Raynes Park Summary of Enhancement Plan - October 2019
RAYNES PARK – SUMMARY OF THE ENHANCEMENT PLAN AS AT OCTOBER 2019
The Raynes Park Association (RPA) is an umbrella organisation comprising residents associations, businesses and other local organisations. We focus on the centre of Raynes Park but will also become involved in matters which affect us across the wider area of West Wimbledon and West Barnes.
Over the past 15 years the association has worked closely with Merton Council (LBM), Network Rail (NR) and South Western Railways (South West Trains as was - SWR). During this time we have assisted in making Raynes Park a more attractive place to live, work and to shop. In this time Waitrose has been built giving us a quality Supermarket at the western end of the town. We also have a Health Clinic together with a small Sainsbury’s and Costa at the eastern end. These developments act as the ‘book-ends’ to our town, where before these areas were unattractive ‘waste’ areas.
Much of what we have achieved has been small changes and many people would not notice them. People are always saying how much better Raynes Park is these days compared with the past, but they can’t recall how bad it was! For example we campaigned for the removal of advertising hoardings on the railways embankments, and subsequently for the management of the embankment central to the town centre. We have worked with the Council to resurface the footpaths in the town and to clear up much of the redundant street furniture. In West Barnes Lane they have created a grass verge and planted some trees.
Tony Edwards, CEO of Place Design + Planning (a town planning company based in West Barnes Lane) has effectively been our volunteer professional advisor and has done a great deal of work putting forward proposals for improving RP.
The railway station is the reason Raynes Park exists at all! It dominates the town, raised as it is on an embankment. We have arranged bi-annual meetings chaired by our MP, Stephen Hammond, to bring together representatives from Network Rail, South Western Railways and the London Borough of Merton. It has always been hard work dealing with Network Rail. One of the inherent problems is trying to get clarity about the differing responsibilities of NR and SWR. They have been slow to respond and have failed to keep promises they make. Here are some of the issues we have tackled:
1) Advertising Hoardings. This has been a success story and we have had most of these removed from the embankments on either side of the station.
2) Managing the Embankments. We have asked for the two embankments in the centre of the town (to the north and to the south of the station) to be planted and maintained. We have had part success on the north of the railway. Some 10 years ago NR agreed to clear this embankment, to terrace it and to plant. Whilst this exercise was successful, the follow-up contract to maintain the area fell through and the embankment soon deteriorated. In 2019, NR again agreed to clear the embankment and to replant. They are doing this in 3 stages finishing in Spring 2020. We are currently in negotiation with NR about the maintenance arrangements offering as a solution that volunteers will care for this area. However, NR have strict rules about public access to this embankment.
3) Main Station Entrance. The entrance to the station is basically grotty. The bridge over the rails of platform 1 is covered with scaffolding because some of the wooden boards above have rotted. The façade is a consists of a dirty stretch of metal which could do with at least a paint. And odd bits of vegetation grow from the surrounds. We have consistently asked NR to do some basic decoration of this area. They have promised to do this, yet nothing has been done.
4) Bridge. The pedestrian bridge over the station is in desperate need of paint. Because this structure stands high in the centre of RP it is an eyesore. SWR put this in to their plans for action some years back, but because the franchise changes, the plans were deleted.
5) Wooden Fence opposite Platform 1. This dilapidated and uncared for fence needs removing/replacing. NR promised to do this years ago.
6) Encroaching Shrubs. In 3 places vegetation from the embankments has encroached public space and is increasing year by year. 1) From the station approaching to ‘Waitrose’ car park 2) on the north of the Skew Arch and 3) on the road between the road bridge and the Skew Arch on the south of the railway. (There was some Japanese Knotweed identified on the embankment to the south of the Skew Arch and this was encroaching on to public land. NR dealt with this effectively.)
