THE CHELSEA SOCIETY’S RESPONSE TO
TRANSPORT FOR LONDON’S CONSULTATION
The Chelsea Society does understand that Crossrail2 is being planned to serve London for many years in the future, and not just for the London of today.
The Society fully supports the construction of Crossrail2, but the crucial issue for us is whether the route from Clapham Junction to Victoria should be diverted so as run under Chelsea with a station here, and if so, what impact it would have on the character of Chelsea and its quality of life.
The Managing Director of Crossrail2 confirmed at the public meeting on 22nd October 2015 that if there were to be no station in Chelsea, the line would run directly from Clapham Junction to Victoria.
The Council of the Chelsea Society is required under the Constitution to be responsible for the day-to-day work of the Society and has the power to take action on behalf of the Society as it thinks fit for the purpose of furthering the Objects of the Society.
The Council gave conditional support in July 2014 for a Crossrail2 station in Chelsea on the basis of information then available, but new facts and arguments subsequently came to light and the Society has in consequence been consulting on this issue for most of 2015. Members of the Council met with TfL, with the Borough Council, with “No to Crossrail in Chelsea”, with the Cremorne Residents’ Association and with others. We have held a series of discussion groups with local people, and we held a public meeting attended by more than 200 people on 2nd November 2015.
At its AGM held on 23rd November 2015 a Motion was proposed that “The Chelsea Society opposes the plans to build a Crossrail Station and route in Chelsea.” The Motion was debated and put to the vote, and was carried by an overwhelming majority.
The Council of the Society met on 8th December 2015 and agreed without opposition to adopt the Motion that had been passed at the AGM. Accordingly, the Society’s position is that it opposes the construction of both a Crossrail2 station in, and the route of Crossrail2 passing through, Chelsea. In summary, the grounds for that opposition are:
- No viable business case has been demonstrated for Crossrail2 to be diverted through Chelsea
- The existence of a Crossrail2 station in Chelsea will have an adverse impact on:
- The unique character and traditions of Chelsea
- The residential occupiers in Chelsea
- The small independent businesses that are such an important part of Chelsea
- A Crossrail2 station in Chelsea will inevitably lead to unacceptable levels of development in the vicinity of the station, thereby damaging the traditional village character of that part of Chelsea and threatening the businesses which provide the King’s Road with its unique character as one of the main arteries of Chelsea
- The disruption that would be caused during the period of construction would in itself cause irreparable damage to the character and traditions of this part of Chelsea as well as the potential for damage to the large number of listed-buildings on the safeguarded route
- The Society believes that the great majority of the residents of Chelsea and the small independent retailers in Chelsea do not want or need to have a Crossrail2 station in Chelsea.
The Society expands these reasons below.
WEAK TRANSPORT AND BUSINESS CASE
TfL have advised that it would cost nearly a billion pounds in additional expenditure to divert the line from Clapham Junction to Victoria via Chelsea and build a station at the junction of Sydney St. and King’s Road running down to Jubilee Place. This is a massive sum of money by any standards, and especially at a time when there is so much pressure for extra funding of the NHS and other public services. In addition, many millions of pounds would be required for repairing buildings affected by settlement and compensating for noise, vibration, odours, fumes, smoke and artificial light. In addition, another unquantified sum – likely to be many millions of pounds – would be lost to local people and businesses due to the inevitable disruption caused by construction works.
According to a comparison prepared by TfL for the Mayor of London in October 2015 the overall public transport benefits of the direct route from Clapham Junction to Victoria would be greater than having a station in Chelsea. This is because journey-time savings from Clapham Junction to Victoria for the majority would outweigh longer journey-times for those travelling to/from Chelsea.
TfL also think that the direct route would make Crossrail2 more effective at meeting the objective of relieving the Northern and Victoria lines.
The direct route would also relieve Victoria mainline and tube stations, because many passengers on overground trains from the south would change to Crossrail2 at Clapham Junction instead of continuing into Victoria. Likewise on their return journey.
No interchange benefits would be achieved at the station in Chelsea, and there is no potential for urban regeneration around that station as there would be at other points on the Crossrail2 route. There are no significant areas in the vicinity of the station which have degenerated, or suffered from industrial dereliction.
The main traffic flows on the King’s Road are East-West, but Crossrail2 would be running NE-SW.
It follows that, if the principal case in favour of a diversion through Chelsea is to provide the residents and local businesses of Chelsea with allegedly improved transport facilities, then the views of those residents and local businesses should weigh heavily on the decision.
So far as public opinion is concerned, we do not think that previous consultations can be any longer relied upon as it is clear to us that there is very strong opposition in Chelsea. In our view the fact that a Chelsea-Hackney tube has been considered for a long time is not relevant today to the proposal for a main-line commuter railway such as Crossrail2.
It is true that if a station is not built in Chelsea now, it will be very many years if ever, before the opportunity arises again. We do not think that this is an argument for or against.
We do not think that Crossrail2 is necessary to ensure continuing thriving commercial activity. Chelsea is not a part of London which has such a pressing need for more jobs, business and entertainment opportunities to justify building a Crossrail station here.
Nobody knows how many people would enter and exit a Crossrail station in Chelsea, but if the numbers are large there would be an undoubted adverse effect of the character of Chelsea. If the numbers are small there is no justification for building the station at all.
We are aware that the Council of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is supporting a Crossrail station in the King’s Road. We invited them to a meeting and have listened to their arguments, but we do not find them convincing.
We do not think that there is a good enough business case for the private sector and/or the Treasury to pay for a station in Chelsea.
EFFECT ON CHELSEA
We think of Chelsea as primarily a residential area in central London, valued for its quiet character and the quality of its streets, garden squares and buildings, most of which are good enough to merit conservation area status. There are however parts of Chelsea which do not fit that description. The King’s Road and Fulham Road are important commercial thoroughfares, but they are not the whole of Chelsea.
