Road closures spark fiery clashes at Town Hall

11,000-strong petition opposes controversial low-traffic neighbourhoods

Friday, 11th March — By Charlotte Chambers

LTN protest_Jody Graber talks to police

Campaigner Jody Graber speaking to police at a low-traffic neighbourhoods protest

WILL Islington’s low-traffic neighbourhoods be a crunch issue at May’s council elections? Angry motorists who handed in an 11,000-strong petition calling for the reversal of the road closures to the Town Hall certainly think so.

But they got little change out of councillors at a full council meeting on Thursday.

Campaigner Jody Graber, who has already stood for election once on the issue, told members: “You are a joke – look at you. I’m one of your residents and I’m disgusted with how you lot treat the people of this borough. You treat people with disdain. You don’t reply to emails, you just continue clapping like seals: ‘Oh, we’re so good.’ You ain’t Labour – you are for yourselves. You lot are for the few. None of you are for the many.”

He added: “[There were] Tube strikes today – where can all that extra traffic go? Nowhere now, except for the main roads. Rather than being able to disperse freely, it has to sit. How many of you have seen Essex Road, Upper Street, Canonbury Road? None of you, because you don’t care.”

Labour councillor Nick Wayne said: “In fairness to the petitioners, it does take a while to collect almost 11,000 signatures, especially if you have to go outside Islington – go far and wide outside the borough – to find those signatures, from Milton Keynes, from Brent, from Bicester, from Enfield, Essex, Oxford, County Durham. It’s a remarkable geographical reach.”

He also took a swipe at Mr Graber’s loss in the St Peter’s council by-election last year, after the Labour candidate Toby North won by more than five times as many votes.

A previous protest against the road closures

“We know from conversations on the doorsteps, people’s views are changing about our schemes because they are living with the schemes and are seeing the benefits they bring,” said Cllr Wayne.

“And that may go a long way to explaining the recent by-election, where we saw candidate after candidate standing on a pro-LTN ticket sweep the board.”

Earlier in the evening protesters for and against the traffic-calming ­measures clashed outside the Town Hall with opposing chants.

LTNs were first introduced in St Peter’s ward before stretching to a number of others including Highbury, St Mary’s, Clerkenwell, Canonbury and Amwell. Many of the residential roads are now closed to traffic, with main roads becoming busier.

The ruling Labour group says that over time it will lead to a reduction in drivers using their cars for short journeys and a rise in cycling and walking.

Last month they launched a consultation into “People Friendly Streets” – the other face of the LTNs – to find out how residents feel about the changes, 18 months after the schemes were introduced under Experimental Traffic Order rules.

Town Hall environment chief, Councillor Rowena Champion, said: “Doing nothing isn’t an option… against a backdrop of a deepening climate crisis.”

She added: “Those streets are not made for that kind of traffic. It has consequences. Congestion costs London £5.1billion a year and air pollution costs the NHS £3.7bn a year.”

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