The New Improved Wallington Town Centre

Today I went to Wallington town centre to take a look at the new urban design work there. Sutton Council’s scheme is designed to make walking, cycling and public transport preferred modes of travel in the area. The work is almost complete so here’s a look at what we’ve got so far.

Although construction is not completely finished, Woodcote Road (the high street) is now a much more pleasant place. It’s a more attractive place to shop and there’s an increase in outdoor cafe culture. Waiting for the bus is now a positive experience and Wallington has become more of a “place” than a traffic corridor.

Improvements include:

  • New paving, which lightens up the whole area.
  • New puffin crossings which can detect pedestrians as they wait and as they cross the road.
  • Removed guard railing making it easier for people to cross the road where they like. Hopefully it’ll also slow down the traffic.
  • A removed splayed junction at Beddington Gardens and a new crossing means that now pedestrians can walk straight across without having to stop half way.
  • New, large minimalist, bus stops have been put in place to meet the demand for high bus usage.
  • There have been changes in parking provision, in some cases parking has been removed on Woodcote road and where loading bays are available, there is a shared space approach, using different tactile paving to delineate the loading bay.
  • Out of date planters have been removed, making the high street easier to navigate
  • In some areas paving has been widened to make pedestrian access easier
  • New street lights which shine downwards, are in keeping with the local architecture and have a pedestrian arm.

A new bus stop

Problems

It was disappointing to see that some stand alone advertising plinths have been kept. Unfortunately they damage important legibility and sight lines, restricting views to the rest of the high street for pedestrians and at the same time take up valuable pavement space.

There is an opportunity cost, what would the high street be like without these advertising plinths? There would be more pavement space, the area would be clutter free and pedestrians would have improved legibility of the area.

The new bench put in place opposite Wallington Town Hall, whilst being a user friendly,  and durably designed bench, is not well positioned. Sitting with my back to traffic, I felt uncomfortable. Having watched where people sit, I find that people like to sit facing activity or a vista, so they can watch the world go by, in areas that are away from traffic and are protected from the elements wherever possible.

Missed Opportunities

While construction is not complete, it appears that the project does not include brightening up the railway bridge. This is unfortunate and would have been an easy win for the council. At the moment there is Andrews estate agents advertising displayed. Walking underneath the bridge is also extremely unpleasant, it is dark and feels unsafe. A fresh coat of paint and some creative lighting could have made this gateway into the high street seem magical.

The cycle stands are also badly designed. They have a letter P and a symbol for a bicycle which is completely unnecessary. Surely it is obvious they are bicycle stands? This level of detail adds too much visual weight to the area and makes the bike stand less user-friendly.

The alleyway between Barclays Bank and Wallington Library while improved with new paving, is still an area for car parking and a loading and unloading area for vans and cars. It would be great to not have parked cars here, but I am aware that perhaps Barclays Bank owns some of the land. This issue needs to be addressed and perhaps part of the project could have included the compulsory purchase of the land by the council.

Possible Future Projects

The constraint of having Wallington station and the railway bridge unfortunately means that improving permeability on Woodcote road is limited. Sutton Living Streets consultation feedback suggested that an entrance to Wallington station could be made on both sides of Woodcote Road, therefore improving permeability.

Click here to see more photographs with descriptions of the improvements to Wallington High Street.

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