Protest against LTNs as councillors debate impact on traffic

Three low-traffic neighbourhoods have been introduced in Haringey this year but drivers have complained of worsening traffic in surrounding roads
By Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Demonstrators gather to protest against three LTNs introduced in Haringey this year (credit Simon Allin/LDRS)
Demonstrators gather to protest against three LTNs introduced in Haringey this year (credit Simon Allin/LDRS)

Angry residents held a large demonstration against low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) outside a council meeting in Haringey yesterday (Monday) amid ongoing controversy over the schemes.

Protestors outside George Meehan House in Wood Green waved signs saying “LTNs destroy livelihoods”, “Haringhell” and “give us our roads back” while chanting “no to LTNs” in an attempt to send a clear message to councillors.

Rolled out by Haringey Council on a trial basis this year in Bounds Green, St Ann’s, and Bruce Grove and West Green, the three LTN schemes use physical and camera-enforced ‘filters’ to stop non-residential traffic from cutting through side streets.

The council hopes the LTNs will reduce traffic and boost air quality, but opponents claim they increase congestion, journey times and pollution – particularly along boundary roads on the edges of the schemes. Thousands of people have signed petitions calling for the LTNs to be removed.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service spoke to residents about the disruption caused by the LTNs. Polly Thrasivoulou, who cares for her mother-in-law and father-in-law, said she could no longer take them to do their shopping during her lunch break because the five-minute drive now takes 45 minutes following the introduction of the St Ann’s LTN. “They have decimated the community,” she said.

Neri Gun, who runs Downhills Park Cafe, said she was unable to take her father, who has mobility issues, to the places he needs to go “in order to have some kind of quality of life”.

Neri explained that elderly people and those with mobility issues had been unable to visit businesses because they cannot “sit in endless hours of traffic to get to us”. “Businesses are struggling,” she added. “I’ve had multiple business owners saying to me, ‘what am I going to do? We are not going to survive the year’.”

Steve Hill, co-ordinator of Gospel Centre Foodbank in Wightman Road, said he had to time deliveries “very carefully” because of congestion caused by the LTN in St Ann’s. “I think it is ill thought-out,” he said. “I think the aims are laudable in many ways, but the implementation in terms of the locality is having a big effect on business and all sorts of daily life.”

Jim Cassins, chair of South Tottenham Residents Association, said roads were becoming “completely blocked” by congestion, and this was leading to more pollution. He added: “I spoke to people the other night, and the cars were bumper-to-bumper for hours on end.”

The protest came ahead of a meeting of the council’s environment and community safety scrutiny panel on Monday. Speaking during a deputation to the meeting, local resident Alexander Charalambous called for a “pause” of the LTNs.

Alex told the panel: “Since the LTNs were introduced, journeys that used to take ten minutes over two miles now take more than an hour. They are increasing pollution, and stationary traffic sits on sacrificial roads at least twelve hours a day.

“Buses, care workers, elderly people going to hospital, now sit in heavy traffic caused by the LTNs. Cyclists and pedestrians breathe in huge amounts of pollutants as they move past this traffic. Local businesses are down nearly 100% in some situations, [and] schools on sacrificial roads are being drowned in pollution from standing traffic, too.

“Cars are driving more unnecessary miles to skirt the LTN. Those living on sacrificial roads are being discriminated against. Previously, traffic was evenly spread. It now disproportionately affects poorer communities.”

Alex criticised the council’s consultation, claiming it was “weighted towards those inside the LTN” and to a “white British demographic”, with a “disproportionately loud voice” given to potential beneficiaries of the schemes. He also claimed concerns raised by disability groups and special needs groups had been “ignored”.

Alex told the meeting that data used to justify the LTNs was “outdated” and “highly inaccurate”. He said: “I request that the committee considers that the LTNs be paused to enable a full and proper consultation, clear aims to be set out and measurements agreed.”

Panel chair Michelle Simmons-Safo, a Labour councillor for Seven Sisters who works at St Ann’s Hospital, said doctors and nurses had been telling her to end the LTNs. She added: “I do recognise that they are constraints, and that perhaps it came in too rapidly, and we hear what you say in regards to the consultation.”

Cllr Simmons-Safo said she would respond in writing to the deputation and present it to the cabinet member responsible for the schemes, Mike Hakata.

After the deputation was over, the panel heard questions from the public on the LTNs. These had been submitted in advance of the meeting, and Cllr Simmons-Safo read out answers written by council officers.

Victoria Mudd asked how the council was assessing the impact of the LTNs on residents, businesses and communities. In response, she was told data on the schemes could be downloaded from the council’s website, and “perception surveys” would be held after the schemes had “bedded in” to allow residents and businesses to express their views.

Polly Thrasivoulou asked why residents consulted on the St Ann’s LTN were only able to say whether they preferred one of two options for implementing the scheme and were not given the chance to reject both. In response, officers admitted there was no opportunity to reject both options but claimed respondents had been able to indicate “a negative view of both proposals”.

Angelos Tsangarides told the meeting the consultation for the Bounds Green LTN had been conducted by Sustrans, which he described as a “cycling lobby”. He suggested this was a conflict of interest and asked if councillors felt it had been “appropriate”. The response from officers stated that Sustrans “does not promote walking and cycling” and was the “best-placed consultant” to support the council with engagement on the design and development of the LTN.

Sue Leveson, the mother of a child with severe disabilities, said the LTNs were having a financial impact on carers, adding that she had spoken to Cllr Hakata about the need for exemptions for people like her son and for taxis. Her son recently had a seizure after he was stuck in traffic for two hours, Sue explained, describing the LTNs as an “experiment” on the “most vulnerable people in the poorest parts of our borough”.

Cllr Simmons-Safo said she had raised the issues of inclusion and equalities with the whole cabinet. Wheelchair users in her ward were being affected, she explained. “Believe you me, I will be asking all these questions,” she said.