A note from Oakley Street Residents' Association

Oakley Street is an important entry point into the Royal Borough, markedly residential in character:----


Looking up Oakley Street from

the Embankment towards the Kings Road

As well as cars, cyclists and goods vehicles, many foot passengers move up and down Oakley Street on their way to middle Chelsea, the Kings Road shopping and business centre, and in the southerly direction to the Albert Bridge, Battersea, for the Park and Wandsworth. Oakley Street is primarily a residential street. Yet its use as a road for traffic, as opposed to a road of homes, has come to dominate the streetscape. Maintenance of its key features as a street: the pavements, the trees and the signage, have sadly been deteriorating.

We warmly welcome the Council's principles for streetscape, and the progress being made across the Royal Borough. We know that a programme of improvements is being rolled out in several other Wards. We present the streetscape issues of Oakley Street, so that as soon as possible some remedial steps can be taken here. It is especially hoped that a better, greener streetscape will encourage better driving behaviour by those who simply use the street as a through way.


The Royal Borough has an important and flourishing tree-scape in its streets. The Council policy is to plant more trees for excellent reasons of amenity and sustainable environment. Trees help to reduce air pollution, their summer shading keeps streets cooler, traffic is calmer, they can screen unsightly corners and they please the eye.

In 1960 the Council (then the Chelsea Borough) planted a dozen trees in Oakley Street. Only three survive, of which one appears in poor condition.

In about 1986, two or three trees were planted, and these are flourishing.

In 1997 Cllr Donaldson arranged a survey with a view to increasing the number of Oakley Street trees. Possible sites were identified and trial excavations were carried out. The presence of under-pavement services and cellars was found to rule out the sites proposed. However, there were possible sites at the Embankment end of the street which do not appear to have been explored.

In 2000, Council officers identified four possible tree locations as part of their proposals for reconstructing the pedestrian crossing in Oakley Street at the junction with Phene Street. This was not followed up as the proposed crossing improvement was not considered by the then Highways and Traffic Committee to be a justifiable expense.

In Autumn 2005 a large tree (a 1960 planting outside No 15) was found infected and was removed. It was found that it could not be replaced as there had been cabling laid in the way.

On 9 March 2006 Councillors and residents were informed by the Principal Arboricultural Officer (PAO) that a second large tree had been infected on the opposite side of the street, and was to be removed at once.

On 13 March 2006 the Residents' Association at its annual meeting decided to petition the Council, requesting that the conservation streetscape be maintained with fresh tree plantings. Because of the cellars/cabling problems, it was requested that some planting be done in the highway (recognising that this may require a small reduction in the number of parking bays.) The Association would be prepared to contribute to the cost.

On 26 April 2006 Cllr. Maighread Condon-Simmonds presented the petition at the Council meeting.

On 28 June the Council received a report by the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Planning Policy, Housing Policy and Transportation. In summary, this said that one of the lost trees may be replaced; this would be investigated, but with regard to kerb build-outs, this could not be recommended due to cost and visual disturbance.

On 14 July 2006, residents reported to the PAO that a third large mature tree on a prominent street corner (but on private property) was rapidly dying. This tree has a preservation order . The PAO is keeping an eye on it.

The recent loss of tree cover has bared a stretch of the street:-

- Photo taken in 2004

Tree probably dying

in summer '06 Tree lost winter '05 Tree lost March '06


If the large tree on the left of this picture is lost, there will be no trees left in the east side of Oakley Street.

   Our carefully considered suggestion for planting trees in spots prepared in the carriageway is not in our view inconsistent with the character of the street as a whole and its heritage.  The presence of more trees, towards the numbers present in the 1890s ( see note 1) and the dozen planted by the Council in the 1960s (note 2) would restore and enhance its appearance.

Suitably chosen trees would offset any feared visual intrusion that some might find in the interruption of the kerb line.  The kerb line is in any case thoroughly masked by the parked vehicles all down the street. It would do no visual harm to replace a parked car with a tree.

The permanent presence of parked vehicles in Oakley Street obscures kerbs, and different vehicle heights distract from the regularity as appears, for example, in this photograph



In the past, the presence of cellars extending under the footway was not reckoned to prevent plantings. It is the presence of cabling, which seems largely to have stood in the way of the plantings in the footway which were explored in the 1990s.

There may be un-investigated footway sites at the Embankment end of the street; plantings here could help to mask the ugly congestion charge zone camera poles, provided this does not interrupt valued long views of the Albert Bridge.


Two ways of planting in the carriageway are:

One, the "nib" : a segment of kerb is built out and a tree planted in it.

