Thick Lizzy Truss is not the only Tory carrying out U-turns – Croydon’s part-time Mayor has done a hand-brake turn over traffic reduction measures, reports our motoring correspondent, JEREMY CLACKSON
As if Croydon’s bungling of the implementation of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods over the last two years was not bad enough, council workers have now been chopping down trees on one of the new “Healthy Neighbourhood” streets – by mistake.
This latest Tory council cut came in Elm Park Road in South Norwood, which is now part of the Holmesdale Road Healthy Neighbourhood scheme.
Healthy Neighbourhoods are a re-branding exercise by Town Hall officials as they desperately try to cling on to the millions of pounds in government grants that they have received for traffic reduction schemes. Hence the installation of Automatic Number Plate Recognition spy cams to generate money in fines from unwitting drivers.
But as council workers turned up to instal the ANPR and new signage at Elm Park Road, they proved a little too keen with the chainsaw, felling two entirely healthy, mature street trees.
Jason Perry, the borough’s part-time Mayor, took immediate, decisive action.
He posted a tweet.
“Really frustrated to learn that two trees were cut down in Elm Park Road today,” Perry wrote.
“This should not have happened and I have instructed officers to plant replacement trees as soon as possible.” The firm stamping of a foot could be heard at least three feet away from the Mayor’s office in the Town Hall.
Scott Roche, the cabinet member supposedly responsible for tree-hugging and such-like, said he was “disappointed”.
“Of course, any loss of trees in Croydon is very sad, but I am especially disappointed this happened in error,” Roche wrote.
“We are looking to resolve and replace the trees lost in the coming weeks.”
Yet even after making the new Healthy Neighbourhood slightly less healthy by the axing of the trees, the conundrum for Perry and Roche remains: how to make a commendable environmental policy start to work after so many set-backs because of the cack-handed council’s bodged implementation?
The Tories need to make the schemes work because the council boss responsible, Steve Iles (“director of sustainable communities”), predicted for the council budget that fines from the ANPR cameras would generate a cool £12million in income per year for two years.
At the time, that figure appeared ridiculously optimistic, and mid-budget indications suggest that Perry is going to struggle to make up a multi-million-pound shortfall. Which means more cuts (though not necessarily to trees).
When he was seeking people’s votes to become Mayor, Perry told motoring lobbyists that he would sweep away the LTNs if given the keys to the civic limousine.
“These schemes are having a huge detrimental impact on our communities,” Perry said as recently as April.
“We are yet to be presented with any data to prove the success or failure of these schemes,” said the anti-LTN mayoral candidate.
“I would like to remove all the LTNs on the first day after I become Mayor,” Perry said.
But when challenged on the budget implications of using the ANPR cameras, Perry said, “Owing to how Labour has constructed their budget, this is simply not possible.
“There is well over £20million of future income within the budget which would have to be replaced if this happened…
“To be clear, I do not want Croydon to be dependent on fining its residents to be able to balance the books, but removing that dependency will take some time. I will do it but it won’t be on Day One!”
Six months into Perry’s mayoralty, and the ANPRs have been bolted into position. It has quickly become clear that Thick Lizzy Truss is not the only out-of-their-depth Tory to discover this managing malarkey to be a bit “difficult”.
So in Croydon, making money out of motorists is to remain as the preferred short-term fix.
Since the LTNs were introduced in parts of Croydon in 2020, motorists have in the main wised up to the dire consequences of using residential streets as rat runs. Iles, buoyed by the money his cameras were bringing in from the most notorious checkpoint, at Parsons Mead, probably never factored in this version of diminishing returns.
But there are other ways in which the car-driving cash cows are no longer so easily milked.
There are so many permitted exceptions to the driving restrictions in the new Healthy Neighbourhood zones, with some households entitled to claim up to three permits to drive in their street, that there are only a few vehicles that might still trigger the ANPR fine-generator.
The council has implemented seven “improved” Healthy Neighbourhood schemes, which came into effect on September 30.
