Grant Shapps warns councils to make roads more accessible for everyone

Neil Dorgan
September 8 2020, 17:30

More than 130 community groups released a joint statement last week in support of the introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) trials.

The community groups argue LTNs reduce congestion and air pollution on residential and main roads and the statement called for local councils to work with residents to continue to implement them across the country.

One of the signatories on the joint statement in support of LTNs was ‘Save Oval Streets’, who were instrumental in successfully campaigning in 2016 to ban heavy goods vehicles using Oval Triangle to transport goods to the Nine Elms building development.

Sally Warren, a spokesperson for ‘Save Oval Streets’, said: “The benefits of not suffering the levels of traffic we had – 8,000 vehicles a day through the triangle – have been transformative for everyone. Everyone can now walk and cycle safely.

“People go out more, hang out in the street and talk to their neighbours, some they have never met before. Noise and pollution have lessened across the triangle and we believe it has benefitted a much wider area too.”

She claims ‘Save Oval Streets’ is working hard to make the LTN work for everyone and has helped local residents suggest tweaks and changes to some roads.

Oval Triangle resident Francois Jardin, general manager of the Fentiman Arms pub, believes his quality of life has improved significantly with the reduction of noise pollution in particular.

Mr Jardin has also seen a positive impact socially with the LTN. He said: “I think the community forgot about the fact that they live next to each other and I think that is the impact that, socially speaking, is very beneficial.”

However, LTNs are proving quite divisive with local residents with a growing number of demonstrations being held against their introduction – the latest of which are protests being held simultaneously this Saturday, September 12, across London boroughs, including Lambeth, Ealing & Wandsworth.

The Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, writing in the Telegraph over the weekend, criticised the introduction of barriers in town centres and warned councils must consult with local residents or risk the withdrawal of funding.

The criticism comes after reports claimed Mr Shapps wrote a letter to his own council (Hertfordshire) in July to complain about the introduction of barriers and a one-way system in Welwyn Village, which led to a local petition criticising the measures collecting more than 1,500 signatures.

The MP warned councils on Saturday to stop abusing emergency transport funding by installing random one-way systems which offer little benefit to anyone.

“Some of those plastic barriers that have gone up in town centres to widen the pavements can actually prevent pedestrians, including disabled people, crossing the road,” he said.

“They narrow the carriageway for traffic, causing congestion and increasing danger for cyclists. They reduce parking for essential visits to the pharmacy or dentist or doctor. And they don’t seem to be much used by pedestrians either.”

While acknowledging the individual health and fitness benefits of making roads more accessible for walking and cycling, Mr Shapps stressed this should not be to the detriment of other road users especially those who bestow a sense of freedom from their car.

Admitting a number of the changes introduced by councils during the height of the Covid-19 emergency had not worked, the Member of Parliament for Welwyn Hatfield warned a number of trial measures will soon be reversed.

However, Mr Shapps acknowledged that when done well, the emergency measures have proved hugely popular with the ‘silent majority’.

“Millions of people, the vast majority of them non-cyclists, have already benefited from measures to reduce rat-running through narrow residential streets, cut danger to children around schools, make walking easier and provide safe space for cycling on main roads,” he wrote.

Residents can provide feedback on the Oval Triangle LTN here:

Related Articles