Connaught Village Green is a planned new public space that we were involved in initiating, with the Church Commissioners, some years ago.
The plan involves paving over the two parking bays outside Crispin’s with York stone, putting in some seating, flower beds and a drinking fountain, and raising the road table in the area where the pedestrian crossing currently exists. The plan is on display at number 12 Connaught Street until April 2nd, when this phase of consultation ends.
We need to point out that the current proposal by the Council includes a one-way section on Kendal Street westward between the Connaught Street intersection and Portsea Place. We had not asked for this, nor did the Church Commissioners. This is something unexpectedly introduced by the Council. Their reason is that it would be safer for pedestrians. We had asked for a pedestrian crossing at the junction of Connaught and Kendal Streets, which we felt would serve pedestrians much better. Council officers have confirmed that the village green improvements could go ahead without this one-way option. The new pedestrianised area would have to be a little smaller, to allow an eastbound lane to be maintained, and pedestrians could be protected by other modifications such as a bollard to prevent vehicles driving over the paving.
We held a meeting for members at Abasto last Tuesday evening, attended by some 38 of our members. The feedback at the meeting was overwhelmingly rejecting of the one-way section, as it would force even more traffic onto Connaught Street itself, and push traffic through Portsea Place, an area that we hoped would become increasingly pedestrianised.
Other feedback was that fixed benches would only invite people involved in anti-social behaviour to sit there. It was also suggested that flower beds would become dumping grounds, even though the Church Commissioners have undertaken to keep the area clean.
An interesting suggestion was that the local cafes and other licensed premises provide the seating during the day, and remove it at night. They would have an incentive to provide and supervise this as it would increase their capacity.
Some people felt that we didn’t need this green area at all, given the proximity to Hyde Park, and that it would be a waste of Council and Church Commissioner funds when what we needed were more security cameras and a reduction of rates (NB these would involve separate budgets and decision-making processes).
Your HPEA Committee tries to listen to views of members and not to take a stand on matters such as these. We will say, however, that our own traffic studies over the last five years lead us strongly to oppose one-way systems, as they cause a displacement of traffic elsewhere, in our case through residential streets. Research also indicates that traffic tends to speed up on one-way streets, not slow down. We have heard our own Councillors express opposition to one-way streets, so it is hard to understand where this latest addition to the plan has come from.