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Graham Road closure – updates

by Dundonald Lib Dems on 12 September, 2020

Residents have been shocked at the closure of Graham Road for 18 months without notice

In March 2019 Merton Council approved plans for 177 bed hotel with retail units on Hartfield Road, near the junction with Graham Road (more details here). However, only recently has demolition and building work started.

On Sunday 6 September 2020, seemingly out of nowhere, a road sign appeared saying that Graham Road would be closed on 14 September. No further details were provided. Residents alerted local councillors. Nothing was mentioned in the roadworks bulletins, so Cllr Anthony Fairclough and Cllr Simon McGrath asked Council officers and the construction workers what was going on.

On 7 September, a formal notice of a traffic regulation order was displayed saying that Graham Road would be closed from 14 September for a period of 18 months to support the building work.

Please see below for the latest updates and information from Cllrs Fairclough and McGrath on their work to support residents in opposing this closure.

Latest updates

8 September – letter from Cllrs McGrath and Fairclough to residents on Graham Road

08/09/2020 letter to Graham Road residents from Cllrs McGrath and Fairclough


10 September – email to residents

From: Anthony Fairclough <[email protected]>
Sent: 10 Sep 2020 15:13
Cc: Councillor Simon McGrath <[email protected]>
Subject: Graham Road – proposed closure

Dear all

I wanted to write to update you quickly on my meeting with the Council’s Chief Executive, Ged Curran, about the proposed 18 month closure of Graham Road.

I was keen to stress the anger and disbelief of residents at the way this proposal had been pushed through – without even notice to, much less consultation or discussion with, the people who will be directly affected. I particularly highlighted the necessity of the siting of the site office and toilet block on Graham Road (and the potential alternatives for this) and the prolonged lack of access for residents and emergency vehicles the closure will cause.

He accepted that it should have been obvious that this issue was one where residents should have received notification and been given an opportunity to comment on the proposals, at the very least, given the local authority is a democratic organisation. Communication and engagement by the Highways Team has been something I’ve discussed with him over recent months, and he’s agreed to look at whether there is a wider issue with their approach to residents. I emphasised that it felt very much like residents and councillors had been told different things.

Last night I had forwarded him full details of the issue in advance of our meeting and he’d already asked the relevant senior Council officer to start looking into this from a technical perspective. Furthermore, he agreed my request that proposals should be examined with an eye to changing them to allow at least part of the road to be kept open, and any other mitigation measures that could be offered to people.

I have been promised that I will receive an update tomorrow morning on the Council’s proposal of the way forward. I will let you know when I have further information.

Best wishes

Anthony

Cllr Anthony Fairclough
Dundonald Ward (Liberal Democrat)

PS Councillor Simon McGrath has also been raising with the planning enforcement team the issue of Sunday and ‘out of hours’ working at the site – it needs to be made clear to the construction company that the Council will enforce the controls on the works. So please do let us know if you see or hear building work continuing into the evenings, Saturday afternoons or on Sundays.


10 September – press comment

Cllr Anthony Fairclough said: “This is an awful start to the major building works and people are angry and disappointed.

“It’s not acceptable that Graham Road residents weren’t even told about the plans to close their road for 18 months – much less given the opportunity to discuss their concerns with the Council.

“Even at this late stage we’re hopeful that the Council will revise these proposals to reduce the impact on people’s lives.”


11 September – email to residents

From: Anthony Fairclough <[email protected]>
Sent: 11 Sep 2020 18:00
Cc: Councillor Simon McGrath <[email protected]>
Subject: Graham Road – proposed closure

Dear all

I write further to the Council’s plan to close Graham Road for 18 months at the junction with Hartfield Road near Wimbledon town centre.

Further to my meeting with the Council’s chief executive officer yesterday (full summary below), transport officers had been examining whether they would change the proposals to keep part of the road open (or keep it open at certain times). I had further discussions with officers today, but disappointingly they have reached the decision that keeping, say, one lane open would cause safety issues – because they fear that some drivers would go the wrong way down the one way lane.

