Introducing Low Traffic Neighbourhoods without prior consultation was a mistake says Labour London politician

London’s new Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes should not have been introduced without prior local consultation, a Labour member of the London Assembly has said.

Speaking at think tank Centre for London’s Countdown to Net Zero online conference yesterday, Leonie Cooper (pictured), AM for Wandsworth & Merton and also a Labour councillor in Wandsworth, said “People were absolutely up in arms” about the widespread and rapid introduction of LTNs, designed to block through-traffic in residential areas.

“In the context of the pandemic and non-existent consultation, people just found it too much,” Cooper said. “Taking people with you when you are doing a very big change is critical. Consultation has now started again, and that is really important. You are not going to take people with you if you tell tomorrow morning we’re turning London into Amsterdam.”

In Cooper’s Conservative-run borough – a target for Labour at next year’s borough elections – new LTNs were removed after just a month following strong local criticism. “I have a lot of sympathy for the people who were really upset about LTNs,” Cooper said. “I think the policy-makers were to blame, because people deserve to be consulted about a change outside their own homes, in their own streets and in their own communities. That’s what we need to do, and then you do take people with you.” 

The all-day event looked at progress towards Sadiq Khan’s ambitious target of net zero carbon emissions in the capital by 2030. In a session on Rethinking London’s transport for 2030, speakers agreed that a wider approach was needed, including improving public transport, tackling freight and delivery vehicles – which constitute 20 per cent of road traffic but are responsible for 25 per cent of carbon emissions – promoting “micro-mobility” and helping Londoners switch to electric vehicles.

“People are getting on their moral high horse, but we need a more subtle, more nuanced approach, with a better understanding about what is happening on the ground, said Isabel Dedring, global transport leader at Arup and previously London’s deputy mayor for transport under Boris Johnson. “We need to use the whole toolbox. It’s not the real world to think that everyone can get on a bike in outer Barnet.”

More electric vehicle charging points were urgently needed, said Jamie Heywood, Uber’s manager for northern and eastern Europe. The firm, aiming for all its 45,000 vehicles in the UK to be electric by 2025, is subsidising its drivers to change their cars and has pledged £5 million for London boroughs to install charging points.

But although London now has 30 per cent of the country’s charging points and the government is investing £1.8 billion in charging infrastructure, the total bill for a comprehensive network is estimated at up to £20 billion, Heywood added. Amsterdam was the example to follow, he said, with electric cars now making up a quarter of all new cars sold compared to one in 10 in the UK, and a legal right for drivers to have charging points near their home.

Cooper warned that “We have to face up to the scale of the challenge in London,” emphasising that it is a larger and more complex city than Amsterdam. She called for more City Hall powers to ensure the capital’s 32 boroughs, which are responsible for 95 per cent of London’s roads, were on board, and praised the City of London Corporation’s strategies on sustainability.

She also urged investment in public transport and “getting people back onto buses” at the same time. “The overall thing has to be moving away from private vehicles,” she said. “We need to be much more sharing about this, just as we share public transport.”

Additional road pricing, a policy backed by all speakers at the session, would be considered by City Hall, Cooper added. Dedring said Mayor Khan’s second term was the “perfect time” to introduce the policy.

The wide-ranging conference also included sessions on building sustainable housing and neighbourhoods and creating green jobs, with a focus on combining post-pandemic economic recovery with the move to net zero emissions.

Centre for London’s Countdown to Net Zero conference can viewed in full here.

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  1. Richard Olsen says:

    An obvious way of reducing traffic and reconciling residents, etc to low traffic zones while discouraging rat runners is to use the ubiquitous cameras to fine any vehicle that passes through two DIFFERENT cameras on the boundary of ONE zone within, say, 10 minutes. Through traffic will be discouraged while residents, visitors, deliveries can move as they need, instead of clogging up boundary roads and vastly adding to pollution and gridlocks by having to drive round the zone in order to enter and leave it by the one permitted entrance/exit.

  2. Mark Warburton says:

    That’s more than a bit disingenuous from Leonie Cooper.

    She & her group were all in favour of the LTN’s – even going as far as snarky emails back from my ward Councillors when I raised concerns.

    Leonie Cooper & Wandsworth Labour also played politics, by refusing to support positions agreed at WBC full council meetings and represent them at City Hall, instead choosing to put their own thoughts forward as Wandsworth’s position because, Sadiq Khan is, and I quote a Wandsworth Councillor, “Labour’s Mayor” instead of “London’s Mayor” as he, unfortunately in my opinion, actually is.

    Save the crocodile tears, eh?

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