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In March 2014 Enfield Council carried out a public consultation, using a vehicle parked in Green Lanes, with the aim of discovering what residents of Palmers Green thought about the town centre and what improvements they would like to see to the "public realm".

Model used for Palmers Green consultationA hundred people attended the consultation sessions, filling in a questionnaire, annotating a map and using a "Planning for Real" model of Palmers Green town centre to focus their thoughts.

A report based on the consultation exercise was expected to be published by Summer 2014, but to date this has not happened. However, in August I submitted a Freedom of Information request with the aim of finding out why the report had been delayed and what the survey had revealed.

A batch of information was duly provided in September. As the documentation appeared to suggest that the report's publication was only delayed, not cancelled, I initially held off posting any details of the information that was released. However, as we are now approaching the end of October, I have now decided to make the information public.

The key information provided in the FOI response is a copy of the draft report as at 5th September and photocopies of the individual questionnaires filled in by members of the public. However, the foreword to the draft report indicates that in addition to information gleaned from the questionnaires, the report writer has taken into account views expressed by people who stopped by and spoke to the consultation facilitators but did not fill in any forms.

Recommendations

Based on the views expressed during the consultation exercise, the Council officer responsible for drafting the report drew up the following recommendations:

  • The 'town like feeling' and sense of place should be underpinned through public artwork, outdoor seating areas, more greenery and improved pedestrian environments, particularly on Green Lanes
  • The requirements for parking on Green Lanes should be further evaluated (and additional consultation undertaken) to ensure that parking is located correctly and that it can be integrated with cycling proposals and proposed additional greenery, while also addressing concerns from residents regarding lost parking spaceBetter, safer cycle lanes should be created within the area – having designated cycle lanes may help to reduce problems with cyclists using the pavements on Green Lanes and Aldermans Hills
  • Further improvement proposals for the area around the Triangle should be developed, to ensure that this location remains a focal point in the area and becomes a place for 'people rather than traffic'
  • The feasibility of suggested traffic calming measures and parking management in residential roads should be further evaluated
  • Potential improvements to crossing points and new crossing points in proposed locations should be further investigated
  • The potential for improving and moving the existing market to a more visible location (possibly using the wide pavements on Green Lanes) should be explored
  • High quality ornamental planting areas and tree planting should be introduced in key locations such as Green Lanes, Aldermans Hill and the Triangle. This can help to create 'green links' from the high street into existing green spaces.
  • Potential 'quick fixes' such as repairing potholes, gating alleyways and more policing in locations which suffer from antisocial behaviour (for example the area around the station, Fox Lane and the Lodge Drive car park) should be identified, while more complex issues such as the requirement for parking and cycle lanes are evaluated further
  • The resident suggestion to expand the street play scheme on Devonshire Road (drawing inspiration from earlier schemes by organisations such as 'Playing Out') should be explored.

Report findings

The main part of the draft report is made up of sections describing "consultation themes" and "key locations". These two sections are reproduced in full below.  Please bear in mind that this is only a draft.  We do not know whether the final report is due to include additional sections, nor do we know whether the writer is/was planning to look through the source data again and possibly make some changes.

 

Consultation Themes

Sense of Community

Respondents talked about a 'town like feeling' and that there is a community spirit, together with a diversity of facilities in the area for people of all backgrounds and cultures (15% commented on this). Residents are positive about community events such as the Palmers Green Festival, and they feel that the area has significant potential to build upon this, possibly through more events in locations such as Broomfield Park or by extending the existing market. However, some residents feel that the area has changed over the last few years, and for this reason features such as the Triangle have become ever more important to retain a sense of place and historical connection.

It was felt a better public realm could help create identity for the area and a feeling of community. This would be achieved through improvements to the Triangle and through high quality seating areas and more greenery on Green Lanes. It was suggested that this also may help to attract more independent shops, bakeries and butchers etc. 'rather than betting shops'.

30% of respondents suggested that the amount of betting shops is one of the key problems in the area. Residents also suggested that the lack of facilities for young people in the area needs to be addressed, since this leads to them congregating and loitering in certain areas, particularly around McDonalds on Green Lanes, the Triangle and the Lodge Drive car park.

