Last night (on 25/8/2020), Janet Daby and Vicky Foxcroft, two M.P.s who represent Lewisham constituencies, hosted a Zoom conference to hear people’s views about the road closures in the borough. There were as many as 100 attendees when more wanted to join but apparently could not do so. I will only summarise some of the proceedings and the key comments.
It was clear by the end of the event that there were only very few people supportive of Lewisham Council’s plan for a “Healthy Neighbourhood” (or Low Traffic Neighbourhood as others call these schemes involving road closures). Most of the speakers opposed the current road closures and I’ll give some of the comments below. The supporters of the scheme talked about saving the planet, cutting air pollution and road traffic accidents and getting everyone out of cars.
But it was very obvious how many were reliant on vehicles. For example one of the first speakers, Dr Petula Peters who has to take her sister to hospital said it was now an absolute nightmare with the new road arrangements. Her GP was also having difficulties getting to see patients.
Several people complained about the impact on the South Circular as traffic is now forced to use that more. Others spoke about the impact on the elderly and disabled and the lack of an equality impact assessment. It’s all terribly divisive one person said.
The lack of consultation was also mentioned by many people and one good point made was that there was no traffic modelling undertaken before the roads were closed. That would have predicted the current problems.
Many minor roads that were previously quiet were seeing much more traffic as vehicles divert around the closed roads – this prompted some people to ask for the scheme to be extended over a much wider area.
Viv Hammond summarised the views of many in these words: “It has totally changed our lives”. She is very concerned about the air pollution created and it is “making life very difficult”. As Vicky said “the whole idea that cars will go away is just ridiculous. They have cut Lewisham in half. Everyone can’t walk or cycle. A badly thought out scheme that has not worked. What are M.P.s going to do about it?”, She was clapped at this point.
In the concluding remarks from Janet Daby she mentioned that the Council planned a public meeting and consultation in September. She summarised the objections and concerns and will talk to the Council but note that M.P.s have no direct influence over local Councillors.
Perhaps the mood of the audience was summarised by one person who interjected just before the meeting was closed and the audio turned off. He said “A load or rubbish – they’ll do nothing”. It indicated the frustration of residents and the view that Councillors are simply not listening to complaints and acting on them.
But it’s worth pointing out that Lewisham Council’s policies are partly being driven by central Government edicts, as one speaker in the meeting indicated, over which even Labour M.P.s might have some influence. I suggest voters ask them to make representations on the issue.
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