A local business owner claims that inaction by the council’s roads department is putting lives at risk on busy Stafford Road, as officials treat elected councillors with undisguised contempt. Report by our transport correspondent, JEREMY CLACKSON
How difficult can it be to repaint a road marking so that a parking restriction can be enforced?
In this case, on a short stretch of single yellow line on Stafford Road, next to the notoriously congested and dangerous Fiveways junction in Waddon, for Croydon Council it appears to be an impossible task.
“I’ve been asking the council to do this for a year, to tackle a dangerous parking problem but no progress has been made,” Tony Kerr told Inside Croydon.
Kerr is the managing director of Optilabs, based on Stafford Road, which has been providing services to residents for more than 50 years. Now, after months of inaction from his local council, he hopes that sharing his tale of woe with Inside Croydon might shame the authority into actually doing its job.
Kerr said, “We have a small car park in front of our premises. Despite the yellow line parking restriction on this part of Stafford Road, cars are parked to the right and left of our entrance on a daily basis.
“These parked cars block the view of oncoming traffic when exiting our car park. This makes for a very dangerous situation.
“Many of my patients are elderly and find this manoeuvre particularly worrying. Indeed recently there was a collision involving three cars because of this blind spot. Fortunately there were no injuries on this occasion, but I fear it will only be a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt.
“This is also having a detrimental effect on our small business, as many of our customers say they will not return until this dangerous situation is resolved.”
The yellow line parking restriction that applies – or is supposed to apply – along the stretch of Stafford Road in front of Optilabs prohibits parking between 8am and 6.30pm Mondays to Saturdays. It’s there to keep the traffic flowing as freely as possible on this stretch of road.
However, the yellow line at this location is so faded in places that council parking enforcement officers have said that they will not issue penalty charge notices to illegally parked vehicles for fear that motorists will successfully appeal any tickets they are given. Savvy motorists know this, and they park there with impunity.
The solution, of course, is to repaint the faded yellow line, so that the restriction can be enforced. “For the last six months Robert Canning, our Waddon councillor, has tried to put pressure on the council to fix the problem,” Kerr said.
“Despite even his efforts, no progress has been made.”
Kerr has been told by Canning that he has raised this matter on numerous occasions both with council officials and with Muhammad Ali, the cabinet member for unsustainable Croydon, the councillor who is ultimately responsible for highways and parking in the borough.
This included a response from the cabinet member to a written council question submitted by Canning, in which Ali promised that the yellow line would be repainted by the end of July.
But the council machine grinds so slowly these days that Canning didn’t actually receive the answer until mid-August, by which time it was evident that any promises of action by the end of July had already been broken or forgotten. Three months later still, and the council’s supply of yellow paint and brushes have still not been deployed along this stretch of road.
A Katharine Street source says that Canning “was clearly very annoyed” by this episode, with the councillor describing the answer he had been given as “patently inaccurate and out-of-date”. A formal complaint has been submitted to the council’s democratic services department, the source says, “for all the good that will do”.
Sources both in the Town Hall and in Fisher’s Folly have suggested that the cash-strapped council is now deliberately choosing the “easy option” of raising millions of pounds in cash from errant motorists by using Automatic Number Plate Recognition CCTV cameras in Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, rather than by employing traffic wardens to enforce on-street parking restrictions.
Canning is not alone in discovering that it is taking the council an eternity to do even the most basic of tasks.
Stuart King, the deputy leader, no less, of the Labour-controlled council, recently donned his rubber gloves and pulled up his sleeves and took it upon himself one afternoon to clean up a badly littered walkway leading to London Road, in his West Thornton ward.
“This is the bench at the end of Sycamore Way,” King tweeted.
“Earlier today it was littered with cans from the street drinkers who were there last night as they are most nights. This is a regular occurrence.
“For months I’ve been pressing [Veolia] and [Croydon Council] to tackle littering at this well used pedestrian route to London Road.
“Frankly, I’ve struggled to make progress so today I went and litter picked it all myself…two hours and 15 bags later, and job done.
“Nappies, a toothbrush, curry sauces, excrement, covid test (negative), condoms (used) and a playmobile man… but over half what I collected was empty alcohol cans and bottles.”
So desperate has the council deputy leader become in pursuing this particular cause, that he has taken to lobbying the council to remove the bench – because it is used by street drinkers – rather than insist that the local authority where he serves should provide the kind of street cleaning service that most people might expect.
But King’s dirty little back passage is perhaps just a microcosm of the problems at the council, what has been described as an “officer-led local authority”, where the interests of the public are ill-served, and the requests of elected councillors routinely ignored.
“These days the council seems incapable of getting even the basics right and too many officers treat elected members with indifference when they raise casework on behalf of constituents,” our Katharine Street source said.
“I’d give these officials a hundred lines as punishment, but they’d just say that they don’t have the resources to write them.
“At least if somebody in the highways department reads this they might do one line – a nice repainted yellow line in Stafford Road in front of Optilabs.”
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