It is symptomatic of the public’s disillusionment with local politics in the UK that new political parties are forming. The latest is one in Oxford called the Independent Oxford Alliance (IOA). They have the usual gripe that their elected councillors from the major political parties are not listening to their concerns about the LTNs and other issues. To quote from a report in the Daily Telegraph: “We’ve come to the conclusion that the only way we can change things given that the councils are not listening to residents is to actually change things from within”. In a statement, the party added: “The last straw for many residents has been the disastrous local transport policies imposed on Oxford and the rigged consultations to justify them. IOA believes it is wrong for councils to deliberately cause congestion with LTNs and effectively tax all but the wealthy out of their cars with emission zones and parking charges”.
There was a new party formed in Chislehurst where I live called Chislehurst Matters who won seats at the last council elections based on a manifesto for change – exactly what they wanted was not totally clear.
On the national scene we have the Reform Party who might achieve 10% of votes according to a recent YouGov poll, more than any other of the smaller parties and enough to undermine the Conservative vote.
In all these cases, it is a coalition of disaffected voters supporting the new parties where they think the main Conservative and Labour parties are not representing their concerns, or are pushing policies such as Net Zero Carbon that are increasing their costs and attempting to change their way of life (such as stopping the use of cars to travel).
My view is simple: local politics should be fought on local issues and the public should vote for who they think will represent their views, not on the national party labels.
Ian Armstrong has posted the following article on a public Facebook Group:
Six petitions you should support to put pressure on Parliament to prevent motorists being used as a cash cow by the Local Councils/London Mayor/London Assembly/TFL – click, sign and share with family/friends/neighbours/etc
1. Prevent local authorities implementing road charging schemes by repealing part 3 of the Transport Act 2000 – local authority should not be permitted to generate revenue from motorists to fund other policies
4. Independent review of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) – these are the stepping stones to 15-minute cities and must be challenged as they are being imposed against the will of the majority using cherry picked and flawed assessment or modelling data as a justification
These are all U.K. parliament petitions – they take a minute or two each to sign – you can click on the map link on the petition page to see your constituency
Please sign all 6 to try and get them all to 100k ASAP.
Note that the Sunday Times published a good article recently on Why Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are a Policy Disaster by Andrew Ellson. To quote from it: “How have we got into this mess? The answer is complex but it boils down to cycling enthusiasts such as Boris Johnson and Andrew Gilligan being in charge of policy at national level and well-funded cycling lobbyists capturing policy at local level”.
These policies were promoted by people who knew little about traffic engineering and the history of misguided road safety initiatives with the unintended consequences that we now suffer from.
Hopefully with Boris Johnson retiring in disgrace we may see less of him and his enthusiasms. Let us hope he does not put himself forward as a candidate for Mayor of London next year which would split the Conservative vote!
He may have been a great promoter of Brexit, which I wholeheartedly supported, but in other regards he was a divisive personality and clearly untrustworthy.
The Government has responded to a petition we promoted to our readers calling for an independent review of LTNs after it collected more than 10,000 signatures. They have appointed the University of Westminster to undertake an independent evaluation of active travel schemes funded in 2020/21, including low-traffic neighbourhoods. See https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/632748?reveal_response=yes for the full Government response.
What’s wrong with that? Namely that it’s not an “independent” review because one of the most active promoters of LTNs is Prof. Rachel Aldred of Westminster University who is also a Director of the Active Travel Academy. She has published a number of reviews of active travel schemes and cycling, mostly quite biased ones and is a former trustee of the London Cycling Campaign. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Aldred for more background.
On the political front an enormous amount of media coverage of late is on the small boat crisis and the attempts by the Government to halt illegal immigrants. These are mostly economic migrants, not people fleeing war or other disasters.
It is suggested that the proposed Government legislation would be illegal, because it contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights and the Refugee Convention. The latter was established in 1951 to help people made homeless or stateless by the Second World War and was a very positive move at the time. But it was never intended to enhance the rights of economic migrants who wish to move to a wealthier country.
I suggest that a breach of a Convention is not necessarily illegal and that the UK can withdraw from Conventions whenever it considers it necessary to do so. The country is being swamped by migrants, both legal and illegal ones. This is putting enormous pressure on housing and social services.
For example the London Borough of Lewisham have recently published a new “Local Plan” and it reports these statistics: The population has grown by 23% over the last 20 years and is still growing rapidly. Some 46% of the residents identify as BAME heritage which rises to 76% for the school population. This shows the impact of uncontrolled immigration over the last 50 years, but the Council is still “planning for an open Lewisham”. That’s undefined but suggests that they are open to even more migration.
