Town Hall leader to meet street demo organisers
Talks come after series of protests that brought traffic to a standstill
21 August, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson
Council leader Richard Watts
THE leader of the council and organisers of recent demonstrations against people-friendly streets have agreed to a sit-down meeting, as documents show no traffic modelling was carried out before the decision was taken to revolutionise the borough’s traffic flow.
Traffic has been brought to a standstill in Upper Street and elsewhere in recent weeks after demonstrators vented their anger at plans to ban rat-running on residential streets.
Protesters say the council should have consulted residents, rather than bring in the changes using 18-month experimental traffic orders and powers granted during the coronavirus lockdown.
But the council says the changes are needed to prepare for a massive influx of people travelling across the borough when schools and workers return and public transport capacity will still be low. It has also suggested the protests are being organised by groups outside the borough.
Documents released by the council this week show no traffic modelling was carried out to examine the impact of displaced traffic before the roll-out started, with officials saying there was no time to complete such a lengthy process.
They added there was no statutory requirement for the council to carry out modelling, and said modelling would be inaccurate because of “rapidly changing traffic patterns” post-lockdown.
Emails to and from emergency services chiefs touch on other concerns raised by protesters on how traffic restrictions could slow down fire engines and ambulances.
The London Ambulance Service (LAS) said it could never “fully support” schemes that use bollards instead of cameras. But despite these concerns LAS bosses went on to tell the Town Hall the scheme was “OK and manageable”.
Fire chiefs similarly expressed concerns over the impact bollards could have on response times, but as the Tribune previously reported the council has already moved to mitigate LFB’s “biggest concern” about the scheme by removing bollards at Wharf Road. Bollards in Danbury Street will remain in place for the moment with the council working on a short-diversion route for fire engines.
At the request of the Met Police, “no-entry” signs have been changed to “no motor vehicle” signs, allowing emergency vehicles to legally access the streets. In June the Met said they had no objections to the scheme.
Supporters of the scheme point to emergency service data from Waltham Forest, often pointed to as a good example of low traffic neighbourhood implementation, where response times have actually dropped since the scheme was implemented.
Protest organisers confirmed they will meet with council leader Richard Watts, at a time to be decided. Transport and environment chief Cllr Rowena Champion said: “The safety of our residents is an absolute priority, which is why we have been working closely with emergency services to ensure that they can access every street in the borough.”
She added: “We listen carefully to the feedback that we receive from emergency services, and, where necessary, make changes based on what they tell us.”