A recent Council proposal to secure Heritage Lottery Funding to pay for several changes to Tooting Common has received a mixed response from residents and has raised questions over their potentially negative environmental impact.
The Heritage Lottery Funding will pay for the refurbishment of Tooting Lido, the Woodfield Pavillion and the water fountain at the end of Dr Johnson Avenue. Subject to public consultation, it will also be used to pay for the closure of Dr Johnson Avenue, which cuts across Tooting common, the introduction of a no right turn on Elmbourne Road, which runs along the northern edge of the Common, and the felling of an avenue of mature chestnut trees which runs from Tooting Bec Road to the café on the common. These trees would then be replaced with saplings.
Sadiq Khan, MP for Tooting, said: “Several elements of this Heritage Lottery Bid have been welcomed by my constituents, but other elements, namely the road closures and the felling of trees, have caused great concern.
“Our green spaces are hugely valuable, as carbon sinks, for air quality, for quality of life and for mental and physical well-being, and I share the concerns expressed by many residents that some of the current plans do not sufficiently consider the possible negative environmental impacts they will have on the common”.
Residents are currently being consulted on the Council’s plans to use Heritage Lottery Funding to pay for the closure of Dr Johnson Avenue and the introduction of a no right turn on Elmbourne Road.
Sadiq Khan said: “My fear is that, without proper traffic modelling, the environmental impact of this proposal could be detrimental as cars find alternative routes through more congested, residential roads, or longer routes, leading to traffic build-ups and worsening air quality. We know that cars are most polluting when they are moving slowly and making regular stops”.
Currently cars travelling from Furzedown North to Balham and beyond have two obvious options – to turn right on Dr Johnson Avenue, or on Elmbourne Road. In the event that these roads are closed or restricted, residents are likely to either drive further round the Common, to use Garrads Road in Lambeth, queue at the already congested junction at Tooting Bec, or cut through using residential roads.
Sadiq Khan added: “I am similarly concerned that the removal of an avenue of 80 mature trees, which act as carbon sinks, could adversely affect air quality and the ecology of the common”.
Chestnut Avenue, which Wandsworth Council is proposing should be felled and replaced with saplings
The Common is home to a number of wildlife species that may be adversely impacted by the felling of trees. Stag beetles are a protected species that lay their eggs in dead wood, whose numbers are declining nationally. “By replacing mature trees with saplings, rather than allowing some trees to die naturally, I am concerned that the stag beetle’s natural habitat is being removed. We know that Tooting Common is also home to several species of bat and that mature and veteran trees provide roosting opportunities and have the potential to support nesting birds."
Residents can respond to the consultations on Dr Johnson Avenue online here: http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/DrJ.
Local Labour councillors in the wards affected have called a public meeting, on March 22, to discuss the proposals and highlight the areas that residents are concerned about.
Wandsworth Council has said that consultation on the removal of the trees of Chestnut Avenue will be launched shortly.