"Short journeys are no longer short journeys"
Michelle, her mother Maria and their family have lived at their home close to the Oval cricket ground for 44 years. Michelle told us "we’ve seen lot of change, a lot of change, in the area, but also in the estate as well and generally good change." But the Oval 'low traffic neighbourhood' (LTN) has caused unexpected disruption and confusion. We spoke to them about their experiences of the effect of the LTN.
Michelle's father (Maria's husband) is 79 and requires daily visits from carers, a routine that, post-LTN, is under intense pressure. And beyond day-to-day care needs, occasional emergencies do arise. In these cases, as Michelle says, just a few minutes makes a world of difference: "as his carers, it's kind of an additional pressure...every so often there will be an emergency - touch wood - and we need to get here as quick as we can. Not so long ago, that situation happened, and what would normally take me 6 mins to get here took me so much longer, because I had to go round the one-way system back around, over by the Vauxhall one way and then back through. And that is additional minutes where a lot of things can go wrong." The added uncertainty of delays and re-routing that now faces emergency services is unsettling: "and then it’s the added concern of 'what about an ambulance?'"
Hospital visits, never stress-free, now come with added uncertainty, she adds: "we had an appointment at Guys hospital the other day, and where we would normally come out of the estate and go up Claylands Road and turn left, its really quick, we’ve had to [go] round Vauxhall, round the one way system back up again. We’ve ended up back here on the same road. So we already have to leave a huge amount of time between appointments, we are gonna have to increase that." Her Father's health issues mean "he gets tired really quickly and, you know, it's [difficult] trying to ensure that he's comfortable." Maria adds that, while their routine varies, access to the family home for healthcare professionals is a running theme: "Each day is different but 4 nurses [need access to the flat]" Michelle adds: "it’s a different nurse every single day on a rotational basis but, out of the ones that come, there's four that drive. They are having [access] issues, but the thing is they already struggle because you know the NHS are under a lot of pressure, and we can appreciate that, but they are already struggling to meet my Dads' needs outside of [the LTN), and this is only making the matter worse."
On the LTN's green credentials, Michelle is sceptical that the scheme as it currently stands will deliver: "not only is this [the LTN] causing huge issues, it's not gonna cut congestion if that what they are trying to do." She refers specifically to the impact on schools: "its going to create more pollution because they are putting the traffic in an isolated spot...if Wyvil school was to look at their [pollution test results] from last year, versus what it would be like in a few weeks time, or in September for example once the kids are back, I reckon it will be more than double." Maria sees an unfairness in continuing to be charged for a service they are not able to use: "we pay road tax and we cannot drive? Its true, we pay road tax and we cannot drive where we pay for it."
Michelle highlights the glaring lack of communication of the LTN scheme. "We had nothing...every day, I was checking in, my parents have lived here 44 years so we know everyone, [I checked] in with the neighbour upstairs and she's like ‘no we haven’t received anything’. And then when you start speaking to people you realise actually no one in Ashmole Estate has heard anything. Apparently that block got a letter – Banham House which isn’t affected by the Claylands Road and all them roads being off because they can't physically get over here because Lawn Lane is a one way system from south Lambeth road. So between Vauxhall Tavern and Vauxhall Park that little strip there.. that’s the only one way system in there – so that’s not really going to impact them as much. Yet they have received a letter."
Michelle fears the disruption is not confined to her family: "I’m sure my Father is not the only isolated case in Ashmole." Maria highlights the issue of access for 'meals on wheels' deliveries, who are now finding they struggle to enter the estate as easily as before the LTN: "I cook but sometimes they can’t, you know, meals on wheels [cannot] come". Michelle says: "my Dad's fortunate that we don’t need that, but that would have been an additional issue for my Dad. And you know, these people need to eat at a certain time, and this [the LTN] is causing chaos."