Members of two bodies which seek to represent the interests and needs of Croydon’s disabled and elderly – one of which is organised by the council itself – have confirmed that there was no consultation held with them before Croydon Council imposed the closure of a section of the High Street on the town centre in October.
Inside Croydon reported last week that the council held a site visit with Transport for London over the road closure just a few weeks before several bus diversions had to be implemented. One member of the Croydon Mobility Forum, a body established by the council to assist with public transport and related issues around the borough, has described the road closure as “another Mark Watson vanity project”.
Watson is the council cabinet member responsible for the road closure; his previous “prestige” project was a £1.2million spend on Surrey Street which had an immediate impact, causing businesses to lose significant amounts of trade while driving away around half the stalls from the ancient street market.
Adrian Dennis, a former Labour councillor and member of the Croydon Disability Forum, on seeing the latest “installation” seating, placed by the council in the road space on the High Street, commented, “Is Mark Watson taking the piss?”
Another mobility forum member told Inside Croydon, “We were unaware of any plans to close the High Street to traffic until the council announced that they were going to do it.”
The road closure has seen several bus routes diverted – apparently with some reluctance from TfL – and the town centre taxi rank moved.
The Croydon Mobility Forum has raised objections to these latest, and short-notice, bus route changes, describing them as “a further detriment to the bus services in this part of Croydon”.
In a formal letter of complaint sent this week, and seen by Inside Croydon, Charlie King, the chair of the council’s Mobility Forum, told TfL that its bus stop changes, due to be implemented tomorrow, will: “remove the 109 from the common stop with buses to Croydon University Hospital and Streatham from which route 50 has already been removed, now leaving only routes 60 and 450 serving this stop.
“This stop is also the main interchange stop between buses serving East Croydon and those serving West Croydon and London Road.
“I note that you are now going to allow passengers to board the 109 and N109 at the stop by Queen’s Gardens, but this still requires passengers to cross both St George’s Walk and Katharine Street and is at least 100metres or more which is not easy for those with mobility difficulties.
“I would ask as an interim that you at least allow passengers to also board route 50 at this stop as well, while you have a further review of bus stopping arrangements in Katharine Street to try and improve the connectivity of bus services in this part of Croydon to the level they were at prior to the closure of the High Street.”
And in a Commentary column for Inside Croydon, Dennis, a member of the separate and independent Croydon Disability Forum, claims that the road closure and resulting changes to public transport are deterring the elderly and disabled from coming into the town centre.
“This is a further attack on the elderly and people with disabilities to prevent us having access to the town centre,” Dennis has written.
“A recent survey of our disabled members revealed that we surveyed had all stopped going into Croydon because it was now too dangerous or too inaccessible, or both.”
A former Croydon councillor with extensive experience of local authority work, Dennis accuses Croydon Council of failing to fulfil its legal duties when it did not consult over the rushed closure of Croydon High Street.
“Not only did Croydon Council fail to consult properly affected businesses and Transport for London, the bus operator, they did not carry out their statutory duty to do an Equality Impact Assessment (under the Equality Act 2010). Had they done so, they will have realised that the closure plans discriminate against the elderly and disabled, yet again.
“… The road closure fails to address the only legitimate safety issue, while it diverts buses and taxis away from the centre of Croydon, making it less accessible to those who rely on them.”
The Croydon Disability Forum, Dennis confirms, “learned about the proposals only after they were implemented, due to the council’s failure to conduct adequate consultation”.
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