Author: Kate Williams
It is interesting that so many people seem to start discussion on this subject from an assumption that the Junction needs some sort of regeneration or improvement in terms of the buildings that currently exist. If one looks at the 700+ responses to the Twin Towers debate on the Wandsworth website, however, it is startling how few people really seem to think that the present buildings should be demolished – many love the Junction the way it is. Whilst no-one could possibly argue that the present buildings are lovely, they are functional, well maintained and inoffensive. Meanwhile the area continues to prosper and improve with more new shops and services all the time.
Indeed, the overwhelming complaint relates to the station itself and the intolerable levels of overcrowding and unsafe conditions, particularly on platforms 15 – 17. There is also some level of objection, which I personally strongly share, to the traffic situation around the crossroads by the station entrance.
The former is most certainly Network rail’s responsibility to deal with and the Council should be pushing for Network Rail to stop avoiding its responsibilities here. Some improvements will happen this year with the opening of the Brighton yard entrance which should take quite a lot of the present flow from the West of the station and therefore ease the overcrowding in the underpassage. (Indeed, one of the reasons we objected to Metro’s application was because it would have cut station entrances from the planned three back to two thereby failing to capitalise on these benefits.) However, there is still much that can be done to provide enhanced access to the platforms and possibly link St John’s Hill with Winstanley Rd for non-station users, either by increasing the numbers of overbridges/underpassages, or by widening the existing ones. In addition, Network Rail must address the platform straightening issue on platforms 15-17 to provide a safer method of training and de-training passengers.
In an ideal world, a regeneration of the Clapham Junction area would consist of a fabulous new station complex on the site of the existing buildings South of the tracks on the model of Birmingham New Street. This would recognise the function of the site as a station, and allow a reasonable development of additional office and retail facilities without creating the eyesore of high rise residential blocks. The site should easily justify such a development based on passenger numbers, and I believe that this should remain our aspiration.
Turning to the traffic situation around the station, this again is the subject of ongoing improvement plans through the Council’s Exemplar project. I don’t know how this project currently stands, but if it goes ahead this should prioritise pedestrian movements around the junction creating safer and more amenable atmosphere, removing some of the present clutter and freeing up pedestrian flows. It seems incredible that it has taken so long for this scheme to get off the ground and it should now be pursued with all expedience. As a further enhancement, the Council should looking at creating a proper bus station North of the station to provide a proper transport interchange.
It seems to me that these structural improvements will do far more to enhance conditions at the Junction than any new development of residential or hotel blocks.
I would welcome your comments.