The BBC, as is now commonplace, spouts the views of left-wing commentators including that of a well-known footballer for no good reason. His views on football may be sound but he does not understand the problem of illegal immigrants. At least the BBC have now brought him into line to stop him issuing injudicious tweets based on his own political opinions.
Will the Government be able to halt the flow of illegal immigrants? Only if they take a very tough stance in my view.
Other news last week was the conviction of a electric scooter rider for causing the death of a pedestrian. The judge said: “Pavements are for pedestrians and people in wheelchairs or infants in prams. They are supposed to be free of vehicles of any type. This mode of transport should not be there. This tragic incident was avoidable”. See full BBC report here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-64892358
But we will no doubt see many more such cases unless scooter riding is curbed.
An article in the Sunday Times by Nicholas Hellen has explained how Oxfordshire County Council was bribed with £33 million of Government funding to install the planned traffic filters. Installing the filters was conditional on funding for 159 electric buses and the Council committed to go ahead six months before a public consultation took place.
Under the proposed scheme residents will need to apply for a permit to pass through six pinch points but will be restricted to 100 days per year or be fined £70. The allocation of Government funding was explicitly linked to a written pledge to introduce the scheme.
Low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), so called “clean air zones” and new, underused cycle lanes are all deeply unpopular. So much so that a new petition has recently appeared on the UK Parliament website (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/633504 ) demanding a revision to the statutory guidance that brought them in. Instead of there being a presumption they remain, local authorities (which would include the Mayor of London) should be required to remove them, unless, within three months, they can show there is more than 50% public support, using broad, unbiased, independent, local opinion research.
The petition expresses deep frustration that many recently introduced traffic schemes, often justified by bogus green claims, have, by reducing road space, caused gridlock, increased pollution on busy roads, generated £ millions in fines and charges and been implemented with little or no local approval.
Exacerbated by failure properly to consult residents, they have also caused bitterness and division in local communities; increased response times of emergency vehicles and disadvantaged the most vulnerable in society, who can’t walk or cycle. Where consultation has taken place, there have been instances when the methodology has been biased, which is why the petition calls for unbiased, independent research to validate the retention of new traffic schemes.
David Tarsh, the petition promoter (pictured above) said: “These traffic schemes are the worst kind of greenwash, reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984; there’s a “safer cycle pathway” that is more dangerous, low traffic neighbourhoods that increase congestion, and extension of a clean air zone that will make a negligible improvement in air quality. The hidden agenda is an extortion racket based on demonising motorists and exploiting them for cash, under the cover of claiming to save the planet. The consequences are social division, economic damage, removal of liberty and discrimination against the least fortunate. They are counterproductive and the way they have been introduced is deeply corrupt.”
Sections 16-18 of the Traffic Management Act, place a duty on local authorities to secure the expeditious movement of traffic on their road networks. However, in May 2020, during the pandemic, the then Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, launched a £250m active travel fund to promote walking and cycling. It was justified on the basis that with a 2m social distancing rule, public transport could only accommodate 10% of its usual capacity on many parts of the network; so, people would need to be encouraged to walk and cycle. New statutory guidance, conflicting with sections 16-18 of the Act, told local authorities to reallocate road space to walking and cycling, with a view to making the new schemes permanent. Furthermore, the assumption should be that they will be retained unless there is substantial evidence to the contrary.
Just five months later, the Daily Mail ran a headline saying. “Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admits too many new cycle lanes are ‘unused’ leaving streets ‘backed up’ with traffic as he warns councils over increase in road closures… even though the routes were built using £250m fund HE unveiled”. Subsequently, some cycle lanes were dismantled. However, others remained, as did the statutory guidance.
Last October, The Times reported that councils, which implemented low-traffic neighbourhoods during the pandemic, had seen bigger increases in car use than boroughs that did not. While this is compelling evidence that LTNs have contributed to congestion, they have not been dismantled.
Earlier this month, the Telegraph revealed that the new cycleway through Hammersmith, which the local council claims to be “safer”, is actually more dangerous, with the rate of cycle accidents increasing more than three-fold since it was built!
Many LTNs and other pandemic traffic schemes were introduced as “temporary” under Experimental Traffic Orders but despite those orders expiring and social distancing measures no longer being in force, the schemes they approved have not been removed.
