Were you taken aback by the news of the pedestrianisation of Croydon High St? I was. So I emailed Cabinet member Cllr Mark Watson for clarification.
‘After I have been in the Town Centre, especially the Clocktower, I get the 109 bus outside the Town Hall. On my way back from going down Brighton Rd I get the bus to the Town Hall and then change on to the 109.
It appears that the proposed pedestrianisation of the High St means that the 109, the 250 and 50 buses to Brixton and Stockwell via Norbury will no longer be able to come to the Town Hall bus stop.
I note that a lot of passengers change buses at the Town Hall stop, I assume that the buses coming from the South will still stop there. Will the next bus stop along allow them to change on to e.g. 109, 250 and 50?
It is not clear how the buses using the High St going south will now get into South End?
Any extra walking round to new bus stops on other streets will add to the difficulties for the elderly, disabled and those with mobility problems.
This means their interests are being placed as secondary to those who may be attracted to the High St in the evening, and could be seen as discriminatory.
At the moment there is plenty of space for passengers waiting for buses especially at very busy times such as when school children are changing buses. This provides a degree of safety for them. If they now have to walk round to other bus stops in large groups there may well be risks of accidents, and depending on where the bus stops they need are placed not enough room for them all to stand by them.
The danger of encouraging further the night time economy is that it will increase drunkenness and late night anti-social behaviour. This could further stretch decline policing resources. The Council is seeking to encourage people to lead more healthy life-styles. This potential expansion of the night-time economy will simply encourage more unhealthy drinking, and depending on the kind of food establishments that may take over the non-food/drink small business premises encourage unhealthy eating.
Given the large number of non-drinking passengers who use the buses, making their bus journeys more difficult is discriminatory against them. Drinkers are already well provided for in the Town Centre.
At the moment the current operation of the High St seems to work well. The pavements are wide enough for the bars etc to have sitting areas. If you want to reduce traffic through the High St why not just ban cars but leave it open for buses and taxis?
The announcement seems to have taken many people by surprise. I would be grateful if you would let me know when it was subject to public consultation, when the Cabinet approved the scheme, and whether Scrutiny has had a chance to consider the matter. As it involves changes to bus services when did TfL consult the public on the proposed changes?’
Mark Watson replied as follows:
‘Thank you for you enquiry, please let me assure you that the Town Hall bus stop will function as normal, there is no current requirement to alter any services to passengers.
The experimental trial of pedestrianising the High Street is both supported and requested by the Police and local businesses. It was also discussed and supported at scrutiny, at the evening economy working group, by Pub Watch and at a policy development meeting of Labour councillors.
The bus stops at the lower end of Park Street will function as normal at the top end of this road, then all busses will travel along St Georges Walk and back onto Katherine Street, this is a minor change to the current operation of busses in this location. Some people may have to walk a few metres further than before, but others less, depending on where they are going. Studies have shown that pedestrianisation represents a significant achievement in urban design: not just for those with special mobility needs, but also for society at large. There is no doubt that Pedestrianisation not only makes our streets safer for children, the elderly and disabled – but also reduces pollution.
This section of the High Street is currently unsafe for people crossing, which is one of the reasons the police support pedestrianisation. Equally with buses coming round every 30 seconds or so it makes it very uncomfortable to sit outside the restaurants in the High Street (and given what we now know about diesel fumes, clearly not that safe either).
Both the police and Council believe that a vibrant and diverse evening economy would actually reduce some of the problems typically associated with the night time economy, so I can’t agree with your rather simplistic view on drunkenness or unhealthy eating.
Further, due to the current threat level in this country the Council are also working with the Police and Counter terrorism experts to further protect pedestrians in central Croydon – this is one area that has been identified for improvements.
This is a 12 month trial, so we can assess how it is working during that time, however this is something that local businesses, the police and Council believe will improve our town centre, making it safer and more inviting, and that will have minimum impact on current bus routes or stops.’
I was not convinced so I replied:
‘Thanks for this full explanation Mark.
Unless I have misread it there seems to have been no public consultation by the Council or Tfl. In other words it is an experiment that is being imposed on the public.
The case of against pedestrianisation seems to be to be finely balanced with some schemes working well and others not.
On the issue of the night-time economy, we will have to disagree. You may recall in the early discussions on this issue I wrote a piece in Croydon Citizen.
Cllr Watson replied:
‘As Ive said there was consultation with the businesses in the High Street – they were all in favour and the restaurants with seating outside particularly expressed their support as their customers (the public) state that sitting outside was unpleasant due to the noise and pollution from the buses. The police also support this as it makes the area safer and it was discussed at Scrutiny, who were also supportive. The change to the bus stops are minimal, it makes the street safer for everyone, but especially for the elderly and disabled, reduces pollution in the town centre, makes the town centre easier and more welcoming for people to walk/cycle, supports the local businesses and will help regenerate the shopping area between the High Street and St Georges Walk.
The impacts are minimal but the benefits substantial so I am not clear what your particular objection is?’
My objection is of course the lack of consultation with the public especially those who use the buses in the High St and Town Hall area.
What do you think?