Turning Liveable Neighbourhoods into Unliveable Ones

Road Closed Sign

A number of London boroughs are introducing schemes that include road closures – for example the Mini-Holland schemes in Waltham Forest and the Healthy Neighbourhood schemes in Lewisham. These are being financed by Transport for London (TfL) so it’s worthwhile looking at where the ideas behind these schemes come from, apart from the general attacks on cars and private transport from the environmental fringe.

The TfL Liveable Neighbourhood Guidance document published by the Mayor of London and TfL in 2019 tells you a lot – see Reference 1 below: This is what it defines as a “liveable neighbourhood”: “A Liveable Neighbourhoods project will deliver attractive, healthy, accessible and safe neighbourhoods for people. Typically, this may involve changes to town centres and their surrounding residential areas to improve conditions for walking and cycling and reduce traffic dominance. This may include new pedestrian crossings, a network of good cycle routes, reduced parking provision, redesigned junctions, restrictions on motor traffic in town centres, high streets and residential streets, and wider improvements against each of the ten Healthy Streets Indicators” (page 5).

It also says on page 8: “Reducing the need to use cars is the cornerstone of the Mayor’s vision and will provide huge benefits for all Londoners. More walking and cycling can make everyone healthier. Older people and the very young, disabled people and those living on lower incomes are most likely to be affected by the problems associated with a car-dependent city, such as poor air quality and road danger. Therefore, reduced car use will make London fairer”.

Forcing people to walk or cycle more may make them healthier but it simply ignores the problems of the disabled and elderly, or the practicality of making some trips by public transport. It makes London unfairer not fairer.

These concepts are based on the policies in Sadiq Khan’s Transport Strategy of which we have been very critical as it ignores the wishes of the general public in London. They wish to choose how they travel, not have it dictated to them by bureaucrats in City Hall.

These same ideas have been reflected in the Transport Strategy and Local Implementation Plan (LIP) adopted by Lewisham Council in 2019 – see Reference 2 below:  This is what that document says on page 6: “Healthy Neighbourhoods: this programme will adopt the principles of the Liveable Neighbourhoods schemes, and apply them at smaller-scale local levels. It will incorporate ‘Healthy Schools’ principles and provide measures to encourage more active travel and traffic reduction through point closures, identifying and addressing issues of rat-running”. But road closures do not just stop “rat-running” which could otherwise be described as people using the least congested routes, but they inconvenience local residents from using the shortest routes also.

That document spells out that the Equality Act requires councils not to discriminate on the basis of age or ability, but when you look at the Equalities Impact Assessment done by Project Centre on the Lewisham LIP – see Reference 3 below – it simply suggests that older people can use public transport. As regards disabled people (representing 14.5% of Lewisham’s population) it suggests that they can be assisted to walk through “intelligent engineering” of streets. This is a gross trivialisation of the problems of the elderly and disabled and was clearly written by someone with no understanding of their problems. It concludes by saying that “The draft LIP does not adversely impact on any particular group and can reduce the barriers for all groups to accessing the transport system”. It is in reality a complete whitewash of the problems that will be created by the Lewisham LIP, the Healthy Neighbourhoods proposals and the street closures.

What public consultation has been done on these important issues? Certainly the LIP was put out to public consultation and a report subsequently produced in 2018. But it shows only 228 responses were received, and a lot of them were from cyclists, i.e. as is now common the results were probably distorted by cyclist pressure groups. The report covers a lot of issues and public responses but it summarises by saying “Few respondents oppose the LIP programmes”.

But the consultation did not spell out what the implications were and few people actually look at LIPs – we were certainly not consulted for example even though we are clearly a stakeholder, and the vast majority of the public would not have been aware of it and its implications.

So the Lewisham Healthy Neighbourhood proposals have been developed based on policies that have been put forward by TfL and subsequently approved by Councillors in the LIP but with minimal input from the public.

That’s how democracy works in the modern world, or does not work. Turning a liveable neighbourhood into an unliveable one for many people.

How do you stop such schemes from being proposed and supported by councillors? The simplest way is not to re-elect those councillors who believe that only the young and fit should be permitted to live in an area, and that cars should be banned. If they support the “Liveable Neighbourhood” concepts and Sadiq Khan’s ideas for the future of London then VOTE AGAINST THEM.

Note that the Freedom for Drivers Foundation does not back any one political party but when we see perverse and irrational policies advocated by the Mayor of London or local Councillors, we will oppose them. We suggest you do the same.

We support democracy but that is not what has been happening in Lewisham or Waltham Forest where anti-car groups have dictated the agenda and ignored the wishes of the public.

Note that local borough Councillors do not have to kowtow to the Mayor of London’s policies. They can oppose the irrational elements such as road closures that will create more congestion. Don’t let your local Councillors tell you it is all ordained – it is not.

Reference 1: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/tfl-liveable-neighbourhood-guidance.pdf

Reference 2: Lewisham LIP: https://tinyurl.com/sp563yq

Reference 3: LIP Equalities Impact Assessment: https://tinyurl.com/usjlw5n

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Road Closures Halted Due to Public Pressure

Local Transport Today (LTT) have reported that two road closure schemes in London have been halted due to public objections.

In the Borough of Newham a trial closure of Browning Road Bridge to almost all vehicles except buses was halted after a demonstration by 80 local residents opposing the scheme. See this article in the Newham Recorder for more details: https://tinyurl.com/y64e63x4

This closure was part of the Liveable Neighbourhood policy implemented by the Council and funded by TfL. It was alleged that people were using the bridge as a “short-cut”. Only a very few local residents would be granted permits to use the bridge.

In Tower Hamlets a trial on Antill Road, Coburn Road and Tredegar Road of another “Liveable Neighbourhood” scheme was halted after a few days. A Tower Hamlets spokesperson told LTT that “There was a small minority of people vociferously objecting to the trial and some staff on site did feel intimidated by their actions”. Apparently taxi and PHV drivers were among the objectors.

Comment: Road closures can cause enormous difficulties to residents and disruption to the road network. They create congestion elsewhere and additional journey times. But these are part of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy to deter and reduce vehicle use when most people do not support such policies.

It is good to see that just a few residents can stop such schemes being implemented by some local activism. Councillors and council staff frequently have an agenda that is very different to what most of the population want, and are being encouraged by the Mayor and TfL to bring in such schemes. But it just takes a bit of opposition to halt them.

Roger Lawson

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