Are we witnessing a re-awakening?

Are we witnessing a re-awakening?

Last Tuesday (15 November), Islington Council attempted to hold its first public meeting in a 12-month-long consultation over its planned ‘liveable neighbourhood’ in its Barnsbury Ward. What caught officials by surprise was that, in addition to those who are for the scheme, many anti-LTN campaigners had also turned up.

The tiny library space was overwhelmed forcing Rowena Champion, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Environment, Air Quality and Transport to abandon the meeting amid chaotic scenes.

The issue wasn’t just that the venue was too small that left many stranded outside in the cold, unable to attend. It was that the council had assumed few people would be interested in such a contentious (and divisive issue) over their local neighbourhood’s future plans. How wrong they were.

A few miles north in the London Borough of Haringey, the same thing happened again one week later. On a similar cold evening, last Monday anti-LTN protestors marched to their council offices to be told by councillors that the meeting was cancelled.


Why? Having seen the numbers of people who had turned up in protest about yet more LTN schemes, its organisers who were plainly unprepared for an actual debate, made their excuses and left apparently via the backdoor!

A surprising knock-on effect occurred back in Islington. A planned Finsbury ward partnership planning meeting in Islington to discuss another liveable neighbourhoods scheme (organised by Clerkenwell and Bunhill Labour councillors) was quickly postponed with just one day’s notice. An email sent to residents cited an earlier public meeting’s cancellation as the excuse.

What can we draw from the events of the past couple of weeks? There are three new aspects to this that could work in our favour.

First of all, unlike during Covid — where councils could rely upon emergency powers including traffic orders to run roughshod over public opinion — now, they are mandated to go through a much longer consultation 12-month process.

The corollary effect in a post-Covid era is that they are now considerably more exposed, and forced to be more transparent in how they consult with the public. More public meetings, more opportunities to hold them to account.

Second, until now we could have assumed that the public was largely demobilised, especially after this May’s local elections which appeared to consolidate many councils’ pro-LTN mandates.

Plainly, if these past few weeks’ events are anything to go by, both Islington and Haringey councils have been put on the back foot, having to quickly recalibrate how they go about their controversial LTN and liveable neighbourhood schemes.

The third point is that whatever councils try to push through will be made much harder by the double-whammy effects of the aftermath of Covid and the ensuing impact of the cost-of-living crisis.

Both are forcing the public and local businesses to make tough choices. Not least, about how to move about, whether for work, family commitments, or to support others in the wider community.

The reaction against London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s announcement to expand the Ulez zone to all of London is a case in point. Its impact is a direct attack on working people who are being further targeted and penalised with more charges.


There can be no doubt that every existing and planned LTN (and related scheme) will add further pressure on any chance of local economic, or wider community recovery. Instead, they will strengthen public anger and opposition to them, and remain divisive at best.

With more lengthy consultation processes to go through, councils will likely be faced with more angry scenes like we’ve seen in Haringey and Islington over the past few weeks. Are we witnessing a re-awakening of opposition to LTNs? It certainly feels like it if recent events are anything to go by.

Survey reveals LTN road closures hitting women and families hardest

Survey reveals LTN road closures hitting women and families hardest

Government-backed council road closures are hitting young working mothers, carers and their families hardest.

The architects of road closures that have made the news over the past few months, portray motorists as irresponsible rat-runners making millions upon millions of miles in ‘unnecessary journeys’. Roadblocks and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) were introduced last year by councils across London, and other towns and cities, under cover of Lockdown, without notice or consultation. Such drastic measures were necessary they say, to protect children and communities from selfish drivers using neighbourhoods as cut-throughs. Now, nine months on, what have we learned? 

In East London, the Horrendous Hackney Road Closures (HHRC) group was formed in September last year by a group of young mothers and carers, and is now the largest anti-road closure group in anywhere in the UK. The group has more than 7000 members; not surprising given that Hackney Council’s road closures programme is the most drastic anywhere in the UK. Hackney Council says drivers are minority in the borough and should be put at the bottom of the ‘pecking order’. Council bosses have branded protesters as thugs, bullies, ‘birthers’ (born ’n’ bred East Londoners) and degenerates, representing only a self-interested, bigoted minority. 

