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LOW TRAFFIC NEIGHBOURHOODS: Is it money over matter?

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, otherwise known as LTNs, have been rapidly popping up in cities around the UK, sparking debate over whether they are the right way forward in the battle to tackle congestion and pollution.

It may come as a surprise to some to hear that LTNs have in fact been around since the 1970s, most notably in London. It’s just the persistent drive from local authorities since spring 2020 to push for more and more Low Traffic Neighbourhoods which has most recently caught the attention of residents and motorists.

LTNs are said to make streets easier to walk and cycle by stopping motor vehicles from using quiet roads as shortcuts. But do such schemes offer up an opportunity for local authorities to make a quick buck? Take a look at Southwark Council in London for instance.

According to the RAC, fines from cameras working to enforce LTNs in the area have reportedly generated a staggering £2.5million in revenue in the first three months in which the scheme was launched.

According to RAC’s report, £1.5million of that comes from drivers receiving Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) for failing to adhere to LTNs in Dulwich Village, with the other £1million being generated by drivers passing through LTNs in Walworth.

London’s transport authority, Transport for London (TfL), are on a mission to meet the current Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s plan to make the capital a “healthier, safer, more inclusive, cleaner and greener city”. This includes making 80% of all trips by active sustainable modes by 2041. Together with Khan’s green COVID recovery stance, authorities have found these to be strong reasons to introduce LTNs.

A major concern in relation to such road closures and schemes has been the congestion which it causes to surrounding roads, which are now bearing the brunt of vehicles which simply do not have any alternative route options.

There is also the argument that such schemes discriminate against those with disabilities who can no longer benefit from such door-to-door services as taxis can offer.

Lord Holmes of Richmond MBE recently spoke with TaxiPoint on this very subject: “Wheelchair accessible taxis are essential, they can be a lifeline. Our quality of life depends on transport and easy access to jobs, shopping, leisure facilities, and services.

“Access to transport is a basic requirement for an equitable society but many disabled people face barriers when trying to travel door to door independently.”

Another issue raised when discussing the impact of LTNs has been how they affect the emergency services. TfL have said that each month they meet with local authorities and the capital’s emergency services to discuss the Streetspace programme and any issues it may be causing. However, looking further afield, the impact has been highlighted recently in Oxford.

An investigation was launched by the South Central Ambulance Service after a first-call ambulance, responding to a heart attack victim, was unable to complete their initial route due to a blockade in the road enforced through a LTN scheme in Oxford.

Although it was confirmed that the ambulance did eventually reach its patient in the national average response time, the fact that the ambulance was not able to gain access on its first attempt is no doubt a topic of concern. Sadly, on that occasion, the victim of the heart attack passed away due to its severity.

Back in London, Lambeth Council are set to face-off against local residents in a court battle over the introduction of LTNs in the area. OneLambeth, an apolitical group of residents, are challenging the LTNs, with a spokesperson, saying: “We came together to share our deep concerns over the way LTNs have been implemented in our Borough, particularly the undemocratic way they were imposed and the lack of meaningful consultation with those most affected by them, the apparent conflicts of interest, damage to businesses and traders, and their impact on families and schools on main roads.”

The legal challenge will see one person stand for all the residents who oppose the LTNs. This person is Sofia Sheikh, a COVID-19 survivor with a debilitating lung condition, whose access to hospital and the ability of carers and ambulance services to reach her, has been severely impacted from the road closures.

So as trials continue to throw up the pros and cons of such schemes, those who are impacted most from the road closures will continue to struggle with the challenges of getting around, while those who fail to adhere to the new way of navigating local streets will continue to rack up fines and payments to local authorities. The balance of transportation, access, safety and revenue will undoubtedly need to be addressed as LTNs are further scrutinised.


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