Our environment correspondent, PAUL LUSHION, on how vocal motoring lobbies and TfL legal advice has got the council to abandon traffic-reduction rules – for the time being, at least
The council has caved in to pressure from motoring lobbyists and their apologists, after a legal challenge to Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes brought by black cab drivers won a court ruling last week.
Advice from Transport for London, issued to Croydon and other councils who implemented measures that reduce rat-running, recommended adopting a cautious review, pending a legal appeal against a judge’s ruling over a Streetspace scheme in Bishopsgate.
In Croydon, the council has opted for near-immediate removal of its network of planters to deter motor vehicles – but with the prospect of re-introducing other measures for a one-year trial at some point in the future.
The council’s response has potential for even more chaos. “The current and successor schemes aren’t back to back,” one source said today. “Letting all the traffic back in then, at some unspecified date in the future, putting in automatic vehicle recognition cameras… There’s huge possibility for more disputes.”
The council this morning issued a press release regarding the LTNs in Upper Norwood and South Norwood, where five streets – including Auckland Road, Fox Hill, Sylvan Hill and Stambourne Way – have had reduced traffic since the scheme was introduced to encourage walking and cycling in Crystal Palace.
With the £250million originally provided for the schemes by central government, under TfL’s Streetspace initiative low traffic neighbourhoods have appeared across the capital, using planters and traffic filters to discourage motor vehicles from using side streets and residential roads, and to encourage more people to walk or cycle shorter journeys.
Last month, the government released a further £175million for implementing similar traffic-reducing measures across the country, in addition to those which had been rolled out under emergency coronavirus measures during the first lockdown.
But many of the early schemes have been criticised for being rushed through, with little public consultation or advance notice. Some have already been scrapped.
It is estimated that the early removal of some LTNs has already cost local authorities £1million. Croydon becomes the 14th council in the country to cave in under pressure from motoring lobby groups.
Croydon faces the threat of a Judicial Review case of its own, brought by a group which has the backing of Tory-run Bromley Council and which has had close support from the Alliance of Bad Drivers.
It is understood that the planters and other measures used in residential streets off Church Road in Upper Norwood are expected to be removed in the next fortnight.
The council now wants to replace these measures with a year-long trial of CCTV cameras that have the capability of issuing on-the-spot £60 fines to vehicles which use designated roads without a permit – to deter rat-runners. It just won’t have the camera system ready to replace the existing measures immediately.
“At the Traffic Management Advisory Committee meeting on February 15,” the council said today, “councillors will discuss updates to a report, which includes the results of a recent consultation as well as recommendations for an experimental, 12-month replacement scheme.
“This hopes to address many of the concerns of the current LTN by using camera-enforced closures in place of planters to allow better access for emergency vehicles and local residents.
“Today’s announcement also seeks to ensure that further exemptions for affected groups – such as school staff – are considered, and would explore whether there could be an impact from the recent court judgement quashing the guidance for London boroughs participating in the Streetspace programme.
“Following further comments from local residents and councillors at the January meeting, updates to the recommendations for a new experimental scheme are expected to include exemptions for recognised car clubs, providing an alternative to personal car ownership.
“In addition, there will be a recommendation on expanding permit access for care-givers of residents receiving home care, and staff from local schools.”
And following the black cabs’ Judicial Review ruling last week, the council added tellingly, “Taxis would be permitted to drive through the proposed bus gate on Auckland Road.”
The legal advice from TfL, which was sent to London boroughs earlier this week and has been seen by Inside Croydon.
It stated, “The judge upheld four of the six claims brought against us. We are seeking permission to appeal. As the effects of the judgment have been stayed, we have no immediate plans to remove any of our existing schemes pending an appeal,” before adding a word of legal caution: “You may also want to take legal advice about any implications of the judgment for Streetspace schemes which you have already implemented.”
The TfL advice then listed a range of areas in which a borough’s LTNs needed to be compliant according to equalities and other legislation.
It appears that a calculation has been made that, with Croydon Council’s finances already in meltdown, a costly legal battle needs to be avoided.
Muhammad Ali, the council cabinet member for Unsustainable Croydon, said, “Whatever we do next with this scheme needs to be done right, and serve our objectives to reduce unnecessary car journeys and increase walking and cycling.
“I look forward to deliberating an updated set of recommendations that takes into consideration more local concerns, and clarifies the TfL judgement.”
Residents who had campaigned in favour of the LTNs, and measures that will reduce car use and air pollution, said today that their mood “is pretty dark”.
They are angry at the council for its often clumsy implementation of the LTN schemes. There was, they say, “no attempt to put us in the picture before the council went public with this”.
One resident said, “People who’ve filled the vacuum left by the council’s non-existent public communications, to the extent of paying for and delivering information leaflets, and who have as a result experienced abuse and in some cases even death threats, had this just dropped on them out of the blue.”
And they are unconvinced that a revised system, using ANPR cameras and issuing permits to a long list of possible road users, will work effectively.
“Where do you draw the line with the permits? Each case looks fair on its own, but you end up with so many permits you might as well not bother.”
Read more: The next battle in the culture wars? Traffic bollards
Read more: London’s toxic air is ‘a public health emergency’ says charity
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Was it really a court ruling that caused this or simply Croydon Labour taking fright? Everything Croydon Tories push for, Croydon Labour end up delivering. What’s the point of that party?
The council has a struggling legal department, one which may not have done all the necessary work ahead of the (rushed) installation of the LTNs. Croydon is already facing a Judicial Review of its own. Confronted with the TfL advice, it must have been clear that they would not withstand close scrutiny – as with so many things involving the council’s work of late.
With the imposition of the 20mph limit in the vast majority of Crydon’s roads, sppeds should be down all over. Surely it would be better to have random, van-mounted mobile speed cameras around the borough to catch people who exceed this significantly , than cameras to catch people in certain streets.
One thing that I would ask, is for very large signs at driver eye level at the entrance, repeated several metres later on, to these “certain streets” which would clearly spell out the fact that cars are not allowed….
and a place where people can turn round if they enter in error.
These streets should have entry treatments such as raised surfaces , narrowed entrances etc etc plus signage tio make it very clear they are restricted and “special”.
With all the other things that the careful driver looks out for, when turning off a road into another, –pedestrians, dogs and children running out from between parked cars, cyclists, people opening car doors, motorists coming the other way etc, it is very easy to not see signage if it is high up and small.
I don’t like any measures which make the law-abiding citizen into a law breaker.
It is not fair to clobber them with cameras and fines.
Most motorists are not man-eating sharks.
Sadly, councils have to resort to desperate measures to raise money.
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