Those living in East Sheen have launched a campaign after The Royal Parks has announced the permanent closure of the Sheen Gate-Sheen Cross vehicle link across Richmond Park.

The Sheen Gate-Sheen Cross vehicle link was first closed in the UK’s national lockdown in July 2019, but The Royal Parks has now said the measures will be retained to reduce the impact of cut-through traffic permanently.

Around 250 opposing residents have now launched the Take Back Sheen Gate campaign in response to the Royal Parks' decision – believing “locals were effectively kept in the dark over the decision”.

Richmond and Twickenham Times:

There were 10,765 responses collected in the consultation about the scheme which ran between November 16, 2020 and January 10, 2021.

Leading campaign member Nic Karonias said: “From the first flyer put through doors in July our campaign quickly gathered momentum as there was clearly a silent majority who were very upset by the situation.

“The trial and the data collection were conducted in national lockdown - not a representative period of either vehicle movements or park usage.”

Of the 10,765 responses, only 88 were collected in-person and Nic believes the online format prevented elderly residents from voicing their opinions.

He added: “This immediately disenfranchises those not computer literate.”

A spokesperson for the Royal Parks said that although road closures were first implemented during lockdowns, these closures “were not solely used as a lockdown measure”.

Instead, they add that “the engagement process for the Movement Strategy began in 2019” – before the first lockdown, explaining that the scheme has been implemented “due to the benefits it brings to the parks”.

54 per cent of local responses supported the closure, and 89 per cent of non-local responses supported the permanent closure.

The Royal Parks insists that Richmond Park is “a shared use space” and the “consultation needed to take into account everyone’s views”.

Lorna Hopkinson Hall, of East Sheen, believes the results from the consultation are invalid.

She said: “I understand the link to the consultation was distributed very widely amongst cycling organisations.

“By closing the Sheen Cross-Sheen Gate vehicle link the traffic has trebled on the Upper Richmond Road.

“Occasionally I would go to Kingston hospital when my husband was ill, and it was one of things which gave some uplift.

“I now feel I am being deprived of enjoying the park.”

“The closure of the Sheen Gate vehicle link discriminates against the elderly, the unwell and sick people.”

Julie Phillips, another resident in East Sheen, said: “I’ve lived in the area for years and visit the park almost daily.

“People in the local area were effectively kept in the dark.

“A car journey which takes five minutes when the gate is open now takes nearly half an hour - each way.

“I used to love visiting the Isabella Plantation.

“This is now difficult since our young children cannot walk or cycle all the way there and back from Sheen Gate.”

A Royal Parks spokesperson said: "Although road closures were first implemented during the COVID lockdowns, these closures were not solely used as a lockdown measure.

"The engagement process for the Movement Strategy began in 2019, prior to the first lockdown, and we have implemented the scheme due to the benefits that this brings to the parks.

"London is facing a range of urban challenges, including increased congestion, diminishing air quality and a lack of access to high quality open green space. Due to the projected population growth, these challenges are expected to increase. If we fail to address the negative impacts of some of these challenges, the quality of our green space and visitor enjoyment will diminish.

"In order to reduce the impact of these challenges on our parks, we implemented the traffic reduction trials within the parks, as part of our Movement Strategy between July 2020 and March 2022.

"There were two phases of engagement on the development of the Movement Strategy and implementation of the traffic restriction projects.

"As part of the development of the Movement Strategy we conducted a general survey seeking views on a range of principles. We received approximately 7000 responses from the survey.

"We then undertook an extensive engagement exercise to obtain park visitors’ views on the traffic restriction projects. This involved significant promotion of the trial, including:

  • Social media posts
  • An extensive letterbox drop to areas surrounding the park.
  • Stakeholder and Councillor briefings
  • London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames email newsletter and social media promotion
  • Park flyers in cafes and on noticeboards
  • In-person surveys

"10,765 responses were obtained in total during this engagement phase for Richmond Park.

"Analysis shows that 43% of the responses were from ‘local’ postcodes, defined as any postcode that touches the park, demonstrating that residents were fully engaged and responded to the consultation.

"The trials were implemented in July 2020, originally intended for 6 months in duration. We took the decision to extend the trials until March 2022 – after the pandemic - to better understand the impact on traffic movements around the parks. These reports are published here: Background Documents - The Royal Parks.

"Throughout the engagement process we have endeavoured to be responsive, transparent and informative and we have responded to stakeholder and visitor enquiries using evidence-based, clear information.

"Whilst 54% of local responses supported the closure, additionally, 89% of non-local responses supported the closure being made permanent. Richmond Park, like all of the Royal Parks, is a shared use space. Therefore, the consultation and subsequent decision needed to take into account everyone’s views, from local residents to non-local park visitors. The result of the survey demonstrates that the closure was supported by the majority of respondents to a comprehensive consultation exercise

"After our initial consultation which received over 10,000 responses, we conducted a formal, targeted consultation with park visitors, residents and stakeholders.

"During the engagement process on the development of the Movement Strategy and its principles we considered that the park is a shared use space and therefore the engagement process needed to take into account everyone’s views, from local residents to non-local park visitors, to help to form the principles of the Movement Strategy.

"To ensure a fair and balanced approach to the consultation, we made every attempt to ensure there was the widest possible awareness. The consultation was open for all park visitors and stakeholders, we shared the consultation across our website and social media feeds and asked our stakeholders to do the same. This included Friends’ groups, local authorities and other park user groups.

"We also sent out press releases, issued a targeted letterbox drop and appeared in many local newspapers.

"We sought to reduce the cut-through traffic in Richmond Park to maximise the benefit to park visitors. But not all of the roads are restricted to vehicles and we have kept some, or part of some of the roads open for access to the car parks so that the parks can be accessed by all.

"The roads surrounding the park are the responsibility of the Local Authority and The Royal Parks does not have jurisdiction to measure or manage pollution, or any other contributory factors, outside of the park. Throughout the traffic restriction trials we sought input and traffic data from the Local Authority and TfL to help inform our traffic analysis. It was found that there was little substantive impact to the road network as a result of these trials."