Several residents commented on the historical value of impressive Victorian/ Edwardian buildings on Green Lanes/Aldermans Hill, but felt that these need to be better maintained, and that the appearance of shop fronts needs to be controlled – 'be firm, do not allow horrible shop fronts that destroy original features'/ 'Ban more betting shops, protect the older buildings in the area'.

As mentioned, Palmers Green Triangle is also seen as a key historical location that needs to be protected and improved to remain a high quality landmark for the area, for example through new public artwork. "We love the Triangle, its sense of history and community - it is a focal point in the area.

Antisocial behaviour

There are problems with antisocial behaviour in certain areas, and it was suggested that a higher police presence and more lighting is needed, particularly in areas such as the Lodge Drive car park. This location, together with alleyways at the back of Green Lanes/Hazelwood Lane and Devonshire Mews were said to be linked to issues with drug dealing, and some residents (7%) commented on that this made them feel unsafe and caused them to avoid these locations at night. In addition to this, alleyways and hidden spaces at Green Lanes/Hazelwood Lane, Devonshire Mews, Devonshire Road, Osbourne Road, Springfield Parade Mews, Windsor Road, Fox Lane and along the New River also suffer from fly tipping.

Several residents pointed out problems around Old Park Road, such as littering and a wall that has collapsed onto the pavement.

Traffic and transport

Many respondents were concerned about that the area has high volumes of traffic and problems such as speeding, and some suggested drastic measures such as turning the entire area (including Green Lanes) into a 20 m.p.h. zone to make the area more pedestrian friendly.

There were many comments that Green Lanes is particularly problematic, with 'car drivers speeding and not indicating', but residents also suggested traffic calming measures on Aldermans Hill, Fox Lane, Devonshire Road, Bourne Hill, Hedge Lane, Hazelwood Road, the Grove and Park Avenue. Several pointed out problems on Hazelwood Lane, and requested that speed humps are installed in this location.

There are also problems with rat runs and speeding on roads such as Devonshire Road and Old Park Road, Lodge Drive, Cranford Avenue, Broomfield Avenue and Hawthorn Avenue.

44% of respondents talked about the need for improvements to the traffic system, whereas 26% suggested that traffic calming measures on residential roads are required.

It was felt that Palmers Green has good transport connections (10% of respondents commented on this). The railway station is a hub for the area, but the narrow pavements between the station and Green Lanes are a problem, and some felt that the station needs to be better integrated with the rest of the town.

Parking

The opinions on parking in the area were divided – some residents would like to see more parking, whereas others feel that too much importance has been given to vehicular traffic in the area – 'Traffic dominates the area' .

Some suggested that additional greenery could help alleviate the problem, if trees are integrated into parking areas to green the area up and help give it a more pedestrian feel. "There's too much emphasis on traffic. Pedestrians have rights too."

Several respondents commented that the existing 'parking on Green Lanes is excellent', but some (20%) also added that they would like to see parking improvements, more free parking or cheaper fees since 'expensive parking stops you popping into local shops'. Others suggested that the 'pay and display' system works well, since it makes shoppers park for a shorter period of time which is healthy for business.

Residents also commented on issues with parking on side streets such as Riverway, Hazelwood Lane, Windsor Road and Fox Lane. It was suggested that 'one hour parking restrictions on residential roads' would be suitable or a CPZ of some form with residents parking permits, since people park here and walk to the station or Green Lanes.

Cycling

The opinions on cycling in the area are divided – of the people who commented on cycling 70% said they would welcome the proposed Cycle Enfield improvements , whereas 30% have concerns about the proposed new cycle lanes. Some feel that new cycle lanes are crucial for the area - 'I would like to see designated cycle lanes everywhere'. Current problem spots for cyclists include onstreet parking at the Lodge Drive junction, which create dangers for cyclists, and the Bourne Hill junction, where there is no safe crossing.

It was also mentioned that new cycle paths down to the New River are required.

However, others point out problems with cycling such as 'cyclists going through red lights on Green Lanes' and 'people cycling on pavements' on Green Lanes and Aldermans Hill.

Few respondents were against cycling improvements altogether, but some will only support new cycle lanes if no parking spaces on Green Lanes are lost. Some also felt that cyclists need to be separated from pedestrians and motorists, and for this reason they are concerned about more cyclists on Green Lanes.

