Copyright © Southampton Common Forum - 2017

Copyright © Southampton Common Forum - 2017

CURRENT ISSUES - LOVERS’ WALK

In 2017, Southampton City Council submitted a planning application to widen Lovers’ Walk, the pathway which runs down the eastern side of the Common. The application can be viewed on the Council’s planning portal here, by searching for reference 17/00703/FUL.

The proposal

By widening Lover’s Walk and improving the surface the stated aim was to make the route more suitable for cyclists and reduce the risk of cyclist/pedestrian conflicts at busy times. More cyclists might use the route in preference to roads so easing the pressure there. Whilst a map was provided there was no illustration or assessment of the impact of the new path on the Common or its appearance.


Arguments


One of the purposes for which the Forum was established was to enable wider public consideration of proposals that could affect the Common. The Forum has established that there is considerable attachment to the present character of the Common and that the Common’s greatest value is as a place of recreation. The workshops held in 2016 identified user conflicts – and particularly cyclist-pedestrian conflicts – as a major issue to be tackled. It would was appropriate for the Forum to express a view if there was sufficient support within the Forum for the view being expressed.


A majority of the Forum Management Committee considered that the Forum should oppose the application. This was on the basis that most users of Lover’s Walk are pedestrians; that widening the path and improving the surface could actually increase the risk of such conflicts by encouraging cyclists to speed up; that the path would still be too narrow to make a serious impact in reducing road traffic; and that widening the path as proposed would alter the character of this part of the Common without any compensating benefits. The best way to prevent conflicts was felt to to have wholly segregated routes. Before the application SCF had advised that serious consideration should be given to two alternatives:


(a) creating dedicated cycle routes on the Avenue with Oakmount Avenue/Westbourne Crescent/Blenheim Avenue as a temporary alternative (this would also have the advantage of slowing traffic on the Avenue)

(b) a scheme being proposed that would create a separate route over land owned by the University between Burgess Road and Highfield Avenue, using the existing 7m-wide service road and linked by a ramp for the disabled and cyclists to Furzedown Road. This would of course require the University’s cooperation but it may also be relevant to note that a large proportion of the existing users of Lover’s Walk are already connected with the University in some way.


An alternative view was that the application was fully consistent with the principle established by the Forum that the Common is a place that maximises the benefits for the City as a whole , not least in their health and well-being. The Common should play its full part in encouraging and supporting active and sustainable travel through the establishment of appropriate high- quality foot and cycle paths that are sensitive to the natural character of the Common. The proposed modest increase in the existing path width involved a minimal land-take from the Common (approx. 0.014% of its total area). In the upper section (above the current University Steps) high traffic volumes have already damaged the footpath margins so these areas are already compromised and the proposed improvements would stabilise and limit this damage. However the path below the Steps parallel to Furzedown Road should not be widened and other measures should be taken to reduce conflicts, such as better signage. Finally, the opportunity should be taken to review and improve the potentially dangerous crossing and pavement at the north end of Lover’s Walk near the junction between Burgess Road and Glen Eyre Road.


Consultation

The Forum asked its members for their views on the application, for, against or neutral and synthesised these into a formal response to Council.

The Forum’s formal response to Council, based on responses to our consultation can be viewed here.

As of September 2017, the application was still under consideration by Council.