Burst water mains are a perennial gripe in these parts. For some reason the Crystal Palace area seems peculiarly prone to them, and my road must have half a dozen a year.
The latest one to hit Westow Hill, comes at an interesting time. Resurfacing of the road was just nearing completion after overnight works last week, and the Triangle is just emerging from Lockdown, with authorities keen to make more space for pedestrians to enable the returning shoppers, diners and drinkers, to adhere to the new social distancing guidelines.
So, suddenly we have a lot of space right on the Triangle, and as I discovered at the weekend, people are using it, for long awaited socialising, for cycling, scootering and dog walking. The atmosphere was rather wonderful, like an impromptu low-key street party.
The unintended consequences of this unique convergence of a global pandemic and under investment in creeking Victorian infrastructure, has opened our eyes into ways our local environment might be improved for all. Do we really need such a wide expanse of tarmac? Couldn't we make things a little more pleasant for pedestrians and cyclists? The temporary widening of pavements has shown that road space can be re-allocated without things grinding to a halt. It's often argued that closing streets is bad for business, but look how people flocked to Westow Hill over the weekend. After a difficult couple of years, our shops and restaurants desperately need a new strategy. As an example, take a look at Waltham Forest in North London, where its 'Mini Holland' experiment has been a huge success despite misgivings of local traders before its implementation. It seems like right now, we have a golden opportunity to make some changes. If you are interested in having your say, the Crystal Palace Town Team would like to hear from you.
Meanwhile I leave you with pics of Westow Hill like it's never looked before, and a thought. What if, as a start, we could just close the street on Sundays through the summer? We could allow bars and restaurants to spread their tables out into the street, and hopefully give them a chance to make up for their complete lack of business over the last 3 months. Who's up for that?