South Norwood’s road closures cause mile-long tailbacks

Our transport correspondent, JEREMY CLACKSON, took a socially distanced stroll around South Norwood yesterday and found the council’s roads  experiment delivering predictable results

By 6pm yesterday, traffic on Croydon Road backed up almost a mile towards Penge

Two weeks in to the council’s coronavirus road closure experiment, and the brains trust in Fisher’s Folly has managed to cut and paste the contents of a press release on to a page on the official website and devise a typically un-catchy acronym – CSIP, or “Croydon’s Streetspace Improvement Programme”.

Trouble is, it is hard to see what “improvements” the closures were supposed to provide, or identify how what they have delivered is in any way better.

It took barely a couple of hours after the barriers went up for the traffic jams to form, and residents affected are so far underwhelmed.

Warnings of closures went up with barely a couple of days’ notice. Even then, the council couldn’t spell the names of roads correctly

“The measures should make it easier for residents to maintain social distancing at busy areas such as the entrances to parks, shops and transport hubs,” the council claims on its slowly assembled CSIP web page.

When the scheme was announced at the end of April, five roads were listed for closure. Now, the council’s web page lists 10.

Yet even with most schools closed under lockdown and reduced traffic levels because of covid-19, in mid-afternoon in midweek, the traffic queues are half a mile long, from the junction of South Norwood High Street and Portland Road back towards Penge.

By 6pm, the traffic queue had almost doubled and was nearly a mile long, backed up all the way to Stembridge Road junction with Croydon Road. Several bus routes are experiencing delays of 20 to 30 minutes to get through the traffic queues.

“That rivals the jams caused by the repairs on Goat House Bridge,” one unimpressed resident said. “During a full rush-hour, the jams are likely to extend as far as Anerley Hill – and cause traffic to turn up there in search of an alternative.”

Mutual aid volunteer Jane Nicholl: her meal deliveries are delayed by the closures

Another South Norwood local, Jane Nicholl, volunteers with a mutual aid group as a van driver making deliveries of meals to the elderly and vulnerable twice a week during the emergency, and the road closures have badly slowed her task.

“The closures are really annoying, and now they’ve added even more without warning. It’s a pain in the arse when doing the deliveries,” she said.

“Thing is, the roads they’ve chosen seem randomly picked with no rhyme nor reason. How they are supposed to help cyclists I have no idea because the closed roads are dotted around so randomly.

“The roads with cars dangerously speeding – Birchanger, Tennison and Portland – continue to have idiots pretending they’re at Silverstone. The drivers that might have used the blocked off roads as rat runs haven’t gone away, they’ve just done aggressive three-point turns and sped off down another road posing just as much of a danger to pedestrians and cyclists.”

Warminster Road: the large planters make it appear more palatable. And permanent

People living in the area have endured road closures before – through long-delayed gas mains works on the High Street and road bridge closures over in Woodside. So they knew what to expect.

The traffic queue around the South Norwood Hill junction is caused by two factors. First, no short cut via Lancaster Road towards Anerley or on to South Norwood Hill. Second, just one car waiting to turn right on to South Norwood Hill means no one else can pass. The approach to Goat House Bridge and South Norwood High Street is already notorious for hold-ups.

The traffic slowly makes its way round South Norwood. And this was not even during a rush hour

When the closures were first announced, the planners overlooked Warminster Road, which some drivers used to bypass the barrier at Southern Avenue. The council has now spotted that and blocked off Warminster Road too, using three large concrete containers with flowers to make it look more environmentally palatable. They also suggest an air of permanence: when the lockdown is over, this road may not be re-opened to motor traffic.

Those living on Warminster Road, if they venture out by car at all in these unusual times, now face the prospect of having to turn into South Norwood Hill to join a long queue of traffic to turn left at the High Street in order to head south or east.

In terms of traffic calming and benefiting local residents, the only people benefiting might be those who live in the section of Lancaster Road up to Southern Avenue – and even they will be plagued by cars turning into the road, reaching the barrier and turning back.

Cars have been observed simply driving around the barriers on some of the road closures

Those on the other side of the barrier, and residents in Southern Avenue, will still have cars coming down Lancaster Road before being forced to turn right into Southern Avenue and on to South Norwood Hill from there.

“This makes no sense at all,” said one annoyed resident. “Among the traffic being held up on the A213 are buses on the 75 and 197 bus routes – so delaying all those attempting to use public transport by 20 minutes or more.”

Nicholl, who is well-known for her community activism, describes those implementing the closures as “the council Department of Useless Jobsworths and Timewasting”.

