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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Harringay residents gather to support the 'Living Wightman' message                                                                       (Photo: Hugh Flouch)

Wightman Road is living again. 

With the traffic dramatically reduced as a result of the bridge works, this is a residential community reborn. 

A place where children play in the street, neighbours stop for a chat, families cycle safely through to Finsbury Park and that joggers and commuters can enjoy rather than endure.

For many of us, the idea of Wightman Road returning to a noisy, polluted traffic-clogged rat-run is unthinkable.

The peace today brings into sharp focus the nightmare that its residents have long suffered as a result of decades of planning decisions that have seen their needs come second every time to those of drivers using their home as a rat run.

Wightman Road is, unquestionably, a residential road. Despite this, it was having a massively disproportionate share of local traffic dumped on it –120,000 vehicles a week – only 40,000 less than, Green Lanes. 

This level of traffic was generating dangerous levels of pollution, with children most at risk. Levels of nitrogen dioxide - a pollutant that inflames the lungs, stunts growth and increases the odds of respiratory diseases such as cancer and asthma – were much higher than EU legal limits.

Given the high proportion of deprived households on Wightman Road, some of the poorest children in Harringay were paying the price for those motorists who were using it as a rat run. 

As such, Wightman Road represents in microcosm a wider divide in Harringay, which sees poorer residents suffer for the convenience of their wealthier neighbours.  While 62% of households in our ward don’t have a car, ownership is high in surrounding areas such as Crouch End and Muswell Hill. 

We should no longer tolerate this injustice, and we must not ignore this daily threat to the health of our community, and our children. 

One of the first things that the new London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, did when he took office last month was to publish a major report on air quality. He also said nothing should be off limits when it came to tackling the issue. 

He said: “Half a million under-19s in London are breathing in air in breach of NO2 levels. Separate from that, we know the air in London is responsible for 10,000 deaths last year and in parts of London children have under-developed lungs.” 

But it’s not just lethal traffic pollution on Wightman Road that was a problem.

This traffic included foundation-shaking, thunderous lorries and HGVs that breach the tonnage limit with impunity. The bridge-strengthening works will give the green light for even heavier vehicles.

And more traffic will be generated by an estimated 7,500 new households created by the massive residential developments in the immediate and surrounding areas – including at  Hawes & Curtis, Wightman Road Hornsey Station, Heartlands sites,  Smithfield Square on Hornsey High Street and  Tottenham Hale. Whilst we support the building of more affordable homes, it’s important to recognise that Harringay will  accommodate a disproportionately high level  of new housing in the borough. Wightman Road and the Ladder are right in the middle of all this development.

So when the bridge works finish in September, we won’t be going to back to how it was. It’s going to get worse.

So it’s in everyone’s interests that we act NOW to stand up for the quality of life of local residents, particularly children who face stark health inequalities, on Wightman Road and the surrounding area.

This is the aim behind Living Wightman; a group of residents who have come together to campaign for a safer, healthier and happier future for Wightman Road and the rest of the Ladder roads and, in doing so, inform a major initiative that Haringey Council is currently leading to address the traffic problems that have blighted Harringay for years.

In doing so, we are acutely aware of the concerns of businesses that have been affected by the current restrictions, particularly with the closure of the Alroy Road end, and congestion generated elsewhere and of the inconvenience experienced by residents in and around the Ladder.

Mindful of this, we are asking for the following:

Firstly, we’re requesting that Haringey Council extend the current arrangements beyond summer to allow time to find a long-term solution that drastically reduces traffic on Wightman Road. It isn’t practical to completely open and then limit traffic on Wightman. It would reproduce the initial chaos we all suffered when a change in access was first put in place.

Secondly, we’re proposing that any long-term solution allows access for local businesses and their customers, but stops Wightman Road being used a rat run through route as part of overall measures to improve traffic flow in the surrounding area.

Thirdly, in the meantime, we want to encourage even more people to take advantage of a safer, healthier, quieter Wightman Road, especially cyclists to use it as an alternative to Green Lanes as a route to Central London . We also want residents to share their experiences and ideas about how we can build on these gains and go forward.

There will be those who say it can’t be done.

You only have to look at access restrictions in the Gardens roads, on Hermitage Road and Harringay Road to see that this is not the case.

There will be those who say that the surrounding areas can’t cope with the displaced traffic.

The current situation, with congestion at times, at certain pinch points , is certainly far from ideal, but we know that there has been a drop in car journeys as a result of Wightman Road no longer being used as a rat run.

Anecdotally, many residents also report walking, cycling and using public transport more and, if they have cars, using them more thoughtfully – for example, running errands as part of one journey rather than making lots of short trips.

This decline in car use can only help ease congestion in the long-term and be welcome if the Council is serious about meeting its ambitious aim of reducing carbon emissions by 40% in just four years.

But there is no question that we are anti-car. Many of us are motorists. Rather that the Living Wightman campaign is pro-people and communities.

The current arrangements on Wightman Road – for example, pavements in terrible condition impassable to wheelchairs and buggies in some places because of cars parked on the pavement rather than the road, are about as anti-people as you can get.

They are unsafe, potentially in breach of equalities laws and prioritise the rights of people using the road as a rat run over those who live there.

This cannot be right and is totally unfair.

We only want for our children and quality of life what our neighbours in places where this has been made a priority are getting without question.

No residential road should have 120,000 cars, vans and lorries roaring past people’s homes every week

No  child should have  their health put at risk and their lives cut short by dangerous levels of pollution

As we are seeing now, in a safer, healthier, happier Wightman Road, there is a better way for Harringay .

