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 These outdated proposals fall far short of current expectations.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 2016 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
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….
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)
What happened next?
Caroline Pidgeon (Chair of the London Assembly’s Transport Committee) acknowledged our email on 21 June 2016, and thanked us for copying her in. She said she would mention this to local colleagues.
On 23 June 2016, Cllr. Manuel Abellan (Liberal Democrat, Beddington South) replied saying that 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 also advised that he had written to Sutton Council asking for a meeting with the lead officer and the local councillors to discuss these plans. Manuel also 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 similar developments elsewhere. If we find out, we will let you know.
Cllr. Neil Garratt (Conservative, Beddington South) wrote to us on 28 June 2016 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.
Tom Brake (MP, Carshalton and Wallington) acknowledged our email on 5 July 2016. Tom said that he believed Cllr. Manual Abellan 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.
The printed minutes of the 27 June 2016 E&N Committee, subsequently published in later in July or August 2016, make no mention of any discussion around the Felnex redevelopment. Ironically perhaps, the printed minutes record in Item 6, Update on Sustainable Transport Strategy, that the Committee “Noted the progress made on the implementation of sustainable transport initiatives within the Sustainable Transport Strategy (STS)” and “Agreed the revised targets and actions set out in the Action Plan for the STS”. It is also recored that “Councillor Neil Garratt said there was generally a poor cycle infrastructure in the UK, and he asked that something appropriate should be put in place that could be used by cyclists, Councillor Neil Garratt asked if the traffic volumes on the quietways route had been measured as yet”. Note: Traffic volumes for part of the referred to Quietway alignment were subsequently provided by Sustrans in August 2017, and these can be viewed at Sutton’s proposed first Quietway: the conversation begins. Also, some of our own counts were presented at our 2017 AGM in ‘Traffic counts (and modal share)’. Interestingly, the printed minutes also record that the Committee discussed ‘Sporting Future, a new strategy for an active nation’. Cycling, as utility transport, can have a major role in providing an opportunity for residents to be active, but the minutes suggest that the Committee did not join up ‘cycling’ and ‘activity’.
On 12 July 2016, Hackbridge and BC Neighbourhood Development Group posted Felnex up for planning permission on 20 July.
On 13 July 2016, we wrote to Cllr. Manual Abellan again, to ask whether the meeting he had requested with Sutton Council about the proposed cycling infrastructure at the Felnex redevelopment had gone ahead. Manuel replied on 17 July 2016, in which he advised that the meeting with Sutton Council had not yet taken place, and that he would keep us posted. He also mentioned that he had sent the “Space for Cycling” document to the officer in charge and had asked him to look at it prior to the meeting.
Felnex crossing and Hackbridge parking was posted on 15 November 2016, reporting that part of the mediocre plans have been taken forward. A controlled crossing on Hackbridge Road [Open Street Map | Google Streetview] had been converted to a shared Toucan Crossing, and short sections of the adjacent footway have been converted to shared use.
Fast forward sixteen months from
This tweet, posted on 29 November 2017 (and slightly in error because the Pelican crossing on Hackbridge Road had already been converted to a Toucan crossing in the autumn of 2016), acted as a reminder that nothing further has been heard about the meeting that Cllr. Abellan had requested with a lead officer at Sutton Council and councillors.
On 30 November 2017 an email was sent to Cllr. Abellan (copied to Tom Brake) to ask whether the meeting Manual had requested with Sutton Council in the summer of 2016 to discuss cycling and the redevelopment had taken place. And, if so, whether he was able to share the outcomes.
v3: 13.07.2016. Further update 30.11.2017