On 15th June I was invited by Cadogan to discuss their ideas for improving the streetscape of Sloane Street, and on 14th July I walked the whole length of the street with Cadogan’s Chief Executive, Hugh Seaborn. There was a public exhibition at 135 Sloane Street during the period 6-9 July, and RBKC issued a “Newsletter” giving an outline of their ideas. See https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/sites/default/files/atoms/files/Sloane%20Street%20Newsletter.pdf
We are fortunate that Cadogan as a major landowner in the street, and RBKC as the highways authority, are willing to spend time and money to improve this, one of the most important streets in Chelsea, and they deserve a constructive response.
- Junction with Knightsbridge
However, the proposals do not mention the issue which causes most concern to local people, namely the traffic jams at the northern end of the street where it joins Knightsbridge. All too often the northbound traffic tails back as far as Hans Crescent and even beyond, and it is much quicker to walk than to stay on the bus.
The Chelsea Society believes that RBKC, TfL and Cadogan should work together to alleviate this problem by removing the traffic lights at the junction with Basil Street and making Basil Street one-way westbound. Southbound traffic on Sloane Street would be prohibited from turning right into Basil Street. In addition, Sloane Street together with its pavements may be wide enough between Basil Street and Knightsbridge to accommodate an extra northbound lane for traffic turning into Brompton Road, and a left-turn filter would be added to the traffic lights at that junction.
Perhaps the opening of this dialogue about Sloane Street will lead to something being done about this long-standing problem.
- Three Sections
In relation to the proposals outlined in the RBKC Newsletter the street is divided into three sections
1. Commercial section in the North
2. Residential and garden section in the centre, and
3 Commercial section in the South.
The starting point for policy is in our view the Hans Town Conservation Area Proposals Statement (January 2000) which states at page 46 “Sloane Square branches off southwards from Knightsbridge in a long uninterrupted vista line towards Sloane Square. The most characteristic visual element of the street is the long expanse of the mature gardens of Cadogan Place on its east side. In addition, the sense of openness of the street is established by the generous pavement and road widths.”
- Width of Pavements
There is a proposal to widen the pavements still further (and therefore narrow the carriageway) in the central section, but we do not think there is any need for this. The pavements are wide enough for the pedestrian traffic in that section, which is limited because there are no shops in this section and there are buildings on the west side only. Many people travel from the northern section to the southern section and vice versa by bus.
We have heard no complaints that people find it difficult to cross the road. There is a long view in each direction and there are pedestrian crossings at the north and south end of the central section. Two small pedestrian refuges could however usefully be installed in this section of the street.
Another argument made for narrowing the road in the central section is to reduce the speed of traffic, but we do not see excessive speed as a problem on Sloane Street, and not many people wish to cross the road in the central section. There are some types of car and motorcycle which attract attention by making a lot of noise without going very fast, and the police are already taking action in this vicinity against irresponsible motorists.
During the day vehicles are often parked on the single yellow lines on both sides of the street for short periods notwithstanding the prohibition. Narrowing the road at this point would restrict the flow of traffic and cause increased journey-times and more air pollution. Currently visitors park there out of controlled-hours without obstructing traffic-flows. We do not see this as a problem, but if the road were narrowed it would cause obstruction.
There are proposals for raised carriageways at the junctions with side-streets, but we do not think they are necessary and they are not particularly attractive. We are not aware of a high rate of accidents at these junctions involving pedestrians. Drop—kerbs for wheelchairs and baby-carriages are all that is required.
- Appearance of Pavements
The pavements are important features of the street, and we agree that they are looking shabby owing to lack of maintenance. They could be re-paved, preferably with York Stone, and where particularly wide, the expanse could be broken up with paving of a different colour or pattern. We would wish to be consulted before the colour and pattern were chosen and would not wish to see extravagant patterns such as in Exhibition Road.
In the wider sections of pavement flower beds and seating could be provided but we would wish to be consulted on the colour and design.
If flower beds are provided it is essential that they are properly tended and that Cadogan accepts permanent responsibility for this, as poorly maintained planting is unsightly.
There is a visible linear distinction between parts of the pavement in public and private ownership, but these need to be permanently maintained as an integral unit by agreement between the landowners and RBKC. Regular maintenance is again important.
- Street Furniture
There are a number of modern telephone kiosks in the street, which are of an unattractive design and are badly maintained. They are no longer essential in the age of the mobile phone, and should be removed, or replaced with traditional boxes of Gilbert Scott design.
The existing heritage bollards should be reinstated into a vertical position and repainted.
Telephone kiosks and telephone junction cabinets, litter bins, a bicycle rack and a grit box have been sited at random without any thought to their appearance or the convenience of pedestrians and they need to be re-sited, or removed if redundant.
Essential traffic signs could be attached to a convenient lamp or traffic-light post instead of having their own post adding clutter to the pavement.
There are some maps on posts which are useful, but they should be sited on the bus stops. There are two very large and ugly black boxes on the pavement outside George House in the southern section, and these should be relocated.
The street lighting is of functional modern design and provides adequate light. It is not essential to make any change – particularly at public expense, but if any changes were to be made it would be useful to see a range of alternative designs from which could be chosen lamp installations which are more in keeping with the traditional appearance of the street, whilst providing the required amount of light. They should continue to be black.
The Hans Town Conservation Area Proposals Statement mentions that “Sympathetic tree planting is effective in nullifying the overpowering effect of the imposing buildings which line the thoroughfare and help minimise the disruptive effect of the incessant through traffic.” There are many attractive trees in the street, but there are some gaps which could be filled with suitable trees provided they do not significantly obstruct the light to nearby premises.
There are some trees in the northern section which could be moved or replaced if they are causing obstruction. It would not be suitable to have flower beds around the trees, and protective fencing around trees should be removed, except for trees not yet established.
The Chelsea Society welcomes this consultation and looks forward to future dialogue with Cadogan, RBKC, and TfL. To the extent that public money would be expended we would wish to see the costings in order to form a view on whether the expenditure would be justified.
Planning Committee Chairman