Crossrail2 would be a mass transit railway with 30 trains per hour in each direction – not the same as the present London Underground. Crossrail2 and the underground would both be running 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Pavements on the King’s Road are narrow and are already congested at peak times. The obstruction of traffic (especially buses) by more pedestrians using Crossrail who would be crossing the King’s Road and crossing the exits from the side streets would bring traffic almost to a halt. We do not therefore think that a Crossrail station would ease congestion or alleviate air pollution, rather the reverse.
It is interesting and rather worrying, that TfL expect that a station in Chelsea would generate 1,000 new “homes.” Where would they be built, and is it not likely that most of them would be occupied not by local people but by the super-rich? We do not want Crossrail to generate more development around the station.
We are satisfied with educational, healthcare, retail, and commercial facilities on a relatively small scale which are compatible with the residential character of the area. We are satisfied that the employment, shopping, and entertainment opportunities available in Central London are within easy enough reach of local people by bus, underground, and taxis, and there is not sufficient need for them to be more accessible.
We do not think that there is a sufficient case for a Crossrail station for the people using and working in the three hospitals. South Kensington station is already close to the hospitals but many patients are unable or unwilling to travel to hospital by public transport. Some members of staff would be reluctant to use public transport at night even if greater efforts were made to ensure their personal safety. They need better car-parking facilities at or near the hospitals.
The Royal Brompton hospital representative said at the public meeting with TfL on 22nd October that vital redevelopment of their facilities would be unacceptably delayed, because the southern part of their land is “safeguarded,” and that if the idea of a station in the King’s Road is not abandoned soon, it could mean the closure of the hospital in Chelsea. We are wholly supportive of keeping these hospitals in Chelsea.
Most of us want easier access to and from mainline stations and airports, but at what cost? What would be the consequences be for Chelsea? Do high-speed communications necessarily improve the quality of our lives?
Most of Chelsea is already within 800m of a station – and TfL have announced an upgrade of the signalling on the District & Circle Lines which will increase capacity by an average of 33%. The great majority of residents in Chelsea are content to walk to the existing stations and to the new Crossrail2 station at Victoria or go by bus, and we do not need another station in Chelsea.
Whenever a new station is built anywhere, it inevitably attracts commercial interest. In our view a Crossrail station in Chelsea would bring increased pressure for development with associated noise, air-pollution, and stress, and with increased upward pressure on prices, rentals and business rates. We think that very few of the small businesses in Chelsea would survive.
We are concerned as to what scale of development above ground would be needed to make it attractive for the private sector to provide enough funding.
In addition to the station itself, two very large ventilation shafts/emergency exits would have to be built and we are concerned that the current proposals suggest that some of the landmark buildings in the King’s Road would need to be demolished and/or redeveloped in order to accommodate these.
We are not confident that RBK&C will necessarily retain the legal power to keep the height and size and design of buildings compatible with their setting in Chelsea, and we are concerned that at some time in the future the Mayor or the Government may decide to overrule them. Would TfL have statutory powers to build without planning permission? TfL have said that they would apply for a hybrid Act of Parliament, which could overrule everybody. TfL have made much of the development opportunities that arise in consequence of the construction of a Crossrail station.
THE CONSTRUCTION WORK
In our view, such benefits as a Crossrail2 station in Chelsea would bring are not sufficient to justify the noise, dust, vibration and disruption of traffic and businesses which TfL say is likely to last 5-8 years – together with damage to buildings and further noise, dust, vibration and disruption of traffic caused by repair works.
We are mindful that all this would be in addition to other unrelated construction works in Chelsea, and that construction work whilst temporary does create stress and pollution which causes long-term effects on health. There is already enough of this in Chelsea, with local residents already facing the prospect of the reconstruction of the Royal Brompton hospital and the redevelopment of the Sutton Estate in Cale Street. People are also concerned about noise and vibration from the tunnelling machines, and thereafter from the trains, as the top of the tunnel would be only 20m below the surface, and rather less below the floor of basements.
There are large numbers of buildings above the proposed route in Chelsea, and 240 of them are listed. It is known that buildings have suffered settlement issues on Crossrail1 at much greater depths of tunneling. If underpinning work to buildings is required, the grouting shafts would be very large and would be open for extended periods causing disruption to local traffic. Many years of monitoring would be required before repair work would be carried out or compensation paid.
The spoil from the tunnels would probably be taken away through the tunnels themselves, but how much spoil from the station excavations and ventilation shafts would have to be taken away by heavy lorries on the surface – how much noise, pollution and vibration would the lorries cause? Where would they go, and would they be loaded and travel at night? Would the King’s Road be closed wholly or in part, and if so for how long? Land on the surface would be needed for construction materials and equipment, and although the old burial ground would not be excavated it would be closed as a public open-space for an extended period. Can we be sure that the mature trees at Dovehouse Green would survive? In addition the Chelsea Farmers’ Market and Garden Centre would be lost, together with existing shops on the King’s Road.
Properties on and near the route are currently suffering from blight (caused by “safeguarding” the route) and the proposed tunnels and surface-work areas would be revealed by a Local Search when properties on or near the route are offered for sale. This has a significant effect on property values and the blight needs to be terminated as soon as possible.
Owners of properties subject to safeguarding notices can claim compensation, but this is only for noise, vibration, odours, fumes, smoke and artificial light. There would be no compensation for loss of business and/or for the effect of road closures, and deliveries and loss of customer-parking.
For all the above reasons “The Chelsea Society opposes the plans to build a Crossrail Station in and for the route of Crossrail to pass through Chelsea.”
D. J. W. Greenish, Chairman, for and on behalf of the Council of the Chelsea Society