Let’s give Crystal Palace’s streets a chance to breathe again

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Even ward councillors need to check what petitions they are signing, and what their party policies are.
AUSTEN COOPER sifts through some of the contradictory opposition to road closures in Upper Norwood

Church Road, yesterday, after the side roads had been blocked off to rat-runners. Hardly the chaos predicted

Let’s get one thing straight. The measures introduced in Upper Norwood on Monday are not road closures. The roads are open to residents and service providers. They are just “closed” to rat runners.

Comments such as those made last week by councillor Pat Ryan go against his own council’s policies, and ignore the evidence available in his Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood ward.

Councillor Ryan is a member of the council’s Traffic Management Advisory Committee. So you’d expect him to be aware of and supportive of his own council’s transport policies. Such as A Transport Vision for Croydon.

In that document, from as long ago as 2015, Croydon’s Labour-run council, including Councillor Ryan, was promising to take action to stop “rat-running”, where cars use residential side streets to avoid the traffic on main routes, often at high speeds.

Then there’s the third Local Implementation Plan, from 2019, that said the council will “investigate the use of access restrictions, timed road closures and pedestrian zones to reduce rat-running and external traffic in residential areas”. Seems clear enough.

The damage caused by this crash on March 21 has yet to be resolved

That Implementation Plan is based on the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy, published in 2018. If Labour Councillor Ryan doesn’t support a Labour council or a Labour Mayor, then why is he a Labour councillor?

People complaining about congestion on Church Road at the Triangle were blaming the Low Traffic Neighbourhood even before it was fully introduced, rather than obstructive scaffolding propping up a building since March 21, after a motorist (we understand who had taken unwell), crashed into the building, making it unsafe.

For more than four months, the scaffolding has been blocking one lane completely, and drivers are using the pavement (illegally, and dangerously).

You’d think a councillor worried about congestion would be doing something about this dangerous situation.

Scaffolding on the damaged building has taken up one lane of the main road, causing illegal pavement driving

“Concerns” being expressed about traffic systems affecting trade in the Crystal Palace Triangle is nothing new. Shop-keepers, bar owners and traders were strongly opposed to the one-way system when that was introduced, back in 2004. On that occasion, Councillor Ryan supported the council’s traffic scheme.

Indeed, Councillor Ryan is not always consistent when it comes to what traffic schemes he opposes or supports.

Councillor Ryan is one of more than 200 people to have put their name to a petition, one which broadly supports the principle of a Low Traffic Neighbourhood. Set up three weeks ago, it calls for, “Get the 410 back on Auckland Road and keep the Low Traffic Neighbourhood”.

The petition calls on the council to, “Replace the planters on Auckland Road with a bus gate. Buses, emergency and utility vehicles will be able to travel through the gate…

“We’ve enjoyed the quieter roads that we’ve had because of roadworks and the covid Lockdown. We want to keep Auckland Road calm: No longer a rat run with threatening speeds and dangerous overtaking; Less polluted, less noisy, less traffic jams. A liveable neighbourhood; The freedom to allow people to walk, cycle and scoot.

“This all contributes to a stronger, healthier community.”

Signing this petition seems contradictory to the councillor’s comments last week that claimed that those very same measures would “decimate” the community?

There is another petition concerned with the lives of the people of Upper Norwood and Crystal Palace, as mentioned in Inside Croydon’s report on Monday, and which has three times as many signatures opposing the Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme.

Such concern for the people living and working in SE19 comes from a petition organiser who happens to live in a cul-de-sac in leafy Chislehurst, and has been signed by people as far afield as Orpington, Balham, Carshalton and Newton Abbot. The organiser of the petition is a leading protagonist of an extremist car drivers’ organisation that would have us believe that carbon dioxide emissions from motor cars are good for the planet. Seriously.

Pat Ryan: is he for the council’s policies or not?

Perhaps Councillor Ryan, and others who have declared that the road changes will in some way be a disaster for the area, should make a calmer, more considered judgement on the scheme after it has been allowed to operate for a few months, perhaps tweaked a little here and there.

And while they do that, they could also consider some relevant facts about the area and its traffic problem. The ward that the councillor represents has, according to data about Croydon, an above average percentage of car-free households: 38.6 per cent, higher than the borough’s overall figure of 33.5 per cent and close to London’s 41.6 per cent.

And according to traffic counts by the Department for Transport, motor traffic to and through the Triangle is declining.

Therefore, it’s high time that councillors and council decisions reflected these changes and that we give people a chance to breathe cleaner air and enjoy a real choice of travel, and not be trapped by outmoded attitudes to transportation.

Croydon Commentary is a platform for all our readers to off their personal views about what matters to them in and around the borough. To submit an article for publication, just email us at inside.croydon@btinternet.com, or post your comment to an Inside Croydon article that has caught your attention

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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12 Responses to Let’s give Crystal Palace’s streets a chance to breathe again

  1. Keith Adams says:

    Amazing opening statement that “roads are not closed to residents” – manifestly untrue assuming we are talking about vehicular access.

    • robbiegriffiths says:

      It is true. There is access to every property in the area. Just not as many ways of getting there as before. It’s what it takes to get rid of rat runners and turn our neighbourhood into a safe, quiet and pollution free environment.

