Photo 1: Rubble marks the location of the former Felnex Trading Estate, Hackbridge. This was the view from London Road looking towards Hackbridge Road on 19 June 2016. A brownfield site, if ever there was one.
On 16 June 2016, Get Sutton Cycling received a plan of the new development at the site of the former Felnex Trading Estate in Hackbridge [Google Maps], a site that is currently empty with no buildings or roads left standing. We were dismayed by what we saw.
We were dismayed because the only cycling provision shown for this new 7.7 hectare neighbourhood, of around 700 homes, plus shops and business space (to be developed on a brownfield site from the ground-up), consisted of sections of shared footway, interspersed with numerous “Cyclists Dismount” signs, a shared Toucan crossing along with associated ninety-degree turns, and inadequate junctions. These outdated proposals fall far short of current expectations. They would create conflict between between people walking, cycling and driving, as well as perpetuate the marginalisation of cycling.
We were also dismayed because this proposal, drawn up by consultants Odyssey Markides in March 2016, comes three months after Sutton Council approved the borough’s new cycling strategy in November 2015. A cycling strategy with the aim of achieving “a step-change in cycling infrastructure and participation in order to deliver the Council’s Cycling Vision and leave a long term legacy for future generations”. If such poor provision as this currently proposed for the Felnex site is accepted, what does it tell us about the council’s commitment to their strategy and vision?
Felnex is currently an empty space, a new canvas. So what is delivered here will be a conclusive test of how the council values cycling. Put simply, it’s an acid test for cycling.
On 20 June we wrote to Tom Brake MP, Carshalton and Wallington, and Cllr. Manuel Abellan, Sutton’s Cycling Champion, highlighting our concerns and asking for their help. You can download the full letter here. To find out what happened next, see below.
“…to say that we are very dismayed with these proposals would be an understatement..”
“…we would like to suggest that these proposals for cycle routes at Felnex are put on hold, and that Transport for London’s advice be sought to help deliver plans that will make the difference”
More on the Proposed Cycle Routes plan for Felnex
Figure 1: Detail from Felnex Trading Estate, Phase 1, Proposed Cycle Routes, Odyssey Markides (March 2016). Hackbridge Road (bottom left to top right), forming the northern periphery of the new development, and the proposed cycling infrastructure (in red) that is not fit for purpose (unless that purpose is to discourage cycling). The pedestrian crossing to be upgraded to a toucan crossing; shared footway; pinch-points on carriageway; wide splayed junction. It cannot get much worse. Cycling here is being built-out from the outset. Scale: approximately 125m across the plan left to right.
Figure 2: Detail from Felnex Trading Estate, Phase 1, Proposed Cycle Routes, Odyssey Markides (March 2016). Continuing from Figure 1: a dropped kerb to allow cyclists to join the carriageway (at 75mm high raised table). Really useful, because you are going to have to dismount 10 metres further on anyway if you decide to remain on the footway. The very idea of a shared use footway gives a clear indication that the proponents believe that few people will either be walking or cycling in this development. A two-way cycle path then runs parallel to a street with block paving (a street that could also act as a bus interchange, and potentially a rat-run too)… Scale: approximately 130m across the plan left to right.
Figure 3: Detail from Felnex Trading Estate, Phase 1, Proposed Cycle Routes, Odyssey Markides (March 2016). Continuing from Figure 2…. before requiring users of this cycle route to dismount once again and walk across the road that links London Road to the underground car-park. Then hop back on the bicycle again, to proceed on to a shared footway (possibly with priority at the vehicular entrance to the supermarket) … Scale: approximately 90 metres across the plan left to right.
Figure 4: Detail from Felnex Trading Estate, Phase 1, Proposed Cycle Routes, Odyssey Markides (March 2016). …to end (or begin) close to the junction with London Road (raised table). Not quite sure what you are supposed to do here. Presumably, quite a lot of vehicular traffic is expected to be leaving the site here (having shopped at the supermarket perhaps?), given the two lanes provided (one each for north-bound and south-bound traffic). Advanced stop lines! Perhaps early start signals would be Not quite what the artists’ impression for Barratt Homes would have us believe when we live the dream (see Figure 6). Scale: approximately 100 metres across the plan left to right.
Figure 5: One of the exhibition panels from a Barratt Homes presentation, November 2015, courtesy of the Hackbridge and BC Neighbourhood Development Group. This shows the location of the site relative to Hackbridge Road to the north and west, and London Road, A237, to the east and south. Hackbridge railway station is very close, just the other side of London Road (journey to Sutton takes about six minutes). In theory, the nearest tram stop is just five minutes away by bicycle, but the journey by bike along the A237 is be pretty dire. That’s one of the reasons why we asked for safe space for cycling for Wandle Valley in 2014. The first phase of the Heart of Hackbridge project failed cycling dramatically.