The council and pro-LTN groups have been consistently demonising drivers and misrepresenting who we are.” Says Josie Hughes from the group. So the campaign group put together a survey to help dispel some of those myths, but also to find out a little more about its rapidly growing membership and why they choose to drive. “We kept the questions as objective as possible, we avoided asking about people’s views or feelings about road closures”. Says Josie. 

More than 700 residents took part in the online survey, which was live throughout November and December last year. Sixty-six per cent of respondents were women. “We already knew from our Facebook group stats that women were the majority in every age category, from 17 to 70.” Explains group member Ruth Parkinson. “Clearly the issue of road closures is particularly hard-felt among women.”

The survey asked about how important owning a car was to the life and wellbeing of their family. Could they forfeit their car without it harming family life? The answer was a resounding no. Ninety-three per cent believed that, “giving up our car would be detrimental to family life.” 

Many women today rely on their cars to help them with a myriad of responsibilities, including childcare, schooling, shopping and household tasks, and of course, holding down a job. That’s not to mention those caring for elderly relatives or dealing with disabilities. Some of the many comments in the survey illustrate this very well. 

“I’m a single mum, self-employed as a cleaner and I have to drive to my clients, due to all the necessary equipment I use. I also care for my disabled grandad who lives in another borough. I take him for medical appointments and take care of him. Without a car I simply would not be able to work, be a mom and a carer all at the same time.”

“We are a large family of adults who share a car. I need access to the car as I do the household shopping, but also to take my elderly parents for appointments. Some of my extended live locally but others live in different parts of London, are are not easy to get to on public transport. Our family is our support system, especially now with elderly relatives.”

“So many women are performing a precious daily balancing act which they can only do with the time-saving convenience of a car.” Says Ruth. “Cars have opened up so many possibilities for women and their families.”

Still politicians and policy makers are certain they know what’s best for us. These road closures are for our own benefit – we just don’t realise it yet. That’s why they employ ‘nudge’ techniques in an attempt to ‘modify behaviour’ rather than actually engage with the residents who elect them. They regard residents as irrational and selfish. Department for Transport states clearly that road closures and LTNs are about modifying and ‘changes will help embed altered behaviours and demonstrate the positive effects of active travel.’ 

Politicians, national and local are using Covid-19 as cover to abandon any semblance of democratic participation. When consulted in 2016, Hackney residents rejected, by almost 70 percent, proposals to close a number of roads. During Lockdown the council closed these roads anyway. Hardly surprising then that one of those most responsible for closing Hackney roads, former transport boss Cllr Jon Burke, said he had no interest in consulting ‘rat-runners’ and relished his new-found powers to  overrule the wishes of residents.

The survey asked about other reasons Hackney residents have for driving. Seventy-nine per cent said they use their car regularly to help others outside of their immediate family – elderly neighbours, friends etc – to do things they would otherwise find difficult. 

“We underestimate the usefulness of our cars as a community resource.” Says Ruth. “Many of our neighbourhood are held together by informal networks of helpers, carers, companions and shoppers. So often the car is an essential part of that equation.

Over the years I’ve used my car for work, to get myself, and colleagues, to and from work, for school and child care drop-off, shopping, ferrying my mum around, taking neighbours to hospital, rescuing stranded teenagers, going to weddings, funerals, christenings, picking family or friends up from airports, train stations, to help friends move house. The list is endless.”

The council say their roadblocks and LTNs are helping to discourage short ‘unnecessary’ car journeys of one or two kilometres, leaving the roads clear for those who most need them. The reality is quite the reverse. Quiet residential, and even school streets have become gridlocked, sometimes for hours at a time. 

Road closures have left many elderly and disabled residents stranded in their homes; massively increased journey times, left people struggling to get to work, hospital appointments, care visits, and pushed many local businesses to the brink of failure.

The motor car may have fallen from favour with today’s political and policy leaders, preoccupied with carbon-reduction targets and visions of a harmonious Green utopia, but it still plays a hugely important role in the lives of many ordinary people. Cars bring pleasure, freedom and convenience to millions of us. To view them as little more as dangerous carbon-emitters driven by selfish, lazy rat-runners, makes for narrow, divisive politics, short-sighted policy.

