Islington LTN anger two years on

Frustrations over controversial traffic calming schemes erupted at the town hall prompting the Mayor to threaten to hold the rest of the full council meeting in private.

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy reporter

Anti LTN campaigners outside Islington town hall.
Anti LTN campaigners outside Islington town hall. Photo: LDR/Julia Gregory,

Like other boroughs Islington council extended a network of seven Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) as emergency measures during the pandemic.

They won Transport for London funding and are designed to cut traffic and improve air quality by reducing harmful nitrogen dioxide and carbon emissions.

The council wants to keep them and asks residents for their views after a year of the trial.

However the schemes have proved polarising with some praising the cut in traffic and pollution whilst others said it penalises motorists and pushes traffic elsewhere.

Islington also has 34 school street schemes – banning motor vehicles near schools at the start and end of the school day. Mildmay has also become a liveable neighbourhood – with green measures to cut pollution in response to the climate emergency.

At the full council meeting on Thursday Resident Rebekah Kelly said two years on from the launch of LTNs residents were still frustrated by the controversial policy. She told the full council meeting “Living in a Low Traffic Neighbourhood feels (like we are) slightly forgotten, our bins have taken away, our streets are not swept. The pavements are broken.” She said the council is spending money on new trees but claimed “existing trees are not being maintained.”

She was adamant that “We don’t want People Friendly Pavements, or Safe Haven schemes, or Liveable Neighbourhoods or anything with a catchy slogan. We just want our basic services.”

A woman addresses a council chamber, members of the public sat behind
Rebekah Kelly quizzes cllrs about LTNs at Islington town hall. Photo: LDR/Julia Gregory

Ms Kelly said : “You want to promote active travel. Walking is going to be the best. We all walk, whether we’re going to walk to our car, we walk to get our bike out, walk to the bus stop or walk across the borough. Pavements have got to be the highest priority here.”

Cllr Rowena Champion, Executive member for the environment, air quality and transport said there has been 250m of new paving and it will be matched by April. Other steps include clearing pavement clutter but also providing benches for those with mobility issues. The council has looked at 44% of the pavements, as part of its People Friendly Pavements scheme, launched last year.

She said “absolutely I would” like to spend more on pavements but said the council was starved of funds through government austerity measures.

She defended the LTN scheme. “We knew when we started Low Traffic Neighbourhoods more people that are walking would benefit than people who are cycling.”

She said feedback included people delighted they can hear birdsong. “It’s brilliant to go out into our streets. We can hear the birds sing. We can walk along the pavements, we can talk to our friends, we can walk into the road if we need to do that.”

She told residents packed into the council chamber “We absolutely know that if you reduce the traffic you benefit people who are walking. You particularly benefit people with mobility issues.”

One campaigner called out “what a load of ****” and some others heckled.

Mayor Marian Spall threatened to clear the council chamber and hold the rest of the meeting behind closed doors if campaigners continued to shout out.

“I am not going to have this in my Chamber, can you please be quiet.”

“I am frankly baffled that people can stand here and tell me that reducing the amount of vehicles going past on the street does not help people who are walking and people who are cycling, people who are trying to cross the road standing on the streets,” continued Cllr Champion.

Prompted by chief executive Linzi Egan the mayor decided to move on to the next public question.

It comes after the council was forced to apologise for not getting a large enough room to discuss plans for a Liveable Neighbourhood – the new name for area with LTNs – at Barnsbury last month. The meeting was cut short and police were called when the meeting was disrupted. People who could not get in to the meeting at West Library were left frustrated they could hear the discussion or have their voice heard.
Outside the town hall Zak Vora, who has contested the Bunhill and St Peter’s wards for the Conservatives said: “LTNs are not equitable as they create High Transport Neighbourhoods.”

He said boundary roads nearby can suffer from extra traffic and the schemes have hit business transport and disabled motorists.

“The council is myopic about what residents want.”

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