Islington residents bring criticism of Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme to health meeting

Fed up residents told Islington’s senior politicians they felt measures to cut traffic and carbon emissions simply pushed traffic onto other streets.

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

a photo of a car exhaust
Photo by Matt Boitor on Unsplash

A small group of Islington residents attended a meeting of the council’s Executive of senior politicians on Thursday to have their voice heard as councillors discussed ways to get people more active.

The controversial low traffic neighbourhoods – or liveable neighbourhoods as they are now known in Islington – have won favour with some whilst others say they cause problems elsewhere.

Canonbury resident Jackie Sheridan said: “Every day Highbury Corner is just unbelievable with traffic because we’re being forced onto main roads because of this wonderful idea of shutting roads off to cars.”

She said: “Where is it fair on people like us that have to live on these boundary roads and have to walk out onto horrendous traffic and congestion, obviously breathing it in.”

She wanted to know why streets are being shut off which she said means motorists facing lengthy diversions.

“Part of your active scheme is to get people cycling and walking and your way of doing that is by shutting roads off so people can cycle , peope can walk and people can’t drive.”

Nurullah Turan, the Executive member for health, said the active Islington policy is designed to help keep residents fit and well and tackle health inequalities: “One of the simplest and most effective way to tackle this is through increased activity. It is known as a miracle cure and if we could turn it into a pill and prescribe it it would save health and social care billions of pounds.”

He said there 27%, or 57,000 adults in Islington, do not do the minimum recommended 150 minutes a week of exercise a week, with an hour a day for young people.

Across Islington it is estimated that 44% adults and 37% of primary school children are overweight or obese, with 16% suffering from depression, and 22% have at least one long term health condition.

Cllr Turan said whilst some people do a lot of exercise there are “huge inequalities and children, older people, those with disabilities and long term health conditions and residents from Black and Asian and other ethnic minority communities are much more likely to be inactive.”

He said 36% of young people are inactive and while about 68% of white residents are active it drops to 53% of Black and Asian residents. Covid and the cost of living crisis is also have an effect.

The policy aims to boost the number of people using council leisure centres, use community sports clubs, work with medics to encourage exercise to help prevent illness and help people build exercise into their lives.

It also includes making streets and parks attractive to residents and “promote active travel and influence residents to move more”.

Keith Townsend, head of environment and regeneration said the council tried to “make sure that residents do have access, it’s just different ways of accessing to try and prevent vehicles rat running and cutting through residential streets.”

David Corrigan said the LTNs “are segregating our borough. Where’s the democracy in that. People can’t move from one ward to the other.”

He said active travel “includes the shutting down of roads”.

A third resident said that on the Marquess estate fewer people travel through the area and his children “are too scared to come outside” for fear of crime.

He said he used to ride a bike but “my active travel now is having to use my car to go from A to B whether I like it or not.”

Council leader Kaya Comer-Schwartz suggested that council staff discussed residents’ concerns outside the meeting.

She said questions must relate to items discussed and issues around LTNs had “no material relevance to the strategy we’re discussing now”.

It comes after police were called to a meeting held at Islington West Library to give residents a chance to discuss a new scheme in Barnsbury after more people turned up than expected.

That meeting ended after 30 minutes and an estimated 100 people were unable to get into the meeting room.

Some of them called for the meeting to be cancelled. Rowena Champion, the executive member for the environment apologised “for not getting a big enough room.”

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