They have apologised for the poor way this whole process has been handled and they tell me that they will monitor the site and work “with the contractor to keep the area safe and minimise disruption as far as is possible. We’ll also be considering the recommendations we’ve received from residents with the contractor and seeing what we can implement while keeping the area safe.”

Part of this process is considering revisions to the scheme after the first two weeks and also requiring the contractor to move its toilet and office/’welfare’ blocks – and I am hopeful that this might mean the Graham Road closure will not be considered necessary for the full 18 months. They tell me they will also be looking for opportunities to see if the road can be re-opened early, at least partially (eg after certain times of the day). The attached letter either has or will be delivered to you tonight.

I am personally disappointed not to have better news to bring to you tonight, but this does not mean that Simon and I will give up trying to change and/or mitigate the impact of these plans. Please do let me know if you have any questions and please do pass this email and my contact details on to anyhow who might be interested.

Best wishes

Anthony

Cllr Anthony Fairclough
Dundonald Ward (Liberal Democrat)


15 September – email to residents

From: Anthony Fairclough [email protected]
Sent: 15 September 2020 19:54
Cc: Councillor Simon McGrath [email protected]
Subject: Graham Road – closure

Dear all

I wanted to update you on today’s developments with regards to the closure of Graham Road.

Following further representations from many residents (along with a great petition and on-street protest at the weekend!) the Council has been in further discussion with the developers.

At a meeting today, I was told that:

  • The use of the road would be “paused” for a week, whilst the Council once again considered comments and ideas from councillors and residents;
  • That at the end of the week, councillors would be updated with regards to further measures the Council is proposing with regards to the closure of the road; and
  • That the ‘heavy’ building work will be completed after 9 months and the Council will review whether the street closure is still needed at that point, as much of the materials and office units could be moved ‘on-site’.

The purpose of the pause is to gather and consider evidence and ideas that might be put to them by residents – they have asked that this is done through councillors.

The Council’s position at the moment is that allowing the road to remain open one way would risk accidents as some drivers would use the road the wrong way. I suggested mobile ANPR cameras to monitor the traffic but was told that this couldn’t be organised quickly enough. I also challenged them on the safety issue given that many people have highlighted safety issues with vehicles and recycling trucks reversing back down Graham Road. At this stage, I think any evidence you can give Simon and I of this will be useful (a number of you have already).

Please do share this with other Graham and Herbert Road neighbours.

Best wishes

Anthony


Cllr Anthony Fairclough
Dundonald Ward (Liberal Democrat)


17 September – email to residents

From: Anthony Fairclough
Sent: 17 September 2020 18:54
To: Anthony Fairclough [email protected]
Cc: Councillor Simon McGrath [email protected]
Subject: FW: Graham Rd Newsletter

Dear all

Please see the attached newsletter that Cllr Simon McGrath and I have been told is being delivered to people on Graham Road this evening. The road closure is being removed whilst Merton Council considers the feedback it has received so far on the closure, as part of the “pause” period I wrote to you about on Tuesday.

In addition, thank you to everyone who’s sent me photos, videos and accounts of safety problems on the road whilst it’s been closed – I’ve now submitted this to officers to be taken into account.

Simon and I will continue to seek to resolve this issue.

Please do share this with other neighbours on Graham and Herbert Road.

Best wishes

Anthony


Cllr Anthony Fairclough
Dundonald Ward (Liberal Democrat)


17 September – Joint letter to Council

From: Anthony Fairclough [email protected]
Date: Thursday, 17 Sep 2020, 8:28 pm
To: [Merton CEO]; [Merton Director of Environment]
Cc: Councillor Martin Whelton, Councillor David Dean, Councillor Simon McGrath
Subject: Graham Road: joint letter from Dundonald ward councillors

Dear both

As we’re sure you are aware there has been an awful start to the major building works at the junction of Graham and Hartfield Roads. People are angry and disappointed.

It’s not acceptable that Graham Road residents weren’t even told about the plans to close their road for 18 months – much less given the opportunity to discuss their concerns with the Council.

