Triangle will be ‘decimated’ by road closures, warns councillor

A road closure trial in Upper Norwood has caused bitter divisions among residents, and within the Labour-controlled council

The Labour group at the Town Hall, already riven with fault lines on a number of contentious issues, is facing another split, this time over road closures in Upper Norwood that have been introduced today under coronavirus emergency powers.

The latest chasm between the party line and what people really think was exposed last week by councillor Pat Ryan, who broke the usual omerta required of the Labour group on all matters of public policy when he criticised the road closures saying that the area will be “decimated” (yes, he misused that word), and claiming, “Crystal Palace will lose its identity and character.”

Ryan is a Labour councillor for Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood ward and the longest-serving councillor at the Town Hall.

Decimated: Pat Ryan

Ryan’s greatest claim to fame recently came when he got caught during a full meeting of the council in the Town Hall chamber while watching a Palace football match on an iPad.

He also has something of a track record for defending the rights of car drivers to pollute the atmosphere and clog the roads with their vehicles: when a Quietway, a reduced traffic route intended to eliminate rat-running, was trialled on Norbury Avenue five years ago, it was Ryan who stepped in and got the experiment pulled long before it had run its course.

Ryan’s intervention this time, though noisy, may not be quite so immediately damaging to the traffic management experiment, something which is being done under covid-19 legislation in a concerted effort to discourage car use for anything but the most essential of journeys.

Planters like these have been used to close roads in Upper Norwood from today

A Katharine Street source said, “Coronavirus has presented us with an opportunity to change people’s habits for the better, to create safer, less-polluted and calmer streets. We have declared a climate emergency – Pat voted for it a year ago. But it is important that we actually do something about it, and reducing car usage is an important step in that direction.”

It is not an argument that Ryan and the car drivers of Upper Norwood are too impressed with, even if, after many years of neglect and delay, Croydon is using some funding from the Mayor of London to play catch-up in the provision of safer cycling and walking infrastructure.

The new schemes introduced today under the Streetspace scheme bring the borough’s total so far to 16.

Wands have made the cycle lane on London Road a much safer proposition

Most will be reviewed and assessed in the autumn, although quite how that assessment will take place is hard to understand when you consider that the council has gone into these trials with no traffic volume data available for the affected roads from before the pandemic lockdown.

Some road closures were introduced on side streets around South Norwood – on Lancaster Road, Warminster Road and Woodvale Avenue – at the beginning of the lockdown. The response from those living on those roads have mostly be favourable, those stuck in the slowed traffic on the main roads, as they have taken on the vehicles which would usually use rat runs, have been less complimentary.

In West Croydon, car parking spaces have been removed to be replaced with a safer cycle lane, where bike riders are separated from motor vehicles by “wands” – the closest Croydon has ever come to having a “cycle superhighway” of the sort that have been commonplace in other parts of the capital for a decade or more.

The road closures introduced today all affect side roads that link the major roads at Church Road and Auckland Road:

  • Sylvan Hill: closure around halfway along Sylvan Hill. Local access will be maintained via both Church Road and Auckland Road ends of Sylvan Hill.
  • Stambourne Way: closure at the junction of Stambourne Way and Auckland Road. Local access will be maintained via the Church Road end of Stambourne Way.
  • Fox Hill: closure at the junction between Fox Hill and Braybrooke Gardens. Local access will maintained via the Church Road end of Fox Hill.

According to the council’s official press release: “The measures will involve temporarily turning the streets into cul-de-sacs for through vehicles with signs on alternative routes available.”

The public announcement about the closures was only made late on Thursday, barely 72 hours before the No Entry signs went up. The council failed to consult their colleagues at Bromley Council – which is responsible for traffic management on its borough’s roads nearby.

Stuart King: keen on safer streets

“I support the objectives behind this, but can’t see how this won’t badly affect some Bromley residents, drivers or not!” was the comment tweeted by Angela Wilkins, the leader of the opposition Labour group on Bromley Council, in reaction to Croydon’s proposals.

