Waddon has a big pigeon problem, apparently.
But the area’s bird shit-lined, often flooded, dark and threateningly unpassable pedestrian underpasses, the scene of at least two mugging attacks in recent weeks, are to get a council-run makeover.
“And that’s a promise from me,” Phil Thomas, the Croydon Council cabinet member in charge of highways and environmental services, told a small gathering of local residents by the Jubilee Bridge flyover last night.
Waddon is isolated from the rest of the borough by two urban motorways: the east-west Croydon Flyover, and Roman Way, which runs north-south between the often neglected ward, with its mix of quaint Victorian terraces and council flat blocks, and the shopping nirvana of the town centre.
Croydon’s concrete-obsessed planners of the 1960s have much to answer for: building pedestrian subways along the course of a river valley was one of their more idiotic decisions, even by their low standards (the Wandle originally rose at a spring by the site of the Swan & Sugarloaf in South Croydon and flowed north along what is now Southbridge Road towards Waddon Ponds).
For five decades, generations of residents of Waddon have been living with the consequences of the planners’ car-obsessed foolishness.
Waddon Labour Action Group last month surveyed residents about their use of the underpasses.
“I try to avoid them. I just don’t feel safe”; “I don’t like taking my son in his pushchair in there with all the bird mess everywhere”; “I don’t like them, they’re dark and very dirty”; and “I use them alright. But never after dark” were typical of the responses.
The underpass by Violet Lane is regularly flooded – especially so during this wettest of summers – with drains backing up with all sorts of effluent, forcing pedestrians to risk life and limb to avoid it by sprinting across the fast-flowing, four-lane A232. That’s never an option for the elderly, those with small children or the disabled. In term time, the road needs to be crossed by many pupils attending St Andrew’s School.
Working with local residents, the action group called last night’s meeting by the Jubilee Bridge underpass – with Reeves Corner tantalisingly just about viewable through at the far side of the dark, forbidding tunnel. There, they presented their demands for the underpass to be cleaned up and “pigeon-proofed”, for the lighting to be improved, to deal with the flooding problems, and to improve safety.
Councillor Thomas arrived in good time for the meeting, and risked having his smart-red, BMW sports car with personalised number plates being peppered with fresh guano when he parked in the council-run car park under the flyover. Thomas eyed the gathering – and the man in the giant pigeon suit – somewhat suspiciously for at least 10 minutes before joining his Town Hall colleagues, Waddon councillors Simon Hoar and Tony Harris. The ward’s third councillor was inexplicably absent.
Looking tanned and smart in his Ralph Lauren shirt, Thomas viewed the shabby state of the underpass – it had been blast-cleaned by council workers just weeks ago – and for half-an-hour listened intently to the residents’ concerns.
He and Harris willingly took the group’s pledge card from the giant pigeon and signed the undertaking. Hoar, another member of the Conservative-run council’s cabinet, was more circumspect and opted not to sign the pledge card.
All the councillors agreed that engineers ought to examine the state of the Roman Way road and bridge work – which falls under Croydon’s control – for further evidence of fracturing in the 40-year-old concrete structure that is clearly leaking and showing the stresses of the weight of traffic it now has to carry.
Thomas was able to provide reassurance to the dozens of residents when he said, “In the next few weeks, the underpass will be cleaned and the pigeon-proofing is to be renewed and replaced with stronger, steel mesh.” Thomas said he had been informed by the police that the chicken wire currently used was too easily removed by local youths, who commonly used the underpass for hiding stashes of drugs.
By the end of the financial year, Thomas said, the underpass lighting would also be upgraded. “And that’s a promise from me,” he asserted firmly.
Thomas and Hoar agreed that – although Croydon is notorious for having among the greatest density of CCTV cameras in the country – it would be impossible to have any CCTV cameras positioned to deter violent criminals from loitering around these underpasses. While they acknowledged the obvious problem, they did not explain why they would not act on this.
And as far as the flooded Violet Lane underpass is concerned, “That is under TfL control,” Thomas, who represents the Selsdon and Ballards ward, said. “I wrote to them five or six weeks ago. I haven’t had a reply yet.”
He did, though, agree to chase up TfL, and to get the borough engineers to look into the flooding issues in other underpasses, and their inactive and ineffective pumps, “though that’s not a quick fix”, Thomas said.
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