Image above: Devonshire Road Monday 25 July; photograph Matt Smith
Hounslow Council suggests ‘middle ground’ options for partial closure
The possibility of Devonshire Rd being closed to traffic ‘for part of the day … or perhaps for summer weekends’ has been floated by LB Hounslow to businesses in the road and a small, select group of residents.
The ‘stakeholder survey’ carried out over two weeks in May was not sent to residents of the Glebe estate who use the road for access from Chiswick High Rd, only to residents of Prince of Wales Terrace, Devonshire Mews and those who live above the shops in the one-way section at the top of Devonshire Rd.
Councillor Joanna Biddolph has written to residents of the Glebe estate, suggesting they let their views be known direct to the Leader of the Council, Cllr Shantanu Rajawat and Cabinet Member Cllr Shivraj Grewal by email, copied to the director of environment, culture and customer services Victoria Lawson, even though the consultation has closed.
‘Here we go again!’ she wrote. ‘It seems that the pledge to lead a listening council, made by Cllr Shantanu Rajawat, the new leader of Hounslow council, doesn’t apply to the Devonshire Road arrangements.”
The survey was sent to businesses in Devonshire Rd and other ‘stakeholders’. The Chiswick Calendar asked the Council for a list of who these ‘stakeholders’ were, but they have not provided us with that information.
Image above: Road closed to through traffic, summer 2020
Unfinished business from last summer
At the height of the Covid lockdowns the Council banned through traffic on Devonshire Rd, marking out the parking bays as areas where people could sit outside the restaurants to eat.
After a public consultation on streetspace initiatives in which some 10,000 people took part they reversed the traffic ban, retaining only a limited number of parking spaces for outdoor dining and reintroducing access for vehicles during daytime (8am – 5pm).
Businesses in Devonshire Rd were split on the subject. Some, mainly the hospitality businesses, found the pedestrianised road space with people being able to sit outside was good for trade. Others, such as the plumbing business and Frivoli gallery were dead against it, saying their customers couldn’t get to them.
Wider public opinion was also split. Some welcomed being able to use the road again to drive down while others bemoaned the Mediterranean ambiance which had been created and then lost.
Parking remains limited along the road, much to the disdain of many shop owners who say this has impacted their ability to trade.
Announcing the reversal of policy in June 2021 the Council promised ‘further engagement’.
Image above: Space for cars or for pedestrians and cyclists?
Council defends limited consultation
The further engagement proved to be this very limited survey carried out 13 – 25 May which has not been widely publicised and does not appear on the council’s consultation portal.
The survey stated:
‘There are indications that the closure of Devonshire Road for the annual street party and on Sundays for street markets are broadly supported.
‘This suggests there may be a middle-ground option such as the current arrangement, whereby the road is perhaps closed to vehicles part of the day (as in Hildreth Street, Balham) or perhaps on summer weekends (as in Northcote Road, Clapham Junction). Do you think there should be a middle ground?’
The Council defended the size of the survey. Deputy Leader Cllr Katherine Dunne told us:
“We carried out a consultation from 13-25 May, including a wide range of local groups, residents and stakeholders, with the aim of providing a balanced and rounded set of findings.
“We focused our engagement on those who live and work on the road, as they are most directly affected, this included all residents and businesses on Devonshire Road between the junction of Chiswick High Road and Ingress Street (including Devonshire Mews and Prince of Wales Terrace).
“We are reviewing the information gained from the consultation, holding discussions within the council, and will update on the next steps in the coming weeks.”
Image above: Road closed for a street party, pre-Covid
Businesses “unaware” of consultation
On Monday The Chiswick Calendar spoke to traders on Devonshire Road to see how they had answered the Council’s survey.
Of the business owners and managers people I spoke to, most were unaware the survey had been carried out and said it was the first time they’d heard about it personally.
Anna, who manages the clothes alterations tailor shop Stitching Room searched the business’s inbox and couldn’t find the survey. She asked me if I could email her the link so she could see what questions had been asked. Asked what she would change about Devonshire Road’s traffic measures, if anything, Anna said:
“I’d be happy for [the road] to close during the summer, it’s good for the cafes but not for us. Nobody in the winter will be eating outside I think.”
She criticised the “confusing” signage too, as well as the seemingly broken traffic wands in front of her shop which people often try to park on despite this not being allowed.
Vinoteca’s General Manager, Will, said he didn’t recall the survey but Vinoteca’s head office would have dealt with it anyway. He said the outside space for extra tables “has been an absolute godsend” to the restaurant. He said he’d be happy to compromise to have some parking but would prefer to keep the tables outside every day.
Image above: Broken traffic wands outside the Stitching Room on Devonshire Road
Removing parking “a massive f*** up”
Sheleen, who works in clothing shop Wild Swans, said she was unaware of the survey but would be happy with a middle ground to allow restaurants to spread out into the street. But she said “the whole thing with the parking was a massive fuck-up” and parking should be allowed all the time at the top section of the road closest to Chiswick High Road because “[cars] stop at the top of the street because they don’t know if they’re allowed to drive down”.
Claire who works in Top Hat dry cleaners, said she’d lost count of the amount of people who’d come in asking for businesses’ opinions and “nothing changes”. She said the tables which restaurants have outside “are empty all day every day, all this space is for nothing” and added customers were still unable to park nearby to bring in larger items, such as duvets, to be cleaned.
The manager of Lark, Jiannina, new to the road this year, said she wasn’t aware of the survey but would support a middle-ground option, “that way, everyone would be winning” she said.
AALondon Gallery’s manager Hugo also said he hadn’t heard of the survey. He thought the road should go back to the way it was prior to 2020.
“Clients have been complaining and I’ve lost a lot of passing trade, I don’t put my paintings outside” he said. He also criticised the signage for people who don’t regularly ue the road “when you come up the road, because there’s so many signs, do you drive or do you read? It’s too confusing”.
Colin who runs Oldtown Deli didn’t recall the survey either. He said he had “no faith in Hounslow Council” because the measures along the road were “awful”. He supports reverting the road back to purely parking spaces. He said this was because some places weren’t even using their allocated space for tables, so it was pointless.
Antonio, who runs Beehive cafe (one of the cafes not making use of their outdoor space), said parking allocation had been given to every eligible business along the road except for him – meaning he was legally unable to put tables and chairs outside. He was unaware of the survey too. He said he would be more than happy if the road was pedestrianised or if it went back to pre-2020 parking. He doesn’t think half measures are working for anybody.
We also approached the Glebe Estate Residents Association for comment, but have not heard back from them yet.
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