Stuart King, Croydon’s cabinet member responsible for the measures, sees it differently. “In lockdown, we saw a dramatic drop in traffic and pollution levels across Croydon, and these low-traffic schemes are about seizing the initiative to make our residential streets safer and more attractive to walkers, cyclists and residents alike.

“We have come up with these temporary measures because they make more of our roads attractive spaces for people to walk and cycle in, give everyone a safer and healthier local environment and they continue to allow traffic to get from A to B.”

King promises a sort of retrospective consultation. “If these latest schemes prove successful, we will consult the public to ask if they should become permanent.”

The council was still making amendments to its road closure plans as late as July 30, when a letter was rushed out to residents advising of adjustments to where and how some of the roads affected would be blocked off.

It may just be that less-than-adequate planning and modelling of traffic flows have actually been undertaken before plonking the planters at the end of some streets.

Some drivers have deliberately damaged and moved road closure planters in South Norwood

Even members of local cycling groups, describing the measures as “a massive step forward”, have also described the way they have been designed and implemented as “a blunt instrument” and suggested that, “Any permanent version may need a little more nuance.”

Certainly, there has been a hostile reaction to some of the closures in South Norwood.

A petition has already raised 300 signatures in opposition to those closures, while some motorists have taken more direct action, actively removing the planters that are supposed to block access to Albert Road.

In Crystal Palace, more than 750 have signed a petition in opposition, while the local Chamber of Commerce has come out fiercely against the closures, predicting gridlock for the area. Others have criticised the proposals by saying that, “These schemes disadvantage the most voiceless and most vulnerable.

“White, fit, able-bodied middle-class men are leading these initiatives. They do not listen to the concerns of others, sadly.”

In the case of Ryan, he said that he is “… terribly concerned about the Triangle”, meaning the seemingly permanently car-congested area at the top of Anerley Hill, where cars using the A214 slowly work their way around some fashionable independent shops, bars, pubs and restaurants.

According to Councillor Ryan, “It is fighting for survival because of covid-19. This will be the final straw. It will stop people coming to the Palace to do their shopping, to socialise.”

The next six to eight weeks may demonstrate if pro-car Ryan is right. Or wrong.


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About insidecroydon

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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7 Responses to Triangle will be ‘decimated’ by road closures, warns councillor

  1. Ian Ross says:

    Road closures without due consultation is fundamentally wrong. Most are ill-conceived and burden others roads unreasonably. One road’s new found peace is to another’s extreme detriment. It has nothing to do with being pro car just the practical reality that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The effect already is dire for South Norwood which is often gridlocked even with the lower traffic volumes caused by lockdown and reduced numbers returning to work. On Auckland Road a “bus gate” has, effectively, divided the road in two giving through access only to busses despite government advice being to avoid buses and use other means, such as cars. On the positive side, Croydon Council can cull thousands of pounds in fines for those who, like me, hadn’t actually realised that this stupidity had been implemented with the “enforcement” cameras. Funny that they can install cameras for a temporary restriction such as this yet for a permanent menace such as the continued fly tipping (and drug dealing) on Ross Road adjacent to Grangewood Park there are just signs threatening “we’re watching”. ‘We’re” doing no such thing, of course. Fly tipping is clearly less of a concern.

  2. Lewis White says:

    Cycling is fine –if you have a bike, have somewhere to store it at ground level, (a huge issue for people in even low rise flats) and don’t need to do over a two-panniers’ worth of shopping, don’t have children or a dog needing to be moved safely from A to B, and-in the case of anywhere in Crystal Palace, have the leg muscles, and non-dodgy knees, that are needed for anyone trying to cycle up the massive hills of the Norwood Mountain. Cycling is fine if the day is not too hot, not too cold, not too wet, and not too windy.

    Oh–and a little commodity called “Time”. I am all in favour of walking to my local shops to do minor shopping, but I am retired, and have lots of time. Anyone working, does not.
    I am not advocating driving everywhere, but just accepting that driving can make sense in the daily transport choices we make, taking into consideration all the above issues.

    There are indeed some people who never walk, and never use public transport, but could do so without endangering themselves. In fact, it would do their health some good to walk up those hills, and breathe the fresh air of the Norwood heights.

