 19th century. Clapham and Brixton certainly have ‘high streets’ linked into town centres but do Kennington Oval and Vauxhall have them? Kennington Cross is certainly a candidate but the mix of shops is not that of a typical high street

What about the following commercial areas?

(i) South Lambeth Road (Little Portugal)
(ii) Oval parade
(iii) Kennington Park parade
(iv) Brixton Road (from the Oval)

One thing these areas have in common is that they all have shops on just one side of the road not dissimilar to what is proposed at Vauxhall. Such commercial areas face particular challenges due to the footfall and traffic patterns. Much as we might love and support some of the local shops there, they are not high streets. Let’s call them aspiring high streets or ‘half a high street’ in the sense that they don’t have the mix of shops found on a typical high street.

The great irony is that if Lambeth had a proper plan for Vauxhall before developments like St George Wharf came along they could have had a proper district centre. The Vauxhall island site could have been that but the Kylun Towers have put an end to that possibility. It seems to me that Lambeth have arrived for dinner when everyone else is putting away the plates and then decided to take out the cooker (bus station).

Let’s be positive though. No one can doubt the need to improve the public realm area around Vauxhall for pedestrians, cyclists and those who live and work in the area. It is unfortunate that some senior officials in Lambeth have got it into their heads that the only way to do this is to demolish the bus station and build what could only ever be half a high street. Looking at the membership of the Board (TfL+Lambeth) that will oversee the project gives me no confidence that the right solution will emerge for Vauxhall. Perhaps they should consider having community representatives on that board rather than the current bilateral TfL/Lambeth arrangement.