Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Morden: Who on earth would want to shop in a place like this?

Morden town centre has long been an embarrassment to Merton. It's been impossible to attract major retailers  to the shop units. It must have the highest concentration of charity shops in the world.

It's not difficult to figure out why.Below you see part of the one-way system, which is 4 lanes wide at the traffic lights:
Below you see one of the dozens of crossings, accompanied by the clutter of signs that comes with a major road junction:

Below, the view looking towards the Aberconway Road junction:
Next, looking across the Aberconway Road junction. You have to cross six crossings (yes six!) to get to the shops by the bus station.

Next, the jewel in the crown: the Sainsbury's car park. There's no footway and this road is very intimidating at night. Also, it's one way, so you are not allowed to cycle down here to get to Merton Park.

Morden has been killed by bad planning. A major dual-carriageway road has been routed right through the middle of the shopping area. It's noisy, unpleasant, inconvenient and dangerous. Merton Council know this: in their words, "current traffic flow system and the location of the bus standing area dominates the town and has a negative impact on the look, feel and functionality of Morden as a centre...For pedestrians and cyclists, parts of Morden are cut off by barriers such as railway lines, poor quality pedestrian alleyways and the  Underground depot." Retailers know it as well: that's why they don't come here. Merton argue that the shop units are too small to attract national retailers, but the reality is that retailers know that shopping and traffic don't mix.

The Council have even got some ideas of how to fix Morden:
"Making London Road a bus / taxi only route (between the Civic Centre and Sainsbury’s) "
"Joining up walking and cycle routes between the parks and the town centre"

There's just two problems with this:
  1. "The road network in the town centre is owned and managed by Transport for London (TfL) Any changes to the roads will be agreed in partnership with TfL."
  2. The Council officials who have allowed Morden to decline are still in charge.
It's ridiculous to talk about "joining up cycle routes" when almost nobody cycles in Merton. People don't cycle because the cycle routes either are lousy or simply don't exist. You not allowed to cycle through Morden Park, even though it would make an ideal cycle route. The paths are already there and little-used by pedestrians. Meanwhile, the residential roads of Merton Park are cursed by rat-running traffic. It's hypocrisy for Merton Council to complain about Morden roads when it's largely their fault. They've pursued uniformly car-centric policies for decades. If they'd made a meaningful attempt to encourage people to cycle - perhaps with safe routes to school, reducing traffic levels on residential roads - nothing too radical - they could blame it on TfL. Instead they've been ignoring the wishes of cyclists, installing metal barriers on cycle routes, taking down railings that are used for cycle parking, and wasting money on useless comedy cycling projects.

The saddest thing about Morden is it is blessed with Morden Hall Park and Morden Park right next door. It should be an attractive place to live and shop. But it's cursed by the road network and by Merton's car-centric policies. Until Merton Council figure this out, it will remain a blighted backwater.


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