"Sloane Street Consultation" started in January 2017.
The brochure presents the case for a scheme, originated by the Cadogan Estate, which would fundamentally and irreversibly transform the character of the street, and encourages respondents to support it. It does not, however, consider the negative aspects of the scheme, or present the case for leaving well alone. We set out below the reasons why we hope the scheme will not be implemented.
The Council hope that the response to the consultation will enable them to claim that "this is what people want" - and the questionnaire is clearly designed to help achieve this. But it may not be what you want, and the danger is that if you do nothing about it you will wake up one day and find the street starting to be wrecked - by which time it will be too late.
If you have lost or never received the brochure, you can read it and download the questionnaire from the Council's website on this link:
Responses should be emailed to email@example.com posted to the Highways Department at the Town Hall, Hornton Street, W8 7NX. The closing date for responses is Monday 27 February.
The principal means whereby the street would be transformed is by narrowing the carriageway and widening the pavements. From a commercial standpoint, this would permit the introduction of new parking bays outside the expensive designer shops at the north end of Sloane Street, where customers are few but spend a great deal of money. The chauffeur driven limousines which wait outside the shops at present do not seem to be deterred by parking regulations, but providing new bays would no doubt increase customer numbers. We consider that the proposed widening of the pavements is the worst element of the scheme, as it would entail the following adverse consequences:
1. Increasing journey times, traffic congestion and diesel pollution
The Council's scheme makes no attempt to address what most people would consider to be the main problem affecting Sloane Street, viz. the congestion in the section between Pont Street and Knightsbridge, already clogged with slowly moving buses. We believe that the scheme will make the congestion worse. The Council claims that, despite narrowing the carriageway, two cars and a bus could still pass with ease. But this assumes that parking regulations will be strictly enforced to prevent vehicles parking, waiting, loading and unloading where they ought not. We believe that this assumption is unrealistic.
2. Spoiling the views and vistas
At present, wherever you stand in Sloane Street, you have a wonderful green vista in both directions. This is because the street is long and exceptionally straight, and has abundant trees and green spaces. You also have splendid views across the street, because most of the buildings are very handsome. And the pavements are spacious and relatively uncluttered. The large and unattractive flower beds shown in the Council's brochure would be more appropriate to a seafront promenade than an important central route such as Sloane Street. With their harsh looking stone or concrete surrounds, the flower beds would spoil both the vistas and the views, and would give the pavements a constricted and cluttered feel. They would also look dismal in winter. You can see the damage clearly in the before and after depictions in the brochure, which also show stone or concrete benches which are neither attractive to look at nor comfortable to sit on.
3. Yorkstone paving at risk
Most of the street is paved with attractive Yorkstone, which in some places the Council has failed adequately to maintain. The brochure says that "the main material is likely to remain Yorkstone", but there is no guarantee of this, and it goes on to say "we will consider the use of alternative stone for specific areas and detail". You have been warned!
What ought to happen instead
We would like the Council to engage with TfL to discuss measures to alleviate the congestion at the north end of the street. We accept that decisions here are ultimately in the hands of TfL. But there are things the Council can do by itself to improve the appearance of Sloane Street, and we recommend the following programme: (i) removing redundant street furniture, (ii) repairing the pavements, (ii) planting new trees in places we have previously identified (without widening the pavements) and (iv) introducing discreetly placed heritage-style benches. There is no need to adopt the Council's scheme to implement these measures - they can be undertaken right away.
Pitfalls in the questionnaire
If you agree with our analysis so far, we suggest you take particular care in how you respond to the questions posed in Q2, viz. "how important do you think it is to......."
"Improve the appearance of the street with high quality paving and street lighting"? This sounds unobjectionable, but the risk of ticking "important" is that it may be taken as a mandate for replacing Yorkstone with less attractive alternatives (and the potential new street lighting shown in the brochure is remarkably ugly). We suggest you tick "not important" but put an asterisk to the box in Q6 saying that you want the paving to be repaired or replaced with Yorkstone.
"Introduce more trees and planting"? Please note that "planting" here means "flower beds", and if you tick "important" the Council will take that as a mandate for widening the pavements to accommodate them. We suggest you tick "not important" but put an asterisk to the box in Q6 saying that you do not welcome "planting", and you would welcome more trees but only where feasible without widening the pavements.
"Reducing high traffic speeds"? Again this seems very innocent - who could possibly object to reducing speeding or tackling supercars? - but the risk of ticking "important" is, again, that the Council will take this as a mandate for narrowing the carriageway and widening the pavements. We suggest you tick "not important" but put an asterisk to the box in Q6 saying that you do support more effective police action to tackle speeding and supercars.
"Widen narrow pavements to improve the pedestrian experience"? - this is the most loaded question because, as we know, and as the Council's own Hans Town Conservation Area Statement confirms, the pavements are not narrow but spacious! We suggest you tick "not important" and put an asterisk to the box in Q6 saying that you wish the pavements not to be widened. It is vital to do this as it is the crux of the issue.
It is a pity that the Council has not given respondents an easy opportunity to express opposition to the specific proposals in Q2, but they have told us that the above procedure, though cumbersome, is the way to do it.
In Q4 "which option do you prefer for the central residential section of Sloane Street"? we suggest you tick "option three - minimal change to existing layout", and in Q5 "if we decide to make improvements to the public realm, what style do you think would be most fitting for the street"? we suggest you tick "traditional", as it presents least risk. It is a pity (and rather ominous) that the Council have not given respondents the opportunity to request minimal change to the layout of the entire street (i.e. not just the central section), but you may wish to place a final asterisk to the box in Q6 saying that this is what you favour.
Sloane Street is a grand and dignified street and it would be terribly sad for it to be disfigured - please help in the effort to save it.
Chairman, Milner Street Area Residents' Association