I signed a petition – and I’m not sure I was right to do so

I recently signed one of those online petitions, in this case to ‘Save Wandsworth Common’. It seemed at first like a no-brainer. Wandsworth is my local common and there is a plan to make an access shaft for the construction of Crossrail 2 on an area of open ground.

I recently signed one of those online petitions, in this case to ‘Save Wandsworth Common‘. It seemed at first like a no-brainer. Wandsworth is my local common and there is a plan to make an access shaft for the construction of Crossrail 2 on an area of open ground. This is well loved and well used both by individuals and by exercise classes (I have even been to some of them). Not only will an area of open land disappear for ages but there will be the concomitant traffic, with its noise, dirt and potential hazard to children. The nearby cafe would also suffer.

So of course I signed the petition. But then I had a think. If all this disruption is to be caused in the service of something that is undesirable, or even questionable, such as the Thames Tideway Tunnel, then it is simple to refuse it access. But Crossrail is generally considered a good thing, a way of alleviating the congestion that may otherwise strangle London, and of making lives more bearable for commuters.

Which raises the question: If the shaft doesn’t go on this open ground, where should it go? Nobody should knock houses down for it. It can’t go in the middle of a road because the disruption to traffic would be unbearable. So open ground such as Wandsworth Common is really the only option. And grassy areas, while the most widely used, also have the least biodiversity and are easiest to restore. 

When the Thames Water Ring Main was built in the late 1980s and early 90s, a large part of Streatham Common was fenced off while work took place. But the end result was only a relatively small permanent access shaft. And with Wandsworth Common I am not even sure that there will be any permanent structure. So the construction will be annoying and inconveniencing but the disruption is probably a necessary evil.

In which case I probably shouldn’t have signed that petition. But let’s look on the bright side. The more complaints there are the more care will have to be taken, and the less disruption there will be. There probably isn’t any alternative, unless you fancy putting the shaft within the nearby Wandsworth prison. After all, it probably has some residents with tunnelling skills ….

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