Provision for pedestrians

It is felt that central Palmers Green is very traffic dominated at the moment, with many barriers hindering pedestrian movements, poor pedestrian crossing provision and wide junctions with vehicular rather than pedestrian priority.

Residents pointed out the need for more crossing points on Green Lanes, and brought up several areas of pedestrian/vehicular conflict such as the Triangle, Palmers Green Station, Hazelwood Lane, the crossing at Broomfield Avenue/Broomfield Lane and in particular the Bourne Hill/Green Lanes junction. It was felt that this junction is unsafe for both pedestrians and cyclists, and people would like to see improvements here. 26% of respondents suggested that this is one of the key issues in the area.

The wide pavements in the area were mentioned as a positive feature, since they create potential to encourage outdoor seating areas and a 'cafe culture'.

This was also mentioned as a possible new location for the existing market.

However, some (10%) felt that the pavement surfacing is in need of improvement, since cracked paving slabs create trip hazards, particularly on Aldermans Hill. Several point out that they would prefer paving slabs rather than asphalt, however this would need to be reviewed in light of the Council's Streetscape Policy and Guidance 2012.

"Create an area where people will want to come on foot and stay"

"It would be really lovely to put the 'green' into Palmers Green"

Green Space

Many respondents (29%) commented on green structure in the area. Most residents are positive about the 'peaceful green spaces' in the area such as Broomfield Park, Grovelands Park and Hazelwood Recreation Ground, but feel that there is not sufficient greenery on the streets at the moment, and that this needs to be addressed.

Comments from residents focused mainly on Green Lanes, The Triangle and Aldermans Hill and included 'We need to get some greenery back into the town centre!' / 'lots of low maintenance plants along the shopping area would block some of the views and fumes from traffic and encourage restaurants and cafes to make better use of the outside space.' / 'Create a boulevard of trees along the shops'

There are however some concerns as to how additional tree planting will affect parking space on Green Lanes, and this will need to be further evaluated as proposals for the area are developed. Some respondents also mentioned that newly planted street trees on the side streets in the area have died, and felt that it is key that any new specimen trees needs to be replaced by similar sized trees immediately should there be any such issues in the future.

Key Locations

The consultation included comments for many areas, however the following locations stand out as places of particular interest, both with regards to existing issues and suggested improvements, but also for their potential to contribute to a high quality public realm in Palmers Green.

The Triangle

Many residents suggested that this would be an ideal spot to create identity for the area and to form 'a focal point for people rather than traffic'. It was felt that this could partly be achieved through the new clock tower but many also felt that public art would be appropriate. It was suggested that more greenery needs to be introduced on the Triangle to replace the removed tree – this does not necessarily need to be a replacement tree, but could be raised planters or other planting areas.

Of residents who commented on the Triangle, 96% would like to see some improvements, whereas only 4% were against changes to the Triangle altogether.

Some creative suggestions were put forward, such as extending the Triangle so that the road only runs on one side to create wider pavements and room for trees, bike parking and outdoor seating areas. It was also suggested that a shared pedestrian/vehicular space could be created. However, it was felt by others that any such measures would reduce vehicular flow and aggravate existing traffic problems. Others suggested improvements to the traffic lights and crossing points to make it easier for all users to cross.

Green Lanes

Green Lanes is very important for the area, but residents commented that the high street has declined over the last few years due to the type of shops and the state of the public realm. A large number of residents (33%) commented on the need to attract different types of shops such as new start ups, independent shops and pop ups such as temporary art galleries.

It was felt that the public realm on Green Lanes is key to 'bring back charm and character' to the area, and suggestions included more greenery and tree planting, lighting, more places to sit and less clutter and advertising. As mentioned, some residents commented on the potential to create more of a 'pavement cafe culture' and pedestrian friendly area by better utilising the wide pavements. It was felt however that better control is needed of how the pavements are used by shops, since at the current usage makes the area look 'cheap looking' and 'grotty'.

Traffic is seen as a key issue for Green Lanes, and comments were made that introducing a new 20 m.p.h. zone would improve the area significantly, together with better crossing points and traffic calming measures such as build outs and shared surfaces at certain locations such as the Lodge Drive/Green Lanes junction. This junction is currently seen as dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, and residents would like to see improved crossing points in this location. Respondents also suggested that improvements for pedestrians are required at the Bourne Hill/Hedge Lane/Green Lanes junction, and that this junction has potential to become a gateway into Palmers Green.

