Sutton Council has been threatened with a public inquiry into their plans to redirect heavy lorry traffic into Croydon, as a senior Town Hall official has accused the neighbouring local authority of getting their figures wrong, of failing to follow the law, and of increasing the risk of deaths on local roads.
Our transport correspondent, JEREMY CLACKSON, reports
Objections to Sutton’s “selfish and shameful” scheme to direct incinerator traffic away from Beddington Village and on to neighbouring roads across the borough boundary into Croydon has attracted a formal objection from Croydon Council, which accuses their local authority colleagues of failing to consult as required by law over the proposals to restrict HGV lorries.
In a stern, four-page letter from one of Croydon’s most senior council staff to colleagues in Sutton, they describe the plans as being “of great concern”, and threatened to demand a public inquiry over the proposals.
Inside Croydon reported earlier this month how LibDem-controlled Sutton wants to impose a traffic restriction for Beddington Lane and Hilliers Lane which potentially will daily re-route thousands of heavy goods lorries, and their polluting emissions, up and down the Purley Way, through Croydon’s Waddon and Broad Green wards.
Waddon councillors described the scheme as “selfish and shameful”. Only now, it would seem, after a decade of official reassurances over the building an industrial-scale incinerator on the borough boundary, are the full consequences finally begins to sink in with the people who are supposed to administer this part of south London.
And now the Viridor incinerator, built at a cost to the public of £210million at the behest of Sutton, Croydon and their South London Waste Partnership partners Kingston and Merton, will burn 300,000 tons of rubbish a year, which will be trucked in by a fleet of lorries, who will then carry away the ash by-product, for dumping elsewhere.
To make a bad situation even worse, another waste disposal operator, Suez, wants to build a municipal solid waste and industrial waste plant with similar capacity nearby on Beddington Lane – a replacement for their facility in Mitcham which was recently destroyed in a fire.
And Sutton Council has also granted planning permission to Prologis to build 200,000 sq ft of office space on Metropolitan Open Land by Beddington Lane, which when open for business will also generate considerable additional traffic.
The Sutton Council weight restriction order for Beddington Village is accompanied by a map with Dad’s Army-style arrows all over it, and clearly illustrates their firm intention to push their growing traffic problem into Croydon.
Sutton’s scheme is understood to be in response to energetic campaigning by residents in Beddington Village, whose leaders include Tom Sweeney.
Sweeney happens to be an employee of Croydon Council whose day job involves… trying to improve conditions for cyclists and pedestrians in this borough.
Elsewhere in Croydon Council’s offices in Fisher’s Folly, Sweeney’s colleagues are meanwhile actively seeking to block Sutton’s moves to reduce traffic in Beddington Village by displacing it on to Croydon’s already clogged and choking roads.
Last month, in a letter which has been seen by Inside Croydon, Steve Iles, Croydon’s “director of public realm”, wrote a four-page formal objection to the Sutton plans, sent to Matthew Hill, the assistant director – highways, transport, and regulatory services, who works for both Sutton and Kingston councils.
In the letter, Iles told Hill that Sutton had failed to comply with their legal duties over traffic management and advising neighbouring authorities. “Croydon Council was not sent the Notice until a significant period after its publication (and only when requested by Croydon Council),” Iles wrote.
“Also, it is not clear what steps have been taken by Sutton Council to give adequate publicity to persons within Croydon likely to be affected by the provision of the Order.”
A technical note sent on March 1 by a Sutton highways official “has only heightened concerns”, Iles wrote.
Iles added, scathingly: “The introduction to the Technical Note states that the Note ‘explains the proposed restriction, how it would work in practice and the likely impacts on traffic reassignment’. It does the former but fails to adequately do the latter.
“Of great concern is the potential scale of HGV reassignment,” Iles wrote.
Iles refers to a traffic study conducted on a single day in July 2016 at the A232 junction with Hilliers Lane, when 912 HGVs were recorded as driving through.
In his letter, Iles criticises the number-crunching which Sutton Council had done on studies undertaken to justify the re-routing of heavy goods vehicles. “As equally concerning as the numbers of HGVs potentially re-assigning is the profound contradiction between the HGV Diversion Route Plan (published with the draft Weight Restriction Order and Notice), and the pattern of predicted HGV reassignment described in the Technical Note.”
Iles refers to the “very large discrepancy” in Sutton’s numbers.
“The predicted pattern of reassignment bears no relation to the route shown on the HGV Diversion Route plan,” Iles wrote.
In making his case, Iles refers to a later traffic survey, from May 2018, which showed 997 HGVs entering and exiting Hilliers Lane, suggesting a 9 per cent increase in lorry traffic in the area in two years – even before the incinerator is operational or the Suez plant and Prologis offices open.
According to Iles, during the planning process for the incinerator, they estimated a “daily HGV demand of circa 788 HGV trips” – so nearly doubling the current truck traffic in the area. That takes no account for the increase in traffic that might be expected for the Suez plant or for the Prologis offices.
Such massive increases in traffic, councillors from both sides of the borough boundary have admitted privately would render the long-term planning by City Hall and TfL for the A23’s Fiveways junction a multi-million-pound waste of time and money.
Croydon officials met Sutton colleagues on March 8.
“It did not aid our understanding of the location, type, magnitude and significance of effects likely to arise from the proposal within Croydon,” Iles wrote dismissively.
“Therefore, the agreement in the meeting that Sutton Council would not proceed to make the order until Croydon Council was able to fully consider the effects of the proposal and provide an informed response, is most welcome.” So a pause, of unspecified duration, appears to have been promised.
Iles laid some pretty damning statistics on Sutton in his letter.
“Although HGVs make up less than 5 per cent of total vehicle kilometres driven in London, between 2015 and 2017, they accounted for 25 per cent of pedestrian and 63 per cent of cyclist fatalities,” he wrote.
“In London, between 2012 to 2017, collisions occurring between 0800 and 0900 that resulted in the death of someone who was walking, cycling or riding a motorcycle were more likely to involve an HGV than any other vehicle.
“Croydon Council needs to be assured that the re-routing/reassignment of HGVs and the resulting increase in the mileage and turning movements do not lead to and overall increase in road risk and road danger particularly for vulnerable road users.
“The reassignment to Mitcham Road … is of particular concern. The Lombard Roundabout is one of Croydon’s worst road casualty locations including for vulnerable road user casualties. There are no facilities for pedestrians or cyclists but the residential population around it is growing and schools have been developed/expanded close to it.
“Had a developer proposed to route this number of HGVs on Croydon’s streets, we would have expected (and required) construction logistics/delivery and servicing plans to inform our decision making and requiring our agreement…”. In other words, Sutton Council has tried to do what no private developer would be allowed to get away with.
So far, of the area’s elected representatives, from Croydon, only Waddon’s Labour councillors have raised objections.
Broad Green ward is also affected, though councillors there, such as cabinet member Stuart Collins, have remained silent. As has Tory London Assembly Member “Silent” Steve O’Connell, and two MPs whose constituents would be most affected – Steve Reed OBE from Croydon North and Croydon South’s Chris Philp.
But Iles’s formal objections may yet prove influential over the redirection of traffic.
While stopping short of declaring all-out war on Sutton and getting trenches dug, machine gun posts set-up and barbed wire laid along the line of the Purley Way, Iles did not pull any punches in his conclusion. If, Iles warned, “Sutton Council chooses to press straight ahead with the proposed weight restriction… it is our expectation that a public inquiry will be held before making the order.”
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