Enfield: LTN ‘success story’ that Labour doesn’t want to boast about

·5-min read
Clare Rogers on the Fox Lane LTN: “It’s such a transformation that it feels miraculous.” (Lucy Young)
Clare Rogers on the Fox Lane LTN: “It’s such a transformation that it feels miraculous.” (Lucy Young)

“It’s utterly transformed the area,” said Basil Clarke. “I think the council are making a mistake by not boasting about how brilliant this area is.”

Mr Clarke, a Green party candidate for Palmers Green, is singing the praises of the Fox Lane low traffic neighbourhood, one of two LTNs introduced by Enfield council.

But the council’s ruling Labour group is not as keen to trumpet its efforts to encourage walking and cycling. It makes no mention of the LTNs in its election manifesto and its leadership has ignored the Standard’s requests for an interview.

Mr Clarke, who edits a community newsletter, believes the vocal opposition from some quarters to LTNs has left Labour too scared to claim credit for their positive aspects.

But he praises the council for “sticking to its guns” while other Labour boroughs such as Greenwich and Ealing have ripped out LTNs ahead of polling day.

“This is an exemplar of what can be done with a LTN,” Mr Clarke said. “The story’s that’s being put about that it’s a closed-off area for the privileged few is just not true.”

 (ES)
(ES)

Clare Rogers, who lives within the Fox Lane LTN and is healthy streets campaigner at the London Cycle Campaign, agrees. “The council were brave,” she said. “Credit to them – they did it properly.

“Before, cars were constantly coming in and out of Fox Lane. You were in fear of your life. A child could not be on a bike on this road. Now they cycle to school. It’s such a transformation that it feels miraculous.”

Green party candidate Basil Clarke: “This is an exemplar of what can be done with a LTN.
Green party candidate Basil Clarke: “This is an exemplar of what can be done with a LTN.

Enfield introduced two LTNs on a trial basis in September 2020, as part of efforts to make residential streets safer and discourage car use as the first wave of the pandemic eased.

Fewer than one per cent of journeys in Enfield were being cycled while 48 per cent were made by car. Transport accounted for 39 per cent of borough emissions.

The Fox Lane LTN – covering an area between Palmers Green and Southgate – was funded by almost £400,000 from Transport for London. The Bowes scheme, between the North Circular and Bounds Green Road, was funded by the Department for Transport.

Both schemes were made permanent earlier this year after average traffic levels within Fox Lane fell by 72 per cent and by 16 per cent in Bowes, according to council data.

However some boundary roads saw increases in traffic and journeys on many buses took longer. The London Ambulance Service reported 25 incidents across both LTNs where road closures affected response times.

Eye in the sky: Spy cameras are used to catch drivers who breach LTN access restrictions (Lucy Young)
Eye in the sky: Spy cameras are used to catch drivers who breach LTN access restrictions (Lucy Young)

Bollards are being replaced with cameras as a result, though some motorists are confused by the new restrictions. During the Standard’s visit to the area, an elderly couple narrowly avoided triggering a camera fine.

Non-car owning residents are generally positive about the impacts of the LTNs while a majority of car owners are negative, according to a council summary of thousands who responded to its consultations.

The LTNs have set neighbour against neighbour. There have been reports of bullying on neighbourhood WhatsApp groups. Arguments for and against LTNs dominate social media. Opponents of the Fox Lane scheme are half-way towards crowdfunding £50,000 to mount a High Court challenge.

The Conservatives have vowed to axe both LTNs if they win control of the council for the first time since 2010 and have recruited several LTN opponents as candidates.

Tory leader Joanne Laban said: “There has never been a traffic or transport scheme that has divided the community as much as LTNs. It’s put neighbour against neighbour. The anger is huge.

“It’s given quiet streets for the few and busy streets for the many. There is a massive feeling that people have not been listened to. They have closed the roads in some of the most affluent areas. Cars are now going down the less affluent areas, which isn’t fair.”

The 2018 elections in Enfield resulted in 45 Labour councillors and 18 Conservative councillors being elected.

Boundary changes mean that four wards electing councillors next week – Southgate, Winchmore Hill, Bowes and New Southgate – overlap with the borough’s two LTNs.

New Southgate is a new ward but in 2018 Labour won two seats and the Tories one in both Southgate and Winchmore Hill, while Labour won all three seats in Bowes. Enfield Tories say the influence of LTNs may make some seats more winnable but admit that securing overall victory will be a huge challenge.

A poll of 1,500 Londoners by the Centre for London think-tank last month found that council tax levels, followed by national issues and social care, were the issues of greatest concern in the local elections, with just 12 per cent mentioning LTNs as likely to influence their vote.

Ann Jones, who lives inside Fox Lane LTN, said it had caused problems for people needing to get to hospital or visit a care home, while parents were having to drive their children to school because buses were delayed.

“Life was being made extraordinarily difficult for busy people,” she said. “I will not be voting Labour for the first time in my life.”

But Mark Hawkins-Dady, who lives inside Bowes LTN, said his road used to be filled with drivers, many diverted by SatNavs to avoid delays on the A406.

“I do think the opposition [to LTNs], while quite loud, is relatively small,” he said. “The benefit has been extraordinary.

“For the majority who are not obsessed, if they were sceptical at first, I think they have come to feel that it is pretty nice knowing you don’t have to look out for cars when you are crossing the road. The road has become civilised.

“I think Sadiq Khan is right. We have to avoid a car-led recovery. But it is a struggle to do it.”

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