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Rebuilding Bishopsford Road bridge: about the project

We know many residents have questions about the Bishopsford Road bridge rebuilding project and its progress, so we have answered the most common questions here.

Why are you changing the boundary of Ravensbury Park?

To accommodate the northbound segregated cycle lane to modern standards, the boundary of Ravensbury Park will be moved 1.4 metres back into the park, and the boundary wall will be replaced by metal railings, similar to those on the opposite side of the road for the National Trust land. The trees near the cycle lane and boundary will be need to be removed, and more trees will be replanted.

Why do you have to remove healthy trees?

To rebuild the bridge and improve access for pedestrians and cyclists, we will need to remove some trees – however, we will be replanting 26 new trees to replace the 23 we need to remove.

They are not all healthy trees. Of the 23 to be removed, half are either dead or in deteriorating condition. You can read the full independent survey here.

The report lists of all the trees surveyed, including species, age and condition, and a map of exactly where they’re located.

Why can’t you keep the trees and have a cycle lane too?

There simply isn’t enough space – the width of the road required and the alignment of the bridge mean we can only add a cycle lane by moving the boundary of Ravensbury Park back by 1.4 metres.

The trees overhanging the cycle lane and the road would be removed or cut back during normal circumstances to avoid the risk of branches falling onto the road.

We are not proposing a permanent removal of trees – the existing trees would be removed and more would be planted (see above).

Why do we need to add a cycle lane?

All our infrastructure should be designed to promote and support healthy lifestyles and active transport. In May and June 2020, residents and others responded to the initial designs of the bridge. Responses included requests for cycling infrastructure and for a safe design. This is set out in the consultation feedback.

Why can’t the road lanes be made narrower?

The road lanes proposed along Bishopsford Road Bridge are 3.74m wide. These are narrower than the previous bridge, where the carriageway was 3.9metres wide. This width is needed to accommodate wider loads and larger vehicles, which will also need to use the bridge. The speed limit is 20mph.

Have you talked to the National Trust about this?

Yes, we have been engaging with the National Trust since the very start of the project. We’d like to thank them for their help in facilitating us to proceed with the demolition and replacement bridge throughout this project.

It is important to note that we would not propose expanding the bridge to the east even if we owned the land – it is a designated nature reserve of important value locally:

  • it is home to some large, mature trees we would not want to remove;
  • widening the bridge further may increase the risk of flooding and harm river ecology
  • and widening the bridge would involve widening the approach to it on both sides, which would reduce the space for pedestrians and adversely impact local residents.

In May and June 2020 residents and others responded to the initial designs of the bridge. Responses included requests for cycling infrastructure and for a safe design. This is set out in the consultation feedback and in the planning application Design and Access Statement. Following this feedback, the bridge and surrounds were redesigned to accommodate cycling infrastructure

You haven’t listened to residents views, why not?

We have absolutely listened to residents’ views, and amended the design as a result. We consulted on the design between May-June 2020, and feedback about safe design and additional cycle facilities was taken into account and resulted in an amended design to accommodate cycling infrastructure.

We now need to get the job done. The most overwhelming messages we’ve had in the past 12 months – through social media responses, letters and consultation feedback – is that the majority of residents just want it done as soon as possible.

I have been told that the bridge doesn’t meet cycling design regulations published by the Government in July 2020?

It does. In summary, the new guidance recognises that shared surfaces between pedestrians and cyclists aren’t ideal but can be used where there isn’t enough space, such as on bridges and underpasses. Section 6.3 of the guidance sets out how to design a shared surface and Merton’s design fully complies with this.

Why are you demolishing a historic wall?

The proposals are to replace the wall with a railing similar to those bounding the National Trust land on the other side; this will help pedestrians and other park users to have greater visibility around the natural area and not have a footpath shrouded behind a high wall.

The Met Police responded to the proposed design and specifically referred to the removal of the wall as helping to reduce the chance of crime, fear of crime and avoidance of the area. You can see the comments here. The red brick wall that runs along London Road (western side) is believed to date from the 20th century.

Why have you not done an Environmental Impact Assessment?

The size and scale of this project does not meet the threshold set out in the EIA regulations, so an EIA is not needed.

We’ve fully considered, assessed and mitigated all aspects of the environmental implications of the proposal, including soil contamination, ecology, trees, wildlife (bats), flood risk and archaeology. All the technical reports are available here.

What about the bats that live in the area?

It is well known that the green and open spaces around the river Wandle are home to many bat species. Surveys checking for the presence of bats were carried out by qualified ecologists in May 2020. The survey report is available here.

It highlights that the area along the river Wandle is a “commuting route” for bats, and five different species were seen using the wider area but were not identified to be roosting in the structure itself.

The survey recommended that four bat boxes must be installed on suitable neighbouring trees and that night-time works that illuminating the river at night should be avoided; all of which we will ensure.