Is it always good to share? Pedestrianisation of our streets

The trend is to turn our roads into plazas for the pleasure of shoppers and drivers, discovers Richard Warren
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Exhibition Road, a shared space in South Kensington
All barriers down: in Exhibition Road, a shared space in South Kensington, pedestrians and drivers must show mutual respect
Pedestrianisation is part of the grand plan for London's future. One bonus of banishing cars from a street is that homes along it, and in many side roads, see a jump in their value of up to 10 per cent, according to figures released exclusively to Homes & Property.

The research, by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), shows pedestrianisation adds most value to properties on or near streets that were previously considered unsafe, polluted and congested, says its head of policy Jeremy Blackburn.

An obvious example is the 2010 transformation of Braham Street in E1, from a busy, four-lane section of the former Aldgate East gyratory system into a 160 metre-long park, which gave an immediate boost to local property prices.

"Local authorities are beginning to realise the benefit of pedestrianised areas," says Blackburn. "An increasing number of urban developments will include the re-landscaping of a central area to accommodate pedestrians and increase the space available for social amenities and activities."

A single shared surface is planned for Harlesden High Street
Roads and pavements will be replaced by a single shared surface in Harlesden High Street from next year
Removing cars from a section of the High Street in Harlesden, in northwest London, is likely to have a positive impact on nearby home values of up to four per cent, RICS considers. The local council, Brent, has begun replacing existing road and pavements along a 150 metre long stretch of the street with a single surface, and cars will be barred along it from next year.


An increase in traffic in side streets can result from pedestrianisation because vehicles have been pushed off the main road. Also, pedestrianisation adds little or no value to homes in already prime residential districts. People are so eager to live in the Fulham Broadway area, for example, that making shopping a more pleasant experience by removing cars becomes only one of many factors that makes the area desirable, the RICS survey shows.


In addition to pedestrianisation, councils and developers are creating "shared spaces", such as Exhibition Road in South Kensington, where existing roads and pavements are replaced by a single surface that both cars and pedestrians can use.

Braham Street, E1
Part of Braham Street, E1, was transformed from a busy gyratory road system into a stretch of park
On some streets, such as Mount Street in Mayfair, roads are being retained, but pavements are being widened and public seating and art works are being installed, while clutter, such as unwanted signs, are being removed, to make the space more welcoming to pedestrians.


Making roads pedestrian-friendly has become a priority in many of the large scale regeneration projects coming to fruition. One such scheme is the redevelopment of Elephant & Castle in south-east London, where the developer, Lend Lease, will introduce green open areas and turn roads into shared spaces as part of a 15-year, multi billion-pound plan to create new housing, shops and offices on a major 55-acre site.

Kevin Golding-Williams, policy and public affairs manager at Living Streets, a charity promoting pedestrians' interests, says if pedestrian-friendly streets are more attractive, it encourages people to walk. "They become more integrated places where people walk and talk to local traders. Businesses benefit from being accessible to all members of the local community and people feel more confident with other people on the pavement with them."

Thurloe Street, South Kensington
Thurloe Street, South Kensington, where critics say recent pedestrianisation has seen shoppers replaced by non-spending “strollers
Following the paving-over of Carnaby Street in 1973, the number of pedestrians using that road increased 30 per cent and shopkeepers saw profits rise.


Property consultant Simon Barnes is a big dissenter. He says that pedestrianising Thurloe Street in South Kensington has made the road busier and noisier. "I think it is worse having it pedestrianised," he says. "It attracts more people. But there is a feeling that people are just strolling around. For residents, it is no longer possible to do everyday things such as dropping off the kids, the shopping or luggage outside your own front door."

As for the shared space of Exhibition Road, Barnes believes "it has become hell to drive down; people are moving all over the place and not just on the pavements".

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