Shoppers angry as Valley Park car park is gridlocked for hours

Residents and shoppers are angry, and some are considerably out-of-pocket, after some endured a wait of three hours just to get out of the car park at Valley Park’s shopping and leisure centre yesterday.

No escape? The car parks at the Valley Park shopping and leisure centre alongside Ikea were gridlocked yesterday afternoon

No escape? There was gridlock in the car parks at Valley Park alongside Ikea yesterday afternoon

It was the first post-Christmas holiday Saturday of sales and discounts in the shopping complex off the Purley Way, and the combination of the unusually high volume of traffic, some drivers’ impatience, and lack of any help or direction from the centre’s staff contributed to the traffic chaos.

“Total joke. I was stuck for two hours,” one frustrated shopper said.

Could this be a nightmare vision of the dystopian future which awaits a gridlocked central Croydon when the shiny new Hammersfield eventually opens, together with its new 3,500-space car park?

Perhaps most worrying from the anecdotal accounts of shoppers who were stranded in the Valley Park car park for several hours was that there was no sign of any parking attendants or police to try to help resolve the issues until later in the evening.

“I was trapped in the car park for two hours,” Donna Johnson said. “Where was the traffic police? No emergency vehicle could get in.”

Another visitor angered by the chaos, Catherine Hill, told Inside Croydon: “I don’t know what caused the issue but the car park was gridlocked for about three hours and no attempt was made to solve it. More and more cars were coming in so the situation just worsened, which was why I gave up and went to Star Wars.

“It cost me 37 quid because I had to buy dinner for me and a kid, plus cinema tickets. Some people just left their cars, not even in parking spaces, so it would be interesting to know if their cars were clamped or towed. There was a parking attendant around at 10pm, but no one between 4.30 and 7pm. I will not drive up there again when I can get the bus into Croydon and go to Grants.”

Gavin Barwell: has he done the decent thing? Or been told to do so?

Gavin Barwell: gridlocked by shopping traffic

Gavin Barwell, the Tory MP for Croydon Central, has today responded to complaints by promising to take the matter up with the council, and explore the possibility of developing a second exit from the complex.

“Has happened to me in past,” Barwell announced on Twitter. “Have raised with council before and will do so again.”

Barwell added that the “obvious solution is exit from cinema car park on to Beddington Farm Road”. This may involve planning applications to Sutton Council.

On Twitter, ‏@CyrusLarijani described yesterday’s car park chaos as “awful”.

“We must get Westfield planning spot on,” they added, perhaps more in hope than expectation. Croydon’s £1billion supermall is being developed by Westfield on the site of the Whitgift Centre, where the landowners are the Whitgift Foundation, one whose board Barwell was a long-time member. He continues to be cheerleader-in-chief for the project.

Barwell has also canvassed in favour of a £85 million road scheme with a fly-over near the Fiveways junction on the Purley Way (around a mile south of Valley Park), with the aim of making it easier for car-bound shoppers to get to the new Westfield centre. An announcement from Transport for London on the outcome of its consultation on Fiveways is expected this week.

About insidecroydon

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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11 Responses to Shoppers angry as Valley Park car park is gridlocked for hours

  1. farmersboy says:

    Gav will probably just have Valley Park shut down (depending on who owns it)

  2. This highlights the whole naieve stupidity of having a massive car park (3500 vehicles) for a single purpose use (retail) with a massive bias to access by private car and because of the point location, very limited options for dispersal (and assembly in some cases) Contrast with the traditional integrated uses of a town centre, business, retail, leisure, even residential, and the range of options available to get there – on foot, bike, public transport – the latter viable because of a demand for travel through the day by the different users, likewise for the parking spaces.

    It is very basic maths that if it takes an optimistic 6 seconds for a car to get through the barrier (ir there is one and get out from the car park on to the roads network, that is 10 cars/minute per exit lane, or 600 cars getting out per hour, so that in terms of lane-hours it will take nearly 6 hours to get the last car out if all 3500 drivers turn up at closing time and want to leave immediately. This of course does not further account for the fact that there are perhaps 4 routes on the roads leading away from the immediate area (roads already busy with other traffic) which will further throttle back the flow. In Brussels one development (with only 2500 parking space) was refused because of this very issue of all drivers trying to leave at the same time – Croydon be warned!

    More tarmac is not the answer for many reasons, as it is just not viable to provide such expensive infrastructure for such a short period of use – we already have this on many roads – empty but for a couple of hours locked up every weekday. Thus a plan with, bus and rail able to deliver ‘000’s of customers, without the cost to the retail park of providing and maintaining parking spaces, and the elimination of this typical effect seen at every such daft development, which is solely oriented to access by private cars.

    Fortunately many are now recognising that most of their needs can be purchased locally often within a 5 minute walk, bike or bus ride, from shops where you will know the staff and they wil remember you – you can’t pay next time at a big supermarket but your local shop may well be sympathetic to leaving your purse at home occasionally. Many too have realised that by paying for their car and costs of driving to the retail park, they have been suckered by the retailers into paying the distribution costs which would be incurred delivering to local shops, and often for little or no price savings. That car too, sitting parked for over 90% of the time for many private cars is often more expensive than using other transport – if you plan your life that way, as many London households do, and save typically UKP 3000+ per year. maybe we are turning the corner and the car oriented remote retail park and even town centres with massive central car parking will cease to be seen as the way to go.

    • Nick Davies says:

      It isn’t a single-purpose use; it’s down to a single retailer. YuKEA are immensely popular and you get this chaos in every location in the country whenever they hold a sale.

      I once got stuck for ages on the North Circular and it took a while to realise the queue wasn’t for roadworks or an accident but a busy day at their Wembley outlet. People travel miles to visit – the next nearest one for much of the south-east is in Southampton. I would hazard that 99.9% or customers visit IKEA by car. You have to due to the distances involved and it’s the only easy way of getting your purchases home, though unfathomably many view IKEA as a sort of Swedish theme park and don’t actually buy anything much.

      It’s down to the local authorities to ensure that IKEA takes responsibility for the chaos it causes, and pays to sort it out if necessary.

      • Gaz says:

        It isn’t just down to Ikea. B&Q carpark also has massive queues.

        Vue car park also fills up massively when lots of screenings are on. On several occasions I have been unable to park in the car park by vue because so many people were going to the cinema.

      • davidjl2014 says:

        Ever been to Sweden? I have many times, it doesn’t happen there.

  3. Rod Davies says:

    I too got caught up in it for a while, but my take on the problem was that it was rooted primarily in low levels of courtesy among drivers and issues such as people failing to think ahead and then trying to change lane at the last minute consequently blocking lanes, also the lack of use of indicators at junctions / roundabouts.

  4. Gaz says:

    Been common for years. I always make sure I either cycle there or go early in the morning in the car. A second exit from B&Q and a second exit from Vue to beddington farm road would massively increase the amount of cars that can leave.

  5. davidjl2014 says:

    And still the fanatics campaign for the 20mph speed limit. Wait for Westfield…… you ain’t seen nothing yet!

    • Some car drivers have behaved inconsiderately. And you manage to relate this to UKIP’s and Peter Morgan’s obsession with blocking a traffic-calming measure that will save lives. Sheer genius.

  6. Emma Turner says:

    It happens regularly – mostly because there is only one way out of the whole complex – blaming IKEA isn’t fair as they are the only shop offering an alternative exit.

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