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Fortune Green by-election: ‘They didn’t listen to us and now it’s traffic chaos’

Three parties bid for victory at July 22 ballot

28 June, 2021 — By Richard Osley

Lib Dems out in Minster Road this week: Jody Graham, Sam Campling, Luisa Porritt and Nancy Jirira

A BY-ELECTION candidate says she had to marshal traffic herself after street closures and road works led to jams ­­­– and road rage – in the north west of the borough.

Nancy Jirira said Camden had not listened to warnings from residents about what would happen if a “healthy school street” was introduced in Minster Road.

The scheme bans cars from a section of the road during the school run hours – enforced by cameras.

But it has led to confusion at the corner of Fordwych Road where construction lorries have struggled to turn, motorbikes have been ridden on the pavement and tailbacks have formed.

The problem has been exacerbated by roadworks to install broadband further down the street and restrictions on other routes due to major redevelopment works at Cricklewood Broadway.

“One afternoon I was having to direct the traffic myself – and that was before I was a candidate. You have to calm people down, they are so angry,” said Ms Jirira, who is standing for the Liberal Democrats in the Fortune Green council seat by-election on July 22.

The party is looking to hold the seat vacated by the retirement of Flick Rea and is putting the issue of consultation – and a claim the council does not listen to its own residents – at the forefront of its campaign.

Camden has ordered a series of road changes since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in a bid to steer people away from cars.

It is also looking to reduce pollution around schools. Ms Jirira said she supported the principles but not how the measures were introduced.

She said: “There’s already congestion, there’s already jams and then they put in another measure. They could have talked to people, but they’ve never discussed it. They may have talked to the school’s people and that’s fine – but they have not consulted residents and they could’ve have told you what would happen.”

She added: “I agree with having a strategy to reduce the use of cars and emissions, but you can’t just put in a regulation and say ‘stop it today’. There are people who rely on cars to get to things like hospital appointments. We need a proper strategy.”

Ms Jirira is herself a former councillor and last year appeared on the BBC’s documentary Hospital which charted her 50/50 battle with Covid. Now recovered, she is looking to return to the council chamber.

Jody Graham, who lives in the road, said: “We’ve had blockages to the left and blockages to the right. I guess the real problem is that the council won’t even listen. We just said ‘can we take this off until the other roadworks are finished’, but nobody sends anybody out to see the problem.”

She added: “The problem we have in Camden what I call a ‘super majority’ for the party in power and it means you lose that democracy because they stop listening.”

A council spokesperson said Camden was monitoring the effects of the other roadworks.

“The trial will run for a year before a consultation will be held with local residents,” he said.

“During this time we are also monitoring any impact on residents, businesses, air quality and pupils’ journeys to school as well as any impact from Barnet Council’s roadworks on Cricklewood Lane, which did not start until December 2020 and will conclude by the start of the new school year in September.”

There’s somebody at the door!

THREE parties are pushing hard in Fortune Green in the race to claim the seat left vacant by long-serving Lib Dem Flick Rea.

Labour teams have been out on the doorstep with their candidate Lorna Greenwood.

They already hold the two other seats in the ward and sense they can claim a clean sweep without Ms Rea in their way.

The Tories, meanwhile, had London Assembly member Andrew Boff was on the campaign trail this week (pictured above) but their candidate Ian Cohen, “the dry cleaner to the stars”, has been self-isolating after getting an alert on his coronavirus app.

He himself has not tested positive for Covid. Ms Rea is stepping down after 35 years unbeaten in council elections after struggling with her eyesight and the move to force councillors back to the Town Hall for “in person” meetings.

The whole of Camden goes to the polls in May 2022 to elect a new administration and the pol is seen as a test run to see how close Labour will get to taking nearly every seat on the council.

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