The council has stated that it is not opposed to street play schemes in other parts of the borough.
The rejection of the South Vale proposal has been reported today by the Children and Young People Now website, without mention of a key detail: that South Vale is close to Westow Park, and is just a short walk to Upper Norwood Rec.
Play Street schemes are being tested in other boroughs around the capital, usually in areas where there are no open spaces, parks or playgrounds for children to play.
Dave Miller, a member of the South Vale residents’ steering group that was behind the proposal, is clearly annoyed that the scheme has been dismissed.
The residents also had a very reasonable request to make their street a 20mph zone – similar to those already in operation on several residential areas in the south of the borough – rejected.
“The attitude of the council is very much that streets are for cars and parks are for children,” Miller said.
“All we were proposing was for residents taking it turns at either end to explain the situation to motorists. It wouldn’t have cost anything and provides a place for children to play safely.”
In truth, though, there would have been considerable costs for closing the street and without the road being barriered off during the Play Street periods, may have created a high risk to any children playing there from unco-operative motorists.
Croydon’s decision was criticised by Dr Ute Navidi, who is the regional vice-president of something called the International Play Association, who said, “This goes against current government thinking of empowering local people and I would hope the council listens to local people and be more supportive of helping children play outside.” The only problem with that is that the decision does nothing to stop the parents of South Vale from allowing their children to play outside, in the public open spaces already provided nearby.
It is unclear whether Dr Navidi has been made aware of the proximity to South Vale of the local parks.
The website report does quote a Croydon Council spokeswoman: “There are a number of parks and open spaces in the vicinity where children can play safely. The council is not opposed to street play and would review each application on a road-by-road basis.”
Steve Iles, the head of Croydon’s highways department, has agreed to meet Miller to discuss the issue.
When the meeting takes place, it may be that Miller states – as he does in today’s report – that a “majority of residents were in favour of the plans”. This, though, is not in fact the case.
According to a survey conducted at the end of last year by Miller and other residents, 27 are in favour of a Play Street scheme on South Vale, with 27 against or abstaining – hardly a ringing endorsement for the spending of public money to create a play area just a few yards from a public park.
The council did not cover itself in glory by taking 10 months to respond to the local residents’ enquiry, but when Iles did finally reply at the end of July, his letter seemed to add up, on grounds of cost, safety and simple common sense.
Inside Croydon has obtained sight of Iles’ July 31 reply, and reproduces it here in full:
I have given serious consideration to your request but feel that this is not a project that the Council is willing to support in the current economic climate for the following reasons:
1. For a regular Sunday road closure a permanent Traffic Management Order would have to be made to legally close the road which would involve the committee and legal process. If the committee agreed to such a proposal this would be subject to public notice and an objection period. Any member of the public who uses the road would be entitled to object and these objections carefully considered before a scheme could be put in place. My understanding is that there have already been objections to this proposal from residents in the past.
The charge for this is approximately £2,000 and would need to be borne from the requestor.
2. South Vale is a link road between A214 (Central Hill) and Bedwardine Road and closing this road will cause local traffic congestion. If the road closure was introduced this would have parking, traffic and safety implications for nearby roads that are open to the public and the authority would need to assess and consider the implications on the neighbouring streets.
3. Installation of Permanent ‘flip down’ signing would have to be installed which would be a cost implication again the authority would need to recover its costs.
4. Ideally physical measures would have to be installed such as barriers to ensure the safety of pedestrians/children. These would have to be stored in the near vicinity as it would be impractical and costly for them to be delivered and taken away every week. The alternative would be enforcement but the Police are unlikely to be able to do this on regular basis.
5. There are obvious implications for the emergency services and therefore a full consultation would be required to ensure they support such a request.
6. South Vale is in close proximity to open spaces and this is considered a suitable safe play area for children.
Based on the reasons above I am sorry that I am not able to be of more help on this occasion regarding of your proposal to close South Vale. I do however believe with the nearby parks and open spaces will assist you to achieve your initiative that will deliver community cohesion and create local volunteering opportunities.
The councils offers a number of sports and activities which maybe of interest to you and as a possible alternative, these can be found on the council website http://www.croydon.gov.uk/leisure/sports/
alternatively I have provided the link to the councils parks and open spaces website which provides information regarding parks and play information across the borough
When Inside Croydon investigated this story two months ago, Miller was adamant that children playing in parks was not good enough.
“Why can’t children have choice? Play Streets are about choice on where to play; children playing in front of their front doors, close to home (so parents don’t have to leave home with the kids every time they want to play out)…
“The park is great, and new revamped, but it’s different play. Why should kids be boxed in? ‘Roads are for cars, parks are for kids’ – who says? Where is this a rule?”
Pat Ryan, the local Labour councillor, said, “I understand Mr Miller wanting his children to play, however, South Vale is a very well-used road, every day of the week, including Sunday, and is inappropriate for such use, given that the delightfully spacious Westow Park is yards away.
“Croydon Council have spoken to residents in the past and have investigated the possibility of road closure. In the event of it being possible to close the street it would force extra traffic on to the adjacent roads: Gatestone Road, Rockmount Road and Harold Road. It will also affect other surrounding roads. Road works are already are major issue in the area, and this would exacerbate the issue of traffic gridlock on Central Hill.
“The majority of residents have told me that they are not amenable to this idea.”
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