"Its just really bad for me and its hurt a lot of people around here too. Its just wrong."
Ashmole Stores, owned and run by Bhav Patel (affectionately known as 'Budgie') is a veritable local institution in Oval, having been in operation at the same site on the Ashmole Estate for 36 years. We caught up with Bhav to speak about the impact of the Oval LTN on his business.
The LTN has caused a double impact for Bhav and his business. His takings are down, and, he fears, even loyal repeat visitors are now deterred from coming in: "customers will think ‘well hang on I'm not gonna go there. Even though they know us, they will think they have to come all the way around, and then back round. Takes too long." The LTN has thrown a spanner in the works of his business's operations, with deliveries now much harder: "two companies won't deliver to us anymore – one of my main suppliers. Because its all about logistics, if they are routing from Stockwell for example up to Borough, so they come through Clapham Road, left into here towards Tesco, and then along, they cant do it anymore. So I have to pick up my stuff from Crawley, which I'm not going to be able to do...so all my deliveries are affected." Through no fault of his own, Bhav's business is now on a knife-edge. He says that not only has the LTN affected his business "greatly", but that a perverse effect of the LTN is to force drivers into longer journeys with greater emissions as a result: "I’ve noticed in the morning when I’m here people used to come to me; they don’t come to me anymore, and I don’t blame them. A 3-4 min drive is now causing them a 15 min drive. And they [the Council] talk about emissions."
In common with our other interviewees, Bhav received no communication about the Oval LTN, and was not consulted by the Council: "We didn’t even know about it, I didn’t know about it, there was no consultation no nothing. Nothing whatsoever! Zero." Bhav also has a number of practical suggestions to make the LTN more workable for local businesses and residents: "one of the roads need to be open...my suggestion is simple, open up Claylands Road from both ways, in and out.. But at the top of Clayland Road you'd put up a sign saying 'no access to South Lambeth Road'. So that will deter cars to come through". As things stand, South Lambeth Road, one of Transport for London's 'red routes' (which, despite constituting just 5% of London's roads, carry 30% of the capitals traffic), is one of the areas worst-affected by traffic diverted away from the Oval triangle.
He is clear that, for him at least, this is not an ideological issue, and he is not seeking to paint one mode of transport as being in competition with another: "you know what, you want to cycle good luck to you, you want to walk, good luck." But he suspects that local interest groups have had a role to play in the changes, speaking of "the louder voices" he feels were pivotal in securing the LTN trial restrictions. In common with local residents OneOval has spoken to, Bhav is sceptical about the use of Covid-19 as justification for the Oval LTN, saying simply "to use Covid as an excuse...".
Our interview is punctuated by customers making purchases or chatting with Bhav, whose shop is clearly a centre of the community for the Estate and surrounding areas. Other shopping options for locals are limited, and Ashmole Stores is a lifeline for the community. Perhaps fittingly, our conversation finishes when a customer interrupts, to ask where they can sign the petition protesting the LTN.
With a total of over 1,500 signatures and rising, they are unlikely to be the last.