Low traffic neighbourhood in Lambeth suspended after Sadiq Khan admits it caused 'huge problems'

A low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) scheme is to be scrapped after being blamed for causing horrendous congestion on a main road in south London.

Lambeth Council said it would suspend the Streatham Wells LTN after a bus was reported to have taken more than two hours to travel less than three miles on the A23.

The council’s U-turn comes a week after Mayor Sadiq Khan admitted the LTN was “not working” and was “causing huge problems”.

But walking and cycling campaigners said it was a "backward step" that would mean "more traffic on residential streets, more traffic overall, fewer opportunities for walking and cycling, and more road danger for everyone".

The Labour-run council has reportedly issued about £320,000 in fines to motorists caught driving through the LTN. A spokesman said today that those fines would still have to be paid.

Normally only residents can enter a LTN – which are designed to deter “rat running” by non-local motorists and reduce road danger - without being penalised.

The council admitted that the LTN, which has the A23 on one of its boundaries, had caused an eight per cent increase in boundary roads such as Streatham High Road and Streatham Common North.

But within the LTN there had been an average 60 per cent fall in traffic, with vehicle speeds 68 per cent lower on average.

The council said it was suspending the LTN “in response to concerns about public transport delays” and ahead of work by Transport for London on the A23 that is expected to disrupt traffic.

It said “frequent roadworks by Thames Water and other bodies” had placed a “significant strain” on bus services in Streatham.

No fines will be imposed from this afternoon but it will take about a fortnight to remove all the LTN signs.

Rezina Chowdhury, the council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for Sustainable Lambeth and Clean Air, said: “We’ve listened to the concerns raised by local people and recognise the major disruption coming as part of transport improvements on the main road running through Streatham. The combination of factors together would cause too much disruption for Lambeth residents.

“We always said that this was a trial, and we would be led by the data – and the monitoring report makes it clear that the scheme met our objectives to reduce traffic and road danger.

“But equally, there have been delays in bus journeys on the A23 which has had an impact on many residents.

“Suspension will stop more significant delays occurring when the investment in the A23, including new segregated cycle lanes, starts later this spring and allows time for bus priority measures to be implemented all along the A23.”

A spokesman for Mr Khan said: "The mayor understands the frustrations of residents experiencing higher-than-usual congestion in Streatham, which has been in part due to a number of emergency roadworks by utility companies in the area.

“The mayor has always been clear that if road schemes need to be changed or adapted to better work for the local area, then that is the right thing to do, working with local partners and residents."

Lambeth Living Streets and Lambeth Cyclists said in a joint statement: "Lambeth and TfL must immediately confirm a timeline for the reintroduction of the LTN and the details of the promised bus priority measures on Streatham High Road.

"TfL has been aware of this scheme since 2019 and should have had a plan to improve bus priority on Streatham High Road ready for when it launched.

"Politicians often say they want safer streets, more cycling and walking, and fewer car journeys. It’s much rarer that they have the courage to do the things that make this possible.

"We’re grateful to everyone who’s stood up for this scheme and we ask those who haven’t to reflect on whether their actions really match their words. We look forward to seeing the LTN back as soon as possible accompanied by the main road measures to support it."

The LTN was launched on a trial basis last October on residential streets east of Streatham High Road (A23), and was intended to remain in place for 12-18 months.

It had been blamed over recent months, and particularly in the last few weeks, for clogging up the high road with traffic. This was thought to be due to the LTN affecting the entry-points vehicles were using to emerge onto the main road.

Buses were frequently among the vehicles stuck in gridlock at rush hour, including several arterial routes providing connections south from Brixton Underground station, such as the 118, 250 and 333.

Commuters heading into Streatham were in some cases being left close to the South Circular Road, as buses terminated early to avoid entering the traffic chaos.

Mr Khan had previously been urged to intervene by Tory members of the London Assembly, who repeatedly raised the issue with him at City Hall.

The TfL work involves £9m of improvements for cyclists and pedestrians. It is due to continue until 2025 and will reduce road capacity during construction. Bus priority measures are due to be introduced along the A23 to prevent buses becoming gridlocked.