She says, “Why not block off a few roads in Croydon to make life even more difficult for essential service workers – our posties, refuse collectors, emergency services, food deliveries?

“All the important people we rely on during lockdown who are working against the clock and are now having to spend even more time navigating around some stupidly thought-up diversions in the name of – erm… making it easier for people going for walks and preventing roads being used as rat runs. Seriously?

“Ten out of 10 again to Croydon Council for wasting the tax-payers’ money.”


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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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12 Responses to South Norwood’s road closures cause mile-long tailbacks

  1. Grace Onions says:

    Road closures have affected Pampisford Road, too.

    Last week, this notice appeared: “As part of SGN mandatory gas replacement scheme Pampisford Road will start the phase at the junction with Haling Park Road and Waddon Way controlling the traffic with multi-way lights, This work will last for approximately 16 weeks although this phase should be completed within 3 weeks.”

    I use Pampisford Road to get to the allotment and these lights are already causing long delays, and that of course is without school traffic. Yesterday the stationary cars, most (if not all) with engines running, stretched back from the mini roundabout at Waddon Way to at least Allder Way, with more cars joining all the time.

    • James Tinker says:

      Cast your mind back 30 years or so. Yes there were a lot of cars on the road, but most kids walked, or were walked to school and sundays weren’t the busiest day on the road with people shopping. Now it is completely out of control. Never mind the person going to see their dying relative in hospital, or a plumber on emergency call out. A lot of people ARE making needless, lazy journies and this needs to be curtailed. I’m sorry to call it lazy, but there is no other way to describe it. It’s not evil, just human nature, but the consequences of the damage to our health and planet is unacceptable.
      Even if it creates excess pollution in the short term, the only people who will stick it out will be those who do really need to be on the road. That’s the way we humans work. Who is going to sit in traffic for an hour to go food shopping. They will eventually give up, and either order online, or walk to their local shop, supporting the local economy. I will stick it out, because I use my car for my livelihood. We must change, and quickly, just like we have with Covid. I agree, maybe the council’s approach might not be the best, but they must do something.

      • Hattie Forbes says:

        Very strange thought that nearly all the road closures are in South Norwood, isn’t there pollution in other parts of a very large Borough?

        • Glen A Baldwin says:

          What utter nonsense – roads are made for traffic by funnelling traffic to one or two roads the congestion is horrendous and pollution will not improve – most people who are severely delayed have to be on the road already and will be joined by the school run very shortly – I’m not suddenly going to be able to walk, get a bus or a train for my 15 mile commute, but I am losing hours every week stuck in this traffic mistake

  2. Colin Cooper says:

    And doubtless, just as in York, these ‘temporary closures’ will become permanent fixtures to help clean up the local pollution levels, which won’t happen of course due to the extensive build up of stationary traffic putting out yet more fumes because of the artificially created hold ups! Expressions including the words piss up and brewery immediately come to mind.

  3. Pauline carvall says:

    Croydon council are ruining Croydon , shutting all the roads and allowing flats to be build
    all over the place .Upper Norwood is being ruined more flats more cars no roads very clever

  4. Clifford Jones says:

    Why are these idiots allowed to close so many roads. Cars are now speeding down smaller roads to get round the closures and South Norwood High Street is blocked with pollution levels rising. The North of Borough is always used for social experiments by Labour as I don’t see many closures in the South. Open the roads NOW the experiment has gone on for too long

  5. Lezley says:

    Can we please have a speed camera on Park Road, SE25. The Covid road closures are causing heavy speeding traffic. Why should the residents suffer.

  6. Frederika Myers says:

    Please reopen Lancaster/Warminster Road. South Norwood High street keeps getting blocked up, with traffic tailing as far as Penge surely causing more pollution with car engines Idling. No one is making use of walking in the road during lockdown. And why are most of the closures in South Norwood.

  7. Wojtek Zdrojkowski says:

    What on earth are we paying council tax for? So the council can make like as difficult as possible for us it seems.

    Absurd the amount of road closures there are right now.

  8. Francesca Taczalski says:

    I have never come across such an absurd scheme with no purpose except to make life difficult for residents and people visiting residents. How can anyone justify closing these roads? Why are they mostly in South Norwood? What purpose does it serve to pollute fewer roads more heavily and to leave frustrated and angry drivers to speed along the side roads that haven’t been closed?

  9. Glen A Baldwin says:

    Is everyone contacting Croydon council to see who is responsible and accountable? I have made two requests without reply so far – but here we are preaching to the converted. Everyone who feels that these stupid closures in South Norwood are unneeded and time wasting please contact the council and ask questions

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