‘Rushed’ traffic consultation

Local residents have been given no assurance that traffic plans involving the closure of the Judd St / Euston Rd junction will be re-modelled, following last week’s public meeting.

Councillor Phil Jones has told Marchmont Voice that further design work may be undertaken after the local elections – but is only one of a “range of options open to us”, including implementing the scheme as currently proposed. No decisions are likely to be taken “until the summer or beyond”. The current consultation, which many local residents have described as rushed and incomplete, closes on Sunday March 20th.

At the meeting – one of three consultation events about the scheme – local residents highlighted a long list of limitations in the traffic modelling carried out by TfL and LB Camden so far, and said more time should be taken to properly assess the impact on levels of local traffic and air quality. These included the failure to take into account the impact of the Tavistock Place one-way trial scheme, or to consider the possible closure of Gordon St due to the HS2 works, if they go ahead. Traffic planners were also urged to model the possible alternative of using Mabledon Place as an exit onto Euston Rd, and to take into account the effects of the proposals on a wider area. The consequences for ambulances travelling to University College Hospital were also raised.

Local councillors say the 20th March deadline was set to get the consultation done before the start of the ‘quiet period’ that limits Council activities ahead of May’s local elections.  It’s also understood that backers of the scheme within the Council were anxious to get in budget bids before the Mayoral election. But they have admitted there were problems with the distribution of information about the consultation and that this will be better next time.

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UCL comes out in support of new Tavistock Place cycle lanes

The Marchmont Association has no standing view on the new scheme but, given its influence, this looks significant from the University…

UCL President and Provost Professor Michael Arthur has written to LB Camden “strongly welcoming” the scheme and calling it a “a major step forward”.  He makes the point that UCL is “one of the largest institutions in the Borough of Camden, with over 38,000 students and 11,000 staff” and claims that “the changes to the Tavistock Place and Torrington Place cycle lanes are providing a safer means of cycling to and from the campus, as well as creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment by removing a large number of vehicles.”

Here’s how UCL imagines the Gordon / Torrington Square section looking in the future. Which is a lot neater than now.

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Bloomsbury Squared and Rooted

A Bloomsbury wide Trust to manage the network of historic squares and green spaces that so characterises our area is in the planning – after local businesses refused to support a proposal to pay a special levy for the upkeep of local greenspace.

The new plans have spun out of Re-thinking Parks, a three year research project  undetaken by think tank NESTA, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, in response to anticipated heavy cut backs in local authority funding for parks.

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The research concluded that public parks need to diversify their funding sources to fill the gap created by local authority cuts, find new partners, and look for ways of making cost savings that won’t be at the expense of people’s enjoyment. The ideas from the 11 case studies – spread across the UK – included mobilising the skills and energy of business, using less intensive planting techniques and tapping into the public’s willingness to give both time and money.

The Bloomsbury case study was about setting up a parks-focused Business Improvement District (BID) as a way of raising extra funds. In a BID, local businesses pay a levy for a fixed period of five years, which is then used for local improvements. BIDs are already well known, but none are specifically focused on parks. The proposed Bloomsbury Squared BID was based on a 1.5% business levy on properties with a rateable value of over £60,000, and could have raised over £4m over 5 years.
But when over 300 local firms were surveyed, there was very little appetite for the idea – partly because of the overlap with the existing ‘Midtown’ BID that covers Bloomsbury, Holborn and St Giles. The idea has now been abandoned – but has led to the organisations involved setting up a working party to llok into the Trust idea. So far the Trust includes reps from LB Camden, the University and community groups – including the Marchmont Association. Businesses have expressed support for specific activities, such as one-off donations and employee volunteering.
Perhaps that was always the most likely outcome – though the problem of finding substantial new income  still remains. With the fortunes of so many local businesses linked to the quality of the local environment, Marchmont Voice wonders whether their reaction was not a tad short-sighted.
Next steps include a forthcoming study day on 7th May, organised by Bloomsbury Squares and Gardens, to trace the history of the squares and look to the future.

North Sea Fish refurb

Leigh St has been on something of a winning streak in the Marchmont Association’s annualshopfront awards – the last two years have seen wins for ‘Vital Flowers’ and the ‘Pitted Olive’.

Staking an early claim to keep up that trend must be the North Sea Fish restaurant – where work has just completed on a stylish refurbishment. The false bay windows have gone, replaced by a smart modern look that also much more closely matches the first shop fronts from the early 19th Century design. Built between 1810 and 1830 these properties would have been residential with street-front ‘parlours’ originally. The conversion to the first retail use coming later in the century. The North Sea has been here since the early 80s.

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Traffic schemes – public meeting 10th March

Camden Council has announced a pubic meeting to discuss the various traffic schemes proposed for our area – the Midland Rd / Euston Rd / Judd St junction; the North-South Cycle Super Highway; the Brunswick Sq proposals; and the Kings Cross Gyratory (see previous blog).

For some reason the Council is requiring everyone who plans to attend to make a reservation. Those wanting to go are asked to submit names in advance to LB Camden traffic planner Darren Barton at darren.barton@camden.gov.uk.

Barton, who is the design engineer for the Midland Rd scheme, said:

“We have received feedback that the various proposals have caused some confusion on how these schemes would impact local residents. To help explain the projects and how they interact, we have organised a public meeting on Thursday 10 March at 6.30pm at our new offices in Kings Cross (5 Pancras Square).”

Other officers from LB Camden who will be in attendance are Simi Shah (Joint Acting Head of Transport Strategy) and Dan Tait (Design Engineer – Brunswick Sq / North-South Cycle Superhighway).

Representatives from Transport for London will also be there.

Details of each scheme can be found online at the following links: https://consultations.wearecamden.org/culture-environment/midland https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/cycling/northsouth?cid=cycle-north-south https://consultations.wearecamden.org/culture-environment/brunswicksquare https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/kings-cross-gyratory