By Rafi Mauro-Benady
Town hall leaders will decide in January whether or not to axe a controversial road scheme designed to make residential streets safer and less polluted.
Croydon council’s traffic management advisory committee will rule on January 4 if the borough will keep, change, or abort the Crystal Palace and South Norwood Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme.
The Crystal Palace and South Norwood Low Traffic Neighbourhood was introduced in July and has divided the local community.
It has polarised locals to such an extent that two supporters of the scheme say they have received death threats.
In November the council launched a consultation asking for views on one of three permanent options.
Their choices were whether the scheme along Lancaster Road, Warminster Road, Fox Hill, Stambourne Way and Sylvan Hill should remain as it is.
The second choice was to remove it altogether.
And the third was to replace it with Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras to allow access for local residents and emergency vehicles.
The committee delayed the decision until next year to give more feedback time to businesses that recently reopened after the second national lockdown, having over 4,000 responses.
Cllr Muhammad Ali, cabinet member for sustainable Croydon said: “We have had a huge public response to our consultation, and I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to give their views.
“Because many local businesses had to shut during the second national lockdown, we are giving them longer to give their feedback on this scheme if they haven’t already done so.
“This means that the TMAC committee will now consider the permanent proposals at its January meeting.”
Conservative Transport spokesman, Cllr Gareth Streeter, slammed the LTN.
Cllr Streeter said: “The LTNs in Crystal Palace and South Norwood are a failed social experiment.
“At a time when the council should be doing everything it can to make life easier for residents, these unnecessary measures have made it tough for commuters to get to work, caused chaos for residents and driven customers away from local businesses.
He added: “There is no evidence that they are good for local air quality. Some studies suggest they damage the local environment.”
Grassroots campaign group ‘Open Our Roads’ (OOR) also dislikes the LTN.
A spokesperson said: “Some local traders have reported a loss in revenue and a disruption to operations since the implementation of the LTN in August.
“We’ve witnessed emergency services being delayed, which is a dangerous situation that could lead to a loss of life.
“In Crystal Palace, where five boroughs meet, residents on narrow, hilly Bromley streets have had to endure unacceptable levels of increased traffic after Croydon advertised these roads as diversion routes without consulting the London Borough of Bromley, which they are obliged to do under law.”
The spokesperson added that the costs of the LTN massively outweigh any benefits.
They said: “Thousands of residents, businesses and road users have paid an unfair price with their economic health, environmental safety and personal well-being, which is an unacceptable and unjust trade-off for any benefits felt by a minority of residents.”
OOR also reported that the LTN has also led to women feeling more “vulnerable” in the no-traffic zones.
OOR said: “It does not feel safer inside the LTN for women and vulnerable people who have to use empty, dark streets at night, or who have to rely on carer or family visits to thrive.
“Outside the LTN, which is bearing the brunt of the displaced traffic, cyclists have reported feeling less safe on the congested roads.
“Parents complain about the levels of pollution they and their children are forced to breathe as they walk to school.”
But scheme advocates ‘Shape Better Streets’ (SBS) oppose OOR’s criticisms of the LTN.
An SBS spokesperson said: “We think it is vital that through-traffic continues to be excluded from the neighbourhood.
“Auckland Road in the LTN has seen a tripling of traffic between 2013 and 2019 to around 10,000 movements a day and had become busier than the nearby main road Central Hill.
“The consequences for residents’ health, well-being and quality of life of the associated air pollution, noise and traffic danger were dreadful.
“There is two thirds less traffic passing along Auckland Road, and a tripling of walking and cycling on one road where we have before and after data.”
The spokesperson added that the introduction of the LTN has led to the affected areas feeling much safer.
They said: “Roads which were not designed with main road features like restricted parking and formal pedestrian crossings are now safe to walk and cycle along and cross.
“In terms of social safety (vulnerability to street crime), the increase in walking and cycling means that, in my experience, even at night, one is seldom out of eyeshot of other people walking.”
SBS also hit out at Cllr Streeter’s opposition to the scheme, saying there is no evidence for the claims.
The spokesperson said: “Cllr Streeter is repeating, uncritically, claims made by opponents of the scheme for which there is no objective evidence.
“He has declined repeated invitations from our campaign to visit and see the benefits for himself.
“You should ask him what studies he has seen which suggest the LTNs damage the local environment, I have seen none.”
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