Residents angry about council ‘ignoring’ petition against King Charles Road closure

A group of residents have expressed their anger and frustration after the council postponed hearing their petition to open King Charles Road again.

The chair asked the public gallery to calm down and extended the space for questions by additional 15 minutes, as a discussion ignited at the Surbiton Neighbourhood Committee (SNC) meeting on Thursday, February 22.

Local resident Marina Golding said to the committee: “Most residents believe that by participating in a legal and democratic petitioning process you, their councillors, would act for them.

“Yet, you continue to ignore their wishes. What more proof do you need from your residents that they want this barrier removed? They are very, very angry.”

In 2023, more than 2,000 people signed a formal petition to remove the barrier on King Charles Road, while an opposing petition to retain the barrier attracted 743 signatures.

The Glenore House, The Crescent, Kingston upon Thames
The Surbiton Neighbourhood Meeting took place in the Glenmore House at The Crescent on February 22. Credit: Daniel Tison

The SNC was initially going to read both petitions in November 2023, but then postponed it until the meeting in February 2024.

Graham Hare, who represents the group of Berrylands residents campaigning against the barrier, described the committee meeting as “frustrating”.

He said: “At just one week’s notice, I was informed that it had been decided the petitions would be instead heard at a higher-level committee, the Place Committee, which will be less interested in our local issue and less likely to vote in our favour.”

The chair, Cllr Tom Reeve, explained that the high level of interest and borough-wide implications needed a discussion at a higher-level.

He said: “The Highways officers will draft a report, which will then include an analysis of all the factors, and this will be presented for consideration to the council.”

Cllr Manders, Portfolio Holder for Climate Action and Sustainable Transport, added that the report will be based on facts and data, rather than subjective views. 

“[Manders] seems to think that our campaign is based upon some hysteria or mass hallucination about traffic, but our campaign is data-based,” said Hare after the meeting.

The King Charles Road end closed next to a children's playgroud
Some people benefit from the barrier, as it calms down the traffic around a children’s playground. Credit: Daniel Tison

Kingston Council closed King Charles Road to through-traffic as a temporary measure in 2020 and made it permanent a year later, as part of its low-traffic neighbourhood bid.

But the opposing petition signatories argue that traffic now diverts through the central residential roads of Berrylands, increasing the congestion, pollution, and noise.

Hare said: “In the meantime, traffic volumes have increased on residential roads in the rest of Berrylands, including roads which are main walking routes for schoolchildren.”

A survey commissioned by the SNC in early 2021 showed that 48.8% residents were opposed to the barrier, with 46.5% voting in favour, out of more than 120 respondents.

It remains unclear when the council will respond to both petitions.

The campaigners said that they are going to raise a formal complaint to the council about how their petition has been handled.

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