In the last fortnight, we have had meetings and calls with officers at all levels of the Council – as well as the construction company and the developer – to get someone to listen to people’s concerns and sort this problem.

Whilst we are grateful for the work officers have done to review and revise these proposals, and most recently the ‘pause’ in the works to allow options to be re-looked at, we feel as ward councillors that the closure of the road for 18 months should not go ahead.

We understand that the Council’s position that a complete road closure for the duration of the works is the safest possible option, because if one lane is left open some people might attempt to drive down it in the wrong direction.

However,

  • We have already gathered and sent through numerous photos, videos and the feedback from residents highlighting safety issues caused on the rest of the road by the closure; and
  • The space on Graham Road is simply being used to store the construction company’s materials, deliveries and toilet and welfare block. We do not feel it’s appropriate to use the public highway in this manner, for 18 months.

We therefore ask the Council to find a different solution.

Best

Councillors Anthony Fairclough, Simon McGrath and David Dean
Dundonald Ward


25 September – email to residents

From: Anthony Fairclough <[email protected]>
Sent: 25 Sep 2020 19:31
Subject: Graham Road Newsletter 25 September

Dear all,

Please find attached the latest newsletter from the Council – which was hopefully delivered to you tonight.

Since the last time we emailed you, the councillors for the area including Simon and myself have met with highways officers again to discuss the position of the Council following the “pause” of the works. Disappointingly, the Council are sticking by their decision – the headline is that the full road closure will commence again from 5th October. Page 2 of the newsletter, at least, sets out the consideration of the alternatives and their reason for rejecting them in favour of the full road closure (the discussion of this reasoning was the subject of our meetings with officers).

Ultimately this is a Council decision. (Sadly) local councillors have no ability to force them to change their approach, although all three councillors have objected to both the original decision and the way it was handled, including a joint letter of complaint to the relevant Council director and CEO (text here) and numerous meetings and emails.

They have offered a concession on the length of the closure (originally 18 months) in that:

“The temporary closure will be in situ for a period of 9 months when a full review will be carried out by Merton Council. This review will be carried out with the intention of re-opening of Graham Road. The period of 9 months will allow the developer to substantially complete the structure of the building; upon which there will be the ability for the contractors to move welfare facilities and materials off the highway and into the site.”

We are also told:

“We recognise that during the coronavirus pandemic, deliveries to residential properties has increased. Therefore we will create a larger turning circle adjacent to the road closure at the north end of Graham Road. The Council is also willing to suspend some Pay & Display bays and switch these to resident parking bays to offset the loss of parking capacity for residents with CPZ permits.”

Lastly, at the meeting with officers we were informed that there will be daily inspections of the site, and cleaning of the road. The hoardings will also have images of the development and the work programme.

We still need to resolve the positioning of the toilet and welfare blocks (we were initially told the Council would push for these to be moved) and the use of the area behind the road block.

In a wider sense, we will also be seeking to push for changes in the way the Council implements these type of decisions.

Please do share this information with other neighbours, and if you would like to discuss this directly with me, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we can set up a phone or Zoom call.

Best wishes

Anthony

Cllr Anthony Fairclough
Dundonald Ward (Liberal Democrat)


9 October – note of meeting

Cllr Simon McGrath attended a site meeting between highways officers from Merton Council and Alex Elliott the Barnes Construction Senior Site Manager.

We were told that this meeting was organised to ensure that the construction company understand that they will be held to account if they do not manage the site in line with permissions.   

