TfL’s £87m scheme for Purley Way really is a bridge too far

WALTER CRONXITE took his copy of the A to Z and Boys’ Book of Bridges to Waddon Leisure Centre yesterday for the public consultation session about road schemes along the Purley Way. He might have saved himself the bother

The thing that strikes you about Transport for London’s public “consultation” sessions over a £87 million road building programme around the A23 at Waddon (the last session is being staged at Croydon Clocktower at lunchtime today), is the absolute dearth of any real information.

A couple of tables, a couple of pull-up banners, and that's your typical public consultation, 2015 style

A couple of tables, a couple of pull-up banners, and that’s your typical public consultation, 2015 style

The second thing which strikes you is how badly informed the TfL officials, and the people behind the schemes, appear to be. Everything is so utterly vague.

And the third thing? That despite the title of the TfL exercise – “Have your say” – that whatever the public response to the two options presented might be, this is already a fait accompli, and that the London transport authority, in cahoots with Croydon Council, will be conducting a major road-building scheme, using millions of pounds of our money, threatening dozens of homes and destroying large chunks of a public park.

We know that TfL and Croydon Council have been working up these proposals for more than a year. After all, Inside Croydon revealed a major element of the road schemes on offer, the Boris Flyover to the Croydon Flyover, months ago.

Since the neat, but short-on-detail, consultation booklets dropped through people’s doors at the beginning of the month, we’ve been struck by the response of readers, who had either not received the booklet or had no idea that their local council was planning to bulldoze its way from the Sutton borough boundary to the centre of town, with very little apparent consideration for the consequences.

The consultation booklet is rich in lovingly designed CGI imaginings of a blue-sky future for the notoriously clogged Purley Way. But some of these artists’ impressions, as one of the TfL staff attending yesterday’s public session held in the lobby at Waddon Leisure Centre conceded, weren’t necessarily accurate representations of what might be built. One transport expert contacted by Inside Croydon called the consultation document “misleading”.

The TfL artist's impression of the Croydon Road junction with the A23. Traffic from the Purley Way appears to have been air-brushed out of existence, as the cross roads remains with the bridge the other side of the A23

The TfL artist’s impression of the Croydon Road junction with the A23. Though if you’re forming an impression of how it may work, the detail may not be entirely reliable. According to TfL

Like the booklet, the public consultation sessions lack hard details.

All that is presented are just blown-up versions of the images and maps taken straight from the booklet, with imprecision apparently the over-riding consideration, offering maps that look like they’ve been drawn by the production designer at CBeebies. If you go along to the consultation session expecting more, or better information, you’ll be very disappointed.

The TfL staff are helpful enough. But just ask them any pointed questions.

Me: “What environmental impact assessment work has been done?”

Helpful TfL staffer: “Oh, none at this stage. This is what we call an ‘early consultation’. We’ll do that sort of thing later…” This is not reassuring.

Me: “You do know that this stretch of road is already in breach of the European directive on exhaust emissions?”

Helpful TfL staffer: “Are you sure?”

Me: “Well, I’m relying on Department of Transport figures. Aren’t they what you use?”

Helpful TfL staffer: “Oh yes.”

Me: “So you’re only presenting these two options. Has any consideration been given to reducing the amount of traffic on the roads, using a park and ride scheme, or building a tram extension through Waddon to Sutton?”

Helpful TfL staffer: “Not at this stage…” WT actual F?

Me: “And this bridge. If you’re trying to take traffic off the A23, why create a new crossroads at the A232 junction? Why not start the bridge on the Sutton side of the A23, to take traffic over the Purley Way?”

Helpful TfL staffer: “We wanted to impact as few houses as possible.”

Me: “But there are houses on the other end of the bridge, too. Are you not worried about the impact on them? And on the Sutton side of the A23, there’s the old Poppet’s factory site and a car showroom, rather than just houses…”

Helpful TfL staffer: “Is there? Where?”

Even by titling the consultation “Transforming Fiveways Croydon” demonstrates the degree of ignorance that is informing TfL’s deliberations over this. As one very well-informed elderly Waddon resident pointed out: “This isn’t Fiveways. That’s Fiveways,” her finger jabbed in the direction of the junction just outside the leisure centre’s glass walls.