Figure 6: Another of the exhibition panels from a Barratt Homes presentation, November 2015, courtesy of the Hackbridge and BC Neighbourhood Development Group. Notice how this depicts the entrance to the development from London Road, A232, compared with how the plan shows the road layout in Figure 4 above. Chalk and cheese anyone? What is going on? The A232 carries around 10,500 motor vehicles a day, and one of these is shown in the image. If only! How this location currently looks, is shown in Photo 2 below.
Photo 2: The former Felnex Trading Estate site entrance from London Road, on a Sunday afternoon. (Location on the plan in Figure 4). It just proves really that anywhere that looks suitable for parking will get parked on. (After all, it’s free here and there may be a charge over the road at Hackbridge Station). 19 June 2016
Photo 3: On the other side of London Road, and looking back towards the former Felnex Trading Estate, and the current provision for cycling is evident (see plan Figure 4). Hackbridge Station is behind this view. 19 June 2016
Photo 4: The former Felnex Trading estate entrance on Hackbridge Road, looking east towards Beddington Corner. This is the road shown on the plan in Figure 1. So, if you are cycling here to the new development, the plan is to jump up on to the pavement on the left, cycle up to the “upgraded”signalised crossing, turn through degrees, cycle across to the pavement on the other side of the road, turn another ninety degrees and cycle back along the pavement to the entrance. 19 June 2016
Photo 5: The former Felnex Trading Estate entrance on Hackbridge Road, looking west towards Carshalton. An opportunity to move back the boundary and provide dedicated space for cycling? You must be joking! The pavement will do. 19 June 2016
How this land at the former Felnex Trading Estate is redeveloped will define Hackbridge for generations to come. At the moment, it appears cycling is firmly off the agenda.
But it does not have too be like that. Not if we make space for cycling….
Figure 7: The cover to the second edition of Making Space for Cycling: A guide for new developments and street renewals (2014) available from makingspaceforcycling.org.
Figure 8: “Cycle-friendly sells new developments”, from Making Space for Cycling: a guide for new developments and street renewals. It really is the message that Hackbridge needs to embrace.
More background on the former Felnex Trading Estate redevelopment is available from the links below:
Hackbridge and BC Neighbourhood Development Group (includes link to Barratt Homes presentation boards (November 2015)
Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
What happened next?
On 23 June, Cllr. Manuel Abellan replied to say he agreed that this new development was an opportunity to put in practice the new cycling strategy and to achieve the latest high quality cycling design standards. He has written to Sutton Council asking for a meeting with the lead officer and the local councillors to discuss these plans. Manuel said he would welcome any of our comments and views to put forward to the officers.
We wrote back the same day and mentioned Making Space for Cycling: a guide for new developments and street renewals. In our letter we had, of course, suggested that the proposals for cycle routes at Felnex were put on hold, and that Transport for London’s advice be sought to help deliver plans that will make the difference. Meanwhile, our response to the cycling strategy consultation, Time to make the case and rise to the challenges (September 2015), set out some key recommendations for the council, and councillors, to consider.
From our point of view, it would be interesting to know the level of funding that has been secured from the developer to facilitate cycling infrastructure as part of the Felnex redevelopment opportunity, and how this compares with similiar developments elsewhere. If we find out, we will let you know.
Caroline Pidgeon and Tom Brake acknowledged our email on 21 June and 5 July respectively. Caroline thanked us for copying her in, and that she would mention this to local colleagues. Tom said that he believed Cllr. Manual Abellan (Liberal Democrat, Beddington South) was setting up a meeting with a Council officer to discuss this, and that he had asked Manuel to keep him in the loop. Tom went on to say that he knew Manual had raised this at the most recent Environment and Neighbourhood Committee meeting last week (E&N Committee Meeting, 27 June 2016), and that he would let us know if he heard of anything. He was sure that Manuel would get in touch with us.
Cllr. Neil Garratt (Conservative, Beddington South) wrote to us on 28 June to tell us that he had raised Felnex at the E&N Committee meeting on 27 June 2016, mentioning the disappointing reality of what was being delivered for cycling following the grand hopes of the borough’s cycling strategy.
On 12 July, Hackbridge and BC Neighbourhood Development Group posted Felnex up for planning permission on 20 July.