Almost five years ago the council launched its ten point plan for Clapham Junction. It was one of those things that was more aspiration than anything. The council had little control over the implementation of most of the ten points, but it did form a great basis for lobbying by creating a coherent vision of what Clapham Junction could be with the implementation of some small, and some not so small, changes; the council had a powerful voice because it was arguing not just for some ill-defined investment, but a series of deliverable improvements.

And the council has had some great successes:

  • Clapham Junction is on the extended Tube map (albeit as London Overground)
  • There are new routes, like the West London Line
  • The East London Line is scheduled to take passengers to and from Stratford in time for the Olympics
  • Lifts are being installed on all platforms
  • A new entrance is being built, with council investment, at Brighton Yard
  • Oyster is accepted at the station

It’s a superb example of how the council can still shape the area, even through is doesn’t necessary have total control over everything in its patch.

But despite all this the station was still named the country’s second worst. So now the council has published its new ten-point strategy:

  1. Complete the East London Line extension to Clapham Junction, to interchange with the West London Line, creating an orbital rail route around London.
  2. Connect Clapham Junction to the Underground by bringing forward the long delayed Crossrail 2 project and an extension to or connection with the Northern Line at Battersea Power Station.
  3. Open a new station entrance to St John’s Hill, in Brighton Yard, to reduce overcrowding and provide step-free access to the platforms.
  4. Improve the station environment and facilities.
  5. Provide new rail services to Heathrow and Gatwick Airports.
  6. Improve the routes between the town centre and the station, and declutter the areas outside the station.
  7. Improve interchange between rail and bus services, with taxis and for cyclists.
  8. Increase the capacity of the station by lengthening platforms and improving access routes.
  9. Improve train frequencies with more Metro-style ‘turn up and go’ services on local lines and all long-distance services calling at the station.
  10. Improve public transport information, convenient ticketing and signage.

It will be fascinating to see the results over the next few years.

It’s nearly two months since Lord Adonis’ big announcement of a £50 million pot to invest in the country’s ten worst stations – and the naming of Clapham Junction as number two on the list.

I was a little cynical, since I think Clapham Junction needs some significant spend on it, and questioned how the cash would be divided. Especially when other, less needy, stations were getting significantly more anyway.

However, it seems Clapham Junction is one of the winners – getting (subject to negotiation) £10 million, 20% of the total pot. Assuming the higher placed stations, like Liverpool Lime Street which was seen as the country’s worst, get similarly big shares the poor stations at the bottom won’t be doing too well!

But while I’m still not convinced it’s enough – it’s a large sum and, spent well, will make an impact. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of it.

Clapham JunctionI commented on the £50 million investment for 10 stations, including Clapham Junction, at the end of last week.

Since then I’ve been trying to find more details. But I’ve failed. There just don’t seem to be any details out there. The best I’ve managed to find is on Martin Linton’s website is a suggestion that Clapham Junction should get a big share, but without any reference to why he makes that assertion.

That details can’t be found perhaps isn’t that worrying of itself. It was only a week ago that it was announced. However, it’s a bit concerning that it’s so difficult to find any reference to how the decisions will be made. Do the individual stations bid? Are they just allocated the cash? What if the stations, collectively, need more than £50 million?

The money is a response to the Rail Champions report. Reading through Lord Adonis’s blog of his tour of the ten worst stations he seems to suggest the problems at Clapham Junction are things like the lack of escalators and that the platform canopies do not cover the entirety of the platform. He also mentions the need for an entrance at bridge level, which, of course, is already being planned (with some investment from Wandsworth Council).

These are the sorts of things that might be changed relatively cheaply. But they aren’t the fundamental problems that need to be addressed.

To my mind, and I think anyone who uses the station, the real problems are capacity – of the tunnel linking the platforms and of the trains serving the station. While the proposed Brighton Yard entrance will go some way to alleviating the pressure in the tunnel it might only be at the expense of new congestion problems on the footbridge, an antiquated structure that I suspect is well overdue replacement. And there’s a good chance that the problems will get worse once pay-as-you-go becomes valid next year, as a huge group of travellers become eligible to pass through the Clapham Junction gates.

Guido Fawkes blog suggests the investment is linked to politics – 9 of the 10 stations are in Labour held seats, and the tenth only became Conservative in a recent by-election – than it is to any serious desire to improve transport. (A counter argument to that, which has some merit, can be found on Hopi Sen’s blog). However, given that less than a week before Putney Station (not one of the worst ten) was announced as getting in excess of £10 million investment it begs the question of whether the £50 million was more about buying PR than a genuine attempt to help the country’s worst stations.

It might be a start, but it’s significantly less than other – considerably less needy – stations are getting. It’ll be interesting to see the details when, and if, they are published.

Lonely: For the speakers at the Business Forum it was a big lonely stage in front of a big audience.
Lonely: For the speakers it was a big lonely stage in front of a big audience.

A few bits that I’ve not posted about separately during the week.

Clapham Junction
This week saw the (superficially) good news that Clapham Junction is to receive some funding for improvements, combined with the bad news – which we all sort of knew – that it’s the country’s second worst station. I’ve not written anything about this because I have been trying, and failing, to get some more information. It doesn’t seem like there’s much out there, just that the total pot is £50 million. Obviously any improvements to the station are good, but my fear is that the amounts suggested are nowhere near enough to make the difference needed. The major problem is congestion in the tunnel, and there’s no easy solution to that.

