Council report highlights data showing 72% traffic reduction within low-traffic neighbourhood scheme, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter
A low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) trial scheme between Palmers Green and Southgate should be made permanent, an Enfield Council report recommends.
The report states that traffic volumes within the Fox Lane Area Quieter Neighbourhood have dropped by 72% and claims the benefits of making the scheme permanent would “outweigh” the drawbacks.
It comes despite 56% of respondents to a public consultation saying the scheme had a negative impact on them, with only a quarter expressing positive views.
Introduced by Enfield Council in September 2020 on a trial basis, the Fox Lane LTN is designed to stop ‘rat-running’ drivers from using the area as a shortcut, while maintaining access for residents. It uses physical barriers and enforcement cameras to close a number of streets surrounding Fox Lane to through traffic.
The LTN has been funded by Transport for London (TfL) and so far has cost more than £387,000 to implement.
A similar LTN trial scheme in Bowes Park, also introduced by the council in summer 2020, was recently made permanent following a failed bid by opposition councillors to force a rethink of the decision.
According to the Fox Lane report, which was authored by the council’s healthy streets programme director Richard Eason and published on Wednesday, 24-hour traffic volumes on surveyed roads within the LTN dropped by an average of 72%, despite some sites seeing “modest increases”.
On boundary roads, traffic volumes were up by 6% on average, with the largest rise of 11% in Southgate High Street. The wider road network saw traffic volumes down by an average of 5%, despite increases in some areas.
The data also shows reductions in average vehicle speeds within the LTN and on boundary roads, some of which, the report admits, “are likely the result of congestion associated with Southgate Circus during the peak periods”.
As well as reducing rat-running, one of the main aims of LTNs is to boost forms of “active travel” such as walking and cycling. According to the report, cycling numbers jumped by an average of 121% on surveyed roads within the LTN. They were also up by an average of 182% on boundary roads and 152% on the wider network.
However, the report admits that the figures may have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and seasonal variation, with cycling generally more popular during spring and summer months. It adds that walking data “shows significant volumes of pedestrians within the residential area, with further monitoring to be conducted”.
Boosting air quality is another key aim of LTNs. But a report drawn up by consultancy firm Air Quality Consultants states that the Fox Lane scheme has had “no significant effect, neither beneficial nor adverse” on pollutant concentrations.
The study, which modelled pollution levels based on automated traffic counts, points to decreases in nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter within the Fox Lane LTN and increases “on external distributor roads”, including boundary roads.
It predicts “slight adverse” impacts on nitrogen dioxide levels at two locations in Green Lanes and “slight beneficial” impacts at the junctions of Meadway and Southgate High Street, and Fox Lane and Amberley Road. The impacts on nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter at the remaining locations are said to be “negligible”.
A major concern frequently raised by opponents of LTNs is the potential for physical barriers such as bollards to block access for the emergency services. Feedback from London Ambulance Service (LAS) published alongside the report reveals there were “22 incidents of delayed access or egress relating to the Fox Lane LTN” up until 12th January this year.
Although LAS welcomed a plan by the council to introduce enforcement cameras at several locations, it said it still had concerns over the number of hard physical closures and their potential to cause delays to emergency crews.
The document adds: “The LAS, therefore, continues to request that hard closures be avoided where possible in favour of camera-enforced or soft closures to ensure unimpeded emergency access and egress is maintained.”
According to the report, London Fire Brigade has not reported any issues with the LTN, and the Metropolitan Police did not raise any incidents of delayed responses because of the scheme.
However, figures from the Met did reveal there was a 3% increase in crime within the LTN between November 2019 and October 2021. Vehicle crime, violence and sexual offences, burglary, bicycle theft and other theft all saw rises. During the same period, there was a 1% fall in offending across Enfield as a whole.
The results of the public consultation carried out by the council reveal 56% of respondents felt that the LTN had impacted them ‘very negatively’ or ‘somewhat negatively’, while 25% felt it had impacted them ‘very positively’ or ‘somewhat positively’.
Although 72% of those living outside the LTN felt it had affected them negatively, this fell to 38% among those living inside the scheme. Car owners, who were “overrepresented in the consultation survey”, were more likely to have a negative view than those who did not own a car.
The report reveals 72% of those with a disability felt the LTN trial had a ‘very negative’ or ‘somewhat negative’ impact on them, with only 22% experiencing a ‘very positive’ or ‘somewhat positive’ impact.
The council does now plan to make several changes to the scheme, including “some small-scale and short-term adjustments to the Southgate Circus roundabout to assist traffic flow”.
It also plans to publish a report setting out measures to improve access for residents with disabilities through potential exemptions to the LTN.
In addition, the authority is considering replacing bollards in The Mall, Selborne Road and Oakfield Road with enforcement cameras to improve access for emergency services.
The report also concedes that the Fox Lane LTN project “has proved to be controversial, often polarising views of those that have chosen to participate in the engagement and consultation process”. But it adds that following “careful consideration” of the scheme’s impacts and potential improvements, “the recommendation is to make the traffic order permanent”.
A decision on whether to make the LTN permanent will be taken by council leader Nesil Caliskan and will be subject to a potential call-in by the overview and scrutiny committee.