A form of road rage has broken out along the usually polite residential streets of Addiscombe, in a simmering dispute between neighbours over the council’s traffic management.
Residents along Lebanon Road and Addiscombe Court Road have been the recipients of leaflets and counter-leaflets in the past fortnight, and for once this was not, at least openly, about any election.
The first pamphlet appeared in the letter boxes of homes along a couple of streets around May 16, with accusations of “Nimby-ism” being fired in the direction of local Labour powerbroker Mark Watson after the road he lives on – Lebanon Road – had been made into a quieter, calmer, one-way route for traffic. Councillor Watson is a member of the Croydon Council cabinet and is known to be part of council leader Tony Newman’s clique of closest colleagues.
The Lebanon Road traffic change has made neighbours on Addiscombe Court Road disgruntled, at the very least, as they claim that their road has had an unfair increase in the volume of vehicles as a result, and that the council’s latest streets scheme has prompted more dangerous driving manoeuvres around the tram tracks as traffic emerges on to Addiscombe Road.
The initial leaflet was anonymous – which is never a terrific way to begin any sort of local campaign – and was not circulated with an obvious Conservative agenda. Nor has it been delivered by any of the usually very active residents associations in the area. “It’s a shame they didn’t sign it as it would be nice to know who else thinks it is a problem,” Inside Croydon‘s loyal reader said after they’d received the leaflet.
The leaflet appeared in the key final few days of the Labour council’s own consultation on introducing 20mph zones in the area.
Headed “Thousands of cars a day cutting through Addiscombe Court Rd”, the leaflet referred to the decision of the council’s traffic management advisory committee last July to make Lebanon Road southbound one-way only, noting, “Our own ward councillor – Mark Watson – who lives on Lebanon Road played a key role in lobbying and agitating for the change. Lebanon Road was closed in January 2016,” it stated, inaccurately: the road was not closed, but made one-way.
The leaflet claimed that as a consequence of the change, more than 1,400 vehicles a day had now been diverted on to Addiscombe Court Road, “a tripling of northbound traffic”. The leaflet suggests that the council’s impact assessment report was flawed and that Addiscombe Court Road residents were not consulted, as is a requirement of law.
“The council decided to simply route a huge traffic problem from one street to an even narrower street – our street – without consulting you!” the anonymous pamphleteer wrote.
They also highlight what could have been selective information being reported to the traffic management committee (made up of elected councillors) by the council’s full-time staff, to support their report’s recommendations. “Whether this was simply incompetence or for other reasons is unknown,” they wrote, with a nudge and a wink.
Residents who have contacted Inside Croydon state that another consequence of the one-way street changes has been that impatient drivers on Addiscombe Road have been more inclined to make dangerously risky and illegal manoeuvres to bypass the Lebanon Road tram stop.
“Cars and vans overtake parked trams where there are no overtaking white lines on the road. Some of them come out of Lebanon Road, pass the trams and then turn in front of them down Addiscombe Court Road,” our loyal reader says.
“A number of times I have nearly been knocked over by these vehicles when crossing in front of a parked tram. It can only be a matter of time before someone is killed or seriously injured.”
And traffic rules enforcement – or the lack of it – is yet again an issue. “There are no cameras covering this. The only cameras cover the tram platforms, not the road.”
Within a week of the anonymous leaflet, and Watson and his ward colleagues, barely recovered after weeks of diligent canvassing for the London elections, were out posting more leaflets through their residents’ letter boxes. This leaflet took the form of a rebuttal over the traffic management changes.
And although carrying an Addiscombe ward councillors header, this leaflet is a curiously personal defence of the road changes by Watson – it carries his signature alone, and is issued as if from his own home address.
In his leaflet, Watson tries to claim that only half of the northbound traffic from Lebanon Road has been displaced on to Addiscombe Court Road. This is hardly designed to win over the disabused Addiscombe Court Road residents, as Watson admits that they now have more than one thousand additional vehicle movements down their street every day.
