School street scheme scrapped on road next to Mayor’s home

CROYDON IN CRISIS: The council last week rejected a healthy schools street scheme that might have displaced traffic to a road of million-pound houses where Jason Perry now lives. EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

School run: there have been traffic problems on Melville Avenue since Coombe Wood School opened in 2018

A school street scheme was rejected by Croydon Council last week because the road restrictions might have displaced traffic and caused congestion on another street in South Croydon.

The scheme proposed would have restricted access to Melville Avenue, where there are three schools. A road parallel to Melville, Castlemaine Avenue, just happens to be where Jason Perry, the borough’s elected Mayor, owns a six-bedroom detached house.

Croydon has been introducing school streets since 2017. There are 24 already in operation around the borough. According to the council’s own press office, “School Streets help 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.”

Perry’s council cabinet last week nodded through proposals for 10 school streets around the borough. But it rejected the proposal to make Melville Avenue a school street – despite the road’s three schools accounting for approximately 2,500 daily journeys in term time.

Melville Avenue was one of three proposed schemes that won’t now be trialled in the New Year. The council says that the decisions were made “based on survey responses, traffic displacement data and discussions with the schools”.

Dumped: the council’s initial consultation for a school street on Melville Avenue

Melville Avenue is home to the Rutherford School, an independent special school, Old Palace’s private nursery and prep school for girls, and the Coombe Wood academy, which has more than 1,000 pupils.

Part-selective state school Coombe Wood was built on Green Belt playing fields, and opened to its first pupils in 2018. There have been issues with traffic during the school run on Melville Avenue and neighbouring streets ever since, the council having failed to implement any other traffic management scheme.

As with other healthy school streets schemes, the council’s proposals were to restrict access for non-residents to Melville Avenue in the mornings and at the end of the school day in term times, in the hope of encouraging more parents to get their children to school via public transport, walking or cycling. Using Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras, the council would levy hefty fines against any drivers who dared use the designated road without a permit.

Traffic-watch: CVRA has lobbied on traffic issues for years

The council’s healthy streets proposals for Melville Avenue drew an angry response from the chair of the Croham Valley Residents’ Association, Jeremy Gill, who wrote to the Conservative councillors for the South Croydon ward, lashing out at the “poor behaviour” and lack of driving skills of parents dropping off their children at the schools.

Until May this year, Jason Perry had been a councillor for South Croydon ward.

In his letter to the Tory councillors, Gill wrote, “I do not believe any of [the healthy school streets] objectives will be met in any significant way to overcome the inconvenience involved for many of the residents in Melville Avenue and the surrounding streets. This view is shared by many other residents.

“Melville Avenue, Castlemaine Avenue and Croham Park Avenue run in parallel between Croham Road and Coombe Road. They are linked via Ballater Road and Binfield Road. My view is that if the scheme goes ahead the vast majority of the traffic that currently enters Melville Avenue will go via Castlemaine Avenue and Croham Park Avenue instead.”

Gill has been a resident of Castlemaine Avenue for 25 years, according to the CVRA’s newsletters.

Land Registry data shows that houses on Castlemaine Avenue have sold in the past 12 months for £1.3million.

Delegated authority: Jason Perry usually takes all council decisions

Neighbours and official sources have confirmed that Perry moved to Castlemaine Avenue in the last couple of months of 2021, not long before he was elected in May this year as Mayor of Croydon, with a £81,000 per year council-funded salary on top of any income from his family business, Carlton Building Plastics Ltd.

In his letter to Perry’s South Croydon councillor colleagues, Gill suggested that the cash-strapped council could raise money by fining parents who U-turn or reverse in the street, instead of introducing the healthy school street. “If you do not bring in this scheme then you can eliminate this poor parent driving by putting a traffic warden outside the school at 15:15. It will undoubtedly be revenue raising.”

Gill detailed his RA’s traffic count, conducted in October, which found that around 15per cent of journeys along Melville Avenue were school traffic. Gill’s figures claim that barely 10per cent of Coombe Wood School’s pupils arrive or leave by car.

If a school street were to be cut off from other commuters twice daily, Gill suggested, “Closing Melville Avenue to them will also force the overall majority into Castlemaine Avenue and Croham Park Avenue…

“I agree Melville will be safer. But Melville is already safe – whereas the Castlemaine/Coombe junction is not…

“If our survey is representative and our assumptions are correct, you are going to increase the traffic in Castlemaine by around 95per cent. This will increase queuing time… Therefore your overall intention of improving air quality will not happen…

Route 1: Mayor Perry’s neighbours were convinced that this proposal would divert traffic down Castlemaine Avenue

“Whilst I applaud the aims of the scheme for our roads based on our experience and our survey numbers it will not work in its current state.”

