Hackney residents speak out about road closure disruption
- Credit: Baydul Alom
Plans to rebuild a greener Hackney with low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) have left some car users feeling ignored and residents concerned over the redistribution of pollution rather than the elimination of it.
Forty new school streets were implemented by Hackney Council on September 7, with the aim to tackle congestion, improve air quality and improve road safety as part of a wider scheme involving about twenty road closures.
While some Hackney Downs residents praised the measures, many others have called out the creation of low traffic neighbourhoods in Hoxton West, Hackney Downs and the area between London Fields and Kingsland Road and hundreds took to the streets to protest road closures on September 19.
Stoke Newington parent, Bianca Cook lives on Church Street and her children attend a school on the main road: “It feels as if the needs of the residents on residential roads are being put before those of us on main roads. We already have a pollution problem on our road, and now we’re going to be subjected to even higher levels.”
But Hackney Council announced today it intends to close Church Street to through-traffic subject to Cabinet approval and funding with the aim of reducing traffic on Church Street and Albion Road.
Campaign groups like Clean Air 4 Schools are concerned the restrictions merely displace traffic rather than reduce it and are urging the council to postpone its plans until the introduction of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone in 12 months.
She branded a Walford Road scheme “immoral” believing it has increased levels of pollution for schools like St Mary’s and Grasmere.
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However, the council says both schools will benefit from lower pollution levels if the closure of Church Street goes ahead.
London Fields resident and hybrid car user Baydul Alom said the traffic measures have left him feeling “locked in”.
Baydul is supportive of the council’s commitment to creating a greener borough and is himself an “avid cyclist”.
However, he says a bus gate introduced on Lansdowne Drive, restricting through traffic at certain times, has caused increased congestion and pollution on Richmond Road.
“The traffic on Richmond Road is terrible at times but that is only because of the bus gate imposed on Lansdowne Drive - residents don’t have an alternative means of getting out.
“If you have two options you will choose to go on one road or the other but, if you are given only one option it will become traffic logged,” said Baydul.
The council says the Lansdowne Drive bus gate has been in place for “some time” and does not form part of the rebuilding a greener Hackney scheme but Baydul says the addition of new school streets in the area will add to the high levels of congestion already seen on Richmond Road.
Meanwhile, Hoxton resident Ian Nelthorpe has also been disrupted by the measures and says road closures around Shepherdess Walk have meant people living on Wenlock Road are being forced to make a right across City Road.
He believes it is a dangerous manoeuvre, that there exist many good reasons for using a car and, that councillors are ignoring concerns from people like him.
“It’s bonkers. They are just plonking it down and saying we are not going to consult, we are just going to do it and see what the implications are but it’s really serious for us,” Ian said.
But the council explained that residents do have a say in the scheme because as all new measures are being rolled out under experimental traffic orders (ETOs). Residents can share their thoughts on the measures up to six months after they have been implemented.
Environment chief Cllr Jon Burke said: “These measures are being introduced under experimental traffic orders, which allow people to have their say on each scheme, which will be taken into account, alongside traffic monitoring, before any decision is made on whether or not to make the measures permanent.
“We are also listening to residents’ concerns throughout the process and are already making a slight change to the Hoxton West LTN in response to local people’s views.”
The councillor hopes the measures will prevent a return to normal levels of traffic and pollution as lockdown lifts by encouraging residents to walk and cycle.
The scheme aims to help over 14,000 children get to school more safely and radically reduce through-traffic in neighbourhoods across the borough.
“70% of Hackney households do not own a car, but people in each area can still drive to their home or business, which may be via different routes. As with any transport scheme, there can sometimes be some traffic disruption while drivers get used to the changes and sat nav apps adjust,” Councillor Burke added.
The council says with all of the schemes, residents and businesses can still access their properties by car.
Residents can have their say online at rebuildingagreenerhackney.commonplace.is