Stop the rat run

History and background to traffic proposals in the Albert Square area

NEIL SANDERS of the Albert Square and St Stephen’s Association looks at the background to concerns about this scheme
Having lived here for 32 years, it is hard to avoid feeling that someone in transport engineering has a vendetta against us!  When I moved here, the Albert Square Conservation Area was a quiet backwater with virtually no through traffic.  There were two well-established routes for east-west traffic.  One was Fentiman Road, a classified B road and a recognised local distributor, the other Lansdowne Way.  Fentiman Road was a straight road, not too wide, so traffic could proceed without any particular hazard, but, because it was quite narrow, the traffic would not be tempted to go too fast.  Anyone who moved into Fentiman Road knew that it was a classified road and might, one might argue, be expected to take the consequences.  Lansdowne Way presented one single problem: the angled junction with Clapham Road which was an accident black spot.

Over the years, the policies of Lambeth Council and Transport for London (TfL) and its predecessors have stated ever more strongly the importance of removing traffic from residential areas (and also protecting the character of Conservation Areas, etc), yet their actions have had precisely the opposite effect and diverted traffic into our area.

The route through Albert Square and Aldebert Terrace is a particularly dangerous one, because it alternates between tight bends with very restricted visibility and a wide street giving every incentive to traffic to race.  It is also particularly unsuited to through traffic because it is an exceptionally fine Victorian Conservation Area and houses an exceptionally good local community, both of which are damaged by through traffic.

The worst change came with the introduction of Red Routes, when restrictions were placed on access to Lansdowne Way from Clapham Road so as to eliminate its use as an east-west route. Overnight, Aldebert Terrace was transformed from backwater to rat-run.  The introduction (at the same time) of traffic lights at the junction of Aldebert Terrace and the South Lambeth road guaranteed the exit from the rat run. The reason for closing the Lansdowne Way route was to eliminate the accident black spot at the angled junction with the Clapham Road.  However, the new traffic lights at the junction were set up so the two conflicting traffic flows which caused the danger took place separately rather than together.  This would have solved the accident problem without any need for the access restrictions.  Lansdowne Way produces far less clash between through traffic and residential frontages than does the Albert Square – Aldebert Terrace route.

In our view, the re-opening of Lansdowne Way would offer the most important strategic benefit to the area.

After the introduction of the Red Routes the Council commissioned a major study by JMP Partners of the so-called Fentiman Road residential cell, which culminated in public consultation in October 2005.  The proposals were agreed, and the Council decided to implement them.  Also the full Lambeth Council passed a landmark resolution that they would no longer countenance piecemeal traffic changes without considering their effect on the wider area. The proposals for our cell were still going ahead under the Lambeth Opportunity Fund when they were considered by the North Lambeth Area Committee on 10 January 2006.

Tfl were then granted new powers to control junctions with Tfl roads.  Abu Barkatoolah, our Lambeth contact, told us that Tfl had called in the Fentiman Road cell proposals to have another look at the junctions, but that he would continue to implement the measures within Lambeth’s control as resources permitted.  Subsequently Abu was promoted, and all efforts on our part to find out what Tfl and the Council are doing about the key entrances to the cell have failed.  We have made numerous enquiries, and we have continuing problems in establishing a dialogue with either Lambeth Council or Tfl – even on mundane matters such as giving us promised traffic figures.

The proposals for an experimental no-right turn came to us out of the blue.  It seemed to us that, having blocked the excellent scheme, which had been subject to full consultation and agreed, Tfl, the strategic authority, has started on the futile business, which the Borough Council has formally abandoned, of shuffling traffic from one residential area to another.  We were outraged that it should be put to us in apparent concert with Lambeth Council, when the Council had given us firm undertakings that no changes would be made in traffic arrangements in the “Fentiman cell” without full consideration of knock-on effects in adjacent areas.

The fact that we had made so many efforts to find out what was going on but were told nothing added to our sense of grievance.

We are puzzled by the role of Lambeth Council, because although the Tfl letter states that local Councillors are in favour of the scheme, we know that our Ward (Stockwell) Councillors are all vehemently opposed to it. We are also anxious to re-establish an effective dialogue with Lambeth Officers and re-connect with the history.

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