Senior Met officers are in talks with the council amid reports that the controversial new road layout in around Walworth is preventing them chasing suspects, as road are blocked by council installed flowerbeds.
Several residents have reported police cars losing mopeds mid-pursuit as they find themselves blocked off by planters full of geraniums.
Walworth Road’s new low emission neighbourhood has posed ‘additional complications’ for police, the Met admits.
As the News has detailed in previous editions, the new road layouts which include whole side streets being blocked off to traffic were put in place as part of a highly contentious plan to reduce air pollution and encourage more people to walk and cycle safely in an effort to prevent further transmission of the Coronavirus.
But the measures – greeted with enthusiasm by cyclists, walkers and commuters – are loved and loathed in equal measure and their rapid implementation has certainly been rocky.
Elephant and Castle church Metropolitan Tabernacle handed Southwark Council a petition of 2,500 signatures against the changes, and traders – including family business Lynne’s Electrical – have also shared their frustrations with the News.
The News is aware of several occasions where police cars, ambulances and other emergency service vehicles struggled to navigate the new layout.
In early July, immediately after the new layout was put in place, Brandon Estate resident Chloe Hill contacted us to describe what she saw near the police station. “Amelia Street was blocked off yesterday using planters, which block the western access in and out of the police yard,” she said.
“There was no road signage in the surrounding area yesterday apart from one sign (Road Ahead Closed) which was on the corner of Amelia Street and Walworth Road.
“Impossible to see if you are driving northbound and difficulty to see if you are southbound. It actually beggars belief.”
She witnessed a police van trying to turn into the ‘blockade’, an ambulance from Guy’s and St Thomas’ having the same problem, and a council refuse truck, and claimed the drivers had no notice of the changes.
The News understands the issues were serious enough to warrant removing some filters and installing CCTV monitored traffic – at an unknown cost.
Superintendent Kris Wright, from the roads and transport command, confirmed the Met had been consulted on the proposals and said a ‘professional dialogue’ between it and the council continues.
In a statement provided to the paper, Wright neither confirmed nor denied that police had complained to Southwark Council that the new layouts had compromised access to Walworth Police Station.
“We are aware of the ongoing road network modifications in the areas surrounding Walworth Police Station,” Superintendent Wright explained.
“There is a process of informing and consulting undertaken by the Local Authority project lead prior to commencement of the works and I can confirm that such consultation did occur, and a professional dialogue continues.
“Whilst any such works can lead to local frustrations and additional complications to policing response in the area, we are working closely with the local authority and roads and transport command to minimise the impact upon local policing activity.
“There is a feedback process in place to allow for real time operational concerns to be raised with the project team.
“The officers are skilled emergency responders and able to adapt to the changing layout whilst these works are undertaken, and obviously any narrowing of access routes can lead to frustrations when stopping mopeds, but this is no different to any alleyway in the borough, however the safety of local communities and road users remains our utmost priority.
“I am not aware of any specific reports of vehicle pursuits being halted as a result of these new measures, but accept that it may have occurred, which is part of day to day policing.”
This paper has also seen a letter from Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP Neil Coyle to Southwark Council’s transport cabinet member, taking Richard Livingstone to task over the implementation of the scheme.
In the missive, dated July 27, the Labour MP describing the problems at the station as “a wholly obvious problem to anyone living or working in the area” and says he is “amazed” the council officers who devised the scheme had failed to foresee these difficulties.
After being asked to respond to claims police did not have sufficient notice of the scheme and had been left struggling to navigate the layout, councillor Richard Livingstone responded: “It is silly to claim that the police have not been kept informed about these changes.
“We have been talking with the police both before and during us rolling out the Walworth Low Emissions Neighbourhood measures.
“Indeed, as a result of these conversations, we have changed some of our original planned physical road closures to CCTV monitored traffic filters in order to help them.
“We are in regular contact with the emergency services, including the police, and have committed to continue our work, resolving any problems that they bring to us, where it is possible.”