Read an edited version of this article in the online journal spiked!

Islington St Peter’s ward LTN consultation

Islington St Peter’s ward LTN consultation

Islington resident Patricia Niclas, shares her response to Islington Council’s ‘St Peter’s people-friendly streets’ Public Consultation report.

(First published in the Islington Gazette.)

I received the Council’s email notification last Thursday regarding the consultation results on the first LTN in Islington, St Peter’s.

Along with most other London Labour Councils, Islington Council feedback and statistics appear to be concerning and biased, only highlighting positive data which does not fully capture the outcomes and feedback received, They present only hand-picked data which significantly skews and misrepresents the results.

What is also concerning is that in the Mayor’s recent Mayor’s Transport Strategy it is quoted that the overarching aim of the strategy is to reduce Londoners’ dependency on cars and to increase the active, efficient and sustainable (walking, cycling and public transport) mode share of trips in London to an ambitious 80 per cent by 2041. Quoted in Islington’s own Draft Transport Strategy; page 25:

“Active and sustainable modes account for 81% of average daily trips of Islington’s residents, already exceeding the London wide target of 80%.  Only 16.6% of all trips made in Islington are by car, amongst the lowest of the inner-London boroughs”.

As I’ve pointed out before, we already exceed the Mayor’s target in Islington, but when I put this to Cllr Caroline Russell her response was that “we need to achieve a lot more than 80% to make up for outer London”.  And so the people of Islington must suffer the additional traffic, idling, pollution and inconvenience being observed on our boundary roads to help outer London? This is not fair, democratic or equitable.  Islington residents deserve better from their elected officials, who appear to be steamrollering ahead no matter what the outcomes of the consultation, or indeed the circa 16k signatory petitions against People Friendly Streets.

Having read the St Peter’s people-friendly streets Trial Public Consultation and Engagement Analysis, it is clear from the results presented that only 24% of resident feedback suggested road closures except for cycles and buses. A massive 76% did not, and yet the Council choose to ignore or publicise this.

If in the consultation results you add the responses stating there was  “No change” or “Less” the feedback can be presented totally differently. The Council have chosen to totally ignore publicity of those respondents who advise these measures have made “No change” or “Less”, I set out just one example:

I feel LESS safe OR NO CHANGE using the street at night = 59%

I feel LESS safe OR NO CHANGE using the street in the day = 52%

The streets look LESS nice OR NO CHANGE = 47%

The air is LESS clean OR NO CHANGE = 48%

I can practise social distancing LESS OR NO CHANGE = 52%

I socialise with neighbours LESS OR NO CHANGE = 62%

I spend time in the area LESS OR NO CHANGE = 57%

I do physical activity outdoors (play, running, exercise) LESS OR NO CHANGE = 53%

If you also add on the percentages given for “doesn’t apply” these figures are higher.  “Doesn’t apply” could be translated as a disability/vulnerability where eg respondents are perhaps housebound, aren’t able to use the streets, practice social distancing or do physical activities and yet they too are disregarded even though it is clear that total percentages that are negative are higher than those that are positive.

The report also states: Two fifths (40%) of respondents stated they walk or cycle more to local shops (compared to 13% who have done this less). The survey results ACTUALLY show that 54% say there is no change or that they do so less.

The report also states that 30% of respondents state they walk or cycle more for shorter journeys instead of driving, when in actual fact 38% state their habits haven’t changed, 12% walk or cycle less and a massive 20% stated that it doesn’t apply. This equates to a HUGE 70% who DO NOT walk and cycle more!

Turning to business responses in the area to the question “What would benefit your business.”  50% of these responses suggested opening roads/ allowing traffic to businesses, 14% suggested access for taxis and 9% suggested access for business/delivery vehicles.

These responses surely show the negative affect LTNs are having on those businesses within St Peter’s and still the Council is failing them also.