Parking is a key issue for this location, however respondents have mixed views – please refer to the 'parking' section of this report.

Fox Lane

Fox Lane and the adjacent railway bridge were pointed out as particular problem areas by residents. This location suffers from antisocial behaviour such as noise and rowdiness, fly tipping, dog fouling, drinking and drug use. Due to this, people commented on that they don't feel safe here, particularly at night time.

The railway bridge is deemed very problematic, since the corrugated metal walls give it an unpleasant feel and creates blind spots. Residents requested more policing in this location, for the walls to be replaced by transparent fencing and for additional lighting to be installed. It was felt that gating alleyways may alleviate problems.

Devonshire Road

Devonshire Road has a number of issues, including litter dumped from commercial premises on the street, rat running to avoid the Triangle, fly tipping around the garages at Devonshire Close and antisocial behaviour.

Nevertheless, residents in this road appear to be actively engaged in improving the local environment, and are looking to start a street play scheme for local children.

Aldermans Hill

Aldermans Hill was seen as an important entrance point into the town and an opportunity to create better links between Green Lanes and Broomfield Park, potentially by creating a 'boulevard of trees' and other planting areas.

However, some residents commented on traffic speeds and would like to see the speed limit lowered. There were also concerns about the condition of the paving slabs in this location, and some residents commented that they don't feel safe walking along Aldermans Hill due to antisocial behaviour. Suggestions for resolving these problems included more policing and secure bike lockers.

Hazelwood Lane

Hazelwood Lane was pointed out as a problem area due to speeding and dangerous driving, making it difficult and unsafe to cross the street. Residents suggested lowered speed limits, and would also like to see residents only parking, along with improvements to paving surfaces.

There were also reports of fly tipping and littering, and requests to have the alleyway to the back of Green Lanes closed off.

Hedge Lane & Bourne Hill

These roads suffer from speeding and dangerous driving, and it was suggested that speed limits need to be lowered. Respondents also requested more, better regulated car parking at the junction of Hedge Lane/Fox Lane, and it was suggested that more trees and greenery is needed on Bourne Hill and Hedge Lane.

Osborne Road & Windsor Road

Several residents reported problems with potholes in these locations, and would like to see paving surfaces improved. There were also reports of antisocial behaviour such as illegal dumping and irresponsible dog owners. Some residents suggested that these roads should be made one way streets due to conflicts when cars are trying to pass in both directions.

The following material from the FOI response can be downloaded:

 

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Rebecca Singh's Avatar
Rebecca Singh posted a reply #474 26 Oct 2014 16:58
Hi Basil - I've just joined the PGC website and saw your update/post on improving Palmers Green and the info you got from the FOI request. I was just wondering if you know where it all goes from here? And at what point the 'recommendations' (which I agree with wholeheartedly) become a plan and who will be tasked with implementing that plan? I'm keen to be involved in any way I can.
Basil Clarke's Avatar
Basil Clarke posted a reply #475 26 Oct 2014 19:02
Welcome to PGC, Rebecca.

Good question, and wish I knew the answer.

If you dig back into some of the earlier articles on the Palmers Green Town Centre Improvements page you'll find some background and some clues as to how things might progress. In particular read the article dated 29th June.

Look also at the discussion thread about "Cycling and Cycle Lanes" and the document that shows how the consultation process will work when "Mini-Holland/Cycle Enfield" is implemented.

"Mini-Holland" and the Palmers Green Public Realm Enhancements are intimately connected because it is the cycling improvements money from Transport for London that will be used to improve the general environment in Green Lanes (and elsewhere in the borough).

This will be the second stab at improvements to PG town centre. Two or three years ago the Council was planning various improvements and there was a public consultation - the responses are on this page of the website . There were some interesting ideas put forward by a group called Improving Our Place - in fact, I think they may have been responsible for triggering the whole process (and they in turn were triggered by the loss of the magnificent horse chestnut at the Triangle). Anyway, that all fell through because no money was available.