All over the UK, there is widespread anger at LTNs and other traffic schemes, with many attracting thousands of signatures objecting to them. Anti LTN petitions online include Ealing, over 12,000; Enfield, over 7,000; Haringey, over 7,000; Islington, over 11,000; Lewisham, over 13,000; Oxford, over 15,000; Birmingham, over 5,000; South Fulham, over 9,000; Tooting, over 12,000.
The most unpopular LTN in the UK is London’s ultra low emission zone (ULEZ), which the mayor, Sadiq Khan, wants to extend from the North Circular Road to the M25. His plan has attracted over 240,000 objections on Change.org and a judicial review backed by five London councils. The mayor’s own impact assessment says that there would be no health benefits from the expansion and almost no air quality benefits, yet he is keen to press ahead anyway, in the face of substantial public opposition. Around two thirds of respondents to Transport for London’s (TFL’s) own consultation were against the expansion and the degree of opposition was much higher amongst those in outer London.
The full text of the petition is below:
Require councils remove LTNs and underused bike lanes that lack public support
Require local authorities (LAs) remove low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) and underused bike lanes that lack public support. Change guidance from assuming they remain to requiring removal, unless, in 3 months, the LA can show > 50% approval, using broad, unbiased, independent, local opinion research.
There’s widespread anger at LTNs and other congesting traffic schemes but LAs are not removing them due to statutory guidance and the money they make.
Many were built with no proper consultation as a pandemic measure; but it is over.
We believe these schemes, often justified by doubtful green claims, undermine the law obliging LAs to expedite traffic flow; and create social division, ghettos, gridlock and local economic damage.
The attack on liberty and persecution of motorists is unfair and must stop. If the petition reaches 10,000 signatures, the government will respond to it. If it reaches 100,000 it is considered for a debate in Parliament.
The latest attack on the use of motor vehicles is the promotion of the concept of the “15-Minute City”. This is a concept where most daily necessities can be accomplished by either walking or cycling from residents’ homes. Irrespective of the practicality of it, such a scheme can be enforced by splitting a city into neighbourhoods and banning vehicles from driving from one zone into another.
The cities of Oxford and Bath have launched proposals for such schemes.
Oxfordshire County Council, which is run by Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, wants to divide the city of Oxford into six districts. In these districts, it is suggested that most household essentials will be accessible by a quarter-of-an-hour walk or bike ride, and so residents will have no need for a car. The council plans to cut car use and traffic congestion by placing strict rules on car journeys. Under the proposals, if residents drive outside of their designated district more than 100 days per year they could be fined £70. Labour councillor Duncan Enright, cabinet member for travel and development strategy, has already declared that the policy is ‘going to happen, definitely’ irrespective of the outcome of a public consultation.
In Bath the City Council is proposing to split the city into four “cells”. Vehicles would be prohibited from driving from one cell into another. They are also pushing for Low Traffic Neighbourhoods to be implemented.
The concept of 15-minute cities was conceived on the continent where cities like Paris have promoted the idea. But nobody has shown them to be practical in the modern world. We no longer have a range of specialist shops within easy walking distance and the elderly and incapacitated cannot walk or cycle for 15 minutes. Health facilities such as hospitals are rarely within 15 minutes walk and even general practices now tend to be in larger buildings serving a wider area. The single-handed GP serving a local community is long dead.
People have come to rely on cars – either their own or taxi/minicab/PHV services – to get around. And it’s rare that people only have friends and family within 15 minutes as some move house to cheaper neighbourhoods further out from city centres. Jobs are also now rarely available in a local area so travel is required if you want to improve yourself or earn more money – even in London public transport does not always provide a practical commuting route.
Politicians who support this concept rarely consider the practical impacts of what they are proposing and ignore those who object.
As we move into a New Year, this is just the latest example of how motor vehicles and those who use them are being prejudiced by the policies of tin-pot dictators in local councils. They think they know what is good for us but really don’t. The Government should remove the powers from local councils to destroy the road network by closing roads or limiting how they are used.
An article in The Times today (24/10/2022) showed LTNs don’t work under the headline “London LTNs: Councils that closed rat runs now have even more cars on the road”. It said “Councils that implemented low-traffic neighbourhoods during the pandemic have seen bigger increases in car use than boroughs that did not, according to government driving statistics”.
The explanation is probably that when roads are closed off the displaced traffic simply takes longer routes and hence does more miles.
