Backed by Boris Johnson, Gavin Barwell and even Labour councillor Kathy Bee, a £85m new roads scheme around the A23 is sure to go through. But as STEVEN DOWNES reports, all the evidence suggests that it will be a dead end
Dozens of Croydon homes and a popular public park could be at risk from £85-million-worth of road schemes proposed by London Mayor Boris Johnson to cut a few minutes from the journey times for Hammersfield customers driving into central Croydon.
After more than a year’s planing work, the Mayor’s office, Transport for London and Croydon Council finally launched their delayed public consultation yesterday, which confirmed what Inside Croydon reported two months ago regarding proposals to build a flyover to the Croydon Flyover, with a bridge for the A232 over the Purley Way and the railway tracks at Waddon Station.
The public consultation period offers just two options. It amounts to: “Our way or another highway”.
The document is also misleadingly entitled “Transforming Fiveways Croydon”, since the schemes do not actually involve the notoriously grid-locked junction, but offer two ways of diverting traffic away from one short stretch of the A23 Purley Way.
Nowhere in the material distributed so far does it mention Hammerson’s and Westfield’s £1 billion scheme to build a retailing super-mall to replace the Whitgift Centre in central Croydon. But TfL’s intentions are clear when they write, “We are proposing this scheme to… help meet a likely increase in traffic, caused by growth in the local economy and population, by reducing congestion and improving journey time reliability.”
First to endorse the proposals was the MP for the Whitgift Foundation, Gavin Barwell.
The road scheme is not actually in his geographical constituency, but on this occasion that did not prevent the Tory MP for Croydon Central from adding his two penn’orth to back a roads scheme which could see homes and a public park in Croydon South being blighted or bulldozed. But then, why wouldn’t a member of the Whitgift Foundation board, which owns the majority of the Whitgift Centre, not want the Mayor of London, Croydon Council and Transport for London to fork out at least £85million of public money building more roads for the benefit of… the Whitgift Foundation?
“I am delighted that TfL have come forward with these proposals. Improving traffic flow on the A23 and A232 is vital to Croydon’s long-term economic prospects and I encourage you to let them have your views on the merits of the two proposals,” Gav gushed. And in typical style, nowhere in his 307 words of self-serving gushery does Barwell bother to mention his conflict of interest through his role with the Whitgift Foundation.
Yet again, Croydon’s Labour council has enthusiastically bought in to the local Conservatives’ agenda. “These proposals will tackle congestion and deliver big improvements on managing traffic in that area,” according to Kathy Bee, the Labour cabinet member for transport and environment.
Note that: “These proposal will tackle congestion and deliver big improvements“. We’ve added the italics just to emphasise the point.
Try telling that to the people who live on Duppas Hill Road, which looks like it could finally have a four-lane highway drilled through it, just as the Tories wanted to do two decades ago but were stopped by a Labour council which then, at least, had the interests of the local residents at its core.
Councillor Bee appears to have overlooked the second part of her cabinet brief, for the environment, as she endorses a multi-million pound project which could also see large sections of public parkland and open space given up for a road-building scheme.
That’s something else that was never in the “Ambitious for Croydon” Labour manifesto, either, where Tony Newman claimed he wanted to make Croydon, “the greenest borough in London”.
It is hard to say exactly what the environmental damage of the two schemes might have, because the consultation document is extremely light on any detail. Soft-focus artists’ impressions go out of their way to disguise the worst of the proposals’ impact. It is as if the document is deliberately designed to deceive.
Neither Barwell, Bee, nor the consultation document offer any evidence for how these schemes will not end up doing what all other new road schemes of the last half-century have done, and end up generating ever more traffic.
These two road proposal are a dead end for Waddon, and for Croydon.
There is plenty of evidence to show that new roads increase traffic volumes, and that they do not improve traffic flow. Highway Agency statistics show that new roads actually increase congestion on other local roads by up to 137 per cent, as well as resulting in more new car journeys. But more new car journeys is exactly what Barwell and his chums at the Whitgift Foundation actually want.
Further evidence suggests that new roads offer poor value for public money as a measure to reduce people’s time spent in traffic. This is especially true when compared to policies that expand the public transport network or reduce ticket prices.
But the consultation on offer from Boris, Barwell and Bee provides no new thinking about alternatives to the motor car. There’s no investment in new public transport on offer (the TfL proposals for the tram loop at Dingwall Road, likely to be pushed through, also for the benefit of Hammersfield, are only intended to reduce the incidents of trams delaying motor traffic on Wellesley Road, as customers drive into the super-mall’s car parks).
Experts believe that 70 per cent of air pollution comes from cars and lorries. Further road expansion inevitably sees severe adverse effects on the health of locals. Waddon residents, pinned in by the Purley Way, Fiveways and the A232 from the Croydon Flyover, may soon be among the 55,000 people who die every year in the UK because of air pollution (according to Clean Air in London).
The Green Party has already described the scheme as something designed “to send Croydon hurtling back to a 1970s vision of a car-dominated future”.
And one former senior Croydon Council official, David Wickens, warned on this website two months ago that the flyover scheme will be a failure. “If the schemes are to improve access to Westfield, then they will fail,” Wickens said then, before the consultation document was available.
“To give adequate clearance over the A23 and railway, ramps will needs to be more than 100 metres long,” Wickens warned. “They will have a massive visual impact, be challenging to construct and I anticipate that many properties (especially to the west of the A23) will be at risk.”
- There may be more details available – there can hardly be less detail available – at three public exhibitions, at Waddon Leisure Centre this Saturday (Feb 7) from 9am to 1pm, and next Wednesday (Feb 11) from 4pm to 8pm, and then the following day (Feb 12) at the Clocktower from 10am to 2pm. So loads of opportunity for the hard-working people of Croydon to see the schemes if they take time out of their jobs.
- The public consultation closes on March 15. You can view the scant detail online, and post your comments here
- Inside Croydon Events: for dates and links to what’s happening in and around Croydon, updated daily, click here
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