Fines for drivers in LTNs hit £3m amid row over signs

Councillor claims signs are ‘misleading’ drivers, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

The eastern entrance to the Fox Lane Quieter Neighbourhood in Palmers Green, where traffic enforcement cameras are used
The eastern entrance to the Fox Lane Quieter Neighbourhood in Palmers Green, where traffic enforcement cameras are used

Opposition councillors have slammed “confusing” road signs after Enfield Council raked in more than £3million from fines dished out to drivers in two low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs).

The Conservatives claim the “sheer volume” of penalty charge notices issued to motorists – almost 62,000 since September last year – shows how unclear the signs are.

Two LTNs were introduced in Enfield last year in a bid to cut rat-running and pollution; the Bowes Primary Area Quieter Neighbourhood in Bowes Park and the Fox Lane Quieter Neighbourhood in Southgate and Palmers Green. Some of the road entrances that are closed to motor vehicles are enforced using cameras, in order to allow access to emergency services. 

Enfield Council claims the signs installed at motor vehicle closure points “fully meet the requirements set out in the relevant regulations”. But motorists are continuing to be caught out by the cameras, with the total fines revenue from the LTNs reaching £3,031,881 in August. It includes more than £1.5m raised from a single camera in Meadway, Southgate.

Maria Alexandrou, shadow cabinet member for climate change, said: “This disgraceful Labour council has failed to do something about the misleading camera road signage, especially on Meadway, Warwick Road and Fox Lane, and is shamelessly continuing to charge residents with penalty fines they can ill afford to pay.”

Signs installed by the council to alert residents to the LTNs state “no motor vehicles” and “area in which cameras are used to enforce traffic regulations”, both of which are included in the Highway Code.

But Cllr Alexandrou said the council should have gone further and included larger, written warnings, similar to those alerting drivers to the presence of ‘School Streets’. She said: “They are not big, clear signs saying ‘road closed – LTNs’. With school streets, people know. It has been a year; if [the signs] had been clear, people would have cottoned on.”

Several other councils have introduced additional signage to warn of LTN restrictions. Some include signs saying “motor vehicles prohibited, penalty charges now apply” and “enforcement cameras live”.

During a meeting of the council’s environment and climate action scrutiny panel in March, leader Nesil Caliskan said she would ask an officer to review some of the LTN signs after fines raised by enforcement cameras neared £2m. Cllr Alexandrou claimed nothing had been done following that meeting, but a council spokesperson said the signs were reviewed.

Enfield’s Conservatives had previously called for the borough’s LTNs to be removed until it could be shown that they are supported by a majority of residents, but the Labour administration rejected the call. The Tories claimed the schemes had failed to improve air quality and caused additional congestion and pollution on surrounding main roads.

Labour-run Ealing Council began removing seven LTNs this week following “extensive consultation with local residents and consideration of available data on the impact of LTNs on air quality and encouragement of active travel”. It plans to retain two of the LTNs in areas where the majority of local people were in favour.

An Enfield Council spokesperson said: “Signage installed at motor vehicle closures points in the borough fully meet the requirements set out in the relevant regulations. Using the prescribed signs available, they clearly indicate that motor vehicles should not pass through the restriction and that camera enforcement is in place. These camera-enforced closures are in place following discussion with the emergency services prior to the trials starting, to enable the emergency services continued access to these residential areas. 

“The signs installed were reviewed following discussion at a scrutiny panel meeting in March, which confirmed their compliance. Neither the regulations nor the accompanying national guidance suggests councils should add additional signage such as non-standard ‘information signs’, in case motorists are unclear about the meaning of the official signs.

“However, in a number of locations, the council has added additional advisory signs prior to the closure points, to help inform motorists that there is no through access. All our signage is under regular review, and if trials are made permanent, there will be an opportunity for a further review of signage. 

“The trials and monitoring of the Bowes and Fox Lane quieter neighbourhoods are ongoing. Decisions on both of these trials are expected over the winter period.”