Ian Weinfass, Senior reporter
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Elm Park town centre has recently had a revamp. Ian Weinfass looks at the work.
People or cars? What is the right balance for our town centres? And who decides how much space each gets?
In Elm Park, new plans to reduce traffic congestion have recently seen bus stops, loading bays, a taxi rank and parking spaces put into the pavements to ease traffic flow.
Meanwhile, in Hornchurch, regeneration work is seeing the size of the pavement increased at the expense of the road.
Barry Mugglestone, from the Hornchurch Residents’ Association’s Elm Park ward team, said that the council hadn’t consulted properly in Elm Park.
He wrote to the Recorder: “I agree that widening the road was a good idea for certain parts of the road, but not all.”
And he claimed: “The problem is going to be at rush hour (5.30-7pm) when the commuters leave the station and turn right heading towards Rainham.
“The so-called “kiss & ride” bay will be a nightmare with car doors open and pedestrians going down the hill.”
But the council says that the pavements are still wider than average – at 1.5 metres (5ft) each, and others report a smoother drive down the Broadway.
Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas said: “The width restrictions on the pavements especially at rush hour raise concerns about people’s safety and mobility on the streets.
“And there are real worries that the road widening will not actually resolve the congestion – especially with regard to buses and lorries.”
Resident David Martin, 63, rides along the centre of Elm Park in his scooter.
Hardly able to speak following a stroke five years ago, his partner Kay Leiser is worried about how he will cope with the changes.
Kay, who is also Barry Mugglestone’s sister, said: “His scooter is the only means for him to get around really.
“After his stroke he’s lost his speech really so he can’t really say ‘excuse me’ to people.
“Getting him the scooter gave him a bit of independence, but I’m worried about these changes.”
She added: “With the new Morrisons and Sainsbury’s opening soon there will be more people using them and more people on the pavement and more traffic.”
But Havering Council leader Cllr Michael White, said: “From seeing and speaking to people in Elm Park, I know the changes have made a considerable difference.
“There’s less traffic congestion, more car parking and cycle racks, loading bays for businesses, and a new drop-off parking pay near the station. So residents, local businesses, shoppers and commuters all benefit.
“What’s more, there has been no expense to residents as TfL allocated £80,000 for the work.”
Other shoppers and traders have given the work a mixed reception.