Cllr Rowena Champion, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Environment and Transport, said:

“Islington’s streets belong to local people, and we’ve introduced people-friendly streets neighbourhoods to help create the cleaner, greener, and healthier borough they’ve long been calling for.”

Yes Rowena, the streets DO belong to local people, and local people and businesses have shown their disapproval.  So exactly what is going on here? They are NOT achieving the desired outcomes, traffic evaporation has not happened, businesses are suffering, residents have overwhelming shown their disapproval through petitions, demonstrations and via the Councils consultation. The Council are planning a total of 21 LTNs (aptly called cells) in Islington using the Council’s budget. Islington Labour has lost my vote, along with many, many more I suspect.

The Council’s analysis report can be found here:

Kind regards

Patricia Niclas
Islington resident

An open letter to the Mayor of Hackney

An open letter to the Mayor of Hackney

How Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) impact people with mobility problems.

I am a 63 year old Stamford Hill resident. I have mobility issues – I suffer from spinal stenosis, asthma, diabetes and fibromyalgia. I rely heavily on my car, as I can only walk short distances and I cannot use public transport at the moment because I am very vulnerable to Covid. In fact I can rarely use public transport even without Covid, unless it is more or less door-to-door.

Since Hackney LTNs have been put in place, I have personally been affected very much by the increased traffic at Upper Clapton, Lower Clapton and right around the borough. A journey across Hackney, to the A12, takes over an hour now to cover the four miles, where previously it would only have taken around 20 minutes. Having to sit in traffic for extended periods of time causes me back pain, muscle stiffness and exacerbates my asthma.

I can no longer go from one place straight to another, as I would have done previously, as I have to sit for so long in traffic that I need to go home to use the bathroom before I can set off to my next destination. An unexpected result of your policies.

I have been caught several times in traffic gridlock at the Lea Bridge roundabout and have witnessed ambulances and police cars trying to get through without success. Without a doubt this is placing those being transported to hospital in need of emergency treatment, at great risk.

Constant heavy traffic on Amhurst Road, Pembury Road and Graham Road is shocking. I really feel for those who live in social housing along those roads, who are now unable to open their windows due to high pollution and noise from frustrated motorists. I have a friend who lives on Northwold Road who has two autistic young sons. She cannot open her windows, due to traffic congestion and it is seriously affecting her children. There are schools along these major roads, whose pupils must also be affected by the fumes from stagnant traffic?

Delivery drivers, small businesses, cab drivers, buses, carers trying to reach their clients are all affected by these measures. Some areas are no longer serviced, as it takes so long for tradesmen and delivery drivers to reach them.

I read just today of a cab driver who, had to drop an elderly lady – on crutches with a broken leg – a five minute walk away from her home, as he was unable to get to her house, now in an LTN.

I think very few people, motorists or otherwise, would dispute the need for reduced pollution in the borough, but these measures have increased pollution outside of the LTNs. Children in these areas are more at risk of pollution! A scheme which was supposed to make life safer for cyclists has only increased the danger for them!

This whole scheme was ill-thought through, poorly implemented, lacks consultation and for so many residents is a complete disaster.

One may be forgiven for thinking it is only serving to increase congestion in Hackney deliberately, so that ULEZ can be extended throughout Hackney, thus making cash cows of motorists yet again!

Instead of closing off roads, why not offer motorists discounts to switch to electric cars? Many of your constituents are unable to walk more or jump on a bike! It’s time you took their needs into consideration. We are taxpayers too.

Yours, a very disgruntled former Labour voter of Stamford Hill.

Hackney council meeting report-back

Hackney council meeting report-back

Hackney council debate on ‘reversing the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods scheme’ 

On 21 October Hackney councillors debated a motion calling for  the ‘Reverse the failed Low Traffic Neighbourhoods Scheme and consult residents properly’ proposed by Cllr Odze. Jon Carp was one of many Hackney residents who watched the debate via Zoom. Every single Labour councillor voted against the motion. Here’s Jon’s reaction.

I wrote the following and emailed it to all Hackney councillors. So far I have not received any responses, not that I really expected to.


A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, or in this case, a borough, typically through elected representatives.


A form of government in which one person or a small group possesses absolute power without effective constitutional limitations.


