Residents remain divided over low-traffic schemes

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

Council reveals 30,000 fines have been issued to drivers in three months, report James Cracknell and Olivia Devereux-Evans

People living within two new ‘quieter neighbourhood’ areas installed by Enfield Council remain divided over the schemes, research by the Dispatch suggests.

While more local people appear to be against Enfield’s low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) than in favour, based on a small sample of residents, a significant minority are supportive and some also remain undecided.

LTNs aim to reduce traffic in residential areas by blocking off certain road entrances to motor vehicles, with the council installing its first such scheme in Bowes Park last summer. A second scheme swiftly followed in the Fox Lane area of Palmers Green. In both areas, a combination of bollards, planters and camera traps are being used to limit road access at certain points.

The two LTNs are being trialled over a six-month period, but while the Fox Lane scheme was subject to a public consultation prior to its implementation – with changes made as a result – the Bowes Park scheme was introduced without views being sought first.

When the Dispatch visited Bowes Park in August, just prior to the LTN being installed, five out of ten households – chosen at random – were opposed to the idea. Returning in December, six out of ten were against the scheme. While only two were explicitly in favour, two others said they wanted something to be done to cut traffic but felt changes were needed to the current LTN layout before they could support it.

A key long-term aim of LTNs is behavioural change – encouraging people to walk, cycle or use public transport. A resident of York Road, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Dispatch: “It’s nice how quiet the road is now, but it [the LTN] adds five or ten minutes coming home during rush hour – it puts me off using the car. I might get a bike.”

A Shrewsbury Road resident said: “It’s crap. It forces us [car drivers] on to the North Circular – we spend more time in traffic. I wouldn’t consider getting a bike.”

Laura Leroy, of Highworth Road, said: “It’s made the road quieter and safer. I know people are moaning about it but it’s people who drive cars who usually complain.”

The council acknowledges that, while cutting traffic on residential roads, LTNs increase main road traffic. A spokesperson said this was “expected” but would “reduce over time”.

Warwick Road has been among the worst-affected roads in Bowes Park for so-called ‘rat running’ drivers taking shortcuts to the North Circular. Such journeys have become more common in recent years as drivers use smartphones to find direct routes. LTNs are designed to reduce this problem by making it more difficult to drive through a residential area on the way to somewhere else.

Jose Fernandez, from Warwick Road, told the Dispatch: “It [the LTN] is a good idea. It is much safer as it was a rat-run before.”

Another Warwick Road resident disagreed and said: “It’s been forced on us – it’s undemocratic. It solved one street’s problem, to the detriment of the community. The area has become lifeless.”

Within the Fox Lane LTN, out of the households spoken to at random by the Dispatch, five were against the scheme, four were in favour, and one remained unsure. Margaret Gourd, from Lakeside, said: “I don’t think this scheme works because we have had a build-up of traffic [on main roads] and it takes longer to get anywhere.”

Margaret said it was now taking between 20 minutes and an hour, depending on time of day, to drive four miles to appointments at Chase Farm Hospital. Fellow Lakeside resident Martyn Rowe said: “They have used a sledgehammer to crack a nut. I think there are a core of extremists who have got the ear of left-wing councillors.”

Jill Bergot, from The Mall, said: “It has made roads safer. We have stopped using the car so much and I am cycling more – it is easier to take the kids to nursery.”

Andrea and Alex Kyriakou, of The Greenway, were also supportive. Alex said: “I think attitudes will change in time. I know there are some irate voices but for us it has been bliss – we used to have people doing 60-70mph.”

Entrance to Warwick Road in the Bowes Park low-traffic neighbourhood
Camera traps such as this one in Warwick Road have fined motorist thousands of pounds since being installed in autumn last year

Camera traps are being used, but some residents told the Dispatch they had been fined for making “honest mistakes” and the signage was “not clear”. Asked how many drivers had been penalised so far, a council spokesperson said “in the region of 30,000 fines” had been issued – worth £921,000. They added: “Any surplus is ring-fenced by law for specific purposes, including meeting the costs of public transport and highway improvements. In Enfield, previous surpluses have funded concessionary travel – it could also be used to improve safety around schools.”

Enfield Southgate MP Bambos Charalambous is generally supportive of LTNs but wrote to transport secretary Grant Shapps to complain about the limited time local authorities were given to implement them after being offered government grants. The Labour MP told the Dispatch: “I think they should be tweaked. There needs to be genuine local engagement and the council needs to listen to people’s views.”

The success of Enfield’s LTNs will be judged using data on traffic volume, bus journey times, walking and cycling, plus views from residents and stakeholders. Air quality monitors aren’t being used, however – instead traffic data will be put “into a model to help understand the impact on air quality”.

Have your say on Bowes Park Quieter Neighbourhood:
Visit
https://new.enfield.gov.uk/consultations/2020-10-05-bowes-primary-and-surrounding-streets-quieter-neig/

Have your say on Fox Lane Quieter Neighbourhood:
Visit https://new.enfield.gov.uk/consultations/2020-10-19-fox-lane-quieter-neighbourhood-area/