This time money will be less of a problem because of the TfL Mini-Holland money. However, Mini-Holland itself is extremely controversial. The Council's first idea (and probably still their preference) was to put cycle lanes right through PG on both sides of the road, with a certain amount of "light segregation". This proposal is fiercely opposed by people who don't want to see any reduction in road capacity and particularly any reduction in roadside parking. The anti-cycle lanes campaign is being led by the Green Lanes Business Association and the N21 Online website - both are concerned primarily about potential loss of custom for shops along Green Lanes if customers can't park nearby. This is a legitimate - though not necessarily well-founded - concern, but the propaganda put out by this group is sometimes of questionable accuracy.

The two extreme views are, crudely put, on the one hand, optimise conditions for cyclists by giving them lightly segregated cycle lanes all the way from Enfield Town to PG; on the other hand, leave things as they are along the A105 and send the cyclists along back streets. But there are also people, myself included, who don't much like either of these. I would certainly like fewer noisy and smelly cars and more quiet and clean bicycles in Green Lanes, but as a pedestrian I think that two lanes of high-speed cyclists and two lanes of cars would be more of a barrier to crossing Green Lane than the present generally sluggish car traffic. And to boot, the proposals would do away with some of the pedestrian refuges, at least one bus stop and various bus lanes.

What I and others are looking for is a solution that works for all street users - pedestrians, shopkeepers, cyclists, drivers, bus passengers, and people stopping for a chat with friends in a pleasant environment, with a bit of bustle yes, but not overly polluted by noise and poisonous fumes. I'm not sure what that solution would look like - shared space is a concept that might be appropriate, but might present problems for disabled people.

As I understand it, consultation on the Enfield Town-PG cycle route will begin imminently, but only involve a few chosen "stakeholders". By the time the Council publishes its amended plans, it may be too late to make any significant changes. So if anyone has any innovative solutions, the time to speak is now.
Colin Younger's Avatar
Colin Younger posted a reply #476 26 Oct 2014 20:54
One of the areas of controversy, apart from the question of car parking, is that of the fate of the Palmers Green Triangle. Traffic planners have long wanted to replace the large pedestrian island (a "traffic splitter" in their terms) with a simple T-junction. Removal was part of the mini-holland bid.The recent consultation however indicated a significant degree of support for its retention and improvement.

The Triangle has been denuded of the (diseased) huge horse chestnut, the railings around the disused public toilets (which might yet find a new home protecting the Broomfield Park conservatory), large planters and (perhaps?) some seating. Strangely, promises of re-planting and a general greening up have failed to materialise. The triangular clock is the only addition, though that is not without controversy. Personally I think in retrospect that it would have benefited from being taller, and perhaps being in a slightly different position, but that is hindsight, and I know that there are issues with regard to the lighting lay-out of the whole area which constrain this.

There have been mixed messages from councillors and officials over the last year about the future of the Triangle. Whether the Triangle could be improved and retained in some form of "shared space" scheme remains to be seen, but the tenacious hold that removal seems to have on the mind of traffic planners may be an indicator.
Karl Brown's Avatar
Karl Brown posted a reply #477 27 Oct 2014 10:42
Basil, if I may, one minor correction: Improving our Place and its identified benefits from a social-centric Triangle and improvements to the nearby shopping areas predated the loss of the chestnut tree; and the ideas didn’t fall through, rather than agreement was that Palmers Green would become a priority investment area once Ponders End and Meridian Water were taken care of, and then subject to capital availability, ie we are now where we hoped we would be, indeed via the successful Mini Holland bid, getting there far earlier than I had personally expected. The largest risk currently seems to me to be losing that goodwill, and hence investment potential, through a focus on individual trees rather than the collective wood.

Town Centres are far from areas of purely commerce. That is perhaps the first area on which to reflect. Transport hubs, social spaces and a whole lot more.

There are then some much bigger issues resulting in very wide strategic themes which will inevitably impact on any decisions. Why for instance do we have extremely aggressive (80% reduction by 2050) CO2 targets and fresh, closer, ones emerging only last week. Why is London threatened with fines of hundreds of millions of pounds due to air quality breaches – and hence premature deaths. Why, last week, did Public Health England highlight that 1 in 6 UK deaths is directly due to inactivity, even suggesting simple changes to lifestyle such as – wait for it, and leading with – cycling to the shops. Mental health effects, I believe, 1 in 6 of us at some stage, possibly the biggest health cost to the UK, and its biggest cause is apparently loneliness. And then we read the NHS risks financial meltdown.

