Cllr Tim Coleridge is the Cabinet Member for Planning Policy, Transport and Arts for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
As Chris Lenon, the chairman of the NO Crossrail in Chelsea campaign, points out:“It is the Royal Borough, it is a Conservative heartland and a gem in West London”. But what he clearly chooses not to say is that it is precisely because the Conservative Council cares deeply about Chelsea’s long-term future, because we care about bringing our residents better transport connectivity, and because we care about the future prosperity of our shops, businesses, hospitals and visitors that we are supporting a new station.
It is “Conservative” to want to improve the lives of all our residents and we are conscious of the lack of transport facilities for those in west Chelsea and the opportunities that a new station would bring to them.
A new station would bring 5,000 homes within a ten minute walk of a station for the first time, it would reduce journey times considerably bringing Canary Wharf within 20 minutes rather than 45 minutes and Tottenham Court Road (and therefore Crossrail 1) within a five minute train ride rather than 35 minutes with two changes. It would also provide opportunities for many lower paid workers to seek good job opportunities greater distances away at high speed and with reduced commuter travel time.
A Crossrail 2 station would transform the current problem we face with the retention of school teachers and nurses, CR2 would allow people to live further out but have much easier access to Chelsea, making Chelsea an attractive choice for work. It is not good enough to hope they will all go via Victoria and then change to travel to Sloane Square or South Kensington, you need to make it easy for them to come and work here.
Chris Lenon still wants you to believe that a new “mega station” will be built on the King’s Road, it will not. The proposed station would be totally under the ground, so you don’t see it, and the entrance will be a discreet opening between two Edwardian buildings that will not be demolished, so Chelsea on the surface will look pretty much the same.
There is certainly a campaign to try and stop a new station ever being built in Chelsea, but arguments and concerns have been largely answered both in terms of the construction and the longer effects of having a new transport link in Chelsea.
It is regretful that the NO campaign continues to try and persuade residents and businesses that a new station would transform the nature of Chelsea and drive business away. A new station would have quite the opposite effect, bringing more life to the King’s road, more vibrancy and more opportunity and success for our local shops and businesses.
Chris Lenon says he cannot “fathom why more than £1 billion should be spent on us”, but the fact is a King’s Road station would not just be for “us” but for all Londoners, and fortunately would be very useful for “us” local residents as he puts it. The new station would support new housing opportunities over the next 50 years and opportunities to regenerate some poorly constructed developments that otherwise may not be viable to undertake.
Other options have been closely examined by TfL, precisely because the Conservative Royal Borough Council requested other more westerly options to be examined, but the preferred site for TfL and the now safeguarded site is the King’s Road- Sydney Street site. This is the site that would provide access to this new high-speed line to the maximum number of local residents, both those who would have closer access for the first time, but also to thousands who would have a wonderful alternative to the much slower and more local District line.
The Royal Borough Council is a Conservative-led administration, we listen to all residents, not just those who shout loudest, and we consider the longer-term interests of the borough. There will be some residents who do not like the idea of a new station, and in my experience they understandably tend to live in close proximity to the proposed site.
We understand that the new Crossrail tunnels are deep, quiet, and constructed with the most advanced methods that should lead to little or no damage to property during construction. We believe there is considerable support in Chelsea which has been backed by previous consultations and surveys and we support a new station for the best of Conservative reasons – the better quality of life it will bring to future generations.