Are councils and political leaders ignoring consultation results? 

Are councils and political leaders ignoring consultation results? 

The short answer is yes. Councils like Hackney in East London are overriding clear majority verdicts and making permanent a raft of road closures introduced as emergency temporary measures during Lockdown. Hackney alone has imposed 19 LTNs using Lockdown measures, and to date every single consultation has shown majorities of more than 60% of respondents want them removed. So far the council has ignored every result and made each LTN permanent. 

In 2021, the Telegraph pointed out that “in the consultations made public so far, 18,314 people have expressed a negative view of the active travel schemes, vastly outnumbering the 7,020 residents who expressed their support.” Since then the pattern has continued – the public says no but councils push on regardless. 

Some councils are withholding consultations results altogether, and residents are having to resort to Freedom of Information Requests (FOIs) to obtain information. In the London borough of Brent, for example, resident Sarah Rollinson, forced her council to disclose consultation results for two LTN areas. She found that in Olive Road Area 787 to 198 majority against the road closures. And for the Dollis Hills Area 41 respondents were in favour and 287 were against. 

However, online consultations are increasingly designed to avoid altogether questions that show clear majorities or give clear answers. London Cycling Campaign (LCC) which has played a large part in lobbying for, and designing LTNs, advises councils to “avoid questions that elicit yes/no answers”. Instead, they suggest using “sliding scales of approval” and other methods that help to diffuse and deflect public responses. Little wonder that councils like the London Borough of Hackney have paid these cycling campaigners thousands of Pounds in ‘consultancy fees’. 

With many LTN consultation results reports, you might be forgiven for wondering if the aim appears to be to deflect and confuse the public with mountains of information. Multipage documents for each individual LTN, present responses to a myriad of micro-questions. ‘Do you spend more time in the area?’ ‘Is it easier to cross the street?’, ‘Does the street look nice?’ ‘How many people run or jog?’, ‘Is there more space for cycling?’, ‘Are car trips inconvenienced?’ And so on.

This wealth of information is then usefully broken down by religion, ethnicity, gender – ‘2% of respondents describe themselves as ‘non-binary’ – reports one of Islington Council’s Amwell People Friendly Streets report – sexual orientation, age, cyclist, single car-owner, multiple car-owner, car passenger and so on. Information is broken down again and again until it’s nearly impossible to make sense of. No wonder Islington’s Amwell report-back comes with some 17 accompanying documents. 

Of course, informations can be a good thing, and we might want to know what kind of people are responding. But with so many of these consultation exercises, they are designed deliberately so as to find it almost impossible to find clear yes or no as to whether residents want LTN barriers to be retained or removed from their streets. 

And so, instead of consultations being a process whereby the public gets to decide on projects and proposals, they become one great big ‘conversation’. “We host open digital conversations that are easy to participate  in and representative of the whole community.” Says Commonplace, the pro-LTN organisation behind many of today’s online consultancy programmes. The impression given in these reports is that the public is a diffuse mass of people, all talking at cross-purposes with one another. Everyone has an opinion. All of them, and consequently, none of them are valid. And so the councils, officers and their experts get to decide everything on our behalf. 

Another interesting shift is that councils are moving away from using professional market research companies to conduct quality, in-depth consultations, in favour of activist-organisations such as Steer, Commonplace, Sustrans, and Systra who publicly advocate and campaign around issues like cycling, ’active travel’, Green issue and ‘sustainable cities’. 

In 2016 Hackney Council engaged market research company BDRC to design and manage a consultation on proposals to close or restrict car access to the London Fields area of the borough. Residents and business owners were presented with a set of clear proposals and alternatives. 

After more than a year of real-world community consultations,  a clear majority overwhelmingly rejected LTN-style road closures. However, many did opt for less drastic proposals some of the traffic issues of the area. It was a good piece of research carried out over a period of more than a year. 

As a result of the consultation, Hackney Council dropped plans to close off roads in the area. That was until Lockdown measures allowed them to disregard the views of residents and close their roads anyway. 

Government ‘guidance’ under Lockdown severely restricted the public’s democratic say in local and national affairs. Councils were now allowed to implement a project without any prior consultation or notification, and the public were then allowed to express an opinion on what had already been done to them. This meant that councils like London Borough of Hackney could revive projects already rejected by residents, such as the London Fields closures, and simply impose them. 

It is debatable as to whether pre-Lockdown style consultations were really a satisfactory way of conducting local democracy and taking major decisions. Today’s post-Lockdown ‘digital conversations’ masquerading as democratic participation are really a wake-up call. Our democratic voice is being seriously eroded and it is time for citizens to return to the real public square and take back our democracy. 

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.

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.