The official report to last week’s cabinet meeting gives no specific reasons why the Melville Avenue scheme was ditched. Click here to view the council report in full. Gill and CVRA’s arguments must have been most persuasive, which is fortunate for Mayor Perry.

Last week’s cabinet report shows that Perry “delegated to the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Lynne Hale, the power to make the decisions” on this matter, a strong indicator of the Mayor’s attempts to be seen to distance himself from the ruling.

Whether the public will believe that Croydon’s new, thrusting, all-powerful Mayor really never had a single converation with any council officials or councillor colleagues about the Melville Avenue school street proposal remains to be seen.

Millionaires’ row: houses such as this on Castlemaine Avenue offer up to six bedrooms and cost more than £1m

It is rare for Croydon Council to issue a press release without part-time Perry’s gurning mug on it, or some bland comment from the Mayor. But that’s what happened last week when they announced the 10 healthy school streets which will be trialled from next month.

“Helping families make the school run safer and healthier is part of our wider plans to improve how we travel around Croydon, and we are trialling these schemes to see if they can achieve those goals,” was attributed to Hale.

“We have been listening to the community, collecting feedback, and working with headteachers, and we understand the congestion and parking issues local residents are dealing with. We look forward to seeing whether these trials will be able to alleviate those issues and make the streets safer for pupils.” But not anywhere where it might affect the residents of Castlemaine Avenue, clearly…

The 10 new healthy school streets which were agreed last week and will now go ahead are here:

The schemes will be subject to a trial for up to 18 months, from the day they become active. Public consultation and data monitoring on the schemes’ effects is expected to start when the trial launches, with a decision on their future taken before the end of that period.

The cost of implementing and running the trials is expected to be around £400,000, which will be met from grants from Transport for London. Any fines raised from drivers using the streets without a permit will go into the borough’s ring-fenced transport budget.

Residents living within any scheme area will be eligible to apply for an exemption permit, so they can have access at all times. In addition, the council will provide exemption permits to some road users who may need access – including transport for children with special needs. Other vehicles, such as emergency services or refuse vehicles, will be exempt automatically.

Inside Croydon invited Mayor Perry to comment on the traffic conditions in Castlemaine Avenue, and to demonstrate what declarations of interest he may have made. The part-time Mayor had not responded by the time of publication.

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
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16 Responses to School street scheme scrapped on road next to Mayor’s home

  1. Part-time Mayor, full-time pillock

  2. derekthrower says:

    Surprise. Surprise. The Whitgift Foundation School will still create huge congestion on Croham Road with all their morning and evening Tractors arrivals. If only it was a state school causing all the congestion, part-time would be furious with it all.

    • Delboy, it’s a well-known fact that the rich South Croydon NIMBY Tories and their offspring cannot walk further than the distance from their front door to one of their many cars parked on what was once an attractive front garden.

      If they took public transport, they’d get nits or worse from the plebs they’d have to sit next to.

      The solution is to have drive-thru school drop-off and pick-up points at these schools for lazy snobs. Chargeable, of course, to raise school funds. If it’s good enough for Heathrow and Gatwick, it can work here

  3. James Seabrook says:

    Congratulations to our new mayor who promised to sort everything out that’s wrong with Croydon Council and has shown his true colours for all the world to see, by surreptitiously getting into bed with it for him and his rich chums.

  4. Martin Drake says:

    He’s right about the traffic but it looks bad.

    Issues were inevitable once Coombe Wood School was built but it had to be there as that was the only suitable site the Council owned. Successive Tory Governments have sold the other sites (John Ruskin etc ) from the last baby boom and have not funded education properly for 12 years.

    • The narrative about the “no alternative sites” thing is Paul Scott tosh, Martin.

      What was St Andrew’s High School has been standing empty for two years. In the meantime, the poorly maintained (by Croydon Council) big catholic girls’ school in Upper Norwood (that’s the big catholic school, not big catholic girls) has also closed, its site now given over by the women in wimples to a couple of private prep schools. Kerching!

      There has been an over-provision of secondary school places in Croydon for a decade, yet Scott, when chair of planning, still pushed through, for example, the use of Metropolitan Open Land at Croydon Arena for Oasis.

      Check out who the local Oasis academy goverfnors were at the time.

  5. derekthrower says:

    The argument made out by the Resident Association can probably be made for every healthy street scheme that has been introduced. The details of the alleged survey seem rather vague and unconvincing. Was it Mr Gill poking his out of his window with a notepad. How you tell the destination of every vehicle using a road? Seems all to be a work of fiction than a real cast iron convincing survey with a proven methodology.
    The Rutherford School use this over congested road and it requires time and skill to deliver and collect the children with profound and multiple learning difficulties. It is rather a distressing scheme to see this have to be undertaken as agitated tractor drivers fill and gridlock the road. Any measure that can reduce such distress and the risk potential of any accident should be applauded. The do nothingness justified by the fictions of the Resident Association in not having to face increase traffic levels themselves comes at an opportunity cost.