“This,” she said, pointing to the vague map in front of her, “is the A232 junction at Waddon.”

The sense that the whole scheme is being driven along at a frantic pace, just to satisfy the demands of developers Hammerson and Westfield and their Hammersfield £1 billion supermall, is overwhelming. A good scheme undertaken for the right reasons might be acceptable. But this has all the hallmarks of a poor scheme for the wrong reasons.

A report is likely to be compiled by the autumn, followed by a further public consultation next year, before work gets underway, probably in 2017. There’s no rush. After all, the traffic all the way along the Purley Way has been horrendous for decades. Previous schemes have been looked at, and abandoned.

TfL's sketchily detailed sketch map of how the flyover to the Flyover might work

TfL’s sketchily detailed sketch map of how the flyover to the Flyover might work. The designers of CBeebies might offer better detailed charts of the proposals


There is a doom-laden inevitability about this one, though.

“There’s another team looking at the whole strategic aspect to the A23 from the Lombard roundabout down to Purley Cross,” the helpful TfL staffer said, adding, “but that’s all separate to this,” underlining the absence of well-considered planning from this planning process.

Our helpful TfL staffer told us that, under the Flyover to the Flyover proposal, a “large chunk” of Duppas Hill Park is likely to be built on, to avoid too great an impact on the homes on the northern side of that road. No consideration had (yet) been given to impact of the extra traffic and pollution the large secondary school, St Andrew’s, at the top of Duppas Hill, and that the number of lanes of traffic along that road had not yet been decided, but it probably wouldn’t remain at the present two lanes.

Intriguingly, our helpful TfL staffer told us that Croydon Council has applied for a “change of use” for the unused field at the western end of the Duppas Hill Park. It was understood that this was land that had been held in some form of trust which required that it be used only for educational purposes. How educational it is to have four, or even six, lanes of traffic motoring past 24/7 is not known.

But the Labour group that now runs Croydon Council, and was elected only last year on an “ambition” to make the borough the greenest in London, appears determined to build more urban motorways, at the expense of parks and people.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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6 Responses to TfL’s £87m scheme for Purley Way really is a bridge too far

  1. KristianCyc says:

    Here’s some basic figures that should have been established and published before this even got to the design stage
    – Current traffic levels
    – Current traffic level trend (has been downwards for some time, in case you’re wondering)
    – Predicted traffic level rise from Hammersfield
    – Equalities, environment, air quality assessments resulting from this rise in traffic

    At this point you might consider increasing public transport, cycle facilities, or bigger roads. Should you decide on bigger roads, come up with a design then ask:

    – What is the predicted increase in traffic level rise (on top of rise due to Hammersfield) caused by your design?
    – What do the equalities, environment and air quality assessments now say about your scheme?

    If this approach had been taken, there might be room for a constructive discourse between TfL, the council and Croydon’s residents. As it hasn’t, residents will rightly feel left in the dark, kept deliberately ill-informed and unable to participate properly in the consultation.

    • Disagree, Kristian.

      It’s not Croydon residents who are ill-informed. It is the consultation, both in terms of the documentation produced so far, or the staff present yesterday, who are ill-informed.

      None of the detailed work and numbers which you mention was in evidence when we attended the consultation session.

      Why not? At a guess, because it does not fit the narrative which TfL, the council and Hammersfield are trying to create about the need for new, bigger roads, while blithely ignoring providing improved public transport infrastructure.

  2. I went to the exhibition at Croydon Clocktower, and asked about access to Waddon Station from he north as there is only accessible from the south for trains towards Sutton. a level access to trains towards London could be useful for Parents with buggies and disabled People.

    There is no mention of Bus Services in the area and the plans are not on the TFL website so how can they comment on the plans.

  3. There are houses on the Sutton side, not just the old Paynes Poppets site. A grade separated junction over the A23 would have a huge impact on houses and with off-ramps would probably start to have an impact on the setting of Waddon Ponds.

