Turnham Green Terrace Traders blame traffic restrictions “mayhem” for a dramatic drop off in trade
5 October, 2020 / by Bridget Osborne & Matt Smith
In June LB Hounslow introduced radical new traffic measures in Chiswick, making Turnham Green Terrace closed to through traffic, as part of the Government’s emergency COVID legislation to make space for pedestrians to exercise social distancing, and to encourage cycle use and walking instead of driving.
The councillors whose decision it was thought it might take three months for residents to get used to the changes, for drivers to realise the road was closed and stop turning into it, and for shoppers to start going there without a car.
What they didn’t expect was that still, three months on, the road closure signs would be routinely ignored, the traffic would be as dense as ever, pedestrians would be put off by the ugliness of the street and shopkeepers would be increasingly upset and angry as they saw their trade dwindle.
Local residents and traders are calling on the council to rethink the changes. Matt Smith has been meeting some of the traders.
Oxana – Turnham Green Terrace
Image above: Oxana’s store on Turnham Green Terrace
Oxana Magiera runs Oxana on Turnham Green Terrace, a small boutique fashion & lifestyle store. Oxana was busy with a customer when I walk in so our chat was brief, but as soon as I mention the traffic scheme she makes time to talk to me, to condemn the changes.
Her main concerns were the lack of passing trade and people not following social distancing guidelines anyway, which she said make the barriers obsolete.
“Some of my customers, regular customers, are making the effort to come but they are having difficulties with parking. It’s only because they’re regular that they’re making the effort to come. It took one customer a week to get to me after many times trying, but people like random customers? It’s impossible for them, it really is” she said.
She would like to see the scheme abandoned:
“I want half an hour parking, which was amazing for the customers. We’re not all of a sudden all going to jump on bicycles and become bicycle riders. And we didn’t achieve any social distancing either! People aren’t using the new space.”
“Something that’s amazing now is that we get the big trucks literally standing there for half an hour, because apparently they’re allowed, so they’ve got the engine running, and they’re having a rest! Totally blocking my shop and I’m inhaling all of their petrol.”
‘Just a nightmare’
As we’re speaking, a customer, who did not want to be named, chipped in to agree with her:
“This is a nice shopping street and Hounslow are now confining it to lorries and buses and it’s horrible. The traffic barriers look awful, and it’s impacting on the 94 bus, because it can’t get down. They’re already putting the cycle superhighway on Chiswick High Road and with this, the whole thing is just a nightmare and it was imposed on everybody without consultation.”
Lizard – Turnham Green Terrace
Kambiz Hendessi is the Director of Lizard, a contemporary Italian fashion store on Turnham Green Terrace. I caught Kambiz outside with one his colleagues on a cigarette break, since the store was empty.
“The main problem is that it’s stopped people coming into Chiswick shopping” he said. He reckons they are 30% less busy than before the road was closed.
“Some people can’t walk or use a bicycle so they can’t come. Basically the whole fibre of the trade in Turnham Green Terrace is broken down.”
“We opened up here because of exposure. You have traffic going by, people see your shop and that’s the only exposure you have, and it’s been taken away.”
Image above: Kambiz Hendessi outside his shop – Lizard
“Either they make the whole street pedestrianised, or don’t use this shambolic scheme. It’s just really shambolic.”
Snap Dragon – Turnham Green Terrace
Images above: Fiona Wallis, Snap Dragon’s storefront
Fiona Wallis runs Snap Dragon toy shop. As I’m going in schools had just finished for the day, so a couple of school children are browsing toys, the only passing trade.
Fiona says her business has definitely been impacted and that people are already changing their habits.
“Initially when we reopened after the lockdown, we were reasonably busy with people coming back. And then these restrictions came in. It didn’t have an immediate affect because not a lot of people were aware of it because they weren’t actually issuing tickets.”
“Now that everybody’s aware of it, or more aware of it, people are just starting to avoid it.”
She is also concerned that traffic is being pushed into residential roads, making the area more unsafe.
“The fact that it affects businesses is one of the concerns but the other would be that it pushes the traffic into residential roads or onto school routes and actually close to some schools” she said.
Tone of the debate has turned “nasty”
“I think this one should be scrapped completely, I think Fisher’s Lane should remain closed except for buses and cyclists, because I don’t see an issue with cyclists using Fisher’s lane but they don’t actually need to use this road.”
Fiona worries that the tone of the debate has become quite nasty and divisive, which she sees as a result of the council not listening to the concerns of affected businesses.
“Some people feel passionate it should be one way or the other but the council is not particularly open about who it is affecting and why and I think they’re getting quite nasty about it all – not just the council, I think everybody is.
Sweaty Betty – Turnham Green Terrace
Wanessa Frasson is the manager of Sweaty Betty, an active wear shop. Her business is booming, but even so, she says many of her customers aren’t happy:
“Our customers haven’t stopped coming in, but they complain a lot. They complain that they cannot park here anymore. They used to go the butchers and it would take 10-15 minutes so they could come here and now they either have to walk or cycle or park their car too far from the shops. So it’s not very convenient if you’re carrying shopping back to the car. They’re still coming in but they’re not happy about it.”