But the Council is fighting back with plans to divide the city into six districts from next August with strict rules on how often motorists can drive outside their neighbourhood. Everybody who owns a car would need a permit and if they drive into an adjacent district more than a few times per year they would get fined.
This must be one of the most extreme anti-car measures implemented anywhere. A YouGov poll suggests that most people support these measures. But like all such polls the questions posed are misleading. Most people, including car drivers, would like less traffic but they are opposed to closing roads, particularly the ones they use.
The London Evening Standard have reported that there has been a big surge in driving fines fuelled by the increase in Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). Some 7.4 million PCNs were issued in London last year – an increase of 41% on the prior year.
There are only 2.6 million cars registered in London so you can see that the number of PCNs issued per vehicle is very high even allowing for some PCNs being issued to drivers from outside the London area. These enormous numbers of PCNs are of course now being caused by the desire of some local councils to raise money from fines by installing camera systems to monitor LTNs and School Streets.
Boroughs such as Islington, Hackney and Lambeth are the leaders in this unethical practice but Transport for London (TfL) themselves issued 329,000 fines for infringement of bus lanes, yellow box junctions and other moving traffic offences.
The Covid epidemic was used as an excuse to implement LTNs without prior public consultation as temporary measures but have been made permanent as councils realised how much money they could extract from motorists using camera systems.
It’s in the name of creating “Clean Air Neighbourhoods”, but it includes such nonsense as “It will repurpose street space to be used by the community for play streets, community theatre and resident-led events such as street parties”. Roads are for transporting people and goods, not for playing in.
The report claims that “Long term exposure to man-made air pollution in the UK has an estimated annual effect equivalent to 28,000-36,000 deaths”. This is simply a lie. In addition decisions are being delegated on this to council officers so there will be no democratic input on the details or prior consultation before they are imposed. The crucial words “traffic access restrictions” are buried in a list of measures under the totally misleading title of “Clean Air Neighbourhoods Programme”. It is gridlock by stealth and every ward is affected.
It includes a comment that “Each year in Lambeth air pollution kills more than 100 Lambeth residents and causes hundreds of hospital admissions”. How do they know? There is no link between deaths from respiratory diseases or hospital admissions and background air pollution from man-made sources or any others.
The plans include protected cycle lanes, more bike storage facilities, new walking routes, more electric vehicle charge points and implementation of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs).
Make sure you respond to the above consultation and oppose LTNs.
Islington has already implemented similar policies to the anger of many locals. It is reported that someone who lives there and had a simple journey to take her elderly mother to regular medical treatment now takes an hour, when it used to take 10 minutes! After school activities are rendered impossible. Cab drivers won’t go there and established local businesses have been forced to close.
It’s worth pointing out that all these LTN schemes typically enable the local councils to generate cash from fines on infringements. They are mainly about profit generation and hence the incredible claims made about the impacts of air pollution.
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Sadiq Khan is publishing a book he has written. It’s called “Breathe: Tackling the Climate Emergency” and links air pollution to climate change. Khan was diagnosed with asthma a few years ago at the age of 51 – in other words he suffers from “adult-onset asthma” which is moderately rare and can be caused by a number of different things – but not usually background air pollution. Since then he has been promoting restrictions on vehicles to improve air quality and to raise taxes to support TfL such as the ULEZ scheme. But there is no evidence that the ULEZ scheme has reduced the incidence of asthma which is rising from other causes.
Without reading it (it’s not yet available) the book seems to be a manifesto for climate activists. One wonders how the Mayor found time to write this book as he has so many other problems to deal with. Perhaps it was ghost written.
One can sympathise with anyone who has asthma, but this book already looks like a political manifesto to justify the Mayor’s actions rather than a scientific analysis of air pollution or climate change issues.
Another item of recent news is the threat of legal action over plans to remove road closures in Tower Hamlets after the election of Mayor Lutfur Rahman who had it as a manifesto promise. A group called “Save our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets” is raising money for a legal challenge via a judicial review and has raised over £13,000 so far.
A particular focus is on the closure of Old Bethnal Green Road under the “Liveable Streets” programme (see photo above). This was a “B” road and carried as many as 8,000 vehicles per day it is claimed – that surely demonstrates how important it was as part of the local road distribution network!
Comment: The grounds for a judicial review seem poor and the groups budget for it totally inadequate even if it is permitted. Councillors have wide discretion on decision making so long as it is not perverse. The basis of the challenge is poor public consultation but even if the case was permitted and won it might just result in more money being wasted on more consultation. This attempt to overturn the will of voters should not be allowed.
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