On Saturday the 3rd October there was a public demonstration against the road closures in Lewisham (photo above). This is a typical Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) scheme funded by the Government and TfL under the pretence of a response to the Covid-19 epidemic. But was originally planned as a “Healthy Neighbourhood” scheme aimed at stopping us from using vehicles, or encouraging “active travel” such as walking and cycling, depending on your point of view. It has proved to be an abject failure with traffic congestion worsening, more air pollution and massive inconvenience to residents who rely on motor transport. Even buses have been slowed down.
There were over a 100 people turned up for the demonstration according to a report received despite the fact that it was legally questionable in the current restrictions on gatherings. But some social separation was maintained and the demonstration went off peacefully. Several police vehicles turned up but the police took no action to stop the event.
Motorists and bus drivers tooted their horns in support. One contact said he did chat to 4 bus drivers who all said the same thing “things have only got worse for them since the road closures were put in place, and what the hell did it have to do with Covid and social distancing?”.
I understand that similar demonstrations may take place on subsequent Saturdays. This writer would attend but as someone with a suppressed immune system and vulnerable to Covid-19 for other reasons, I am avoiding all public meetings. No doubt other supporters were deterred from attending for similar reasons but it shows the strength of feeling about this issue. People want the road closures removed without delay.
LibDem Opinion Poll
The strong opposition is also very evident in the results of a survey of Lewisham residents undertaken by the Liberal Democrats, which has just been reported. See https://www.lewishamlibdems.org.uk/residents_unite_against_lewisham_council_s_traffic_scheme for the details. They got almost 1,000 responses, mainly from Lee Green and Hither Green. What follows is a summary.
The LibDems are usually strongly in favour of environmental measures and the survey questions were not seen as totally unbiased by many. But the answers they got were very clear.
To quote from the report: “The majority of residents felt that the scheme failed in its main objective – to tackle the climate emergency. The scheme, which closes many Lee Green roads to through traffic, has created gridlock in neighbouring streets and the increased congestion has added to air pollution, in areas where air pollution already needed to be reduced.
Residents cite many frustrations over delays, confusing signage and missed appointments but the biggest complaint is over the failure of Lewisham Councillors to engage with local residents to discuss concerns. For many residents there have been unexpected and severe consequences on their lives”; and:
“We expected those against any traffic management to be most vocal but critically this scheme is also being condemned by people who want some form of traffic reduction in the area. There is huge frustration about the appalling consultation and the lack of response from the Council and councillors. The majority of residents have concluded it is not fit for purpose.”
The LibDems recommend that the scheme be suspended.
Question 1c in the survey shows the level of opposition. The question was “Are you happy with the Council’s changes?”. The answers were 771 said NO, 159 said YES and 10 omitted a response. That is very clear cut for these kinds of surveys.
There was some support for camera systems to limit use to local residents (a totally impractical and very expensive solution in our view) but time-limited restrictions were clearly not popular.
Many respondents had contacted councillors, MPs or Council officers but 84% of those who did considered they did not receive an adequate response.
You can read many of the detailed responses in the report where it is clear that they are similar to the ones the ABD has received – see this https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/lewisham.htm where you can obtain a file of some of them. The anger stimulated by the road changes is very apparent, with local councillors coming in for a lot of criticism for not listening.
Tranche 2 Funding
The Lewisham scheme, and many others around the country, was funded partly by Tranche 1 of the “Emergency Active Travel Funding” from central Government. Tranche 1 consisted of £45 million of which only £5 million was given to London. But TfL also received £55 million for spending on active travel measures on TfL and borough roads.
But Tranche 2 to be supplied before the end of the year consists of another £180 million of which £25 million will go to London. The second tranche is aimed at enabling “authorities to install, further, more permanent measures to cement cycling and walking habits” to quote from a letter received from the Department of Transport by one of our supporters.
It was very clear that the intention all along was that the “temporary” measures such as those installed in Lewisham would subsequently be made permanent and that is how it is going to be achieved. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
But local boroughs do not have to spend this money on damaging schemes. Councillors can reject schemes that residents oppose. They just need some common sense and some guts to do so.
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