“We are in total agreement that rat-running on our residential roads is unacceptable and we will work with residents to reduced this,” according to a Labour councillor who now has cabinet responsibility for, among other things, delivering a vast new supermall nearby in central Croydon which wants to build a 3,000-bay car park for people to drive to… Go figure.
Back to matters impacting his own street, Watson states, “The changes were not motivated by reducing traffic on Lebanon Road – but because head-to-head traffic was the problem.”
Watson refers to the 12-year campaign by residents of the parallel streets off Addiscombe Road, and the work that he and his ward colleagues have done since 2010. Watson seeks to pin some of the blame on a residents petition delivered to the council “via the MP”, meaning Tory petition enthusiast Gavin Barwell, which called for one-way traffic on Lebanon Road.
Perhaps unwittingly, Watson makes the anonymous Addiscombe Court Road leafleter’s point for them when he admits that “an informal consultation” was delivered to “residents of Lebanon Road and those who might have to use Lebanon Road to access their homes”. This reads very much like an admission that Addiscombe Court Road residents were not canvassed for their opinions.
Watson then states that a formal consultation was held before the matter arrived at the traffic management committee last July, and that he “declared my own interest throughout the process and have taken care not to be involved in the council procedures, decision-making or consultation on this issue”.
Watson wrote: “I will support all residents in my ward if they want to improve their area… I think all our residential roads have too much traffic.”
Watson suggests that the 20mph zones on residential streets will encourage drivers to stick to the main roads, though any measures to reduce volumes of traffic outright are left unmentioned. But then, how could he? As cabinet member for Croydon’s economic regeneration, Watson is backing a £1.4 billion Tory-inspired scheme to attract even more road traffic into our borough on a vast scale.
Addiscombe residents who have seen Watson’s leaflet have been dismissive of his arguments. “It’s all bullshit,” said one.
“It’s firefighting from Mark,” was another comment, from someone who happens to be a Labour Party supporter.
“Who were the people consulted on the road? How were they selected?” asked another.
The most damning thing for Watson’s defence, however, is contained within a response to a Freedom of Information request sent to Croydon Council at the end of March. This revealed that since January, traffic on part of Lebanon Road had been reduced by two-thirds, while the equivalent figures for part of Addiscombe Court Road had increased four-fold, from 449 vehicles per day to 1,643.
The council’s official figures used weekday averages, and not Watson’s somewhat selective statistics which compared traffic on one Saturday to traffic volumes on a Sunday.
And the official council response also underlines how the statutory consultation barely qualified as lip-service to the legal requirements.
The FoI shows that the consultation failed to consult those residents whose homes were likely to be most affected by the changes. Any reasonable reading of the council response suggests that this was done quite deliberately.
The council states: “It is normal practise [sic] for officers [meaning council staff] to consult with residents of the road itself in terms of an opinion survey to support the request for one way working.
“In this particular case all residents of Lebanon road received documents asking them to respond saying if they supported the measure or not. There are other roads where residents must travel along Lebanon road to access their property and those side roads were also consulted. This consultation was delivered around 10 March 2015.”
The notice of the statutory consultation was, according to Croydon Council, “attached to lamp columns in Lebanon Road…” so anyone who doesn’t happen to use Lebanon Road – such as Addiscombe Court Road residents, for instance – might never have seen them, “…and appeared in the local press (Croydon Guardian).” So if your local freebie paper was not shoved through your letter box that week, tough luck.
“So they asked the people on Lebanon Road whether they wanted less traffic outside their front doors. You don’t need to be Stephen Hawking to work out the self-fulfilling answer to that one, do you?” said one resident.
“No one I’ve spoken to in Addiscombe Court Road was aware of any consultation on making Lebanon Road one-way,” our loyal reader says.
“Also it should have been obvious that just changing one road would just move the problem, not solve it. The whole area needs to be looked at not just the Nimbyism of one councillor.”
Addiscombe ward has been a key battleground in elections at every level for a decade. The only wonder is that local Tories – desperate to win back Addiscombe from Labour – haven’t yet launched one of their virtue-signalling petitions. It can only be a matter of time.
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