Lambeth council is facing growing frustration from residents after its decision to fast-track the ‘Oval Triangle Low-Traffic Neighbourhood’ (LTN) scheme in April.
In early June, the council introduced temporary traffic barriers to stop through-traffic within the Oval LTN, to enable residents to walk, cycle and maintain social distancing, in response to the government’s wider COVID-19 strategy.
However, OneOval, which represents residents living inside and on the edge of the LTN, claims the scheme impacts poorer residents of the ‘Oval triangle’ area, as traffic is re-routed to estates and residential roads on the periphery of the triangle.
Oval Triangle is about to become an amazing low-traffic neighbourhood!— Lambeth Council (@lambeth_council) May 21, 2020
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OneOval has asked for Oval LTN to be urgently reviewed, with comprehensive community engagement to ensure a range of voices are heard in designing any new, more equitable scheme that might be proposed, and for the current scheme to be rolled back while this takes place.
Abdul Mazid, owner of Oval Tandoori restaurant and take-away on Brixton Road since 1972, believes he may have to close his business as he relies on take-away orders from long standing customers who live inside the LTN.
“No one even informed me, no one told me. I didn’t know anything about it. Suddenly, I saw everywhere the council put up boxes and no entry signs,” said Mr Mazid.
The traffic barriers, restricting access into the LTN, means it takes too long for Mr Mazid’s drivers to drive around to the far entrance of the LTN.
Mr Mazid said: “How are we supposed to get the deliveries to those people – you tell me. The people are phoning us and complaining – why is it taking two hours to deliver, why is it taking one hour today?
“We have told them we cannot deliver to them anymore. We won’t be able to supply you anymore because the council closed the road.”
Catherine Odingie, who lives on Mursell Estate inside the LTN, says the council’s decision is causing her significant stress: “I work, I do a 9-5 job, I drop my kids to the centre and then go to work each day, Monday to Friday.
“It is not just me, many other parents will do the same thing, for instance, my neighbour who works for the NHS does the same.
“People like us are affected simply because we take our kids to school in the car and then go straight to work.
“We are never going to be able to walk all the way to their school, which is approximately 25-30 minutes walking with kids, then come back home to pick up my car and go to work – meaning it is impossible for me to start work at 9.”
2019 Transport Strategy Plan
Lambeth council’s 2019 Transport Strategy (TS) and Transport Strategy Implementation Plan (TSIP), both published in November 2019, included proposals to co-design low-traffic neighbourhoods with the local community.
Councillor Claire Holland, the deputy leader and cabinet lead for sustainable transport, environment & clean air, stated that inclusiveness and tackling inequality were at the heart of the transport strategy.
Emergency Covid-19 legislation
In April and May, Lambeth council approved emergency ‘Transport Response to Covid-19’ programmes in response to Department of Transport guidance to make significant changes to road layouts and provide more space for cyclists and pedestrians.
Lambeth council set aside £427k for the implementation of four LTNs, including Oval Triangle LTN which was prioritised due to its link to the recently completed Cycleway 5 on Baylis Road.
The 2019 Transport Strategy Implementation Plan (TSIP) was not subject to public consultation however it was agreed that all projects and programmes the TSIP referred to would be subject to extensive engagement with affected users as well as formal (statutory) consultation where changes to the operation of the highway were proposed.
The emergency ‘Transport Response to Covid-19’ strategy warned that any accelerated delivery of transport strategy projects, without full public engagement measures, may be considered unreasonable by stakeholders and the wider public.
However, Lambeth Council confirmed that that no public consultation exercise took place before the Oval LTN was implemented through a temporary traffic regulation order (TRO), which can remain in place for up to 18 months, although a letter was sent to all addresses inside the triangle, and to some just outside of the triangle, 10 days before the scheme went live.
Equality Impact Assessment (EIA)
The Department for Transport (DfT) emergency Covid-19 response confirms the public sector equality duty, a duty on public authorities to consider or think about how their policies or decisions affect people who are protected under the Equality Act, still applies to any temporary measures.
Lambeth Council confirmed it is currently preparing an individual EIA for the Oval LTN but there was an overall EIA completed for the 2019 Transport Strategy Implementation Plan (TSIP).
However, the 2019 TSIP acknowledged the council had not been able to hold specific engagement activities with all the equality groups in the community due to timescales / available resources and also identified the development and delivery of projects and programmes in the TSIP may not address a wide range of equality impacts.
‘Save Oval Streets’
‘Save our Streets’, the Residents’ Associations for the streets in the Oval triangle, responded to the OneOval statement with its own statement: “We reject the zero-sum thinking that divides different communities into ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ or reduces the problem to one of ‘shifting’ or ‘decanting’ traffic from one area to another. This is bigger than that.
“This is about more walking, more cycling, improving public health, including mental health, rediscovering our surroundings and reopening our public spaces to all.”
A spokesperson for Lambeth said: “This programme has been welcomed by many residents in Lambeth, where around 60% of residents don’t own a car and need to use other methods of transport to move around. It has also been welcomed by local hospitals like Guys and St Thomas’s who are pleased we are taking measures to enable their staff to travel to work safely.
“Whilst local residents were not consulted prior to implementing the temporary, emergency scheme, the council will be engaging with residents and business in the area, and taking account of the evidence, before deciding whether or not to make the scheme permanent.”