Bowes LTN set to be made permanent

New council report cites data showing traffic has reduced since LTN trial scheme was installed, reports James Cracknell

Entrance to Maidstone Road in the Bowes Park low-traffic neighbourhood
The entrance to Maidstone Road in the Bowes Park low-traffic neighbourhood

Traffic has reduced within one of Enfield Council’s two low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) trial schemes, according to a new report analysing data collected since its introduction.

The long-awaited council report examining data and feedback collected since the installation of the Bowes Primary Area Quieter Neighbourhood – the official name of the LTN – recommends that the scheme’s experimental traffic orders first introduced in summer 2020 should now be made permanent.

This recommendation comes despite more than 52% of residents taking part in the public consultation on the LTN submitting negative views on it, compared with less than 25% who said they welcomed the measures.

The council report, authored by the council’s healthy streets programme director Richard Eason, attributes the negative reaction to the LTN to the fact that 86% of consultation respondents were car owners, something which “should be considered in the context of a project where a key aim is to reduce the dominance of the private car”.

As part of its recommendations, which are still subject to a final decision by the council, the report proposes making one change to the current LTN layout, which would see the filter on Maidstone Road at its junction with Warwick Road being amended from a bollard to a camera trap “increasing permeability for any exemptions, including the emergency services”.

A “post-project monitoring plan” is also proposed to continue “high-level monitoring” in the Bowes Park area. A further decision on whether or not to install a bus gate on Brownlow Road will be made after neighbouring Haringey’s upcoming LTN scheme in Bounds Green is implemented and a further assessment of traffic made.

The council report also states that “mitigation measures” to improve access for residents with disabilities “through potential exemptions” will be explored in a subsequent report and will also include “consideration of those with caring responsibilities”.

The Bowes LTN has cost £350,000 to implement, funded via grants from the Department of Transport and Transport for London. It was installed in order to “create healthier streets”, cut through-traffic from motor vehicles on minor roads, and boost levels of walking and cycling.

To determine whether these objectives were met, vehicle data was collected from 37 automatic traffic counters placed on roads inside, bordering and surrounding the LTN. On the residential roads within the Bowes LTN, there was an average drop in recorded traffic of 17%.

However, some roads within the LTN that remained open to through traffic saw increases, with Spencer Avenue recording a 109% rise in motor vehicles. The council report claims this will be “significantly reduced” after Haringey Council installs its own LTN scheme for Bounds Green.

Another LTN road that saw a rise in traffic was Highworth Road, where Bowes Primary School is situated. The council stated that the 18% rise would be mitigated by a proposed ‘school street’ scheme.

On the three main boundary roads to the LTN – the A406 North Circular, Green Lanes, and Bounds Green Road – the council reported a 7% decrease in traffic. On surrounding roads, such as Powys Lane and Wilmer Way in Palmers Green, Station Road in New Southgate, and Bowes Road in Arnos Grove, there was a 2% rise in recorded traffic.

The council report warns that “reported changes in the network should not be considered as only influenced” by the LTN, and that other factors such as the pandemic could have caused changes in travel patterns. Pre-implementation traffic surveys were undertaken by the council in July 2020, when some lockdown restrictions were still in place, while post-implementation surveys were undertaken in September 2021 – at a time when there was a short-term fuel crisis in the UK.

However, Richard Eason writes in the report: “Acknowledging the limitations in the data, the unprecedented impacts of the pandemic and Haringey exploring further mitigation measures, the impacts associated with traffic volume do not, in isolation, suggest that the trial should not be made permanent.”

The council’s traffic monitoring also included vehicle speeds and recorded an average drop in speed of 1mph on residential roads within the LTN and 4mph on boundary roads, but a 1mph rise on residential roads in neighbouring areas.

In regards to bus journey times, these were said to have improved, with 60% of journeys being faster, although it was noted that three bus routes had seen journey times increase by over a minute on average.

And in terms of active travel, pedestrian numbers were recorded as having risen by 14% on average within the LTN, while cycling was up 20% on residential roads, but down 14% on Brownlow Road and down 40% on Bounds Green Road, the only boundary road where this data was recorded. According to the report, the fall in cycling on these two main roads was likely caused by “cyclists choosing to reassign to the quieter roads”.

One of the frequent objections made to the Bowes LTN since summer 2020 has been the impact on the emergency services. London Ambulance Service (LAS) reported “two incidents of delayed access”, London Fire Brigade reported “little or no effect” on response times, while the Metropolitan Police “has not raised any incidents of delayed response”.

Because the council itself only has one automatic air pollution monitor located with the LTN, an air quality assessment was instead carried out by an external agency “using measured traffic data and calculated changes in traffic attributable to the project to estimate the associated impacts”. This assessment showed that “the project led to slight decreases in nitrogen dioxide concentrations on some roads and some slight increases in concentrations on some roads”.

The junction of Green Lanes and the North Circular was singled out for having seen a “moderate adverse impact” on air pollution. But overall, the conclusion was that “the scheme does not have a significant effect on air quality”. At the automatic air pollution monitor operated by the council, nitrogen dioxide was said to have remained “below the annual mean objective”.

In response to the release of the council report this week, a Labour councillor in Bowes ward, Yasemin Brett, told the Dispatch: “I was very enthusiastic on the LTNs initially but I think it has caused a lot of upset at a time when people are very fragile.

“This experiment shouldn’t have been carried out now, when people are feeling like this, in the middle of Covid. I think the consultation process leaves much to be desired.”

Opposition group Community First issued a statement which said its members were “shocked” by the recommendation to make the LTN permanent and added: “We consider this decision to be an insult, by an ideologically-obsessed administration, to those residents who have protested and made evidence-based arguments against this LTN.

“The LTN was imposed on Bowes without [prior] consultation and paid for using money that in our view should have been used to widen narrow footways so as to make walking safer during lockdowns.”

Joanne Laban, leader of the Conservative group, told the Dispatch last week that the Tories would be including a commitment to remove the council’s two LTN trial schemes in its 2022 election manifesto.

An Enfield Council spokesperson said: “A report on the Bowes Quieter Neighbourhood has been prepared that evaluates the outcomes of the trial and takes into account residents’ feedback.

“This report is still under consideration, with a decision anticipated shortly.”