While the creation of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods is a matter for individual councils, they are among issues that have most exercised Londoners during this mayoral election period. Here is an update on recent developments.
Harrow Council’s Cabinet has scrapped the borough’s LTN trials in Greenhill, North Harrow, West Harrow and Southfield Park, plus three experimental cycle lanes. A review had found opposition to the LTN schemes ranging from 65-80 per cent. Council leader Graham Henson said he and his Labour colleagues had listened and in future Harrow would engage in pre-consultation over initiatives to make safer streets and meet the council’s 2030 Net Zero pledge. A Labour councillor for one of the trial LTN wards said the council had been clear from the start there would be a full consultation at the end, so after the verdict of residents, “it was a simple decision”.
Kenton West Labour councillor Ajay Maru said the schemes have been a “nightmare” because of the consternation they cause. Conservative group leader Paul Osborne told national media that “it’s been clear from the beginning” residents were against the schemes. Green Assembly candidate Emma Wallace said, “a huge amount has been wasted on something that was never given time for the benefits to be felt”. The Harrow Cyclists group say the trials were diluted by changes and then lack of enforcement, but that nevertheless the LTNs had succeeded on their own terms by reducing traffic and increasing walking inside the areas, without increasing queuing at boundary road junctions.
Outside Ealing Town Hall at the end of a residents’ protest march against LTNs on 24 April, campaign group One Ealing’s Lorna O’Driscoll inveighed against “this dreadful lived experience” – listing schools on boundary roads, carers, the disabled and local businesses among those impacted. She accused Ealing Labour, whose councillors had all seemingly avoided the march, of forgetting “the mantra of ‘for the many and not the few'”. She encouraged marchers to write to Labour councillors telling them to vote out council leader Julian Bell at Ealing Labour’s AGM on 10 May.
Watching the march, Mark Eccleston of Better Ealing Streets said his local LTN has transformed his family’s life, enabling his autistic teenage son to cycle to school for the first time, and that opponents are exaggerating detours that have to be taken due to LTNs. In light of the severity of London’s air pollution, “we’ve got to act now” on active travel schemes, he said. Last week, it emerged that ANPR cameras installed to replace physical barriers to monitor Ealing LTNs had raised £1.47 million to date, and that a council employee had described in an email the most contentious of the borough’s trial LTNs as “Big Bertha” and anticipated local anger.
Also on 24 April, a protest organised by OneLambeth in Brixton’s Windrush Square featured speeches from politicians, including Conservative candidate for Mayor Shaun Bailey and community figures who condemned LTNs as divisive. Wandsworth-based air pollution campaigner David Smith described being patronised for taking a different view from fellow activists. Mother-of-three Abi Babalola said policymakers “don’t care about people I care for.” Brixton Soup Kitchen CEO Solomon Smith said reaching the families they support has become “ten times harder”.
Speakers at a demonstration in Islington on Saturday 1 May included mayoral candidates David Kurten, Farah London and Laurence Fox and London Assembly candidate Richard Tice of the Reform Party.
Legal challenges are continuing. Campaign group Horrendous Hackney Road Closures won an appeal in March for a Judicial Review into Hackney’s trial schemes on the basis that the council didn’t consider the impact on main roads, equalities and air pollution, or consult in advance. One Lambeth is bringing a legal challenge due on 9 or 10 June 9th in the name of campaigner Sofia Sheikh, who lives on the edge of Railton LTN. She has debilitating sarcoidosis and uses a motorised wheelchair. They have raised almost £22,000 so far. OneChiswick is crowdfunding for a Judicial Review of Chiswick High Road’s C9 cycle lane, scheduled for 16 or 17 June. They also intend to pursue action over Turnham Green and South Chiswick LTNs.
In mayoral campaigning, Shaun Bailey has portrayed LTNs as a mayoral responsibility, describing them as “Sadiq Khan’s Low Traffic Neighbourhoods,” and promising that if elected he would “scrap unwanted LTN schemes”. In Windrush Square, he suggested that in practice this would mean denying funding from Transport for London for schemes if residents don’t support them – which doesn’t address the fact that funding for recent “active travel” schemes has already come from Whitehall directly. Farah London, Brian Rose and UKIP’s Peter Gammons are among others who have made engaging with LTN opponents a campaign strategy.
Liberal Democrat Luisa Porritt stresses the need for better consultation on LTNs. The Green Party’s Sian Berry goes further and the Women’s Equality Party’s Mandu Reid furthest in favour of co-designing schemes with residents. Sadiq Khan identifies himself with LTNs: “I will not apologise for supporting an initiative designed to help stop Londoners breathing illegal levels of pollution,” he told Southwark News. Four anti-LTN independents are standing in council by-elections on 6 May: Jody Graber and Martyn Perks in Islington and Niall Crowley and Clair Battaglino in Hackney.
Opinion polls have consistently shown greater support for than opposition to LTNs among Londoners as a whole, with Redfield & Wilton surveys since last October finding supporters and opponents split 52/19, 44/21 and 47/16. Five weeks ago, a YouGov poll found 52 per cent in favour and 35 per cent against, with a plurality in support across social classes, in both Inner and Outer London and among white and ethnic minority Londoners. Redfield & Wilton’s March poll found 57 per cent support among people who said they lived in an LTN compared to 47 per cent of those who said they didn’t. This is at odds with council consultations over trial LTNs, which have produced sizeable majorities against.
News of decisions about LTN trials and proposed new LTNs across London after the elections are over is keenly awaited
- Greenwich Council consulted in March about a proposed LTN that would stop through traffic, possibly only at peak times, on Westcombe Hill, Vanbrugh Hill and Maze Hill. A conclusion is pending. The consultation met a deeply hostile response, raising impacts on the elderly and less mobile. There has also been criticism of possible effects on other regularly congested local roads.
- In Lewisham, campaigners against Lee Green LTN, who include Green Assembly candidate Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, have been told a consultation won’t happen for “a few months”. The council recently changed signage around a filter after 17,000 fines were issued in four months.
- Kingston plans a decision on three LTNs in June, one of which attracted a petition signed by 1,800 opponents. The borough has been developing a widely-admired, £32 million cycling infrastructure network.
- In Southwark, eight-week consultations on trial LTNs in Dulwich Village, East Dulwich and Champion Hill will begin later in May.
- An LTN around Columbia Road market in Tower Hamlets is currently being set up. Anti-LTN campaigners say the council’s consultations continue to fail to engage with enough minority and working-class residents, and that impacts on main roads further afield haven’t been considered. Alex Jenkins of local London Cycling Campaign group Tower Hamlets Wheelers says the Bethnal Green Liveable Streets scheme had strong local support at consultation with only 18 per cent against, and emphasises that it is a holistic accessibility scheme benefiting bus passengers, parents with pushchairs, wheelchair users and the visually impaired.
- In Brent, Cricklewood and Dollis Hill residents await Brent Council’s installation of ANPR cameras to replace bollards repeatedly removed by residents. Scheme opponents say they haven’t had the promised surveys and engagements over LTNs.
- Haringey is reviewing feedback from pre-consultations on three proposed LTNs. Two-thirds of respondents to a prior Climate Change Action Plan consultation said LTNs and segregated cycle lanes should be prioritised.
- In Enfield, consultation on Bowes LTN trial closed last Sunday.
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