  6. Ian Kierans says:

    Arfur has a point. Ring fencing fines to go to the transport budget ensures it becomes ephemeral rather than a euphemism for whatever the hell we choose to spend it on or not as the case may be.

    How about all fines go to a local ring fenced fund 50% for the school and 50% to local residents associations for public realm improvements?

    Maybe schools can issue permits to parents if they want to drop off their kids for a £1000 a permit that will give some schools a good £250,000 a year to do something good with like before and after school clubs to assist parents to work and not worry about childminders for those short periods.

    On another note I do think that some areas that have been decided are long overdue for that change and it may be of benefit to those areas. But I am concerned that I am reading about this on IC (Big thank you to IC) and have not been informed by the Council, Councillors or in fact anyone as yet considering I would be directly impacted by this.

    So in the absence of Council communications can anyone quickly outline the process for residents to obtain said permits? Including those with no digital access.

    I can see exciting times ahead in those areas with tail backs, mexican stand offs, gridlock and very high pollution and blood pressures until the many adjust to life in the non motorised slow stroll lane.

  7. Ian Kierans says:

    Found the link to apply (below) but perhaps a bit early for me at present. Still no enablement for those with no digitial access to apply.

    One will assume Part time Perry’s response will be to visit the Library. Poor overworked busy Library staff lots of rubbish and no broom!

    • Most applicants for healthy school streets, Ian, will be the schools themselves, and I’m pretty certain all of them have broadband access.

    • PETER KIERNAN says:

      This link does not work, it ldentifies that an exemption permit is being applied for and when ‘next’ is chosen it reverts to parking permit and will not allow progression of application

  8. Janet says:

    Unless students of these schools have physical disabilities, there’s no reason for them to drive to Coombe Wood school. The tram stop is around 20 metres from their door, and 2 buses run on the adjacent road.

    In addition, this awful situation was clear to all from the start. You have Coombe wood, Royal Russell and Oakwood School using the same stretch of road in the morning. It’s traffic hell. I feel for the local residents, the school street scheme would need to be extended to adjacent roads to be effective.

  9. Lewis White says:

    A quick look at Google Street View shows a big area of tarmac–an ex tennis court, located on what seems to be Old Palace of Whitgift Junior School land, on a side turning called Pilgrims Way, off Melville Road, directly opposite Ballater Road. It seems to be used for “teacher parking”, but surely could be designed to also provide a perimeter drop off road for the Chelsea Tractor owning parents to drop off their kiddie winkies ? A bt like the drop off zone at Gatwick.

    That would get a huge number of cars off Melville Road, out of residents’ way, and on to Whitgift land.

    In today’s hi-tech world, there surely must be an App for phones that would allow parents arriving in their cars could be given time-slotted arrivals (with 10 minute “dwell time” ) so that the facility would not get clogged up ?

    When Planning approval is considered for a new or enlarged school, how much attention is given to the parking needs of parents delivering and collecting their charges?

    Whilst the two Whitgift Schools in this road seem to have been there for decades, the addition of the new school on the Green belt playing fields has dumped a massive amount of additional traffic on the local roads.

    A classic case of over-concentration of facilities in one area, maybe?

    It beggars belief that at Heath Clark School site in Waddon, a perfectly good school site has been abandoned for decades, and now is lost to Education as it was partly converted to housing some years ago, which is now going to be extended over the remaining playing field area. .

    • You’ve missed the point of healthy school streets, Lewis. It’s not to “ease congestion” or provide Apps for parking slots… It is to reduce the use of cars. It is something that the part-time Mayor is steadfastly opposed to.

  10. Lewis White says:

    There should be a requirement for schoolchildren to walk at least part of the way to school, so that they get exercise. Like 3/4 of a mile each way.

    I doubt whether parents will ever stop doing the “school run” by car. But, if there were a safe dropping off zone some distance away– and a safe route to the school — aided by ‘walking buses’ for primary school kids- that would give the children some inbuilt daily activity.

    Cycling to school, or walking, and using bus and tram are far better for children’s health than being taken part of the way by car, but even some walking between car and school is far better than no walking at all.

    Every little bit of mobility helps, and short, twice -daily walks are much better than none.

  11. Agnes Jeary says:

    I too am directly impacted by one of the schemes, this one in North Croydon (Rockmount School) where there are no millionaires’ houses to stop anything being done. I have been on Croydon website and written to the local councillor but cannot get any data on the responses from the ‘consultation’ exercise back in October. I strongly suspect that the views expressed in the surveys have had no impact in decisions based on predicted income from fines.

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