Steve Reed OBE, the Progress MP for Croydon North, has accused the Labour-run council of being “disingenuous” over its handling of the results of a public consultation for what he describes as the “controversial” Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme in Crystal Palace.
“I trust the council will follow the clearly expressed views of local people and remove the current scheme,” Reed wrote in a letter addressed to Councillor Muhammad Ali, who will tomorrow night chair a crucial meeting of the council’s Traffic Management Advisory Committee.
The LTNs – introduced to reduce use of motor vehicles and encourage more people to walk or cycle, while ridding areas of “rat runs” – have over the last six months seen the council threatened with a High Court Judicial Review and propelled into a border dispute with neighbours Bromley.
Reed’s intervention will be seen by some as a significant set-back to Town Hall traffic planners.
A handful of road closures were implemented in the Crystal Palace area and around South Norwood in the middle of last year, in part in response to the need for greater social distancing during the first coronavirus lockdown. The measures have been paid for from grant funding from the Conservative government, and have the enthusiastic support on the board of Transport for London from Andrew Gilligan, the transport adviser to Boris Johnson.
Reed’s intervention, on the eve of the committee meeting, is unusual since he so rarely involves himself in Croydon Council business: when there was a debate in the House of Commons last month over the crisis in the council’s finances, Reed didn’t even bother to show up. And Reed just happens to be the official opposition spokesperson on… local government.
His letter takes issue with the council’s use of response statistics, stating that 25.3 per cent of residents responding “is a high turnout for a traffic scheme consultation”.
“It is disingenuous of the council report to imply the … turnout achieved in the consultation does not fairly reflect local opinion.
Reed cites consultation figures which showed 61 per cent of respondents in the LTN zone in favour of removing the scheme entirely.
“It is important for the council to listen to local people and act on what they say,” Reed said, “and in this case you have a very clear response from residents asking you to remove the scheme.”
Reed may have given the council, and himself, some wiggle room politically by calling for the removal of “the current scheme”. Since that is what the council is recommending.
The council proposes a new 12-month trial which would see the removal of LTN planters, to be replaced with enforcement cameras which, the council says, “would continue to help ease traffic on the streets but give better access to emergency services and local residents”.
Ahead of the meeting, the council said today, “The new scheme would again be subject to further analysis and engagement with residents, businesses and neighbouring boroughs as the council seeks to improve air quality, reduce traffic and increase walking and cycling for shorter journeys.
“The council would also carry out air quality assessments, traffic monitoring and focused research before any decision is made about making the scheme permanent.”
Muhammad Ali said, “Since the introduction of the LTN we are already seeing an increase in local families out walking and cycling, which is fantastic.
“So it is vital that we continue to reduce congestion and pollution by encouraging fewer journeys to be made by car where possible, this in turn provides safer areas for people to walk and cycle – and improves the quality of life for everyone.”
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