Controversial low traffic scheme revised after protests by residents

Low Traffic Neighbourhood measures blocking off a street.
Pic: Jack Fifield, Wikimedia

By Daniel King and Thomas Newlove

Controversial measures to reduce traffic in parts of Lewisham are to be modified following angry protests from some residents.

The Low Traffic Neighbourhood in Lewisham and Lee Green which was introduced during the summer is to revised: there will be more restrictions around primary schools and a relaxation in areas where they have severely affected traffic flow. 

Changes to the LTN

Councillor Sophie McGeevor, Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport told Eastlondonlines: “We remain absolutely committed to this Low Traffic Neighbourhood and the principles it set out to achieve.” 

But she added: “We have made changes to the current scheme and the council has met with a number of campaigning organisations, listened to feedback from residents and is continuing to work with ward councillors.”

Map of Lewisham and Lee Green LTN. Pic: Lewisham Council

At the Overview and Scrutiny council meeting this week, Councillor Bill Brown said: “The point that is raised a lot by residents that the measures are making air-quality in roads where there’s more low-income residents worse, [and that] the measures are making it worse where the traffic already is worse in low-income areas.”

The scheme is designed to promote a calmer environment around schools, and foster a better relationship between schools and residents by encouraging more walking and cycling.

School streets – where roads are temporarily closed during drop-off and pick-up times – are already in place at ten primary schools in Lewisham borough. But in the coming weeks, further school streets are planned for: Athelney, St William of York, St John the Baptist, Lucas Vale, Holbeach and Coopers Lane. 

There are also a further 11 schools which will have to wait to become school streets until January 2021, due to a national shortage of LTN cameras.

Throughout November there have been some short-term changes made to the scheme where traffic had become particularly bad.

On Manor Lane, vehicles have been allowed to travel in both directions. And on Manor Park, Ennersdale Road and Dermody Road, cameras have been changed to let vehicles pass in one direction. 

Lewisham residents are not the first ones to take issue with the scheme, with anger extending to Hackney and Croydon.

The case against the LTN: The One Lewisham campaign group told ELL about the problems with the LTN: “The main issues are displaced traffic causing gridlock on surrounding roads and worse pollution, detours due to closures and the displaced traffic adding 30-45 mins onto essential journeys. We’ve had emails from disabled people, carers, health visitors, SEN transport, all sorts, where it’s had a huge and disproportionate effect.”

One Lewisham is a group made up of local residents who live both inside and outside of the ‘low traffic neighbourhood’. They said: We support the goals of the [LTN] scheme – we are not ‘petrol heads’ and many of us do not own a car – but we demand improvements to the scheme as implemented.”

The group said that the LTN has impacted emergency services and bus users and particularly some local businesses, as customers have been switching to more convenient locations.

Low income areas most affected

Areas outside of the LTN are experiencing increased levels of traffic on their streets, such as Hither Green Lane and Springbank Road, where essential journeys are taking much longer. 

According to information published by TfL examining two key corridors affected by the LTN, bus journeys took on average 4.4 minutes longer in September than they did at the same time last year. 

While streets within the areas have experienced the benefit of lower traffic levels and have reduced the main barriers to people cycling. In the areas outside, there is a different picture, and a petition calling for their removal has over 11,000 signatures. 

Strategic aims

Despite the opposition, the measures fall in line with the council’s long-term transport strategy, the 2018 Lewisham Cycling Strategy, and climate commitments to reduce CO2 on its streets.

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