7) South Western Railways. SWR have done a fairly good job in tidying and painting the parts of the station which are their responsibility. We have urged them to make sure they provide sufficient bins along the platforms to reduce littering the surrounding areas. We have asked them to erect a notice on platform 1 advising people to move further along the platform to avoid the excessive gap between the platform and the train – they have done this. We have worked with them to maintain a book swap project in the waiting room on platforms 3 & 4. (We have asked them to replace the glass which was broken in the waiting room door.) We have also campaigned (with little success so far) for the enclosed area at the station entrance to be cleared of rubbish on a regular basis. (People use this area to discard their cigarette ends before entering the station.)
8) Kiss & Ride. There is no easy way to drop people off and collect them at RP station. The area at the entrance to the Rainbow Industrial Estate on the south of the station is used for this purpose. This area is untidy and unmanaged. This is used as a general free-for-all car park. As part of plans to rebuild the industrial estate and provide residential units, it has been agreed that this area will be redesigned and be dedicated as a ‘Kiss & Ride’ area. – the money for this will be provided by the developers.
9) Transfer of Land from NR to LBM. Many years ago it was decided to transfer two small pieces of land from NR to LBM. One of these is on the north of the Shew Arch and is not critical, though would be useful. The main area we have been pursuing is the corner of the embankment at the southern entrance to the station as you go towards the bus stop on the north side of the road. The pavement at this point is extremely narrow and is positioned where people wait to cross the road at the traffic lights. It is particularly critical and potentially dangerous in the evening rush hour soon after the arrival of a train when large numbers of people converge in this area. Because of the design of the embankment at this point, the transfer is a simple matter to effect. However, tortuous negotiations between NR & LBM have failed to get this work concluded. We now understand that all agreements have been signed and that the work will take place by Spring 2020.
West Barnes Lane
Tony Edwards has taken a particular interest in this area, not least because this is where his business is situated. We persuaded the Council to remove redundant street furniture and to lay some grass and plant some trees. When Waitrose was build, LBM unilaterally decided to move a pedestrian island thus restricting parking outside the nearby parade of shops. We have campaigned to have a ‘pull-in’ erected by the shops for customers’ use. Tony has costed this in conjunction with Thames Water. We have put in a bid for CIL money attached to the proposed large residential development on part of the Tesco site.
Area to the South of the Skew Arch
This area had become fairly derelict. It is potentially a large area which we see as potentially valuable community space. Tony Edwards has drawn up plans by which the dual carriageway at this point is reduced to single carriageway thus releasing land for community use – there is no need for dual carriageway at this point. (This project would be costly and would require negotiations with TFL over the bus stand.) We have, however, managed to get the Council to agree to removing unnecessary street furniture in this area. We laid astro turf in 2017. This has brightened up the area and, surprisingly, the condition of this turf is still very good two years on. We have in 2019 erected 4 temporary seats constructed from pallets and astro turf.
Removal of Public Rubbish Facilities
On both sides of the Skew Arch there were lines of bins to collect materials for recycling. These bins were unsightly. On both side of the arch they were at a point of entry to the town and did not provide the warmest of welcomes. As with many rubbish area, the bins were often overflowing with rubbish - people leaving rubbish in the area around the bins. It appeared to us that those using these facilities were passing through in their cars and vans. We believed that the regular home and business recycling service is sufficient for local needs. In addition we are aware of the availability of Garth Road recycling centre. We consulted local people and around 80% were in favour of the removal of these facilities. The Council finally agreed to our request and we are delighted that they have been removed. There remains a facility in the ‘Waitrose’ car park and we continue to review this situation.
For the past 12 years we have actively been seeking to promote a Farmers Market in the town. Some 10 years ago we were close to achieving this with the assistance of the London Farmers Market Association. The Council had agreed to provide both water and electricity in the Skew Arch. The plan had been for the market to take over the arch and the area to the south once a week. At the eleventh hour the Farmers Market Association pulled out of the plan on the basis that they deemed the archway to be too narrow to accommodate both the deliveries and the erection of the stalls. RP suffers from a lack of public space to accommodate a market or any other community event. Currently, Simon Greig, who manages a successful market in Wimbledon Village on a Sunday, is looking to introduce a market to RP on a Saturday. His preference is to position the market at the station entrances and the Cattle Arch i.e. where there is the greatest footfall. However, space is restricted at this point. The Skew Arch would provide more space but is not such a well-used route. The RPA is negotiating with Simon and LBM to help resolve the difficulties. (Meanwhile a Farmers Market has recently opened in Wimbledon Chase School on Sundays.)