The meeting covered some concerns expressed by residents:

  • Use of Beulah Road for deliveries – apparently this was only while the site was being prepared and will not happen further.
  • Use of Banksmen while lorries are entering the site – there are 2 banksmen employed on site so there should always be one when an HGV is entering Graham Road. Please let us know (ideally with a photo) if this is not the case
  • Hoardings – there are more hoarding to go up which will hopefully reduce the visual intrusion and perhaps the noise a little
  • Use of the road – we have been told that the Council can charge for the use of the road, and that they are doing so in so far as they are losing parking spaces. 
  • Length of the project – we are concerned that this is a 2 year project, which is why we are keen that the Traffic Regulation Order is properly reviewed after 9 months to ensure that the road closure is only in place for as short a period of time as it actually needs to be – not just for the whole project.
  • Extended hours for work – under the Government’s Covid regulations, developers may apply to local authorities for permission to extend the hours they are allowed to carry out building work. That hasn’t happened here – but we have made it clear to officers that we would object strongly if it was requested.
  • Residents’ contact for the construction company to report problems – Barnes Construction’s website for residents will go live on Tuesday.
  • Turning circle ­–Council officers are looking at the number of parking bays suspended to see if this can be reduced (and they’d also told us they would look at suspending the Pay & Display bays to give more room for residents parking – both of which we will follow up on).

We’ll update you as we hear further. Please do let us know if there’s anything else we can help with.

Cllr Anthony Fairclough
Dundonald Ward (Liberal Democrat)


14 October – email from Council officers in response to our questions

From: [Highways officers]
Sent: 14 Oct 2020 14:59
To: Anthony Fairclough <[email protected]>

Subject: Graham Road – Update 14/10/20

Good Afternoon Councillor Fairclough,

I’ve just returned from a site meeting with Barnes Construction and the traffic management sub-contractor Amberon. A number of issues have been relayed to both Barnes Construction and Amberon and the following bullet points are what were discussed.

Traffic Management

  • Having walked the diversion route I picked up a number of faults to be rectified. One sign had fallen over and another diversion sign had been moved on site. These two issues have been asked to be corrected and also an additional sign for advanced notification of ‘Road Closed Ahead’ at the southern end of Graham Road.
  • I’ve also requested extra sandbags to be placed on top of the existing sign frames as the weather turns worse next week.  

Parking

  • The parking bays outside and opposite number 3 Graham Road have now been suspended to provide a ‘hammerhead’ to assist with the turning of vehicles as requested by the residents of Graham Road. I watched a long wheel base van perform a four point turn which isn’t great but was performed safely and without too much bother.
  • We are currently organising another temporary traffic regulation order to suspend 7 x pay and display bays outside numbers 2 to 14 to provide further parking for the residents of Graham Road. This will be made CPZ only for residents while the road closure is in place.
  • The temporary traffic regulation order won’t be in operation until the earliest the first week of November.

Carriageway Conditions

  • I performed an inspection of the carriageway and there is indeed some minor wheel tracks being carried out of the site which needs to be cleaned. One of the issues we have is the impact on traffic when trying to facilitate cleansing of the carriageway which at present wouldn’t be able to be performed in peak hours. I will be speaking to Barnes Construction again however due to the size of the site, there would be little ability to introduce wheel washing facilities but I will explore further options with Barnes Construction.
  • The access cover reported as sinking is an old Thames Water ‘clover leaf’ style type cover. The surrounding carriageway was showing wear and tear before these works commenced and it is in the general wheel line for buses on the bus lane. This will continue to be monitored and should intervention be required we will issue to Thames Water as a high priority.
  • The manoeuvre’s quoted [HGVs leaving the site] are a 2 stage process. Due to the vehicles having to wait in the bus lane until the area is sterile makes the process slightly slower as the vehicles have to get a wider line to get into the site. The fact that vehicles come in at an angle can’t be helped at present however from observations on site, the manoeuvres are still being performed expeditiously, safely and without conflict to pedestrians, cyclists or vehicles.
   2 Comments

2 Responses

  1. Paul Hickling says:

    The council in addition to losing residents parking at the top end of Graham have in their infinite wisdom taken away 3 spaces at the bottom of the road for the charging of electric vehicles I suggest the minimum the council should consider is to offer free residents parking to car owners in Graham Herbert and Hartfield Roads for 2 years incidentally they have increased the parking charges to over £500 per annum they really are getting good at extracting the Michael out of us

  2. […] pressure from councillors, it was agreed that given the ‘heavy’ building work would be completed after 9 months, the […]

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