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.
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”.
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.
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.
- The public consultation closes on March 15. You can view the scant detail online, and post your comments here
- Flawed Purley Way consultation “intended to mislead” says expert
- Constant congestion cannot be solved by building more road schemes
- How Inside Croydon broke the story of the plans for the flyover to the Croydon Flyover
- Longer trams could save London millions, say LibDems
- Inside Croydon Events: for dates and links to what’s happening in and around Croydon, updated daily, click here
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