Motion to put an ‘immediate end’ to Hackney low traffic neighbourhoods blocked

Gridlock in Amhurst Road, Hackney Central, where the council is considering putting up traffic filte

Gridlock in Amhurst Road, Hackney Central, where the council is considering putting up traffic filters to prevent through-traffic. Picture: Hackney Council - Credit: hackney council

Conservative councillors attempted to put an “immediate end” to Hackney’s hotly-debated Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), but the motion was blocked.

Traffic calming measures in Hackney, which include LTNs in Hackney Downs, London Fields and Hoxton West, 15 traffic filters and 40 new School Streets, have been introduced by the council to secure the greener borough during lockdown and help pedestrians and cyclists travel more safely.

While the schemes may initially increase congestion, the authority says traffic will ease as apps update and drivers become used to the changes.

However, they have faced opposition from those who raise concerns about a lack of prior consultation, access issues and the knock-on effect on traffic.

READ MORE: Pregnant mum feared she might deliver baby on the street ‘because of congestion caused by Hackney Council’s road closures’READ MORE: ‘Give back our streets’ says woman protesting Hackney and Islington Road closuresA motion, brought by Cllrs Harvey Odze and Simche Steinberger at a meeting on October 21, called on the council to establish where LTNs “are actually wanted or required to solve a problem”.

Conservative opposition leader Cllr Michael Levy accused the administration of “having great difficulty distinguishing any truth other than its own”.

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Cllr Levy said: “Despite the council’s wishes to increase decarbonisation levels, we are learning anecdotally about increased car use, longer journey times, traffic gridlock, and an inevitable consequence of slow-moving traffic is a reduction in air quality and the increase of carbon emissions that undermines the health of residents.”

Levy warned traffic restrictions are “considerably hampering” the Hatzola ambulance service.

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While debate was heated, Labour and Conservative councillors condemned the death threats received by transport chief Cllr Jon Burke.

Labour councillors voted en masse against the Conservative motion to end LTNs.

Cllr Burke pointed to statistics showing that prior to the advent of LTNs, the borough had the sixth-highest air pollution mortality rate of 418 local authorities.

He also said Hackney had one of the highest pedestrian and cyclist casualty rates in London, with the 45 per cent of cars passing through without stopping.

It is understood that no blue-light service has been in touch with the council to complain of disruption.

Cllr Burke added: “The operation of private motor vehicles in Hackney is a significant factor in these alarming statistics. The social, public health and environmental damage wrought by this situation cannot continue unabated. LTNs are one of the best methods of discouraging non-essential car journeys.

“By implementing them, we are ensuring our neighbourhoods do not continue to be a pressure release valve for an overloaded main road network.”

He said the “vast majority” of disabled people in Hackney primarily use public transport and LTNs serve their long-term interests.

The Town Hall square saw demonstrations against the closures earlier in the month.

Cllr Odze said: “I fear if the council persist in its stubborn, anti-car, anti-resident attitude, they will find that the mass of people who are thronging Facebook and thronging Twitter, and thronging outside the Town Hall a couple of weeks ago, will find the resources to take the council to court.”

Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville stressed the Town Hall would be tweaking the schemes where necessary, pointing to recent changes to the Hoxton West LTN in response to feedback.

Mayor Glanville added: “It cannot be acceptable for any part of the borough to not have high-quality green infrastructure and efforts implemented to tackle traffic, air pollution and improve the safety of our roads.

“For schools in parts of the borough not to have School Streets because we can’t resolve these issues would be absolutely criminal to the lives of the children that we are trying to protect and improve.”

He said the council is “very sensitive” to the issues Cllr Levy raises about Hatzola.

“School streets are only closed for an hour each day. They do not permanently alter movements in the area, and we have a track record of ensuring that local residents and emergency services can access those streets. We are also keen to understand and work with people who are operating school buses, whether schools are registered and unregistered.

“There is a tight-knit community in Stamford Hill that relies on services in that community. We do have to see modal shifts in all of our communities.

“We can’t go back to a car-based recovery.”

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