Road closure trials are not popular

Friday, 20th May

People Friendly Streets campaign

‘It’s no surprise many residents are unwilling passengers on the LTN journey’

• AN FOI, freedom of information, response has revealed that a whopping 76 per cent of the emails received by Islington Council’s people-friendly streets team since the eight low traffic neighbourhood trials were introduced was classed by the council as negative.

With only 13 per cent classed as positive it does seem that these road-closure trials are not popular.

Regarding the Canonbury West, Amwell and Canonbury East LTN trials only 4 per cent, 5 per cent and 9 per cent, respectively, of all the correspondence received by the PFS team was positive.

As for the Highbury West LTN trial, a resounding 77 per cent of the 1,276 emails received by the PFS team was negative.

Puzzlingly despite 81 per cent of the emails received by the PFS team for the Clerkenwell Green LTN trial being negative, it was recently declared a success and made permanent.

This begs the questions how far was this emphatically negative email feedback actually taken into account?

Presumably the answer is hardly at all.

Broadly the council’s approach to assessing success places weight instead on monitoring results and on online surveys.

Regarding the former, the PFS team has published 12 monitoring results reports across the LTN trials, between them running to over 1,300 pages. Each results report summarises positive key findings at the front.

Sadly, if the recent apology from the council regarding the Highbury interim monitoring results report is anything to go by, it now appears that some key findings must be taken with quite a big pinch of salt.

Other monitoring results reports have similarly attracted criticism, so it seems unlikely that the Highbury results report can be dismissed as a one-off rogue report.

Regarding the latter for each LTN trial the council has, for a few weeks in the run-up to deciding about permanency, posted a consultation survey on its PFS webpage.

Unfortunately these too have not been without controversy, notably attracting criticism for failing to include even a single question on whether the trial should be made permanent.

Equally concerningly, these surveys have been open to non-residents to fill in. For Clerkenwell Green only 15 per cent of the survey participants lived within the LTN, and only 10 per cent lived on an adjacent boundary road; 14 per cent of the participants lived either in a different borough or outside London; and a further 6 per cent declined to say.

To support the bold decision to declare the Clerkenwell Green trial a success, the PFS website listed a rather uninspiring selection of feedback percentages, none of which shouted roaring success.

The Islington LTN trials may, at some point and in some form, have a place here. But as matters stand paying lots of consultancy fees and deluging residents with page upon page of reports and statistics can’t disguise the fact that the foundations are still weak.

There is much work to be done by the council:

— better quality data-gathering and presentation;

— better consultation about flaws and improvements; and

— a more robust decision-making framework in which residents can trust.

Finally, and critically, there must be a strictly equal focus on boundary roads alongside the focus on roads inside the LTNs.

Until then it is no great surprise that so many Islington residents are unwilling passengers on this journey.

Highbury West LTN

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