9 January 2016

Ham and Petersham Neighbourhood Forum: Travel and Streets workshop

The first Ham and Petersham Neighbourhood Forum Drop In Draft Policy Workshop was on Travel and Streets and asked residents for their views on issues relating to cars, public transport, cycling and walking.

These are topics that I have strong opinions on and I made sure that they were known. Other views were expressed that opposed mine and most of these seemed to be from people who used cars complaining that other people were using cars and so were filling up the roads and parking spaces. I very rarely drive and had no sympathy with that view.

As we were talking about streets and paths there were lots of maps. I love maps.

I'll start with the topic that everybody seemed to agree with. The Thames rolls in a large S around Ham and Petersham and there is a large gap between the footbridge at Teddington Lock and the road bridge at Richmond. There was a strong consensus that we needed another foot/cycle bridge and that the obvious place to put this was somewhere near the end of Ham Street. A bridge there would open up Twickenham and beyond to those on the Ham side and give those on the Twickenham side easy access to the wild areas of Ham Lands and Richmond Park.

I was generally supportive of the plans for improving the streets for walkers but with two exceptions. I though that they were somewhat limited in scope, e.g. walk to school, and I was against any idea of "improving" the tow path to make it passable during flooding.

I love walking through Ham and exploring the little alleyways and twittens as I do so. I suspect that nobody has explored them as much as I have. This knowledge needs to be shared so that other people can make use of these routes. One of the things that I am doing is updating Open Street Map which is a better map than most for showing paths (Google is useless) but still has some significant gaps.

Once I have got the map right I want to work with the Forum on maintaining and publicising these routes. I think that we can do a lot of simple things quickly and easily which would all make a noticeable difference.

All my walking has also made me aware of places where the paths disappear or are unsuitable. For example, the route down Ham Street to the river and Ham House means taking to the road for about 50m. This is one of the main routes that should be made more pedestrian friendly, especially if a bridge is to be built at the end of the road.

I have spent many an happy hour on the tow path while it is flooding, often through deliberate planning and sometimes by accident. The rising and falling tide is a fascinating thing to watch, even if it means standing on a bench to do so. The tide and associated flooding is a nice feature of the area and I am against any plans to raise it or to make it more substantial during the short high tides.

One of Ham's problems is easy to see from the map above, the only way in or out of the area by road means using the main Kingston to Richmond Road that has a significant bottleneck as it goes through Petersham (turning sharply past the house where Tommy Steele used to live). We are not going to solve that problem so the only answer is to discourage car use and, preferably, take a few off the road.

Personally I would make it a one-way road, except for buses, and let cars find other routes, or have them left behind in the garage while the owner takes a bus or walks. We should assume that cars are a bad idea whose day has gone and plan for a future without them.

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