This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 05/08/2018.
The reasons why a roundabout where the A23 and M23 meet is never likely to be built
There are plans to widen the A23 through Hooley but some villagers have suggested a roundabout should be built instead.
Since Highways England’s proposals to widen the A23 through Hooley were first made public at the start of July, a number of residents have voiced their objections to it.
Some fear it will turn Hooley into a ghost town, even if it may ease congestion for drivers heading between Croydon and the M25.
And the question has been asked why the money being spent on the project cannot instead be splashed out on a roundabout at the point where the M23 meets the A23.
This, they argue, would cut traffic by allowing bigger vehicles coming off the M23 to turn back towards Redhill without having to go all the way through Hooley before they hit a roundabout.
Currently Highways England’s plans, which will cost around £3.5 million, include expanding the northbound side so it has two lanes from the Starbucks at Dean Lane to the existing dual carriageway at the Netherne Drive junction.
The southbound carriageway will be widened to two lanes from the Netherne Drive junction to the Esso petrol station where they will then merge into one.
This is categorised as a “minor” improvement scheme by Highways England whereas putting in a large roundabout would be seen as a “major upgrade” and be nearly £1.5 million more expensive.
This extra cost has been one of the main reasons a roundabout has been overlooked in favour of the widening of the A23 through Hooley.
During meetings between Highways England, local councillors and the chairman of Hooley Residents’ Association, Danny Daniel, among others, a number of impacts of the scheme were confirmed.
These include a removal of the wide grass verges that currently exist, the lay-by in front of the shops being relocated further north away from the retail premises, the pavement being narrowed in some areas and a combined pedestrian and cycle lane being built.
On top of the cost, there are other major reasons why the roundabout hasn’t been considered.
The first is that the area where the M23 ends is home to a protected early 19th century rail road.
Tommy Whittingham, who is managing the planned work for Highways England, also stated at a public meeting in Hooley that “the walls at the bottom of some of the houses just south of Dean Lane are from [an] old train station site that would take clay into London and the bridge on Dean Lane is made of iron and listed from the industrial period”.
The area is the former site of the Croydon, Merstham and Godstone (CM&G) Iron Railway, which was an extension of the Surrey Iron Railway (the world’s first public railway) which ran from 1805 to 1838.
Where the A23 meets the M23, some of the actual track bed is visible on surrounding land and in between the lanes. There are further remains south towards Merstham.
Another reason stopping a roundabout being built is the surrounding fields, which a roundabout may have to cut into.
They form part of the Farthing Downs and Happy Valley green belt area, which are an area of special scientific interest.
According to Historic England, this site has chalk and grasslands within an area of ancient woodland and has the largest British colony of the greater yellow-rattle, a rare wildflower, and nationally scarce herbs with eight species of orchid being recorded.
The site is classed as a national monument dating back to Anglo-Saxon times and runs north into Coulsdon.
One final reason is that Highways England has confirmed that with these restrictions, installing a roundabout may mean having to do heavy maintenance work to relocate key underground gas pipes.
But some people still think a roundabout is a better option.
Surrey county councillor Bob Gardner said: “They should look at a roundabout again. There have been plans drawn up but they have not moved forward.
“Clearly with the level of opposition we’ve seen at the public consultation [to the road widening] that should be considered again.”
Plans for a roundabout as part of a better M23/A23 interchange have been considered and discussed in 1995, 2003 and 2012.
Mr Daniel said: “A lot of the current congestion comes from lorries coming off the M23 and having to run past up to Coulsdon to turn around.
“If they put in a roundabout a lot of us believe it would solve part of the problem.”