Gazette letters: Low traffic neighbourhoods and child services

Low traffic neighbourhood schemes are active in Hackney. Picture: Hackney Council

Low traffic neighbourhood schemes are active in Hackney. Picture: Hackney Council - Credit: Hackney Council

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Gazette readers this week.

Debate on traffic schemes sets temperatures soaring

Katja Staple, Hackney resident, full address supplied, writes:

All our neighbourhood conversations turn around the low traffic neighbourhoods that have set the temperatures on Hackney streets rising by more degrees than the feared climate change effect.

Motorists performing three-point turns in unlikely places are hot under the collar and residents on busy streets can’t open their windows for some air.

And yet, many of the (at the time of writing) 1,615 comments start with an acknowledgement that a greener Hackney is desirable - only to continue that the execution is poor and the process undemocratic.

So how about we try again, with the council treating the citizens as grown-ups? My suggestion:

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1. Share the facts - I have never seen data to back up the claims that most traffic is rat-running and will evaporate (rather than relocate) with road closures.

2. Listen to the citizens - people who get around the borough every day have the best ideas how it can be improved. Free electric charging, subsidies for hybrid and electric cars (no congestion charge, no vehicle tax, free parking etc), a diesel scrappage scheme supporting a switch to cleaner vehicles, more planting, residents’ access to blocked streets like Richmond Road (monitored by CCTV), serious crackdown on bike theft, better and more public transport where people can safely distance in the vehicle, introducing bike rickshaws, the list goes on. Plonking down a planter is not the only option.

3. Spend some money - the great thing about road blockages is that they generate revenue through fines. But if the reduction of pollution is a true priority and a matter of public health then the council - and the city of London - has to invest in it. Many of the suggestions above cost money, but they would avoid putting all the weight of the council’s ambition onto the residents’ shoulders, particularly during a global pandemic.

Urgent action

Charles Webber, Laburnum Estate, Haggerston, full address supplied, writes:

When they stuck the “traffic calming” planters in the middle of roads around London Fields, it’s a shame they didn’t consider the knock-on effect to Laburnum Street, home to a very busy school, mosque and boat/youth club. Though mildly entertaining as an observer, the cacophony of car horns, raised voices and revving engines several times a day do highlight the very real danger of blocked emergency access; particularly as the mosque also hosts a regular food festival which makes one whole pavement impassable.

As a matter of urgency, the clipboard folk need to come down at rush hour and quickly instigate one-way traffic or some other fix before tragedy unfolds.

Real locals

Sandy Stanton, Graham Mansions, Hackney, writes:

I have lived, been to school and worked in Hackney my entire life, all 67 years. In fact my grandmother and parents also lived in Graham Mansions, where I continue to live.

So I feel that I qualify as a real local - I therefore resent Cllr Burke’s comment intimating that the people who attended the protest were not real locals, and that he would be meeting “real locals” the following evening. I did attend the protest on Thursday! In fact, it was the first protest I have ever attended.

I have always voted for Labour councillors, paid my rates, community charge, poll tax and council tax. My husband and I also pay a lot of money for parking permits and visitor permits for my friends and relatives when they visit.

I have been quite unwell the last year, which meant I retired earlier than planned. My husband has COPD and has also had NTM since February. The road blockages are a nightmare. Graham Road, which is at best busy most of the time, is now ridiculous. One of the knock-on effects from the road closures has been that Penpol Road has been a traffic jam, making it not only really noisy with horns going, but the exhaust emissions in our back garden have been awful.

There have been many times when we hear emergency vehicles having problems getting through. Not good for my husband or anyone else with respiratory problems. I am not able to walk too far, carry heavy things and I definitely can’t ride a bike (I have tried and I’m useless and would be very dangerous).

In addition, I have been shielding this year and I will not travel on public transport until the pandemic is much more under control.

The road blockages have added an inordinate amount of time to car journeys. Last week we got back from Whitstable in one hour five minutes to Morning Lane and a further 20 minutes to get home from there. I thought we lived in a democracy, and whilst accepting we vote for councillors to carry out actions on the behalf of the communities they serve, I truly don’t think, with the greatest respect, Cllr Burke understands his electorate if he thinks these closures would not be hurting, more than helping us!

Perhaps some discussion with the people who felt so frustrated they took to the streets would be advantageous and a way forward for everyone. There have now been many reported incidents causing real distress - please don’t wait for something that will hit the headlines. Eighteen months is too long for us all to have to suffer this! I implore the council to reconsider the current, and any future non-consulted-upon road closures. I have never, since the poll tax demonstrations, seen and heard such unhappiness in this borough.

After the last nine months I would have thought the council would not wish to make so many people even more unhappy and stressed.

Eradicating road deaths

Jennette Arnold OBE, London Assembly member for North East (Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest), writes:

New Government figures have shown that 148 Londoners were tragically killed or seriously injured in road accidents in Hackney last year.

We should in no way accept this as an inevitable reality of living in a busy city.

As Londoners, we should be able to travel across the capital confidently and safely- whether it’s crossing the street, getting on our bikes or boarding a bus.

This is why Transport for London launched its Vision Zero Action Plan, to implement measures to eradicate all deaths and serious injuries from our roads within the next 20 years.

At the heart of the plan is making our city safer and more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists. We have seen this with the segregated cycleways that have sprung up across London, the overhaul of dangerous junctions and roundabouts and the installation of more pedestrian crossing on busy roads.

With lockdown, the Streetspace scheme has also accelerated some of City Hall’s efforts to encourage Londoners to adopt greener ways to get around the capital.

However, with traffic steadily increasing, we all need to play our part by using our roads responsibly and attentively.

Investing in our young people

Sian Berry, co-leader of the Green Party, London Assembly member and candidate for mayor, writes:

Councils have been under pressure to cut vital youth services through a decade of austerity but, amid the devastating effects of this pandemic, our young people need support from youth workers more than ever.

I have written to the chancellor ahead of the government’s upcoming spending review, to demand he reinvests fully in youth services as an essential part of building back better from this crisis.

I asked Rishi Sunak not just to fund councils to bring youth services back to levels last seen before 2010, but provide for a service that ensures every young person has access to local, accessible and appropriate activities and youth worker support.

In my work as a London Assembly member, I have been documenting and exposing dramatic cuts to youth services. In London since 2011, at least £35 million in annual funding has been removed from council youth service budgets, over 100 youth centres have closed, and more than 700 full-time equivalent youth worker jobs have been lost.

Now is a crucial moment for the government to invest in the young people of this city. We need to support those most disadvantaged by the current crisis, providing more chances and better opportunities for the next generation of young people to thrive.