If I can quote for a rather splendid group of papers now emerging from Changing London ( www.change-london.org.uk ), this one “ A Fair City”

In the late 1800s policymakers began to realise that designing and building homes, streets and public places with due regard to sanitation and public health had a direct impact on the fitness and wellbeing and especially on the economic productivity of the nation. A series of public health measures were enacted which were radical at the time but which today we take for granted.

We know that the built environment also influences the way we interact with one another and so affects our mental wellbeing as much as our physical health, but still planners in the UK largely ignore this dimension. The parent of a primary school child, for example, knows how their local network expands and improves when they join the school gate fraternity. A peer network evolves sharing knowledge and, often, practical help. Just as the school gate brings together people with common interests and concerns so too do allotments, places of worship, local shops, outdoor markets, cul de sacs and even shared dustbins. We can design social interaction into the places where we live or we can design it out.

It’s a complex mix now being assessed within PG. What I would ask is for everyone to stand back, drop their own personal hobby-horse - and we all have them – and think the big question. What exactly are we trying to achieve, holistically, and then consider the various strands now in play. It’s not an easy one and there are a lot of bricks being thrown which tend not to assist.

It now appears that another wide ranging and informed set of thoughts has been provided to the Council which you have surfaced for all to assess. Far better, as much appears to be, a focus on what people want PG to be rather than the main attention being what it shouldn’t. That’s easy, change is hard. Let’s see what comes out of this latest raft and in the meantime perhaps there are visions out there of how PG could look like which could be shared on the Community web site. Personally I like the idea of designing in social interaction, probably more attractive to recruiting and retaining shoppers than parking spaces, but like everyone else in this one, I don’t have the data to make the claim.
Basil Clarke's Avatar
Basil Clarke posted a reply #478 30 Oct 2014 15:11
This week's Enfield Gazette carries a report on the publication of the survey data by this website . It also includes the response to the publication by Enfield cabinet member Chris Bond, who is quoted as saying that the responses will be considered along with those from two upcoming consultations - on Cycle Enfield ("Mini-Holland") and on Quiet Zones.
Rather disappointingly, Councillor Bond doesn't say whether or not the Council is planning to publish the survey findings, just that they'll be considered...
Holly Bothwell's Avatar
Holly Bothwell posted a reply #495 07 Nov 2014 15:54
Thank you very much for posting this, Basil - the summaries provided contain such a lot of positive comment and pride in the area from the residents surveyed, more so than I'd have dared hope for. Fingers crossed that the Council decide to publish their findings henceforth, instead of you needing to extract them through FOI requests!

Rebecca, one thing that may help you become more involved in the process is to write in support to anyone who will listen. I assume that your representative in Parliament is David Burrowes MP. He is not in favour of the current Mini Holland proposals and seems quite happy so far to swallow the line from the Green Lanes Business Association, which is a pity - and one thing you can do is write to him directly to remind him that he represents you, not just the GLBA. Mr Burrowes is broadly in favour of improvements to the environment for pedestrians, and I know him to be familiar with and supportive of the work of Living Streets, but he may need a gentle reminder that these proposals are designed to make our streets more liveable. You may also like to take some time to correct any troublesome misinformation that ends up in local newspapers. None of this will have much effect on the Council departments who are tasked with carrying out the work, but it certainly might discourage them from handing the money back, which they have sadly done before. Supportive voices and constructive criticism will go a long way.

As Basil says, the Mini Holland proposals are going to be what brings us the money to pay for improvements to Palmers Green across the board, so it's important that the dialogue is not dominated by a single group protecting its own interests - especially when their concerns about imminent ruination are not borne out by evidence from any town, borough, or area that has made changes to improve the walking and cycling environment.
Rebecca Singh's Avatar
Rebecca Singh posted a reply #516 11 Nov 2014 13:40
Holly thanks for your reply and I'm sorry I did not see it sooner (still getting used to navigating the forum). I will as you suggest write to My Burrowes and the Council and anyone else for that matter. Thank you.

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