Call To Create Las Ramblas In Wimbledon

Richard Rogers spells out his SW19 vision

Creating Las Ramblas of Wimbledon - that was one of the innovative ideas put forward by Richard Rogers as he outlined his vision for Wimbledon's future this week.

Speaking at the Future Wimbledon Conference, held on Tuesday (September 17) the renowned architect called for a section of The Broadway in the town centre to be pedestrianised to "humanise" the town centre.

And he pointed to the example of Barcelona's most famous street as inspiration for how Wimbledon could appear - if it took the bold step of stopping motor vehicles from going through the heart of the town.

"Planning is all about people. There is an opportunity to make Wimbledon a place for people and more friendly in terms of the built environment, streets and pavements," said Lord Rogers (right), whose designs include the Pompidou Centre in Paris plus the Lloyd's building, Heathrow Terminal Five and Millennium Dome in London.

"Wimbledon is very well served by public transport and, as the new Crossrail will be here, what we're really saying is we want to use less and less cars.

"Within the next 30 years we will see a difference in the use because many areas will be closed to cars and will become public spaces."

The Future Wimbledon Conference, backed by Merton Council and the Love Wimbledon business improvement district, was designed to help shape the vision of Wimbledon for the next generation and to take advantage of the opportunities being presented by Crossrail 2 – which will reduce journey times from the town to the West End to less than 15 minutes.

In his speech, Lord Rogers illustrated two alternatives, one which would see The Broadway pedestrianised on the stretch of the existing one-way section, the second on a longer section.

"There's enough public transport and a wide enough space so that you would have a wonderful high street - we should be removing the traffic from these areas and creating a beautiful Wimbledon Ramblas. There is tremendous potential.

"The landscaping and paving here is currently pretty terrible but with more trees, high quality pavements, places to sit and by greening up the roofs with gardens and trees, it could become a place people come to see because it is so beautiful."

Lord Rogers' suggestions won support from many of the other speakers at the day-long seminar including Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond.

"Richard Rogers pointed out the possibility of road rerouting and since much of Wimbledon’s car traffic is passing through, it is not using Wimbledon as a destination," he said.

"We need to be more inventive to keep away the through traffic from the town centre.

"There are other options but I think Wimbledon naturally lends itself to pedestrianisation and the encouragement of cycling.”

David Dean, senior consultant of GDR Creative, warned against losing car parks, saying they were a driver to economic success.

But he said: "I love what Richard Rogers said about Barcelona and trees. We don't have leafy streets in our town centre and that’s something which is easy to change." (Barcelona's Las Ramblas is pictured right).

Marcus Beale, partner of Marcus Beale Architects, said plans to pedestrianise part of Wimbledon town centre had existed since the turn of the Millennium.

"When we think about a city we shouldn’t get stuck on the buildings - first of all look at the gaps because it’s the people in that space which make it come alive," he said.

"Sooner or later pedestrianisation will happen and imagine that space properly paved as a pedestrian space."

For more on the event and the discussion which took place during the day visit

But local Conservative councillors, who welcomed the debate, criticised the cost of the conference (£295+VAT). They said it virtually excluded local residents from being involved in the event.

Councillor Oonagh Moulton, Merton Conservative leader, said: "Whilst I was fortunate to be invited to the Future Wimbledon conference as one of two Conservative council group representatives, it struck me that other residents weren't able to have their say.

"A vision that is imposed on local people, rather than developed in conjunction with them, is not a vision at all. Instead it is an instruction. Very few of the speakers at the conference, including Merton's Labour councillors, actually live in Wimbledon.

"There is a lot of exciting potential for Wimbledon over the course of the next few years, with Crossrail 2, the additional investment in Tramlink and potential establishment of a new concert hall. Whilst some good ideas were discussed, many residents are right to be deeply concerned at the rather high-handed way the future is being planned for us, rather than with us."

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September 18, 2013