Transport correspondent JEREMY CLACKSON on moves to remove a barrier to pedestrians and cyclists which has seen the town centre split in half more than half a century
The dingy, often intimidating and piss-tainted pedestrian subways under the Croydon Flyover and Roman Way are to undergo a major refurbishment, with most filled in completely, as the result of a grant from Transport for London worth nearly £10million.
Oxford Street’s loss is to be Croydon Old Town’s gain, with City Hall funding earmarked for the pedestrianisation of the West End high street being re-directed to Croydon and other boroughs after the Tory-run City of Westminster did a strop over the Labour Mayor’s radical approach to road safety and air pollution.
As a consequence, Croydon Old Town is one of 11 “Liveable Neighbourhoods” dotted across London splitting £53.4million between them. And for once, Croydon is batting well above average, with its grant amounting to £9.6million.
Cash-strapped Croydon Council is understood also to be pitching in, with an additional £7.7million towards the project, which is likely to take at least four years to complete (or eight, if they ask Westfield to assist).
The money will be used to reduce the impact of the Croydon Flyover that severs connections between town and residents.
The pedestrian underpasses were built as safety features below the four- and six-lane A236 and the A232 Flyover section during Croydon’s great burst of road-building in the 1960s.
But after the first flush of modernist novelty wore off, the underpasses became notorious as crime hot-spots and, especially at night, were regarded as no-go zones, with residents preferring to use the ground-level crossings to get from the Minster and Old Town through to Duppas Hill and South Croydon.
The Liveable Neighbourhoods Programme provides funding for walking and cycling projects. These are the successor to the “mini-Holland” schemes approved in Enfield, Kingston and Waltham Forest, when Croydon’s bid was dismissed as being not good enough.
On this occasion, much of the credit for the successful bid can be attributed to the cabinet member responsible, Stuart King, working together with the councillors in Waddon ward, who made subway improvements an election pledge last May.
Cyclist King has done much to guide home the 20mph zones around the borough and, more recently, the “School Streets” car-free scheme, which is to be rolled out to another six primaries in September.
Andrew Pelling, one of the Waddon councillors who has been campaigning for safer underpasses, said, “This is very good news for the ward.
“This is a huge opportunity to mitigate the divisive effects of out-dated car-first planning policies that built an incomplete ring road of urban motorways through Croydon’s historic Old Town.”
The 11 schemes announced by TfL today have been warmly welcomed by the London Cycling Campaign, as they include transforming the notorious and (literally) lethal Holborn gyratory in Camden.
Among the other schemes receiving funding in this latest round include nearby Bromley, where connections to Shortlands Station with “protected cycle lanes and pedestrian crossings” will be developed, plus “School Streets” and a new low-traffic neighbourhood west of Bromley Town Centre.
And while the City of Westminster has turned its back on traffic-free Oxford Street, Croydon’s cycling commuters will welcome moves for a zero emissions zone in the City of London, where streets in the Square Mile will be gradually closed to most motor traffic and opened up as public spaces.
The Croydon branch of the London Cycling Campaign is to hold a meeting next Monday, March 11, from 7.45pm at the Spread Eagle pub on Croydon High Street to discuss how they can collaborate with Croydon Council to ensure the best possible infrastructure can be introduced to improve routes across the Town Centre.
TfL was expected to make a formal announcement at 10am today, when more details of the Old Town plans would be released.
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