Congratulations to all of you.

Last night’s council meeting was a truly great advertisement for local government and inclusive representative democracy! It was dry, boring, stilted, humourless, joyless and towed the Labour Party line completely.

No attempt was made at debate other than from the Conservatives – you Labour lot just trotted out the same tired old garbage – prepared statements and irrelevant so-called “facts” doctored to fit your agenda. You clearly had no intention of listening with the possibility of maybe being swayed. Obviously whipped by Berk & Mare (murderers of Hackney’s streets) to unquestioningly follow your party’s line.

One minute here and two minutes there – just long enough to trot out your little section of mantra to your approving colleagues.

I’m frankly disappointed and disgusted that none of you managed to show the slightest empathy for the many adversely affected by your selfish policy – you could have done that even if voting against the motion. Even a little well faked sympathy and sincerity wouldn’t have gone amiss. Many of you Labour lot actually seemed pleased to be voting against the motion – one in the eye for the opposition and stuff the voters! Smug indifference is the phrase that comes to mind.

Let’s consider a few facts.

  • A big play is made by many of you that one of the main aims of your agenda is a reduction in pollution levels, on the face of it a laudable ambition.
  • Modern black cabs are electric – no pollution – but banned from passing through the blocks.
  • More cars are now electric and even more will come into use in the future. No emissions but still banned from going through the blocks.
  • People are responsive to change when they are encouraged or incentivised. Promoting zero emission vehicles by exempting them from the blocks would reward those who “go green”. Banning ALL vehicles is collective punishment.

Oodles of stick but a total famine of carrots.

Why should people go to the considerable expense and inconvenience of getting zero emission cars if they then still get punished the same as those with fossil fuel cars? In the meantime, vehicles are funnelled into fewer main roads creating pollution and congestion hotspots – exactly what your collective policy professes fo reduce. It’s obvious how this works, not that I’d expect any of you to publicly admit it. You can’t put cameras, regular or ANPR, on all the minor roads. You can on the main roads. So, force all the traffic onto the main roads. Create local pollution and congestion hotspots. Monitor those.

Collate the results as “evidence” of an increasing problem. Put in the cameras. Introduce congestion charging. BINGO! Huge increase in revenue for LBH and TfL.

No real reduction in pollution or congestion – you’ve just used that as an excuse to open up a new and very lucrative revenue stream and used covid as the excuse to rapidly push through without consultation what you know full well you would never get past the electorate if you were to plainly propose it rather than burying it in vague statements about green policy. You constantly trot out the spurious argument that 70% of residents either don’t own a car or don’t have access to a car – depending on whose statement you read. That’s meaningless without context. Does it only mean people on the electoral register? Does it include all residents including children, the elderly and the disabled?

In terms of access to a car, how do you calculate it? A multi-adult family might only OWN one car, but all members may have access to it be it as drivers or passengers. People have access to taxis, Dial-a-Ride, buses and so on. These are all vehicles. Are they factored in? They certainly don’t have an exemption from passing the blocks. In any event, if it really is true that only 30% of residents own a car, they are hardly the cause of all of the traffic. Most of it must be through traffic. Again, you could get residents on side by allowing all vehicles with a CPZ parking permit to pass the blocks.

The problem is that the great vision of Berk & Mare is not the elimination of pollution or congestion – it’s one of getting rid of vehicles entirely – and that’s why there are no exemptions for residents and/or zero emission vehicles. It’s a win-win for LBH. You can say that you want to get rid of vehicles but you know you can’t do it so you devise schemes that will try to inconvenience some vehicles off the roads while taxing to the hilt those who must continue to use them. Some businesses have or are about to cease trading; delivery companies are increasing their charges or refusing to deliver to certain areas because of the additional delays involved in getting around the blocks. Who is this helping? Certainly not the residents or the businesses. If there was any less edifying display to discourage anyone from wanting to go into local government or engage in local democracy, last evening’s charade was it in spades!

You should all be ashamed of yourselves – claiming to represent all of Hackney’s residents when in fact you only represent those whose views coincide with your own and your party. I’ll lay odds that when congestion charging comes to Hackney, those of you who own cars will be able to get a full exemption by claiming that they are used for council business. It is indeed true that while all Hackney residents are equal, some Hackney councillors are more equal than the rest of us.