Raynes Park Business Breakfast
These take place 3 times a year and are jointly managed by the Merton Chamber of Commerce and the Raynes Park Association. These events have been successful and popular, though about half of the regular 30 or so attendees have come from businesses outside the RP area.
Raynes Park Community Forum.
These take place 4 times a year and are attended by between 50 and 70 people. They are managed by the RPA and chaired by one of our local ward councillors. Councillors attend these meetings, as do representatives from the police and from health. These meetings have proved popular as an opportunity for people locally to hear what is happening in their area and also to hold the Council to account. It is interesting to note that this event in RP is by far the most well attended Forum in Merton.
The Raynes Park Association was originally set up to consult opinion across the RP area on the introduction of Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs). Local residents associations had already been consulting their residents and we found it useful to combine our efforts and work together. Around 80% of people did not want the introduction of CPZs and initially we won the argument and LBM decided not to introduce them. Then some roads nearest to the station voted by just over 50% to request a CPZ. The result in the coming years (as we had predicted) was that gradually adjacent roads requested a CPZ in their street as a result of the knock-on effect of the CPZ in the next street. We are angry that the Council has decided to double the CPZ charges for spurious environmental reasons. In terms of the town centre, there is some limited free parking. In addition, the ‘Waitrose’ car park maintains low charges for parking up to 3 hours. We have requested the introduction of 20 minutes free parking. This is already available in Kingston Road on the south side of the railway.
Raynes Park benefits from having various cycle routes converging on the town. This summer a brand new route was opened linking New Malden and Raynes Park on a path adjacent to the railway line. This enters RP in West Barnes Lane. There is also the route from Kingston which comes along Coombe Lane. Both of these routes converge along a dedicated cycleway in the town centre. However, there is no provision for cycling in front of the station entrance. Pedestrian complain that cyclists do not dismount and that they also ride their bikes through the Cattle Arch. LBM have tried to address this issue but have failed to come up with a suitable solution. To the east of RP, there is a pedestrian/cycle route following the railway to Wimbledon. The Skew Arch is available for cyclists and leads along the Kingston Road to a dedicated cycle Lane along The Chase. The section between the station entrance and the road bridge on the north of the railway is a joint pedestrian/cycle path.
Raynes Park One-Way System
Consideration has been given to returning RP to two-way traffic, thus freeing up some land for community use. One suggestion is that traffic would use the current easterly track thus freeing up the road between the station entrance and the Road Bridge. The other option would be to make use of the current westerly route, thus giving Lambton Road for community use. Any such scheme would be costly to implement and may or may not be feasible.
1) Additional Bin by Elite Cars. We have requested an additional waste bin outside Elite cars by the railway embankment. Currently people regularly chuck their litter on to the railway embankment.
2) Coombe Lane – Outside Waitrose. We have requested the deletion of 4 parking spaces on this section of road. The road configuration at this point makes parked cars a dangerous hazard.
3) Junction by Boots. Cllr Stephen Crowe is requesting the phasing of the traffic lights at this point to make it more advantageous for pedestrians to allow them to cross the two halves of the road at the same time.
4) Blocked Gulleys. When it rains heavily a large pool appears by the bus stop outside Starbucks. This results in people waiting at the bus stop and passing by getting drenched by passing vehicles. We have asked for the gulley at this point to be cleared regularly. We have also asked for the narrow gulley between the pavement and the cycleway between the Station and Waitrose to be cleared regularly.
5) Banks. Following the closure of Lloyds Bank, the town no longer has a Bank.
Raynes Park Association
5 October 2019
Chris Larkman, long term member of the Raynes Park Association, shares with us the work that he and others have led and the journey that the association has been on to make Raynes Park a wonderful place to live, work and do business.