A letter from a resident

A post by local resident Ian Leadbetter on the Healthy Streets for All Facebook group, presented without edits except for formatting.

Make Lee Green have published their ‘me, me, me’ response to the LTN consultation. The response does not merely seek to maintain the current status quo, they are seeking the reinstatement of the initial LTN measures on the basis that it’s good for the residents of Lewisham as a whole.

Such a statement shows that they are either oblivious to or dismissive of, the plight of those who lived in the neighbouring streets during the period of the full LTN, and in many ways since, even with the changes made in November.

The second paragraph starts with a grandiose statement about the success of the LTN stating that ‘the council’s own monitoring proves this’ (page 1).

It is interesting to see that when data appears to support their stance of a reduction in traffic on neighbouring streets (they have reproduced the flawed data on page 3) that this must be viewed as a clear measure of success, yet they then say later in their response (page 6) that the consultation document was flawed and incomplete, specifically ‘it also failed to provide proper monitoring of traffic levels on A roads’.

Further, ‘we believe that these flaws are significant enough to leave the council open to legal challenge if it decides to remove or reduce the scheme on the basis of the consultant results alone’.

It is difficult not to conclude that this level of hypocrisy is laughable – they submit that the LTN should be made permanent notwithstanding that there is incomplete or missing data, but should the council decide, based on the results of the consultation, that the scheme should be amended or removed, then this decision would be seriously flawed because of incomplete or missing data!

Much is made of the climate emergency and Lewisham council’s response to it, even going as far as to suggest the mayor ‘must make the right decision for the people you are elected to represent’.

Surely, the result of the consultation will provide the necessary views of the people that they were elected to represent not the whining of a minority whose current gilded lifestyle is at the expense of others.

Throughout this campaign, much of the comments from Make Lee Green have suggested that opponents are not aware that there is a climate emergency, and are not interested in wanting to be part of the discussion; in looking at a way to tackle the very clear consequences of pollution and congestion, nor have any desire to reduce their own use of cars.

Despite the absurdity of these views, which have been pointed out many times in response, it is not surprising that this falls on deaf ears. The issues of social justice, equality, and fairness seem only to be an issue if they do not impact on their newly gifted privileged circumstances.

Supporters of LTN’s rely heavily on the outcome of research that looks at LTN’s that are a collective whole, rather than individual schemes. It is quite possible that some schemes have achieved success without disruption and misery to the scheme’s neighbours but sadly, this is not the case with the Lee Green LTN scheme, nor in my humble view, it is on track to achieve success any time soon.
LTN’s are most successful when they bring about change to local behaviour; encouraging the local populous to adopt different ways to make shorter journeys (walking, cycling, scooting, local public transport).

The somewhat unique position that Lewisham is in, as the gateway to London from the southeast (A20, A21 & A2), a through route for the south circular and the fact that the main railway lines from London to the southeast cut through the borough, create challenges that are not faced in other areas.

In fact, make Lee green acknowledge that 60% of the vehicles originate from outside the borough. The lack of any meaningful investment, stretching back over many years, to address the inadequacy of the road infrastructure, together with an increase in road use, has only contributed to the position that we are now in.

The closure of a huge geographical area to through traffic, which merely diverts traffic to already over capacity roads, does nothing to address the real problem.

The often suggested solution, which is to roll out yet more LTN’s locally, is unlikely to achieve anywhere near the solution required and will merely further compound the widely held view that the council is happy to support NIMBYism.

Addressing the vast volume of traffic goes beyond the borough’s boundary and requires a joined-up strategic approach; this hotchpotch approach being adopted by various councils only ‘shifts’ the problem, often as a measure to appease those the council most fear in future elections.

The London mayor has announced the building of the new Silvertown tunnel to alleviate traffic congestion in East London and is planning to introduce a levy by way of a charge for vehicles using the Blackwall tunnel to pay for the tunnel’s construction. The true reality for us is that is more likely to increase the volume of traffic en route to central London as drivers seek to avoid the charge.

There are many examples of current or possible future traffic displacement originating elsewhere but which have or will have an impact on Lewisham.
I accept that the battle cry from the LTN supporters, sipping lattes in their car free utopian protected enclaves, will be that we must start somewhere and ‘what is your solution?’

If only it were that simple.

There is no easy solution or one that is going to change people’s behaviours overnight. The reality is that there are too many vehicles on London’s roads.

Any reduction in vehicles is not going to come about by asking people nicely not to drive, nor is it going to happen by reducing and restricting the number of open roads; it will come about when the alternatives to driving are more attractive. Likely, this will only be achieved through a financial penalty.

The solution also needs to be more than the use of private cars.

Research suggests that the largest increase in vehicle movements, certainly during the pandemic, has been service vehicles supporting home deliveries. It always seems somewhat ironic that some of the loudest supporters of LTN’s who claim to have reduced their car use have just shifted from driving themselves to having everything delivered!

A quick win may be to ban home deliveries under a certain size and introduced ‘delivery hubs’ (like the amazon lockers) in neighbourhoods (with an exemption for those with mobility issues). I accept that this may be impossible to implement logistically, but I wonder how many people could take advantage of the lockers already in situ now but insist on delivery to their front door.

Returning to the LTN consultation, it is clear that the imposition of the Lee Green LTN is one of the most divisive decisions taken by the council in recent years. It has fractured relationships and created tensions in the community cohesion that the council seeks to promote.

Quite simply, the current scheme is fundamentally unfair and unjust.

It knowingly displaces a ‘problem’ from one area to the surrounding areas with apparently no regard for the very real physical and health impact, which was already compromised, that it has brought about.

Without a doubt, and beyond anything other than a sensible assessment of the circumstances, the scheme has privileged the health and welfare of a minority of the members of our community at the expense of the majority.

It must be that until a fair, equitable and, just solution can be found, the decision on the permanency of the Lee Green LTN should be paused, and the current restrictions rolled back.

LTNs increase pollution

The council’s own data shows that the LTN has made our most polluted roads even worse!

Remember, traffic volumes across London have been far lower than normal until recently due to Coronavirus restrictions – pollution should be down, like it is elsewhere in the borough, not up!