“Reverse the decision”
Though things are pretty good at the moment, as winter approaches Wanesssa thinks that colder temperatures will put people off coming and she’ll notice a drop in sales then.
“It would be better if they reversed their decision definitely, not only for us but for other traders as well. I think it would be much better for Turnham Green Terrace.”
Image above: Wanessa Frasson outside of Sweaty Betty
Foubert’s – Turnham Green Terrace
Images above: Luciano Lo Dico, Foubert’s storefront
Luciano Lo Dico opened his ice cream cafe in Foubert’s Place, Soho originally, but in 1980 he moved it to Chiswick.
“It’s ruining us, they want to come into the restaurant, but they don’t know where to stop.
“I think they should take us back to the normal days and have people to stop for half an hour, it was a good system.”
Snappy Snaps – Chiswick High Road
John Fitzgerald is the franchise owner of Snappy Snaps, the photo printing and digital specialists.
As I went to meet him, there was a queue at the door and all the shop assistants were busy. I caught his eye and after he’d finished with a customer we took a seat in Nikki’s Bakery next door to chat over a coffee.
“My main concern is, at a time where Covid restrictions are in, and we have immense amounts of issues with footfall anyway around the Terrace, the Council seem to be experimenting with the traffic restrictions which, in normal circumstances, would have a knock-on effect on our businesses anyway” he says.
The council made the changes to allow more room for pedestrians to pass, by extending the pavement into the road space. Drivers are allowed to stop and park only in disabled bays if they have a disability badge, or in loading bays, if they are picking up something bulky or heavy, or dropping it off.
“It’s confusing. Two of my customers last week ended up with parking tickets because they were trying to get down the Terrace as they were trying to come in and drop off framing work to give to me – but if the loading bays are full what are they to do?”
This logistical flaw in the design is one of the aspects of the changes that is most complained about.
“This is the worst traffic scheme I’ve ever seen” says John.
Image above: John Fitzgerald – Snappy Snaps
Since its introduction the difficulties for drivers have been compounded by the introduction of other traffic flow changes at the same time, by LB Hounslow in Devonshire Rd and LB Ealing at Fisher’s Lane. They have coincided also with other roadworks: initially with major works in Chiswick High Rd carried by British Gas and now by the installation of Cycleway 9.
“The mayhem that’s on the highroad with the temporary lighting is causing even worse problems. I have customers that come from Barnes and it took them over one hour and ten minutes on Saturday to get to this part of the High Road and then they couldn’t find parking to pull in, which kind of speaks for itself.”
“The parking is always full, and when people are coming it’s always busy. People don’t come at 9 o’clock in the morning when it’s quiet; they come when it’s convenient for them to do so.”
“We’ve had to put a free delivery on W4 for all our framing and all our large goods, purely because people just won’t come. Now we’re probably doing about three times the amount of drop offs that we did pre-Covid. It was a service that was there before and wasn’t used particularly much but now it’s used constantly.”
“Put the experiment on pause”
Although John is critical of the restrictions, he isn’t opposed to them being paused then reintroduced gradually. He thinks that pushing everything through at the same time is detrimental.
“Immediately I’d like the Council to put the whole thing on pause and just lift the restrictions and get back to normal operations for a period of time.”
“It’s the most logical thing to me, if you have an issue and businesses in the area are suffering then you should alleviate that suffering in a way that is obvious.”
Nikki’s Bakery – Chiswick High Road
Right next door to Snappy Snaps is Nikki’s Bakery, where I spoke to the owner Homayoun Fahimipour. His business hasn’t been significantly impacted yet, but he fears a long-term change in habits with customers hoping to avoid Fixed Penalty Notices.
“Most folk don’t see the signs and there is not enough information for drivers when they drive in. So many people drive in they don’t have a clue and then they get the ticket. So if my customer gets £100 or £150 ticket and they want to buy a loaf of bread from me that’s going to be a very expensive loaf. They will prefer to go to Sainsbury’s to park there, get a different type of bread, but still a lot cheaper than potentially getting a fine.”
Image above: Homayoun outside Nikki’s Bakery
‘Doesn’t seem to be helping anyone’
Homayoun is a business owner, a motorist, a local resident and a cyclist.
“With the decision they have made, I don’t know who it concerns. Is it the cyclists? is it less pollution? is it less traffic? Because it doesn’t seem to be helping anyone.”
For him the closure of Turnham Green Terrace and Fisher’s Lane together is too much. He also says he’s willing to adapt to change, but thinks having the Terrace one way would be a better solution, rather than having traffic trying to go both ways in narrower road space, while as far as he can see, pedestrians avoid using the area marked off for them by barriers.
Petition surpasses 6,000 signatures
A petition against the closure of Turnham Green Terrace and Fisher’s Lane has surpassed 6,000 signatures (6,241 at time of writing).
Organiser Andrew Levison started it ‘to demonstrate to Hounslow and Ealing Councils that the local community needs to be consulted before introducing such significant changes to the roads’.
Link to the petition here:
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