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Lord Rogers calls for Las Ramblas in ... Wimbledon

By Paul Norman - Thursday, September 19, 2013 8:48

Lord Rogers has called for sections of The Broadway in the town centre to be pedestrianised in the manner of Barcelona's famous Las Ramblas to “humanise” the town centre.

The leading architect was speaking at the Future Wimbledon Conference, held on Tuesday.

Rogers pointed to the example of Barcelona’s most famous street as inspiration for how Wimbledon could appear if it took thestep of stopping motor vehicles from going through the heart of the town.

“Planning is all about people. There is an opportunity to make Wimbledon a place for people and more friendly in terms of the built environment, streets and pavements,” said Lord Rogers, whose designs include the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Lloyd’s building, Heathrow Terminal Five and Millennium Dome in London.

“Wimbledon is very well served by public transport and, as the new Crossrail will be here, what we’re really saying is we want to use less and less cars.

“Within the next 30 years we will see a difference in the use because many areas will be closed to cars and will become public spaces.”

The Future Wimbledon Conference, backed by Merton Council and the Love Wimbledon business improvement district, was designed to help shape a vision of Wimbledon in the future and to take advantage of the opportunities being presented by Crossrail 2 – which will reduce journey times from the town to the West End to less than 15 minutes.

In his speech, Lord Rogers illustrated two alternatives, one which would see The Broadway pedestrianised on the stretch of the existing one-way section, the second on a longer section.

“There’s enough public transport and a wide enough space so that you would have a wonderful high street - we should be removing the traffic from these areas and creating a beautiful Wimbledon Ramblas. There is tremendous potential.

“The landscaping and paving here is currently pretty terrible but with more trees, high quality pavements, places to sit and by greening up the roofs with gardens and trees, it could become a place people come to see because it is so beautiful.”

Lord Rogers’ suggestions won support from many of the other speakers at the day-long seminar including Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond.

“Richard Rogers pointed out the possibility of road rerouting and since much of Wimbledon’s car traffic is passing through, it is not using Wimbledon as a destination,” he said.

“We need to be more inventive to keep away the through traffic from the town centre.

“There are other options but I think Wimbledon naturally lends itself to pedestrianisation and the encouragement of cycling.”

David Dean, senior consultant of GDR Creative, warned against losing car parks, saying they were a driver to economic success.

But he said: “I love what Richard Rogers said about Barcelona and trees. We don’t have leafy streets in our town centre and that’s something which is easy to change.”

Marcus Beale, partner of Marcus Beale Architects, said plans to pedestrianise part of Wimbledon town centre had existed since the turn of the Millennium.

“When we think about a city we shouldn’t get stuck on the buildings - first of all look at the gaps because it’s the people in that space which make it come alive,” he said.

“Sooner or later pedestrianisation will happen and imagine that space properly paved as a pedestrian space.”

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