    The air would be also indeed be fresher, if we reduced car use, but as all vehicles turn electric, many of the objections to cars will go, in terms of local street air pollution from exhaust pipes. Also, the wider pollution of generating electricity from fossil fuels will reduce or even disappear as a result of solar and wind power.

    However, road congestion, caused by people driving through the pinch point of the Triangle, will remain as there are no adeqaute alternative North-South and East-West Routes. All roads meet at the top of the (Anerley) Hill, Apart from rat-run-like cuts, the main alternative to the South is South Norwood and its even more congested High Street which has tiny pavements on both sides. The footways of the Triangle are, generally, much wider.

    The current Triangle one-way system has the effect of taking drivers coming from the South West (Croydon and South Norwood and beyond) , down the wide, Southern section of Church Road, past the Queens Hotel, and, after a left turn, rather slowly around the 2 sides of the triangle that are lined with shops and restaurants–Westow Street and Westow Hill . In the past, they sped quickly through the 3rd, Southernmost section of the Triangle, the narrow, Northern section of Church Road, which has just a few shops. It was undoubtedly, a nasty, polluted canyon, with 2 way traffic, but it had the advantage of letting North-East to South West traffic (and vice versa) to pass by the shopping area of the Triangle. This must have resulted in lower pollution in those 2 roads, but meant more for those living in Church Road (North).

    I assume that the traffic engineers looked at all the options, and modelled their ramificatiions, before installing the one way system on the Triangle. I worked there at the time, and experienced the before and after situations. No doubt, there were plusses and minusses, depending on whether the plussed or minussed were a car or van driver, a resident, a shopper or diner, or the owner of one of the businesses.

    I haven’t been up the Hill to visit the Triangle for a year or so, but I look forward to a train trip there to enjoy Autumn in the “Montparnasse of South London” to see for myself if the recent measures like the planters have any clear plusses or minusses. (If the anti’s have not already ripped them out)

  3. Keith Adams says:

    Nothing wrong in being pro-car especially since cars are being made less or non polluting. They are an important part of maoden life. To suggest that they can be replaced by bikes in the very hilly regin of upper Norwood, is nonsense

  4. Christopher Allanson says:

    Traffic around the Triangle and Church road was already at tipping point. In a few years time the roads will be completely gridlocked regardless of these new changes. It’s just a case of more people = more cars. Therefore – given that local infrastructure investment to support exponential increase of people and cars is highly unlikely and near impossible to achieve the only solution will be to force people to consider whether they really use their cars – I appreciate a lot have very valid reasons for doing so but a lot don’t and are just plain lazy. And if they want to use them to drive a 20 minute walk or cycle – then get use to being in traffic

  5. Lewis White says:

    Further to Christopher’s post above, a further reflection is that maybe “Lockdown” has got many people to realise that they quite like not having to buzz around all of the time.

    If enlightened employers give staff some scope for homeworking (my ideal would be 2 days a week at home, 3 in’t office), then maybe enough people would reduce their driving to work through the Triangle and indeed, through anywhere.

    That, and electric vehicles, would reduce the pollution and the congestion, and make the streets more pleasant.

    That’s my hope, anyway.

  6. Ian Ross says:

    The extent of the road closure stupidity has increased with the closure off all access to Auckland Road from the A212. This really is a masterclass in both arrogance and stupidity (buy one get one free?). Clearly Croydon Council cannot be trusted with the “emergency powers” that Grant Shapps has bestowed since they have been abused to further an agenda clearly already in the making and a gift in that sense. I would urge all to write to Shapps instructing him to withdraw powers and further instructing Croydon Council to open roads pending a full and public consultation on the matter. This must include the negative effects including increased congestion, new “rat runs”, massively increased pollution, the choking of access to Crystal Palace and the not unreasonable expectation to be able to use the roads for which we pay heavily.
    Again, this is not a pro-car rant, but a plea for common sense and reality. A problem pushed elsewhere is still a problem.
    In the meantime we will avoid Crystal Palace as will many. People are the lifeblood of any town so it’s time to encourage rather than put an obstacle course in their way.

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