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‘Friendly streets’ talks break down as organiser declares council candidacy

Despite protests, the council is set to continue restricting through traffic on residential roads

04 September, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

DOZENS of people friendly streets protesters gathered outside the Town Hall today (Friday) as organisers of the movement met with council leader Richard Watts for the first time.

People friendly streets, also known as low traffic neighbourhoods, aim to make the streets easier for pedestrians and cyclists to use by closing them to though traffic.

The council hopes to cover at least a third of the borough in such streets using traffic cameras and bollards.

The changes are being made using 18month experimental traffic orders, and residents will get a say on whether they want to keep the changes after one year.

Protesters say the changes will put disabled people at a disadvantage, and have claimed emergency services are hampered by their introduction. In recent weeks they have gathered to block traffic on Upper Street.

But the council says the changes are necessary to ensure people have a safe alternative to driving as schools and workplaces reopen, and have previously insisted emergency services are being consulted at every step.

Earlier in the day the council had tweeted that it was looking forward to an “open, constructive conversation”.

But, an hour after the meeting started, protest organiser Jody Graber told the waiting crowd that the council had refused to budge on the roll out.

“The council don’t give a damn about you people in this borough,” he said.

“They are implementing Clerkenwell, they are implementing East Canonbury, they are implementing it all.

“We spent an hour in there putting our points across about disabled residents, about the emergency services. We read them emails from you guys, and unfortunately they told us it was a decision made by council officers and the executive of the council.”

Mr Graber went on to announce he planned to stand for election as an independent councillor in the 2022 borough elections.

“Today starts the campaign to elect independent people to this borough in this council,” he said.

“I put my name forward to stand as an independent councillor. We have to step up. I want you to stand as an independent movement to get this lot out of the town hall.

“I am so raging. It was an hour of a load of old guff. That’s all we did. I’m not having it and I need people to join me.”

The crowd then started marching towards Highbury Corner, blocking traffic on Upper Street in the process.

In a statement released after the meeting, transport chief Rowena Champion said: “The council remains open to feedback, both positive and negative. That is why we invited the organisers of recent protests to have an open, constructive discussion with us regarding their objections to our plans.

“Listening to feedback and engaging with local people are major elements of our people-friendly streets plans, and we look forward to hearing residents’ ideas on how we can continue to improve Islington’s transport network to make it better for us all.”

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