The other is a pair of bollards to protect a tree planting; as in Shawfield Street. (Note3)

Photo A (annexed below) A recent planting in Shawfield Street, Chelsea

There may be spots in Oakley Street where similar planting could fit in without taking up a whole parking space; however, the petitioners did recognise that some parking would be lost. A careful assessment and plan would be required, with appropriate tree species selected.

We realise that an objection to nibs is that they actually push out the line of the kerb. An uninterrupted kerb line is seen as a feature of terraced streets which emphasises the continuity of the building line. Bollards do not alter the kerb line, while giving essential protection to the tree.

Photos B-E ANNEXED illustrate the concept of a bollard solution. They are not intended to demonstrate specific planting locations.

Photo B West side at present, looking towards Kings Rd

In the middle are temporary barriers where the tree was lost in March, and replanting is still hoped for. The near tree in the pavement is one planted about 1986.

Photo C West side as it might be improved by plantings.

This demonstrates how the street would appear if the same tree were to have been planted in the roadway, protected by bollards.

Photo D East side at present looking towards Kings Rd

This shows the absence of trees on this side of the street, where one was lost last winter; and the dying tree at the corner. There are now no trees on this side of Oakley St. between Kings Rd and the Embankment.

Photo E East side as it might be improved by plantings.

In this mock-up the trees are shown as they might be after several years' growth, by which time the wooden stakes would be due for removal.

Note 1) Dr Phene ( 1823-1912) was responsible for building parts of Oakley Street; (he lived at No 32) . "He had strong views about a number of things, one of which has been borne out since, that planting trees in streets helps to reduce pollution. As he developed much of Oakley Street he carried out his idea there with the result that the street was one of the first in Chelsea to be planted." John Richardson: The Chelsea Book; Historical Publications 2003; p 87.

Dr Phene is reported to have interested Prince Albert in such schemes.

That there were plantings along Oakley Street is confirmed by a surveyor's map of around 1890 which shows 14 trees in the central part of the street. There is also an entry in the Chelsea Vestry records 1899/1900 about a complaint by an omnibus company that some branches of trees beside No 32 were endangering passengers on open top buses- which Dr Phene contested.

2) On 14 Dec.1960 the Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea considered a report of its Highways Ctte.(Vice-Chairman Cllr. J Corbet-Simgleton) on a programme for planting trees in streets " with the object of improving amenity". For Oakley Street, following an offer by Mr J Bannenberg to contribute to the cost, twelve plantings were proposed, five on the east side and seven on the west, details of which are in the report.. There appear to be four of these trees surviving in 2006: an acacia outside No101, a lime outside Adair House, an ash outside Pier House, and an acacia in Phene St near No 37 Oakley St..

3) In January 2004 a Key Decision was taken by the Cabinet Member for the Public Realm (Cllr Moylan) following requests from residents in Shawfield Street for trees to be planted. (ref 01321/03/P/A). Options considered included planting 4 trees at carriage way level protected by bollards : "this would retain the existing kerb alignment and be consistent with the Council's streetscape principles" Cost £7,200. Or new footway buildouts at 4 locations, cost £28,000. The decision was to try one tree in the carriageway protected by bollards (£1,800).

In common with other streets, Oakley Street needs attention on such items as:

Estate Agents boards

Signage update

Bicycle storage

As streetscape improvement is rolled out across the Royal Borough, we would like to have Oakley Street tackled as a whole. The following pages illustrate some of the items for early attention.





Boards conflict with the classic features of porticos and the listed terraces.

The use of boards on poles should be stopped.



The upper part of this sign is perhaps of historic interest.

Unfortunately, the sign below it is shabby and the pole in a poor state.


At the entrance to Upper Cheyne Row: instance of two poles to carry four discordant signs.


The standard size of notice about residents' parking control here appears unnecessarily large. Elsewhere in the Royal Borough smaller sizes are being used.

This notice outside a listed Grade II terrace, is placed on a pole which has been put in for this sole purpose. It stands on the edge of the kerb.

A short post the same height as the house railings and set back close to the railings would be better.


A recent intrusion is "official" graffiti : here both examples are decorating stretches of footway which have been poorly repaired. These markings are left by utility companies.



Past requests for bicycle stands in Oakley Street were turned down. There is growing demand and as internal storage is often not practicable, residents are resorting to unsatisfactory solutions:


Is there a solution which would be acceptable to those residents who favour cycle use, make the street look tidier and be safe for passers-by?

This is a problem that affects other similar terraced streets across the Borough, where there a no front gardens.



The benefits of a noise-reduction surface for the carriageway in the residential street would be most welcome. Can we expect the resurfacing to be done in this year or next?












ENDS    dated October 15 2006  TN JP