It’s a new “Quietway” on Norbury Avenue. Which might explain the near-silence from Croydon Council about the road closure, which stretches from the end of Sandfield Avenue as far as Kensington Avenue. For years it has been a rat-run for cars driving between Norbury and Thornton Heath.
Well, it won’t be for the next three months.
The council passed the order for the trial period less than a fortnight ago. Since March, there’s been hardly any public meetings of the full council at the Town Hall, so there’s been little opportunity for public questions on this trial, and the loyal Labour councillors in the affected wards of Norbury and Thornton Heath are hardly likely to cause a fuss about something being introduced by their own Labour council…
The scheme is brought to us through the “Place” department – what most people would call “Planning” – run by Croydon’s six-figure salaried executive Jo Negrini, working under the political guidance of the cabinet member for transport, Kathy Bee, who has overseen the recent 20mph consultation with such… err… aplomb, while enthusiastically supporting a £100 million flyover and dual carriageway being built through a public park in Waddon.
In the jargon of these things, the Norbury road scheme offers “filtered permeability”, which actually means a road block for vans, lorries and cars. Within hours of it being put in place, Croydon joy-riders astride mopeds, scooters and motorbikes were demonstrating that Norbury Avenue’s “permeability” wasn’t quite as “filtered” as the agency behind it, Sustrans, might have hoped.
As with the recent change in collection days for household refuse (notice given: a couple of days), it might have helped if Negrini, Bee and the council had given the public a bit of prior notice.
It’s this sort of mismanagement of the message which inevitably builds up a prejudice against such schemes, however worthy or successful they prove to be.
But on the council website’s page showing the latest releases issued by its press office, in among the propaganda announcements of “Delivering the benefits of Croydon’s growth”, and “Handing power to the community”, or “Vegans back on track after robbery chase accident”, and “Free festival folk and fusion”, Inside Croydon‘s work experience Woodward and Bernstein were unable to find any announcement of a scheme to close a one-mile stretch of the Queen’s highway until September.
According to the council order which permitted the Norbury Avenue road closure, it is required “… to reduce traffic to improve safety and facilities for cyclists and pedestrians travelling through the area. The closures form part of the proposed Quietway Route 77, which runs from Waterloo to Croydon. The closures are being implemented experimentally so that their effectiveness can be assessed before a decision is made as to whether to make them permanent”.
Once the rustic wooden planters were in place yesterday, blocking off the ends of the road, Sustrans staged a street party on the now car-free Norbury Avenue yesterday evening. “Come along and enjoy the fun!” they entreated.
There was supposed to have been a year-long consultation for residents affected, culminating in a series of four events staged in the spring.
“Nearly everybody we spoke to agreed that there is a big problem with traffic cutting through this neighbourhood, dividing it with a consistent flow of vehicles and creating fear of high speeds and lack of respect from drivers,” Sustrans said.
Among the reasons given by the borough highways department for the closure option chosen were, “High speeds at the northern end between the station and Kensington Avenue, causing multiple collisions”, an experience familiar to many residents living on Croydon streets which have excessive volumes of traffic, often speeding along them, “Cut through from Sandfield bridge to County Road is significant”, and “This option leaves reasonable access for residents via the side streets”.
Of course, the bulk of the three-month road closure trial is being staged during the long school summer holiday period, when rush hour traffic volume is much reduced. There are two schools on Kensington Avenue, so what the real value might be of any traffic data collected during the trial period will surely be open to question.But Sustrans say that there will be an on-going consultation process with residents, if not with the car drivers who yesterday discovered “No Entry” signs at one end or another of their regular journey.
One commenter posted on Thursday this week, just 24 hours before the road blocks were put in place: “Lots of residents in Highbury Avenue and Buckingham Avenue have been saying today that they do not know of anyone who has had input into this scheme and feel that there was no organisation/consultation for the local residents. Many of them did not receive leaflets through their doors and the first they knew of it was when they saw the signs! It sounds like a petition will be organised by some to remove this road closure and they will be involving the local MP.”
The local MP is the Blairite Steve Reed OBE. So good luck with that, guys.
Another resident commented: “It’s a pity that we never received any leaflets through our door in regards to the road closure. All we received was one about a party on the green on for the weekend of May 9/10 to get people to know one another… We have been told that every house was sent leaflets about this happening. Well I would like to have the proof that one was put through our letter box because we certainly did not receive anything.
“In our opinion it would be far better to put road humps along the entire length of Norbury Avenue to keep the motorists to 20mph rather than blocking off part of the road, after all this is a residential area. This evening whilst walking along Norbury Avenue we watched a moped and motorbike weaving their way through the flower planters, so this really has not stopped the two-wheeled motor vehicles.
“Please can somebody say how long they really think these planters will remain looking good? I expect within a few days they will have been vandalised and this area will become an area for fly-tippers, encouraging vermin. This is not a nice village but an inner city area with the attitude to go with it.”
After the street party, there was another comment posted: “Lucy, the so-called person in charge of this farce, told another resident from Buckingham Gardens that she had personally put leaflets through all our doors – obviously not the case! I expect the person that was really supposed to post the leaflets through letter boxes put them in the nearest bin!”
The overall tenor of the comments is of pissed-off local residents who have failed to be properly consulted, or even notified, of the scheme.
Thus: “Collected my car from the garage on the corner of Kensington tonight about 6pm and a chap passing on his way home to the little street out of the back of the green triangle stopped me to ask if I knew what the hell was going on with the road being shut off. He hadn’t heard anything about it either despite living yards away from where the closure has been imposed. He was absolutely incredulous when I told him what had gone on. I will give this about a week before the restriction is moved by the council, a petition is got up or the beds, signs and bollard are vandalised. Or all three.”
And with the road blocks now in place, the realities are hitting home very quickly: “Manor Farm Road was chocka at about 4pm yesterday. The worst I’ve ever seen it.”
Or: “I don’t often need to get to Norbury Station but when I do it’s from the Kensington Avenue side. Had to get to it yesterday, so, via Green Lane, I got myself to London Road and then Norbury Station! It’s just stupid! We need to all get together and put our bills to the council, re: extra mileage and also extra time.”
Even allowing for local motoring campaigners, such as the notorious Peter Morgan, attempting to astroturf the public comments, the Norbury Avenue closure has all the hallmarks of another botched consultation by Croydon Council, which risks poisoning attitudes to a trial scheme almost before it has started.
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