Thousands oppose Stoke Newington Church Street bus gate
- Credit: Hackney Council
More than 2,000 have signed a petition opposing the Hackney Council's plans to close Church Street to through-traffic during the daytime.
Some business owners and residents allege they were not consulted on the scheme which will see a bus gate installed outside the Red Lion pub from 7am to 7pm, from September 20.
Only buses, cyclists, emergency vehicles and blue badge holders will be allowed through at the time throughout the trial period.
Business owner Ilker Camur, of Premier Cars on the corner of Church Street and Defoe Road, said: "We have tried to voice our concerns with support of many other business owners with the council and they are avoiding us completely."
Ilker says the council has turned a "blind eye" to the petition, which currently has 2,006 signatures.
He said he was made aware of the plans after receiving a hand delivered letter from the local authority on August 19, saying the council had a meeting with 51 business owners back in 2020.
Ilker also alleged, that so far, after he approached Church Street businesses in person, many did not acknowledge the 2020 consultation and not "a single one agreed with the idea".
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But the council says it has been engaging with Stoke Newington residents for the past two years, after many identified traffic and poor air quality as significant issues in the area.
It says it consulted in 2019 and 2020 via online engagement through its commonplace portal and at an in-person engagement meeting at Stoke Newington Town Hall, reporting 402 people engaged online and 64 attended the town hall in addition to four pop-up on-street display and engagement events.
Residents will also be able to have their say online or in writing to ‘Freepost Streetscene’ once the scheme is implemented on September 20.
Comments will be taken into account, alongside traffic and air quality data, before a decision is made on whether or not to make the scheme permanent.
Cllr Mete Coban, Hackney's portfolio holder for transport and the public realm, said: "Over a number of years we’ve been speaking to people in Stoke Newington about how we can improve Church Street and the surrounding area.
"During those consultations, people told us that traffic and pollution levels are too high, which is why we’re introducing these plans."
But while the petition supports a "greener Stoke Newington", it states there are "better ways to do this than hurting small businesses".
Business owners worry that the plans could reduce footfall to the area and affect deliveries.
Cllr Coban says many businesses owners he has spoken to have "legitimate concerns".
"When I was going around speaking to businesses," he said, "There was a lot of concern about cars not even having access to Church Street and obviously that's not the case - cars still have access to Church Street it's just the exit points are through the same way you [enter].
"The way the scheme is designed is there is space for cars to turn around and go back, so you don't have to do U-turns for example."
He said part of the compromise of the bus gate is to "make sure that we support businesses during the night-time and find that balance between restricting day-time traffic."
The councillor, who is from Stoke Newington and has lived in Hackney all his life, said that more than 10,000 cars drive on Church Street a day at the very minimum.
He believes the plans could eventually increase footfall and profitability for businesses, citing the pedestrianisation of Times Square in New York as an example of an economically successful low-traffic scheme.
"We're really trying to bring Church Street to life," he said. "And hopefully in time, a lot of businesses will see its going to be more beneficial."
But the councillor was also keen to stress that low-traffic schemes were meant to only reduce traffic which cuts through Hackney as a convenience, not make the lives of Hackney people, like his cab driver dad, who need to drive for "their bread and butter" harder.
To view the petition click here.