Statement from Graham Matthews, UKIP candidate for Kingston and Surbiton.
Seven Points For Business
BACK HEATHROW AIRPORT EXPANSION
One of Kingston’s greatest assets for business is its proximity to Heathrow. In addition to its transport and freight benefits, Heathrow generates huge numbers of stable jobs, which create B2B business for Kingston businesses. Heathrow has fallen behind in the last 30 years. It is a national asset, not just a London asset, and for the Midlands and North of the country, driving to Gatwick adds hours of time, pollution and congestion. The M25 from the M4 to the M21 is already busy enough. We back Heathrow expansion and improvement to put it on a par with Schipol, Dubai and Hong Kong.
BETTER TRANSPORT LINKS TO HEATHROW
On the other hand, Kingston’s transport links to Heathrow are poor. A train line is not going to be built in near future. Hence we campaign for the X26 bus route to become frequency of every 10 minutes for a non-stop round trip to Heathrow, using smaller VIP-style minibuses that can be booked ahead. The current X26 connection is once every half hour and on a larger bus stopping at too many stations along the way and coming from too far away to be reliable. Kingston should be an integrated hub for the Heathrow journey.
REDEVELOP KINGSTON TRAIN STATION INTO A GRAND GATEWAY STATION
Kingston train station is a huge missed opportunity. It could be redeveloped into a prime office location, straight from train into elevators. The station itself should be a modern gateway into Kingston, making travellers feel they have ‘arrived’ somewhere significant and exciting. At present, the station building itself and the areas around the station are grubby and unwelcoming. This are should be a focus for re-building the image of Kingston. It would be paid for by the developer by allowing them to build vertically above the station.
IMPROVE BROADER TRANSPORT LINKS TO REDUCE CONGESTION
There are several easy-to-take steps that can improve congestion almost immediately. Of the four main routes into Kingston, the route out to the A3 south at Coombe Hill is the easiest to fix. Evening tailbacks to this junction can easily be 2km long, 3km on Fridays. This pushes further traffic onto the route south through Thames Ditton, where Portsmouth Road has even less capacity due to the cycle lane. Within 6 months, the Coombe A3 junction should be restructured so that when cars going south leave the A3 at the junction, it narrows to 2 lanes and is blocked off. Then cars coming on at Coombe can come onto the A3 in an uninterrupted flow into an always-empty lane. Traffic lights should be put in on the zebra crossing so that traffic leaving Kingston and turning right onto the A3 can move across in an uninterrupted flow. This measure would immediately speed traffic flow in and out of Kingston, and reduce traffic heading through Surbiton joining the A3 at Tolworth.
We would immediately carry out a review of all major traffic policies in Kingston that have stood unchallenged for years, such as not being able to join the A3 from the A309 at the Ace of Spades heading north. The arteries need to be freed up to allow traffic to flow.
GIVE KINGSTON AN AUTHENTIC IDENTITY
Kingston is rich in historical and natural resources, yet they go unused. Worse, the Council’s various attempts at creating a brand for Kingston are incoherent. Every brand must rest of a ‘reason to believe’. There must be a truth underneath the image. Kingston is the home of England. Where Aethelstan united Mercia and Wessex into the first English kingdom, and was crowned on the coronation stone that now sits forlorn in a corner of the yard outside the Council offices.
In addition, we have the river, again sadly under-utilised. The stretch north of Kingston bridge including the section outside John Lewis up to Turks Pier is dead and again, incoherent. This is prime river front real estate and forms a disconnect from the town centre to Canbury Gardens. It needs to be redeveloped to form a coherent public space and complete the Thames River Path.
Kingston should once again become the town WHERE ENGLAND WAS BORN. There should be an annual May Day holiday, with traditional English activities such as maypole dancing in the market square, horse shows on Fairfield, river races from Kingston to Hampton bridge. All of the towns historic and natural resources can be integrated behind this single theme. The coronation of Aethelstan and the birth of England should once again become a celebrated event that Kingston becomes known for around the country. We should present a positive, consistent image to visitors arriving through our gateway station using this branding. Other events that are not consistent with this image should be discontinued as they only create confusion and undermine the brand.
Rather than a forlorn and costly attempt to turn Kingston into another Richmond with a theatre, etc, Kingston should embrace its post-industrial history and its night-time economy. The young people and students of south west London need a place to go out. Night clubs and pubs should be encouraged. A large-scale casino could be built in the old cinema building. Not many people live within the barrier of the one-way system so Kingston is an ideal night economy location.
Kingston is a very high tax and spend Council. There was an attempt to take direct responsibility for business rates from the government by the Tory Council but fortunately this failed, as if their record on Council tax is anything to go by, the rates would soon be amongst the highest in the country.
Huge savings are available by merging Council departments with the departments of other nearby Councils and shift spending away from the back office and property costs and fully into front-line delivery. Our aim would be to reduce Council tax by a third over a 7 year period. This would also take the strain off using parking tickets as a source of revenue. Kingston has become an unpleasant place to visit because of the over-zealousness of the traffic wardens and the high cost of parking. Why risk a parking ticket when you can buy online? This is caused by pressures on the revenue budget. We would aim to restore Kingston’s parking policies to a common-sense approach, where visitors do not feel like hunted animals. Kingston will be known for its smile.
- RETAIL ENVIRONMENT
The retail environment needs to be urgently re-assessed. Kingston is losing ground to more modern environments such as Westfield. It is only a matter of time until a modern mall is built nearby, perhaps better located to the M3 or A3, that will drain Kingston of affluent shoppers from the other side of the Thames. We need to be proactive with no constraints on thinking or else lose business. Nothing would be off the table, including using the Guildhall and space occupied by the Council offices and freed up by our radical restructuring of how Council services are delivered. A town centre masterplan that includes the development of a modern retail environment sensitively integrated into the existing structures of value in the town would be drawn up and followed.