  4. brogdale says:

    At the Clocktower ‘consultation’ I also found the TfL officials shockingly ill-informed, and it was not until we were handed over to “the designer of the scheme” that we got anywhere with our fairly basis questions.
    What emerged from that discussion was:-

    1. The ‘fiveways’ proposal is not part of a more coherent “A23 corridor study” from the ‘Roads Task Force’, but merely a stand-alone attempt to ‘do something’ about the problems of ‘fiveways’. If this scheme were anything more than an attempt to ease East-West access for the demographic required by Hammersfield, the obvious solution would be to underpass the entire junction; in fact the ‘designer’ admitted that he was surprised that the A23 had not formed part of Boris Johnson’s pre-election “promise” of buried roads.

    2. The notion that there are two proposals of equal merit is an obvious falsehood; all of the discussion focused on their bridge/overpass, and Proposal 2 was completely over-looked.

    3. Many of the traffic issues at Fiveways have been made worse by Morrisons. The “designer” said that their hand had been forced by the decision to let Morrisons redevelop the old Homebase unit. Before Morrisons was permitted ‘Odyssey Consulting Engineers’ produced a transport statement report that declared “Given that there will be no net increase in generated traffic it is
    expected that the proposed development and associated demolition would
    result in no impact at the Fiveways and site access junctions. ”

    4. The TfL officials were rather tetchy when I raised the obvious flaw with Proposal 1 that it merely shunts the traffic snarl-up a couple of hundred metres to the North at the expense of the destruction of open space. “Oh yes” said the ‘designer’…”loads of people have asked us about why the overpass does not actually overpass the A23..” So, is it just money , then? I asked…the answer…”yes”.

    5. There was a shockingly poor appreciation of any modified traffic flows that could be expected to be consequential upon Proposal 1. The ‘designer’ revealed that their modelling had predicted a 30% reduction of traffic flow through the existing Fiveways junction, but then appeared surprised when I pointed out to him that there would obviously be a compensatory increase in the W-E flows along Croydon Rd. into LB Sutton. When I pushed him about the consequential works that would be necessary in Beddington/Wallington he then just blustered and said that the modelling “at this stage was very spatially limited to just the junction area itself. Brilliant.

    Left with a feeling of being fobbed-off, clearly this ‘consultation’ represents the very minimum they have to provide before they start concreting over our parks for Hammersfield.

  5. joeycan says:

    I shared the same sense of doom as Walter when I attended the Clocktower session today (12th).. As Walter found, my TfL staffer attempted to be very helpful but:
    a. Presented a vague perception of how much more details on pollution, despoiling and cost were likely to be available later this year when the next public ‘consultation’ is invited.
    b. Appeared suitably sombre when I described the scenario that a bridge connection from the A232 to the Croydon fly-over and thence to the A232 the other side of Croydon, which might be built before the Hammersfield project is anywhere near completion, could well produce a ‘de facto’ BY-PASS for vehicular traffic from Sutton to Bromley and shopping centers beyond, without the need to divert to the new Mall.
    c. Acknowledged that other proposals for the area had been aired ‘in house’ but could not (would not) say what they were nor why they were rejected, thus confining the residents attention to two options which TfL/Croydon Council/Hammersfield considered appropriate.

    I also pointed out that Fiveways corner was remote from the A232 intersection on the Purley Way, which connects both, between which are several sets of traffic lights. A bridge built between the A232 and the Fly-over would require an even more complex set of signals, particularly when cycling requirements were taken into account.

    I noted that the blue box adjacent to Fiveways on the map, showed that improvements for Pedestrians and cyclists – not vehicles, were to be made and that although the assumption was that Stafford Road would see a reduction in traffic, you can ‘bet your ‘bippy’ that an increased commercial vehicle flow would be created once the bridge had been completed.
    Finally, it doesn’t take rocket science to work out from the hand-out that the changes proposed to “help meet the likely increase in traffic caused by the growth in the local economy” actually refers to the Hammersfield development, from which two important consequences will flow:

    a. The increase in vehicular traffic (cars) is directly opposed to the policy of the previous administration which favored Public Transport and a reduction of cars in central Croydon – a policy which the present administration seems not publicly to have endorsed since taking power.

    b. Cars need car-parks and these will,unless the Council takes control of them as a Borough asset, be run by and for Hammersfield. We will then have the ludicrous situation of the Council having no control at all over pricing policy, a fault illustrated when the previous Labour administration sold off its car parks to NCP. We all know what happened to car-park charges then.

    Transparency looks to be taking a back seat again!

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