Coronavirus road closures creating 'culture war', residents warn
Coronavirus road closures are creating a “culture war”, local residents have warned, as Islington council has insisted that the plans are preventing “affluent people polluting working class communities”.
Under emergency coronavirus legislation, local authorities have been given extra powers to close roads, create pop-up cycle lanes and widen pavements without running consultations as part of a £250 million Government fund to create low-traffic neighbourhoods.
But the initiative is facing growing resistance from local residents across England who believe it has led to increased congestion and pollution - with hundreds taking to the streets in Islington, Crystal Palace, Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
Protesters in Jeremy Corbyn’s north London constituency Islington have staged multiple demonstrations in opposition to the council's plans to turn one third of its roads into “people friendly streets” by the end of the year.
The Islington demos have been attended by Loose Women's Linda Robson and actress Su Pollard, who have both opposed the closures.
At one rally Ms Pollard - best known for her role in BAFTA winning sitcom Hi-de-Hi! - urged the council to think again.
"A lot of the side streets that we need, without telling us, the council sadly have made a decision to close all these off, so therefore we have to go miles around now,” she said.
"And what do you do if you need an ambulance for people who aren't well?”
The leader of Islington council, Richard Watts, hit back at suggestions that the road closure plans were “anti-working class”, writing on Twitter: "Car ownership in inner-London is linked to income. The richer you are, the more likely you are to own a car.
"The truth is we're stopping affluent people polluting working class communities.”
Eliska Finlay, who lives in Crystal Palace, where further demonstrations have been taking place, claimed that the changes have led to a “culture war”.
"People are being singled out and targeted for having cars,” the 45-year-old mother of two said.
"It makes people feel like they have to be against the environment and I think that is extremely unfortunate.
"People are using it as a way to make environmental points.
"Unless you look at the subtlety and nuance of it it's going to blow up."
In Cambridgeshire, more than 1,500 people signed a petition urging the council to scrap a road closure in Mills Road, while campaigners in Oxford are also at loggerheads with the local authority county over proposed temporary “bus gates” in the centre of the city.