Labour – for the privileged few, not the many!


They’ve got us over a barrel

They’ve got us over a barrel

They’ve got us over a barrel

A local businesswoman explains how Hackney Road closures are threatening the very existence of the family business.

We have worked on the Islington-Hackney border and have lived in Hackney for 25 years. We have a small family-run wine business selling boutique wines to restaurants. We also now have an online service, as all our restaurants closed in March for Lockdown and are still operating at minimal capacity.

The road closures in both boroughs, along with the closure of London’s bridges and the taking out of bus lanes to make cycle lanes has meant that the time taken to pick up our wine in Barking and Tilbury -where it is kept in a government bonded warehouse – has trebled. (We pay all the duty on it when the wine leaves the warehouse – currently £2.24 per bottle for still wine and £2.86 for sparkling). We collect this tax for the government and pay it immediately, whether or not we ourselves have been paid – which means that we cannot store it long-term in a non bonded warehouse.

Our driver is in pieces. Delivering locally is becoming almost impossible. On top of this we pay £30 per day to Transport for London for the privilege of driving in London, which sometimes makes it absolutely not cost effective. Our van is Diesel. It is the one recommended by TfL about three years ago and fitted to Euro 5 emissions standards. Last year we were informed that we now needed Euro 6 fittings but that it is not possible to upgrade our van to this. The only alternative would be to buy a brand-new van. They had a scheme in place for micro businesses to get  help with this but we , like most, were over the threshold so lost out again.

After three years of Brexit uncertainty, followed by Covid-19, we are not in a position to buy anything at all, and certainly not in a position to employ more than one driver and more than one smaller van. Police checks ensure that we must use a two-tonne van for weighty deliveries to remain legal and safe.

A new electric 2t van at £75k will only do 30 miles before needing an eight-hour recharge. Only the very wealthiest companies such as DHL can afford this option.

Everyone in our office cycles, walks and uses public transport to work and at the weekends. Far from being anti-cycling or anti-walking – we have always been champions of both – and  our business depends on supporting the many farmers who may not have  survived without us and our support for  their environmental endeavours.

Currently we are only one of thousands of companies who find themselves in a similar position. We are demonised, referred to as ‘rats’ on rat-runs (i.e. the only routes available since, previous road closures deliberately set out to create havoc), then asked to effectively pay to pollute. TfL are not honest about the revenue-raising they are enjoying from making people who are already in trouble, pay more for less, while doing nothing to decrease the emissions. In fact, emissions are far higher along the roads where one lane ensures endless idling. Journey times have almost trebled across London, and Hackney is now at a standstill.

As ever, the biggest companies will find ways to absorb the costs, pricing smaller London based businesses out of the market. This also comes at a time when business rates have never been higher and the whole hospitality sector is struggling to survive. If things do not change, we are all looking at a city run by the very rich for the very few. We will lose our small independent restaurants, bars, retailers and businesses – not in a matter of years, but in a matter of months. The idea that we should live in zones from where we do not venture, is contrary to everything that is great about London. It is a huge, wonderful melting pot of cultures and communities, villages and centres of excellence. The attitude of the small group of salaried fanatics, with no experience or knowledge or appreciation of business is threatening our existence. They will not stand the test of time, but in the interim, they are damaging the infrastructure of our great borough and our city

Of course, we all want to find ways of lowering pollution fast – but we need joined up thinking and proper investment if small businesses are to survive. We also need consultation and fresh ideas. Simply punishing the very heartbeat of the city is not a solution, either for the environment or for the population.

A few suggestions:

To get this into context, we are fully supportive of finding ways to lower emissions and are constantly making suggestions – such has helping business to make changes in the way of grants or interest free loans to change their vehicles, to operate street sharing and night delivery incentives, or setting up delivery hubs which are government bonded allowing us to use smaller vehicles or even bikes for local deliveries.

It falls on deaf ears. They have realised that it is all too little too late and feel they have no choice in order to protect our planet.