  2. Christopher Myers says:

    Is ‘Austen’ Cooper Ian? Just asking…

  3. Lewis White says:

    Road closures are just that — a physical barrier, stopping all traffic through that end of the road in question. Road closures can be good for residents under certain circumstances if through traffic is stopped entirely, but it can result in all the traffic finding its way through the remaining un-closed roads. This was an issue in the parallel streets with the names of Victorian military men linking Addiscombe and Lower Addiscombe Roads

    Sometimes it is possible to create a group of residential streets that have just one or two ways in, giving vehicular access for residents, but don’t allow rat-running “through” and out the other side.

    “Entry treatments”, speed humps, speed cushions, speed tables, and raised junctions and width restrictions are other possibilities which deter and slow traffic. Combined with 20mph limits, plus random radar traps ?– these should work to tame the drivers who still insist on driving through. Timed road closures to ban entry in rush hours is another option, perhaps seldom implemented.

    There are various examples around of many of these in the Crystal Palace area.

    I would make a plea — if an experimental road closure or entry treatrment works in traffic and neighbourhood terms— that the temporary planters (which are not sustainable as they need frequent and costly watering to keep the plants alive) should be replaced with a permanent highway landscape scheme, with trees to bring oxygen and greening where the main road meets the local residential area.

    Entry treatments with trees, give a separation between the residential side street and the main road. This can deliver a psychological deterrent to rat runners, at least, some of them.

    Before I start sounding too green, I have to mention that there are roads in Western and Southern Croydon where I really wish that we could create tree-lined boulevards with new, set-back residential blocks, to replace existing main roads lined by small houses whose front doors open right on to the pavement, located on plots with very long back gardens.

    This would need compulsory purchase, and a really good design that balances traffic movement and greening, and urban renewal. So are unlikely to happen in my lifetime.

  4. Paula Conrad says:

    We understand that Croydon Council are in debt to millions of pounds helping to keep afloat Brick by Brick. The Council is determined to prove they are providing plenty of social housing, by buying up green spaces for as little as £1.00 and handing over the site to BBB.We are extremely worried that Stambourne Woods in SE19 will be their next target. There is a relentless practice to buy up any spare ground, particularly if it isn’t designated a Conservation Area. There should be wide public consultation before any development company is allowed to put in bids.Our family just love taking walks in these woods and love this accessible woodland walk. Please can you do all you can to highlight the joys of these woods because WE DO NOT WANT THIS LAND BUILT ON

    • It’s £1.5billion of debts that that council has run up, Paula. Of which £260million has been borrowed by the council to lend on to BxB for them to conduct their house-building business.

      The council has also been incurring large losses on the value of the properties that it has “sold” to Brick by Brick,including six plots sold for £1 each.

      The London Wildlife Trust, who are active at other sites close to you in SE19, should be able to advise about the status of Stambourne Woods.

    • I got this in my email from the Stambourne Woods mailing list – I hope this gives you some reassurance, Paula!

      “We are sorry that our recent newsletter caused undue concern that the Woods might be earmarked for development. This is not the case.

      Stambourne Woodland Walk, along with a list of other green spaces in the borough, currently don’t have protected status. Croydon Council is looking to rectify this and ensure protection by giving these spaces Local Green Space designation in the Local Plan.

      The Council has now received sufficient evidence from residents of the special nature of the Woods and has asked that no more emails be sent in.

      However, if you represent a group such as a school, faith group, sport team, Scouts group etc, who use the Woods, you can still send in your response to the email address given in our previous newsletter to outline why the Woods are important to your group, your programme and how you use them.

      The deadline is today, 4th August.

      Friends of Stambourne Woods”.

  5. Dave Miller says:

    It’s great to see our residential streets finally being closed off to rat runners.

    The one-way system was always ill-conceived, especially in that it relies on residential streets relieving traffic congestion from main roads. This encourages rat running, and ignores the effect on the quality of life of people living in those streets, something I’ve always found quite shocking.

    Since the one-way was introduced, I have never seen the design being tested or tweaked or improved, and God knows it needs a re-think. For years I complained – in vain – to our councillors about the tailbacks, congestion, rat running and illegal pollution levels. I got the impression they didn’t want to deal with it, there is no alternative, we just have to put up with it. And we have done, since 2004.

    Whenever local residents try to improve life in their local streets, and threaten to close off rat runs, Councillor Pat Ryan rushes in to shoot it down.

    These new traffic measures are brave, bold and really welcome – they start to consider the people who live here, not just the traffic flow between Croydon and Bromley. They should be supported – especially by our Councillors, and they could form part of a bigger project – long needed – for something better than the awful one way free for all. We need new ideas like this – that show imagination.

  6. Jeremy Husain says:

    as a resident of the area I am in favour of the reduction of traffic along Auckland Road and Lancaster Road to stop the rat running. However, all we are asking for is resident access through the bus gate that has been imposed on the area without any consideration or consultation. Resident access is granted on Cypress Road during the no through road restrictions and there is no reason that that could not be implemented at the bus gate. Local residents are not rat runners.

    As it stands all residents have to go out onto South Norwood Hill or Anerley Road depending on which side of the bus gate you live. Yesterday South Norwood Hill was one big traffic jam from the junction with Portland Road to Church Road and beyond, pollution levels must have been through the roof. Getting anywhere in the direction of Penge or Beckenham now requires being a lot longer in a car causing more pollution in the roads that are not blocked off. What about the people who live there? Don’t they deserve some consideration as well?

  7. Michele says:

    Do you actually think your stopping people from driving their cars, all your doing is moving the cars to other roads and making life harder for people who need to drop children and get to work.

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