Sustrans' £100k London path plans scuppered

Charity urges a rethink from Wimbledon and Putney Commons path objectors

by Mark Appleton   September 18, 2010  

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Plans for much needed improvements to a well-used cycling and walking path in Putney have been scrapped due to opposition from five members of the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators.

The Commons were established under an 1871 Act of Parliament and it is believed the opposition is based on a desire to keep the space in a natural state – in accordance with the Act - with a minimum of manmade paths.

Under the Act, a body of Conservators (five elected and three appointed) is charged with the duty of keeping the Commons open, unenclosed, unbuilt on and their natural aspect preserved. The suggestion is that the Conservators feared that if one path was created, there would be pressure for more and the Commons would turn into more of a park-like environment.

The short path had been proposed by Sustrans with funding from Transport for London. The path through Putney Lower Common is already used by walkers and cyclists keen to avoid nearby busy roads.

In winter the route gets waterlogged and muddy and the charity’s plans would have improved the path with a new surface in keeping with the park surroundings. Transport for London funding had been secured by both Richmond and Wandsworth boroughs to deliver the route in the current financial year.

The Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators, who manage the common, voted against the scheme, and as a result have rejected £100k investment in the local area. But Sustrans is urging them to reconsider, Tom Sharland, Sustrans South and East London Area Manager, said:

”There is a real demand for these improvements to the route. Our plans are sensitive to the local area and the surface and appearance similar to many other nearby paths, including those in Richmond Park.

"We know that people use this route and, with improvements, even more people will begin to use it. And if those people chose to cycle or walk instead of taking the car this reduces local congestion and gives an opportunity for people to join the Mayor’s Cycling Revolution.

"As London leads the way in cycling this decision seems misguided; the Conservators should welcome local investment which improves access to the commons, this particular scheme would also improve access to the common for people using wheelchairs and prams. We urge them to reconsider and give their neighbours the opportunity to enjoy pleasant and comfortable walking and cycling through the Borough.”