Hackney Council has announced its formal objection to Transport for London (TfL) plans for an updated Old Street roundabout, following concerns that a new large seating area at its centre would become a hub for antisocial behaviour.
The Town Hall has also protested at the fact that, due to the removal of a subway entrance under the new plans, travellers would have no option but to use a pedestrian crossing over six lanes of traffic to enter the borough, which borders one side of the roundabout with Islington skirting the other three.
A report by Aled Richards, Hackney’s director of public realm, recommending that councillors formally object to TfL’s plans warned that reduced accessibility from the station would harm Hackney’s ‘Tech City’ businesses, and suggested a green roof for the new structure, instead of the public seating in the middle of the busy transport hub currently proposed.
Richards wrote: “The management of the seating area above the proposed station entrance has not been considered properly and the seating area is likely to allow antisocial behaviour.
“The provision of the large public seating area is inappropriate in an area
with low air quality and has the effect of limiting the visual prominence of
the main station entrance when viewed from the northeast.
“The proposed public realm and landscaping is an enhancement over the
existing but is considered to be a missed opportunity to achieve a really
high quality public space.”
Though the Town Hall did “welcome” the fact that TfL’s current plans provide dedicated cycle lanes, more “clarity” for pedestrians and the addition of a lift in a glass enclosure to the station entrance, the council’s planning subcommittee accepted Richards’ recommendation and voted to object to the plans this week.
Cllr Feryal Demirci (Lab, Hoxton East & Shoreditch), deputy mayor and cabinet member for health, social care, transport & parks, said: “While we welcome the overall improvements to cycling facilities, which are much needed and long overdue, the proposals as they stand do not reflect the calls we made last year for more cycle parking, more tree planting and high quality public spaces.
“Instead, they leave Hackney residents and commuters with longer journey times and even more traffic flowing into the borough following the closure of one arm of the junction, which could have a significant economic impact on Hackney’s businesses. We’ll continue to work with Islington Council and TfL on the proposals.”
Islington’s planning committee will consider the plans in the summer, with the project currently slated for completion by the end of 2020.
The south east arm of the roundabout will be closed in May to allow for construction work on the first of two new station entrances as part of the plans.
A TfL spokesperson said: “Our work at Old Street will remove the outdated, traffic-dominated roundabout and transform the area to make it safer and much more welcoming to people walking, cycling and using public transport.
“We’re working closely with Islington Council to secure planning permission for the main station entrance and lift as soon as possible and will continue to work with Hackney Council on the scheme.”