Political row over LTNs ahead of release of key report

Row follows recent protest marches and precedes upcoming council decision on Bowes Park LTN, reports James Cracknell

Residents protest against the low-traffic neighbourhood in Bowes Park
Residents protest against the low-traffic neighbourhood in Bowes Park last Sunday (credit Bounds and Bowes Voice)

A party political row over the future of Enfield’s low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) schemes has escalated – days before a key report is due to be published.

A protest against Enfield Council’s LTN trial in Bowes Park was held a week after a similar demonstration took place in Palmers Green, with a final decision on whether to make the Bowes scheme permanent now imminent.

The recent protests – attended by hundreds of residents as well as opposition councillors from both the Conservative and Community First groups – have sparked further rows with the Labour administration over what is likely to be a key issue in the upcoming local election.

Speaking to the Dispatch this week, Tory group leader Joanne Laban – who has hopes of becoming the new council leader in May 2022 – said the Conservatives would include a pledge in their manifesto to remove both the Fox Lane and Bowes Park LTNs.

But Labour’s deputy leader Ian Barnes has questioned why local Tories appear to be going against the wishes of their own party’s government, which has funded LTNs across the country as part of efforts to encourage more active travel during the pandemic.

Cllr Laban refuted this criticism and said: “The government’s line is that it is up to local authorities to decide what are the best schemes in their boroughs.

“Other [Conservative] councils like Barnet and Hillingdon haven’t done LTNs, while Wandsworth later decided to remove its LTNs. I find it [Labour’s criticism] hypocritical when even Labour councils like Ealing and Redbridge have removed their LTNs.

“It is clear they are not working. All they do is push cars and other vehicles on to roads on the periphery of the LTN. They have torn apart our neighbourhoods.”

Cllr Barnes has challenged local Tory councillors to come up with better solutions for reducing rat-running traffic, air pollution and carbon emissions from vehicles and said: “The Bowes LTN was paid for by the Conservative government, which the Enfield Conservatives support, and its installation followed the strict guidance set out by their Conservative secretary of state.

“Boris Johnson has stated that ‘if you are going to oppose these schemes, you must tell us what your alternative is’ and ‘trying to squeeze more cars and delivery vans on the same roads and hoping for the best is not going to work’.

“Enfield Conservatives have absolutely no alternative vision to tackle climate change.”

Cllr Laban told the Dispatch the Tories would start by talking to local people about what solutions they wanted to see, and would be open to alternative ideas that did not include closing streets to motor traffic. She said: “We would have more air pollution monitors in Enfield and we would work with communities on different schemes.

“There is more than one way to tackle these problems.”

Cllr Laban was one of several opposition councillors to address the demonstration last weekend against the Bowes LTN. She said: “It was freezing cold but there were hundreds of people there, which shows the strength of feeling and the fact the scheme has divided the community. They are angry the council has not listened to them.”

Unlike the Fox Lane LTN, which was first proposed and consulted on in 2019 prior to being implemented in autumn 2020, the LTN in Bowes Park was introduced without a prior public consultation, after the council received time-limited funding from the government. Initially proposed as a six-month trial, it was extended in summer as the council sought to obtain more traffic data. A final report on the trial’s impact is now imminent.

A council spokesperson said: “A report is currently being prepared evaluating the outcomes of the trial and taking into account residents’ feedback.

“This report, including recommendations, will be published shortly. No decision has yet been taken.”

Cllr Barnes added: “While the Enfield Conservatives continue to oppose climate action, the Labour council in Enfield has just received an ‘A-‘ score from the Carbon Disclosure Project for our far-reaching climate action and sustainability work.”

The Labour deputy leader has also accused individual Conservative councillors of opposing some of the council’s ‘school streets’ schemes, which involve temporarily closing roads outside school entrances when children are arriving or leaving. However, Cllr Laban has refuted this claim and says the Conservative group firmly supports school streets.