A London borough will rip out traffic calming measures covering some of the East End’s most famous roads despite a consultation finding they are popular with most residents.
Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman decided vehicle restrictions in Columbia Road, which houses the popular flower market, Arnold Circus, near Brick Lane, and Old Bethnal Green will be removed.
However, a consultation showed 57.3 per cent of residents wanted to keep the low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), compared to 41.7 per cent who wanted them taken out.
They reduced air pollution in most cases and improved safety, studies showed.
The Met Police also said the vehicle restrictions resulted in a “noticeable” reduction in anti-social behaviour and urged the council “to retain as much of the LTN infrastructure as possible”.
London Ambulance Service and the Fire Brigade did raise some concerns about the impact the schemes have on response times.
At a meeting on Wednesday evening, Mr Rahman said LTNs were one of London’s “most contentious issues” and “divided communities”.
“While LTNs improve air quality in their immediate vicinity, they push traffic down surrounding arterial roads, typically lived on by less affluent residents,” he said.
“They are also a barrier for families to get around in what is the most densely populated place in the country. The result is division.”
Hirra Khan Adeogun, co director of climate charity Possible and Tower Hamlets resident said: “The decision to rip out LTNs is a disaster for the local community.
“Despite three consultations showing overwhelming public support, a mountain of evidence showing the benefits of calmer roads, and a compromise option on the table, Lutfur Rahman has elected to bin the schemes which protected some of the most deprived Londoners.”
Mr Rahman was re-elected as mayor of Tower Hamlets on a pro-motorist platform last year after being barred from office for breaches of election law in 2015.
He added: “Although I pledged to remove these schemes, I wanted to consult to get a better understanding of the impacts.
“We have seen people on both sides try to skew the results of our consultation. Ultimately, I am interested in the views of Tower Hamlets residents in the affected areas.
“Division is not the answer. We need to find better solutions to improve air quality that can unite our residents and businesses.”
A road closure in Canrobert Street will be retained. Improvements made to accessible walking routes and traffic management plans on 33 streets during school run hours will also be kept.
The council said it will invest £6million in measures to improve air quality.
Mr Rahman axed an enforcement camera that deterred drivers from using a residential street in Bow as a short-cut.
But a freedom of information request submitted by residents who supported the Antill Road “liveable street” scheme revealed that the town hall received only six objections to the camera – and none were from the emergency services or local businesses.
Earlier this year headteachers in an areas that had seen significant reductions in traffic wrote an open letter to Mr Rahman asking him to keep the restrictions in place.
“We have experienced Bethnal Green before the new street layouts and after, “ they wrote.
“Before, the immediate area around our schools was dominated by speeding vehicles, noise and fumes. Now, we can see from the data provided that there has been a significant reduction in cars using the roads around our schools and that this has positively affected air quality.”
Mr Rahman has said his victory in the 2022 local elections showed there was a “resounding democratic mandate” for the removal of road closures that had “impacted thousands of working people in Tower Hamlets”.