This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 23/08/2017.
Here’s what people think about plans to pedestrianise Croydon High Street
A proposal announced this week to pedestrianise a large section of Croydon High Street will “make a huge difference” to the area, says the councillor in charge of the plan, although others have said “it’s going to take a bit more than a bit of pavement” to fix the town centre’s flagging nighttime economy.
Several businesses have welcomed the plans to create a new public space in the town centre announced on Monday, to allow for more al fresco dining, with hopes it will boost footfall to and from North End and help out pubs and clubs along the section of the street.
The street is home to many of the town centre’s restaurants and bars, including Nando’s, Dice Bar, Rodizio Preto, Nando’s, the Milan Bar, Turtle Bay and Luna.
While some welcomed the idea, others have raised concerns about access for businesses and questioned whether simply pedestrianising the street, which is also home to the Grant’s complex, will do anything to boost the nighttime economy.
Meanwhile, the council’s Conservative opposition say they only found out about the plans when a press release was issued on Monday.
Under the plans, High Street will be closed between Park Street and Katharine Street for an initial 12 months, starting in October.
Mark Watson, the council’s cabinet member for economy and jobs, told the Advertiser: “The point is to make it pedestrian friendly as we don’t have many places that can provide this sort of open public space for people to sit outside.
“We wanted something that had minimal negative impact in its construction, but that will have a huge positive impact on residents and business.
“I’m pleased we’ve been able to deliver. It’s going to make a huge difference.”
Work on the road layout changes, which will also affect several roads surrounding St George’s Walk, is expected to start next month, with the High Street pedestrianised by the end of October.
News of the plans has been greeted warmly by several businesses on the affected stretch of the High Street.
Geri Bozhkoba, the assistant manager at Nando’s, said the plan was a “great opportunity”.
“We’re happy because it’ll make more people walk past us and check out our outside area,” she said.
Though the move is partly intended to allow for more European-style al fresco dining, shop owners believe the pedestrianisation may give their business a boost too.
Hammad Ahmad, owner of Brooklyn Big and Tall clothes store, said: “I feel positive about it. It will be good for our business. There’s going to be a bit of restriction while the work goes on but things should hopefully get better afterwards.
“We’ll likely get more people coming in after eating their lunch at Nando’s across the street.”
Kerryann Clarke, the assistant manager at Toni & Guy, thinks removing cars from the street would ease congestion in the town centre and help reduce air pollution.
“I think it’s going to be good,” she said. “There’s currently a lot of congestion and it’ll put a stop to that.”
Concerns have been expressed, though, as to whether pedestrianising the street will actually do anything to help the bars and clubs along the High Street.
There have been a series of bar and pub closures in recent years along the High Street, including Tiger Tiger, Yates’s and the Black Sheep, though those have all now been replaced with other businesses.
Daniel Grosset, the owner of Playnation Games in the High Street, described the overall plan as good, but expressed doubts as to what impact it would have.
“It’s an interesting concept and I think it’s good, but I don’t think it’s going to keep the bars from going away in the long run,” he said.
“The main thing is that people need a reason to come here in the first place. Simply pedestrianising an area that doesn’t have enough to draw people to it [isn’t going to be enough]. It’s going to take more than just a bit more pavement.
“Businesses will probably be affected by the lack of cabs and immediate parking that they have here now.”
Jason Perry, the Conservative shadow cabinet member for planning, broadly welcomed the “good” idea, but expressed concerns at a lack of consultation on the plans.
“There was no consultation with us [the opposition Conservative group],” he said. “We only found out about it through the press release.”
The construction work means that Park Street will be made one-way eastbound from the High Street up to its junction with St George’s Walk. All buses that used to use the High Street will instead travel via St George’s Walk.
The taxi rank on the High Street will be moved to Park Street, while the two bus stops at the western end of Park Street will be moved nearer to the bus stand at the opposite end of the street.
The bus lane on Park Street will be removed, so the street can be used by traffic that has used George Street and High Street, while the existing zebra crossings and motorcycle parking bays will be moved to allow room for the new bus routes.
Bollards will then be put up along High Street at the junctions with Park Street and Katharine Street.
Andrew Smith, duty manager at the Dutchie Caribbean restaurant, expressed concerns about the impact of the roadworks on custom.
He said: “We don’t really know that much about it right now. No one knows how long the work will take, so if it’s more than a week or so then it’s going to affect our customer base and our customers will need to find another route to get to the restaurant, which could cause an issue with access.”
The initial work to create the new road layout is expected to take place in September. Then a second phase will take place to complete the pedestrianisation.
The pilot scheme, which is being brought in under an experimental traffic order, is expected to last until September 2018. If it’s found to be successful, the pedestrianisation will be made permanent.
The works are being paid for out of the Croydon Growth Zone project, a £500 million scheme run by the council in partnership with Transport for London and the Greater London Authority.