By Grainne Cuffe, local democracy reporter
London Ambulance Service reported a four-minute delay to an “immediately life threatening” call because of the Lewisham and Lee Green low traffic neighbourhood (LTN).
Brought in under emergency Covid-19 measures, the LTN involves modal filters, which block through-traffic with barriers that are physically or camera enforced.
The scheme was scaled back significantly in November to relieve congestion in neighbouring roads.
A recently published response to a Freedom of Information request from a member of the public shows an email to the council reporting the delay, which happened on September 2 last year, just off Manor Park, and before the LTN was scaled back.
It stated: “As part of the ongoing review following the implementation of LTN traffic schemes in the borough of Lewisham, we wanted to make you aware of an incident that occurred resulting in a delayed response […]
“Issue: Delayed response to Category 1 call (immediately life threatening) patient off Manor Park due to LTN road closures in area.
“The crew was from Brixton so unfamiliar with the roads so had to navigate around the closures manually. It resulted in a four-minute delay to the call.”
In response to a public question in March, the cabinet member for environment and transport, Cllr Sophie McGeevor, said “to date no significant concerns in relation to response times have been raised”.
A council spokesperson told the local democracy service that the response to the public question referred to the “amended scheme”, as the filter was no longer part of the LTN.
The spokesperson said: “We have worked closely and proactively with the London Ambulance Service (LAS) throughout the development and implementation of the Lewisham and Lee Green Low Traffic Neighbourhood.
“During the development stage we took on board their feedback and, in line with councils across London, introduced a mix of physical and camera enforced filters.
“Camera enforced filters operate across all of the emergency routes network within the LTN.
“As part of our ongoing discussions and monitoring, The LAS agreed to let us know about any issues their staff encountered related to the LTN.
“We received one such notification, in September 2020. However, this was not flagged as a ‘significant’ concern and no amendments to the filter were requested by the London Ambulance Service.
“As part of a wider programme of changes this filter was adjusted in November 2020.
“The response provided at the Council meeting on March 3 2021 referred to the amended scheme, as the filter was no longer part of the LTN.”
LAS said it had received 11 reports, not one, from crews about delays linked to the LTN in Lewisham, all of which it shared with the council.
The council has been contacted about the difference in figures.
A London Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We support measures to improve public health, but recognise that changes to road layouts can impede the time it takes us to reach patients.
“That is why we have been engaging with Lewisham Council to flag any delays, which our crews are encouraged to report.
“We will continue to regularly liaise with Lewisham Council and other local authorities to ensure emergency vehicle access is properly considered and any impacts are monitored.”
LAS is also liaising with traffic teams across London to look at ways of implementing traffic management changes that avoid introducing physical barriers, such as automatic number plate recognition cameras (ANPR).
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