Second LTN trial made permanent as opponents fail to force rethink

Fox Lane LTN had been strongly criticised by opposition councillors, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Fox Lane low-traffic neighbourhood
Fox Lane low-traffic neighbourhood

Enfield Council’s second low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) trial scheme will be made permanent after opposition councillors failed to force a rethink of the scheme.

Labour members of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee backed leader Nesil Caliskan’s decision to make the Fox Lane Area Quieter Neighbourhood permanent during a meeting on Monday. However, changes to the LTN are now being considered by the council to address problems encountered during the trial period.

The Fox Lane LTN, between Southgate and Palmers Green, has been funded by Transport for London (TfL) at a cost to date of nearly £400,000.  Introduced by the council on an experimental basis in September 2020, it uses bollards, planters and enforcement cameras to close residential streets to through motor traffic, while still allowing access for residents.

A similar scheme in Bowes Park was made permanent in January.

According to data published in a council report in January, traffic volumes within the Fox Lane LTN have dropped by 72% since it was introduced, while boundary roads saw a rise of 6% on average. The report recommended making the scheme permanent despite 56% of respondents to a public consultation saying the scheme had a negative impact on them, with only a quarter expressing positive views.

Members of the Conservative and Community First groups called in the decision to the council’s overview and scrutiny committee in a last-ditch attempt to force a rethink of the LTN. During Monday’s meeting, they claimed the scheme had failed to deliver many of the promised benefits and caused traffic disruption and other problems in nearby roads.

Tory councillor Maria Alexandrou branded the LTN a “disaster” and claimed it was “forced on to residents with little consultation or engagement”. She said that since the scheme was implemented, crime had increased in Winchmore Hill and traffic had been forced on to boundary roads, leading to ambulances “struggling to reach patients”. She pointed out that the council’s own report showed increases in emissions on parts of the surrounding primary road network.

Cllr Alexandrou said: “Crime is up, traffic is up, emissions are up. If you want to listen to the residents, they are telling you they want this scheme removed.”

Charith Gunawardena, a Green Party councillor, led a separate call-in request signed by members of Community First and Conservative councillor Terry Neville. Although he welcomed reductions in traffic within the LTN, he said it had pushed vehicles on to other roads and had a “disproportionate negative impact on people with protected characteristics, including those on the lowest incomes, those with disabilities, and ethnic minorities.”

Cllr Gunawardena said that rather than making the LTN permanent, the council should have considered using new traffic orders to create a second trial scheme to test measures that would reduce the impact on these groups.

Cllr Caliskan defended the decision to make the scheme permanent. Responding to Cllr Alexandrou, she said residents in the surrounding area and beyond had been consulted on the LTN. The council leader pointed out that the authority had suggested replacing some bollards with cameras to improve access for ambulances and, to reduce the impact on disabled residents, she said the council was proposing an exemption to allow Blue Badge holders to pass through camera-controlled access points.

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Cllr Caliskan added that crime had fallen in other areas, and that it was “quite a leap” to equate an LTN with crime. Deputy leader Ian Barnes suggested that doing so was “scaremongering”, adding that crime figures were affected by “a multitude of variants”.

Responding to Cllr Gunawardena, Cllr Caliskan said most people on low incomes did not own cars, and the planned exemption for Blue Badge holders would help disabled residents. In order to make such changes, she said the council first needed to make the experimental traffic orders permanent.

Despite the assurances, committee members continued to raise concerns over the impacts of the LTN. Stephanos Ioannou, who represents Southgate for the Conservatives, branded a proposal to reopen Meadway to through traffic a “betrayal” of those living in the road and called for all streets to be reopened.

Richard Eason, the council’s healthy streets programme director, replied that the authority would “continue to listen to residents and ward councillors” about the proposal before making a decision on whether to remove the Meadway filter or change it to a time-limited restriction.

Raising the prospect of a possible legal challenge to the leader’s decision, Community First’s Derek Levy asked if the report contained “any material errors of fact” and whether the summary of evidence used in the report was “misleading in any way at all”.

Cllr Caliskan said the council had received a “considerable amount of legal advice” in relation to the report. She added: “I am confident from the advice I have seen from both environment officers and the legal team that it is a sound judgement. In terms of the facts that are included in the report, I am confident in what has been presented […] and I have no reason to believe it is not a fair judgement.”

Feedback from London Ambulance Service (LAS) published alongside the council report revealed there were “22 incidents of delayed access or egress relating to the Fox Lane LTN” up until 12th January this year.

Committee chair Susan Erbil asked if LAS had responded to proposals to replace bollards with cameras on three of the roads, a move intended to improve access.

Richard Eason said the proposal to replace the bollards with cameras had come in response to the LAS stating that it wanted to see more roads opened up. He said the council continued to work with the ambulance service, and it had not objected to the traffic order.

The votes on both call-ins saw members of the Labour administration back the original decision to make the LTN permanent. Conservative committee members and Cllr Levy voted against.

Earlier in the meeting, a petition with more than 2,760 verified signatures calling for the removal of road closures was presented to the committee. It claimed the closures were worsening traffic jams in roads surrounding the LTN.

Also during the meeting, Conservative and Community First councillor Daniel Anderson presented call-ins of an ‘active travel’ scheme encouraging more people to walk and cycle to North Middlesex University Hospital.

The £1.25million scheme will see a bus gate, two modal filters and a segregated cycle lane connecting the hospital to the C1 cycleway installed on roads surrounding the hospital. Opposition councillors raised concerns that it would affect residents’ access to the hospital, but Labour committee members voted to confirm the decision to roll out the scheme.

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