“These will provide greater access for residents, carers, licensed taxis and emergency services,” the council says. “Many of the road closures that were enforced by planters are now camera-enforced, with agreed permit exemptions.”
The streets and areas affected are:
- Dalmally Road, Addiscombe
- Elmers Road, Addiscombe
- Kemerton Road, Addiscombe
- Parsons Mead Area, Broad Green
- Sutherland Road Area, Broad Green
- Holmesdale Road Area, South Norwood
- Albert Road Area, South Norwood
(For access to the council’s guide to the scheme, with detailed mapping of where you can, and cannot, drive without a permit, to apply for a permit or to lodge an objection, visit the council’s website by clicking here)
The schemes have been installed under Experimental Traffic Management Orders for a maximum of 18 months, through until at least the end of March 2024. “For the first six months, you can submit objections if the schemes have impacted you,” the council says. “These objections will be considered as part of the assessment of how the experiment has performed.”
The council is already braced for objections, and probably some abuse, over the schemes.
Some motoring lobbyists have already been out on the streets to warn about the possible £150 fines that drivers might attract for using roads without a permit.
And Perry’s council is pushing ahead with the introduction of restrictions on dozens more roads, which are being designated “Healthy School Streets”.
This week, trials were approved for nine additional schemes, affecting 10 schools – 24 School Streets have been established around the borough since 2017 by the previous Labour administration, most equipped with cameras that will levy a hefty fine on drivers who dare trespass down the street without a permit.
“School Streets aim to improve safety around schools and encourage more pupils to walk, cycle and scoot more often, by limiting motor traffic on the surrounding roads during school drop-off and pick-up times,” the council says.
The trials are set to launch at the following schools:
- South Norwood Primary School (SE25 5QP)
- Howard Primary School (CR0 1DT)
- Gonville Academy (CR7 6DL)
- Kenley Primary School and Kindergarten (CR3 0EX)
- Park Hill Junior and Infants School (CR0 5NS)
- Oasis Academy Shirley Park (CR0 7BE)
- The Crescent Primary School and The BRIT School (CR0 2HN)
- St Cyprian’s Greek Orthodox Primary Academy (CR7 8DZ)
- Good Shepherd Catholic Primary and Nursery School (CR0 0RG)
The trials will run for up to 18 months, when data gathered during the exercise and public consultations will influence any decision on whether to maintain them.
As with the Healthy Neighbourhood areas, residents living within the School Street scheme area will be eligible to apply for an exemption permit, so they can have access at all times. Other road users who may need access – including SEN transport – may also be allowed a permit. Other vehicles, such as emergency services or refuse vehicles will be automatically exempt.
The council is meanwhile undergoing a consultation on similar schemes at 18 other Croydon schools:
- Rockmount (SE19 3ST)
- Kensington and Norbury High (Kensington Avenue Primary School and Norbury High School for Girls, CR7 8BT)
- Harris Invictus (CR0 2TB)
- Coombe Wood and Old Palace (Coombe Wood School, Old Palace of John Whitgift School and Rutherford School, CR2 7HY)
- Elmwood (Elmwood Infants School and Elmwood Junior School, CR0 2PL)
- All Saints (SE19 3LG)
- St James The Great (CR7 8HJ)
- Harris Upper Norwood (Harris South Norwood – Upper Norwood site, SE19 3UG)
- Oasis Byron (CR5 2LF)
- St John’s CofE (CR0 5EL)
- St Peter’s (CR2 7AR)
- Minster (Minster School and Write Time School, CR0 4BH)
- Harris Crystal Palace (SE19 2JH)
As with other Healthy School Streets, most vehicles will not be allowed to enter the roads between 8am and 9.30am or between 2pm and 4pm during term time.
The penalty for doing so without a permit is a fine of up to £130.
The consultation on this extra batch of areas is open until October 19.
Announcing the consultation on these 18 additional schemes, Mayor Perry – you know, the bloke who was entirely unconvinced by the impact of LTNs – said, “Ensuring pupils can get to and from school safely is an important priority, and Healthy School Street schemes can make a difference.”
More information about Healthy School Streets can be found on the council website.
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