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Pimlico cycle bridge is not a done deal – yet

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KEY points emerged from Westminster Environment Scrutiny Committee’s first hearing into the cycle/pedestrian bridge between Nine Elms and Pimlico, proposed by Wandsworth, held on Monday 18 January, 2016:

No study has been done into how the estimated 18,000 cyclists and pedestrians going from south to north each day would cross Grosvenor Road, one of London’s busiest traffic arteries.

No study has been done into the routes all these people would take to pass through Pimlico or where they might be heading.

The residents of Pimlico were never consulted before the proposal by Wandsworth Council and the Nine Elms developers, who went ahead unilaterally and launched a design competition.

No planning application has yet been made for a bridge. It is still only a proposal and it is not supported by Westminster Council.

A feasibility study was carried out by Transport For London but an official told the meeting that it had not considered anything beyond the idea of a bridge and eight possible sites for it, none of which had been decided. TFL was not involved in financing the project, he said.

More than 100 residents crowded into the room at City Hall. The mood was angry and there were frequent outbursts. Councillor Angela Harvey told the hearing that 90 per cent of Pimlico residents were against any bridge. Pimlico had a village atmosphere, she said, and its people did not want its “quiet byways turned into commuter highways.” Although the Nine Elms project might create many more homes and jobs they would not be for the people of Pimlico and the thousands using the bridge would merely be passing through rather than visiting.

Alicia Eykyn, representing Churchill Gardens, said the “unique” council estate would used as a cut-through by cyclists, many of whom rode too fast and without consideration. Residents would be at risk. It was “absurd” that cyclists and pedestrians could be seamlessly integrated.

Mr Keith Trotter, Nine Elms project co-ordinator, said it would be one of the largest regeneration areas in Europe with 20,000 new homes, 25,000 jobs, a huge retail space and leisure and cultural facilities including a new linear park. There would be two new primary schools, health clinics and transport improvements, most importantly a Northern Line Underground extension.

A suggestion by Mr Nick Smales, Wandsworth Economic Development Officer, that there was strong support for the bridge and that it would bring significant benefits was met with jeers by the audience.

Mr Edward Reeve, chairman of FREDA, representing 18 Pimlico residents’ associations, said the feasibility study was out of date and did not take account of the new cycle road across Vauxhall Bridge – only 300 metres from the proposed cycle bridge – or the new cycle superhighways. There would be two new Tube stations in Nine Elms so there would be no need for anyone to cross to Pimlico station. Cyclists, he said, would arrive at a virtual dead end if the bridge landed at Pimlico Garden, one of the few remaining green spaces on the river.

Mr Reeve said 4,000 movements of people at peak times would cause traffic jams on Grosvenor Road and more pollution. The £60 million estimated cost of the bridge would turn out to be at least £100 million, money that would be better spent on affordable housing. He said Pimlico was a quiet residential area with lovely garden squares, which should not be “despoiled.” There had not been one word of how the cycle bridge would enhance Pimlico. It would only be detrimental.

So where do we go from here?

The meeting heard that an enormous amount of detailed work probably taking years would have to be done before the bridge could be a “done deal.” Westminster residents would not have to meet any of the costs if the council did not back the bridge and that looks extremely unlikely. Will the next Mayor of London give it his or her crucial support? No one knows. Will Westminster’s objections count? Yes but could be overruled by the Secretary of State.

The bridge looks shaky but Pimlico residents are suspicious of a stitch-up.

See more on 5fields.org

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