The root cause

Sat-navs hardly existed 10 years ago: now they are commonplace, and communities such as East Hillside are engaged in an unequal battle with them. To illustrate, we asked Google Maps to plot a route from Weir Road in east Wimbledon (a busy commercial area) to the A3 junction at Coombe Lane.  Google Maps proposed three alternative routes – the two quickest routes cutting through East Hillside neighbourhood (outlined in green) using roads designated for local traffic only. The screenshot below is taken directly from Google Maps.

Google’s recommendations:

Route 1, marked in blue, cutting through East Hillside using Alan Road and Belvedere Grove, was the quickest route at 13 minutes. 

Route 2, marked in purple, cutting through East Hillside using Woodside, St Mary’s Road and Belvedere Drive, was the next quickest at 15 minutes. 

Route 3, marked in grey, uses the distributor roads, but is the slowest at 16 minutes.

Anecdotal evidence supports this analysis:

  • Residents throughout East Hillside report hearing sat-nav voice commands giving directions to drivers.
  • An 18-ton truck recently got ‘stuck’ trying to use our neighbourhood as a rat-run. When questioned, the driver reported he was “just following his sat-nav”.
  • At a Platinum Jubilee street party in East Hillside in 2022 a motorist sought to dismantle a (legal) street barrier on the grounds that they were being directed to use that road by their sat-nav.

Of course, more data is needed and Merton Council promised us in July 2021 that a further traffic survey would be undertaken – but this has yet to start.

The SMART solution: fight technology with technology

We are clear, however, that sat navs are the root cause of the problem, and that the best way to fight technology is with – our own technology.

GIVEN   the problem is caused by satnavs routing non-local through traffic through our neighbourhood (which it is),

THEN     the only viable solution is to change the routing solutions proposed by satnavs, so that through traffic is routed via distributor roads – which is where it should be.

BUT        the companies who own satnavs refuse to make changes to the navigation software to route traffic away from local access roads. If a public highway is open, then they insist on it being available for routing recommendations. Some HGVs should have special satnavs which avoid local roads, but this seems to be ineffective, and there is no enforcement anyway.

SO          local access roads must be protected in some way, so that satnavs stop recommending through routes on local access roads.

Our proposal is to use smart technology to distinguish between local and non-local traffic. Such a system would act as a filter, or controlled gate, permitting local traffic, but denying access to non-local through traffic. This can be achieved using automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras.

We are opposed to the idea of using physical gates (such as planters etc.) as this is a blunt instrument that would affect all traffic, both local and non-local traffic alike.

How would a SMART scheme work?

We propose a SMART solution:

Smart [because it uses technology in the form of Advanced Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras]

Management scheme for our

Area [East Hillside] to better control



All legal traffic would be permitted to enter the neighbourhood so as to access any address, but only permitted traffic would be free to drive through the neighbourhood. The ANPR cameras would read the number plates of traffic entering East Hillside and distinguish between permitted or prohibited through traffic

Permitted through traffic:

  • all vehicles registered to a Merton address (subject to complying with weight restrictions)
  • emergency vehicles
  • public service vehicles
  • black taxis
  • essential services
  • residents’ visitors (with a guest permit)

Prohibited through traffic:

  • Vehicles registered to an address outside Merton
  • Vehicles registered to a Merton address which exceed weight restrictions (our proposal is the only scheme that will enforce weight restrictions)

Cameras would identify prohibited traffic by ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) cameras, and the system would issue the registered driver with a penalty charge notice.

Obtaining a guest permit

Residents of East Hillside would be able to obtain daily guest permits for their visitors’ vehicles by using RingGo. These permits would be free of charge. Also, any resident buying a visitor parking permit would automatically have a guest ‘through traffic’ permit issued as well as part of the same process.


There would be no change to existing parking arrangements. These would be completely unaffected by our proposal.

Has it been tried anywhere else?