Labour members defend Enfield’s LTNs in wake of Conservative opposition, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter
Two low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) schemes will remain in place despite claims they are causing major problems for residents.
Labour councillors rejected a call from the opposition Conservatives to remove the Bowes Park and Fox Lane LTNs until it can be show that they are both supported by a majority of residents.
The two LTNs, rolled out in September in a bid to stop rat-running and improve air quality, involve closing several road entrances to motor vehicles using a combination of bollards, camera traps and box planters.
During a full council meeting on Thursday night, both Conservative and Community First councillors called for their removal, claiming they had failed to improve air quality and caused additional congestion and pollution on surrounding main roads. But Labour insisted the schemes would benefit public health and the environment, while pledging to improve the LTNs in response to feedback from residents. Both schemes are currently being consulted on as part of their initial six-month trial stages.
Speaking during the meeting Tory councillor and shadow cabinet member for climate change, Maria Alexandrou, listed a range of problems she claimed were caused by the LTNs. She said: “Congestion has overwhelmed Enfield, with traffic forced on to the main arteries of the Enfield road network.
“Roads are now too dangerous to cross, and people are less inclined to walk. The increased pollution and travel times – and consequently delays to bus journeys and the emergency services – are maximising the very matters LTNs were supposed to prevent.”
Cllr Alexandrou also claimed the LTNs had been introduced “without proper consultation or engagement”. While the Fox Lane scheme had gone through a previous consultation stage in 2019 and was amended as a result, the council introduced the Bowes Park LTN without prior consultation because of a tight eight-week implementation deadline imposed by the government, which had granted the council £100,000 as part of its Active Travel Fund set up in response to the pandemic.
Cllr Alexandrou added that the council had failed to provide readily available paper copies of consultation documents, which stopped those without digital access from taking part.
The council’s deputy leader Ian Barnes, who is also chairman of the authority’s climate change task force, defended the schemes. “The main beneficiaries of LTNs are all residents of the borough, but in particular our children and young people,” said Cllr Barnes.
“We have to change our thinking and see that our future must lie in cleaner air and a stable climate. It is a challenge for all of us – but one we must meet head-on for the sake of future generations.”
Cllr Barnes said the schemes would help tackle obesity and make streets safer for children going to and from school, pointing out that the Bowes Park LTN had followed “years of campaigning for an LTN” and a “perception survey”.
Community First – an opposition group formed last year by four councillors who quit the Labour Party – backed the Tories’ call to remove the LTNs. Daniel Anderson, a former deputy council leader and cabinet member for environment who helped introduce the council’s Cycle Enfield scheme, said LTNs “tackle the symptom and not the underlying cause of traffic”.
Cllr Anderson blamed “intensifying, unaffordable housing developments” for increased traffic on London’s roads and said the car would “remain a necessity for many people – particularly in the absence of adequate alternatives”.
Tory councillor Stephanos Ioannou criticised the council for having an enforcement vehicle with its engine idling issuing fines to drivers who travel through LTN barriers and criticised the council for issuing more than £1.2million in driver penalties since the LTNs were installed.
But Labour councillors continued to defend the schemes. Council leader Nesil Caliskan said she had listened to “passionate views” from residents on both sides of the LTN debate and would “see if we can amend the schemes to work for local areas”. She added that she was proud to be part of a council taking action on climate change.
Katherine Chibah, chair of the council’s environment forum, said climate change posed an “existential threat” and that with 39% of Enfield’s carbon emissions coming from roads, the “best option is to try to encourage alternative modes of travel”.
At the end of a debate lasting well over an hour, councillors voted to reject the Conservative-led motion to remove the two LTNs.