Wandsworth Business Forum
Thursday saw one of the regular, council organised, Business Forums. I don’t think there are many equivalents elsewhere in the country, but these serve two purposes. Part is information, they usually have a few interesting speakers and part is networking. Thursday’s event saw over 350 local businesses gather at the Wandsworth Palais for an evening largely focused on culture and the creative sector.

A great night, and I understand it continued long after I left at 9pm – and when people linger it’s usually a good sign.

If you are a business and aren’t already on the guest list and getting regular invites you can get more information from the council’s website.

Battersea Poems
Following on the culture theme; this morning I served as the token Philistine on the judging panel for Battersea Poems. There were some excellent poems submitted and going through and selecting the poems for the anthology was a lengthy process. The winners will be notified in coming days and the book should be published in time for Christmas.

It is time for people like me to start getting grumpy as Christmas begins despite being over a month away.

Last night saw the first of our Town Centres turn on its lights with local author Isabel Losada hitting the button at the Slug and Lettuce in Clapham Junction (with some rather bemused passers-by in the background).

I think she did a much better job than I did last year!

There are a number of switch-ons, of various sizes over the coming days and weeks.  One of the key reasons for the lights is to help promote our town centres, so if you are starting to think of your Christmas shopping why not see how much you can do locally?

I’ll confess I was surprised to get a letter today from Asda telling me that they are about to submit a planning application to Wandsworth to build a mezzanine level in their store at Clapham Junction.

Their plan, apparently, includes the creation of 1,229 metres of new retail space, extensive refurbishment and a new customer cafe – making it a significant development.

The main reason I was surprised was because the council would usually hear about something like this fairly early.  However, so far, the first anyone I’ve spoken to has heard about it was from me!  Of course, it might all be fairly straight-forward and good news – they reckon it will create 30 jobs – but we don’t know until the plans are submitted.

The store are running a display over the next three days (Thursday 6 – Saturday 8 August), so if you are in the area and concerned about the potential impact of a development you might like to pop along.

Update As a commented points out, saying Asda have a display probably overstates it somewhat (I took their letter at its word). In fact they have a pile of leaflets on their customer services desk. While I suppose you could call it a display, it’s being a bit generous.

Having said that, it seems the work is largely contained within the existing structure, makig it – I imagine – a fairly uncontentious scheme.

I’ve been a bit slow in following up, but the suggested date is creeping up and now it’s time to choose a venue.

Rather than arbitrarily picking one I’m hoping people will make a few suggestions for me to scout. I don’t want to impose my taste on other people and don’t know exactly where everyone will be travelling to and from.

My inclination is to go for something near to Clapham Junction on the basis that there is plenty of transport there (by train or bus). The twtvite currently has 16 attendees and 6 maybes – a few less than I wanted, but I also know of another half-dozen or so who are coming and haven’t RSVPd on the site.

So, over to you, any ideas for a good venue? Leave me a comment or (and I guess most will go for this option) tweet me.

One of the applicant's drawings of the proposed hotel on Falcon Road
One of the applicant's drawings of the proposed hotel on Falcon Road

As I reported in June the developers had requested the Mayor take responsibility for deciding their application to build a hotel on Falcon Road.

The Mayor has decided that he is content with Wandsworth Council taking the decision, meaning the council’s refusal of the application stands.

Legally, the Mayor has powers to determine applications if they are strategically important enough.  When the council’s planning department recommended refusal of the application to councillors the developers turned to the Mayor, claiming their hotel was of such importance he should be the decision maker.

There is a three step test the Mayor must apply: first, that the application has a significant impact on the implementation of the London plan; second, that there are significant effects on more than one borough; and third, that there are sound planning reasons for intervening.

His decision was that the hotel failed on all three tests!

The developer can still appeal to the Planning Inspectorate – which is the last option remaining to them.  If they do, all objections made to the council will be carried forward.

One of the applicant's drawings of the proposed hotel on Falcon Road
One of the applicant's drawings of the proposed hotel on Falcon Road

Although the application for the hotel was rejected last night the developers are now appealing to the Mayor.

Any applicant has the right to appeal a decision, which will normally go to the planning inspectorate.  This is unusual in that it’s not, technically, an appeal, but instead a request that the Mayor takes responsibility for the decision (and presumably, having taken responsibility, approves it).

I’ll also confess I don’t really understand the motives.  The usual justification for asking the Mayor to rule on an application is because it impacts on his wider London strategies.  It’s hard to argue that London is in desperate need for more hotel capacity.

You can argue that Wandsworth needs more capacity – but that’s a Wandsworth, not a London, matter.

Another reason might be that the application has implications for more than one borough.  Again, it’s hard to see how, the site is some miles from the nearest border with Lambeth, and the size means it’s unlikely to have any effect on any of our neighbours.

I would hope this doesn’t get anywhere with the Mayor.  The developers best way forward is to work with the council to come up with an acceptable scheme, rather than touting the application around in the hope someone will eventually say yes.