So let’s be ambitious and imaginative in striving for this together.

What can you do?

To find out more,  get involved, tell us what you think, share your ideas, please get in touch. You can:

Tags for Forum Posts: traffic, wightman bridge, wightman bridge closure

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi all,

I'd be keen to help with this, it's a fantastic aim. However I'd love to ask whether there is any way you guys could perhaps extend your aspirations to Hornsey Park Road? I live on HPR, and it suffers from all of the same issues Wightman Road did prior to the closure - narrow residential street being used by high numbers of incredibly inappropriate vehicles, causing traffic chaos and shaking buildings. I personally am woken up almost every night and am seeing more and more worrying cracks appearing in my ceiling and walls! Ultimately we lead directly onto wightman so improvements to or road can only benefit things in wightman too. Do you think there's scope for bring us into your fold?

I was half expecting that when the road was closed to through traffic that this would hinder things like deliveries and refuse collection. I am happy to say that my fears were misplaced. Not a single delivery to my place (on Wightman Road) has been missed or arrived noticeably late. Veolia took a week or so to rearrange their refuse collecting routine but all now seems OK.
I admire the aims but people seem to have ignored the fact that a lot of people live on Green Lanes and children have to cross Green Lanes to get to schools. The current situation on Green Lanes is a health hazard for residents, is unsafe and affects quality of life. This road is just 300+ metres from Wightman Road.
Pat, I think that making Green Lanes a better place for pedestrians and users of public transport goes hand in hand with improving the life of residents in the area as a whole. Traffic displaced from Wightman Road during the bridge works would have ended up on Green Lanes whatever the decision was about closing or not closing Wightman to through traffic because without the exit from Alroy Road to Endymion Road vehicles have no option but to go onto Green Lanes at some point in their journey.
If you think about about crossing Green Lanes and what you have to keep your eyes open for it's often not traffic moving north and south but vehicles cutting in and out of parking spaces, buses weaving in and out of traffic because the bus lane operates for such restricted hours and, until the closure of Wightman to through traffic, vehicles coming out of and going into every Ladder road.
I want to see a Green Lanes where the priorities are
1. People
2. Buses and bikes
3. Everything else.
and for Haringey's traffic plan for the area to deliver those.
I agree, but the proposed vision for Wightman Road will only leave Green Lanes in its current situation, unless traffic is restricted and that will never happen.

I'm not sure that the vision is prescriptive of an exact solution. For my part, I could see a solution where the road is still open, but not in the same way as previously. It may be that a situation can be reached where changes across the area including on Wightman allow for a better flow of traffic all around and a more balanced situation vis a vis quality of life. 

It will certainly never happen if Wightman Road reopens Pat.

The problem of Green Lanes has been forgotten about for years because Haringey were able to shut their eyes and ears to it due to Wightman taking the load. Wightman was taking 120,000 vehicles a week and Green Lanes 180,000. That almost a third of a million vehicles passing through the area that you, I and everyone else live in every week or well over a million every month.

I use Green Lanes every day as a shopper, a walker and a bus passenger and I want it improved so it is no longer the polluted, noisy and dangerous place it is and has been for a lot the the 30 odd years I've lived here. If Wightman remains closed or if it is made a less attractive option to through traffic the problem of Green Lanes just cannot be ignored for any longer.

I'm not sure how Green Lanes can be improved in terms of traffic control. Reducing traffic flow through Green Lanes will also have an impact elsewhere in the borough. Essentially we would just be pushing our problems on to someone else. Unfortunately, modern society is too wedded to cars as a means of transport and regardless of how much effort is put into trying to get people to reduce their car use, I don't think people will listen. For my part, I either walk or take public transport (especially the bus as I like to prove Maggie Thatcher wrong), but that attitude is a minority one and also may not be possible for some people.

Anecdotally people have stopped using their cars as much. Data wise, there has been a massive drop in the number of motor vehicles coming anywhere near the area (75% I hear).

Visually, it looks like a carpark at the weekend from 10am onwards and on week days during the morning and evening rush hour. It is quicker for me to get off the bus at Manor House and walk down in the evenings. Interestingly, the morning queues have not happened this week during half-term, which suggest heavy car use in the area for the school run.

I used to take the 29 bus every day in and it was like this in the evenings. 

Every time I traveled through Green Lanes before the works it was like this. 

The parking needs to be removed in my opinion. 

I think this is an interesting observation Pat. You absolutely have a point about traffic on Green Lanes (and Turnpike Lane too). What this says to me though is that the problem of traffic is multi faceted, and there are many issues requiring many solutions holistically in order for this to problem be solved!

  • school run- need a proper effort to get parents and kids out of cars
  • buses cannot move- clear the bus lanes of parking
  • roads congested- identify pinch points and allow a free flow (think the traffic light controller at Turnpike lane not being able to allow enough cars to turn right)
  • speed bumps seeing folks homes shaken to pieces- design physical speed restrictions in and remove speed humps
  • HGVs use our roads- enforce the HGV ban more effectively
  • people cannot use there footpaths- get parked vehicles off the footpath and back onto the road

Sadly, the Wightman closure has highlighted how lazy traffic planning and policy has been in this area for the last 20 years. Simply allowing a residential road to carry almost 2/3rds the traffic of Green Lanes has just allowed the problem to be hidden/displaced and no effective action taken.

We have the first meeting of the Green Lanes Traffic Study Stakeholder Group on Thursday, and while responding to you it made me thing we need to do more than throw out individual issues and highlight specific solutions, but draw all the issues and potential solutions together in one place. So, I have just put up a post asking for peoples thoughts.



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