JEREMY CLACKSON, our transport correspondent, on the continuing angst caused by traffic levels off the Addiscombe Road
The wretched legacy of Mark Watson’s time of power and influence within Croydon Council is still being felt by some of the former councillor’s unfortunate neighbours in Addiscombe, with mounting complaints from residents of some streets over ever-increasing traffic and with collisions between vehicles using the residential streets as a rat run now a regular occurrence.
A residents’ association newsletter, distributed at the weekend, claims that traffic volumes on one street in Addiscombe East ward has increased by more than 40 per cent in the past year, since the introduction of a one-way system which appears to favour neighbouring roads in Addiscombe West.
Watson was one of Croydon Labour’s “Gang of Four”, the all-powerful cabal led by Tony Newman which took over the running of the council from 2014.
In July 2015, cabinet member Watson made a presentation to the council’s traffic advisory committee that one street in the ward he represented, Lebanon Road, should be made one-way. The proposal was passed.
Watson happens to live on Lebanon Road.
Lebanon Road, where family homes sell for almost half a million pounds, is at the western end of a ladder of residential streets which run between the busy Lower Addiscombe Road to the north and Addiscombe Road and the tram lines to the south.
The consequences of making Lebanon Road one-way were hard-felt by Watson’s neighbours living in Addiscombe Court Road and Tunstall Road, who found that the traffic which had previously used Lebanon Road to go north was displaced on to their previously more peaceful streets. There was considerable anger directed at Watson, who was accused of abusing his position as a councillor for the benefit of his own street.
Such was the ill-feeling over how they had been treated, a new residents’ association – TACRA, for Tunstall and Addington Court roads – was formed, and lobbied successfully for their streets to be given similar dispensation to that which had benefited Lebanon Road.
Inevitably, when those road changes were granted in early 2017, the knock-on effects for Canning, Clyde, Elgin and Havelock roads was… more traffic. Perhaps worse, because of the council’s ineffectual, piecemeal changes which favoured some streets over others, residents’ association were now at loggerheads, too, over the different approaches to the ever-increasing levels of traffic.
And Councillor Watson? He was once within a few votes of being promoted to become deputy leader of Croydon Council. But the furore he created on his own doorstep had made him a political sitting duck. Watson (left) had seen the direction of travel, and while making some lame excuse, chose not to seek reselection by the Labour Party to stand as a candidate in May’s Town Hall elections.
Now, the residents of HOME – the residents’ association for Havelock, Outram, Mulberry Lane, Elgin and Addiscombe Road – have produced some startling statistics for traffic on their streets.
The figures are the result of their own surveys, rather than any independent or professional monitoring, but are sure to have alarmed many residents when they received the newsletter over the bank holiday weekend.
“Elgin Road has got a lot busier… from 17,000 vehicles per week to around 24,000 vehicles per week now that all the residential roads towards East Croydon are blocked to north-bound traffic,” the newsletter reported.
“The council states that there has been no net decrease in traffic flow since these changes, so traffic has had to increase in roads in Addiscombe East as there is nowhere else for them to go.”
The residents’ association produced some vivid bar charts to demonstrate their traffic monitoring findings.
The RA’s findings on night-time traffic will have been particularly alarming. “Many are finding the significant increase in noise and pollution quite distressing,” they noted.
They blame the one-way system changes for three recent car crashes, one a month since June, on Elgin Road – or “the Addiscombe West Bypass” as some have taken to calling it.
“The number of vehicles travelling from the Addiscombe Road to the Lower Addiscombe Road along Elgin Road at night-time has increased by a staggering amount,” the HOME newsletter claims.
The findings have drawn some support from one other body, Rod Davies, of the East Croydon Community Organisation, stating on social media, “The substantial eastward shift in the volume of traffic does raise questions about the approach the council has taken towards traffic management, and its dismissal of HOME RA’s objections to the latest changes.”
The HOME residents’ association’s protests have become increasingly strident in recent weeks, and politically partisan against the ruling Labour group on the council because of the apparent favouritism for those streets in Addiscombe West, which continues to have three Labour councillors.
Since the local elections in May, the area covered by HOME is now in the new ward of Addiscombe East, which has one Labour councillor, Maddie Henson, and a Tory councillor, Jeet “Lucky” Bains (above right).
Bains’ position in this matter appears just as compromised as was Watson’s. Any additional traffic calming in the streets from Elgin Road westwards is likely to simply displace the traffic towards Cheyne Walk, where Bains lives.
Certainly Sean Fitzsimons, one of the Addiscombe West councillors, remains of the view that a broader, area-wide solution is required.
“On face value they make a case for further action to be taken to relieve traffic on Elgin Road,” Fitzsimons told Inside Croydon today.
“It should be pointed out that all roads in the HOME area have speed humps and 20mph speed limits. Random events, like traffic accidents, do not happen at regular intervals and are prone to clumping, but it is also the case that one crash is one too many.
“The issues I have is that they publish those stats which support their case, while ignoring others, such as there are still two residential roads in Addiscombe West, Leslie Park Road and Park Hill Road, which have more traffic than Elgin Road. This doesn’t even include the main route of Cherry Orchard Road and Addiscombe Grove.
“Where I disagree with HOME is that they are stuck in 20th Century thinking about how to handle traffic on residential roads. They want to manage the traffic by sharing it across the area. This car-centric approach is outdated, and means that cars and lorries dominate local roads instead of people.
“The changes that have been induced has reduced rat-running on residential roads in Addiscombe West ward, though it still the case that Addiscombe Grove/Cherry Orchard Road is still the main South-North route, despite what they say about Elgin Road.
“For some local car drivers these changes have meant some slightly longer journeys, but it also deters some from making unnecessary short trips, which is better for the environment.
“Vehicle trips overall are down, but we have seen an increase of 100 cars a day on Elgin Road and I agree that this should be tackled. It’s how we do where I differ from some leaders in HOME. They want to reverse the changes and return all the roads to the pre-2015 system. They also want a veto on any changes to Addiscombe West roads, which I believe means that no action will ever be taken to tackle rat-running.
“My view is that no resident group should have such a veto.
“I contend that a possible answer is filtered permeability for all residential roads in the HOME area, as happened in mini-Holland pilots in Enfield and Waltham Forest.
“I understand that HOME RA leaders oppose filtered permeability as they believe it causes longer journeys for their car drivers, and that it might displace traffic. I don’t think they have asked their non-driving residents what their views are.
“I should point out that I’m not the councillor for the HOME area any more, so apart from suggesting filtered permeability to HOME I have not pushed this as an option, as that is for HOME and their ward councillors to pursue or not.
“I will continue to support measures that put residents and pedestrians first, and rat-running second.”
The HOME annual meeting is being staged on September 8, from 3pm, at Havelock Road, where the traffic situation is certain to be discussed. The local MP, Sarah Jones, and the ward councillors have all been invited. For details to attend, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the HOME website.
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