There is no democracy in Lewisham’s one-party state


When Lewisham Council introduced its Lee Green LTN in July 2020 we were assured there would be a proper consultation exercise after the trial period. When we saw the consultation questions in August 2021 we realised that they were skewed towards one outcome: the retention of the LTN in one form or another (see my article). There was little scope for objecting to it overall or for reforming it radically, and it was clear that the use of monitoring data and statistics was unscientific to say the least. 

Now we have the report on the consultation, which will be submitted to the mayor on 12 January for ratification.

Ignoring all the serious objections raised by residents and those outside the ward affected by the LTN, the report rather laughably concentrates on the minimal subjective evidence provided for positive behavioural shifts. On the basis that ‘21% (1,483) of all respondents said that the revised LTN had encouraged them to walk or cycle’ the report claims that this is a good reason to make the LTN permanent, especially because it fits the council’s corporate objectives and meets ‘Council, regional and national policies and priorities’. So there we have it, the outcome of the consultation was always a foregone conclusion and no amount of protest from residents severely affected by the introduction of the LTN would have made any difference.

There is no scientific basis to any of the conclusions drawn: at the time of the consultation we alerted people to the fact that

  1. There was no reliable baseline data collection against which to measure air quality, traffic counts and traffic speed measurements
  2. The use of averages in the measurement of bus travel times and other factors simply masks the real increases at times of the day that matter to travellers, such as rush hours.
  3. It is impossible to distinguish between the effects of the LTNs and the effects of the pandemic on people’s behaviour.

However, even more alarming is the way that the results of the very limited consultation survey have been used. The report concentrates on tiny positive outcomes and totally ignores those many negative, unintended consequences we had already identified in October 2020 (link to the report based on our Lib Dem questionnaire with over 940 respondents).

Moreover, the Council report tries to deepen the divisions between drivers and non-drivers, not accepting the category of ‘non-car owner who nevertheless use vehicles for various important activities’. They admit that ‘71% of respondents who identified themselves as drivers felt negatively about the original LTN whilst 64% felt negatively about the revised scheme’ and ‘46% (of non-drivers) felt positive about the original LTN compared to 35% for the revised LTN.’ It may be true that ‘respondents who identified as non-drivers felt positive about both variants of the LTN’, but what about the 65% who didn’t feel positive towards the revised LTN? Let’s face it, these figures show that there was a majority of people against the LTN, whether they were drivers or non-drivers. The whole exercise is laughable.

The report is also deeply misleading in its use of graphs in appendix G; perhaps only the careful reader will notice that when positive themes are presented, the maximum number in the graph is 400 people; while a graph of a similar size presenting negative themes is actually presenting the responses of up to 2500 people! This is a case of huge disparity masquerading as equivalence.

The only good thing about the report is that the council has at last acknowledged that the LTN impedes access for emergency vehicles, a point we have been making since our initial report on the LTN in October 2020. They also seem at last to have accepted our argument that permanent barriers are dangerous and all should be replaced with camera-operated ANPR filters. We would like them now to go one step further and use ANPR extensively to enable residents of the LTN to travel freely at all times (thus reducing polluting detours) while out-of-borough traffic should be restricted, at least during the rush hour. This would help to distribute the traffic far more fairly: it would filter off residential traffic from the main, boundary roads, thus relieving rush-hour congestion; it would also help those roads which have been disadvantaged by LTN version 2 and are troubled by rat running either in the morning or the evening: Leahurst, Longhurst, Fernbrook, Manor Park, Manor Lane. Nothing though should be done without proper consultation of the residents of Lee Green; that is the Liberal Democrat way.

Labour-run Lewisham Council is not going to change. They have decided for ideological reasons that this LTN, which disadvantages the elderly, frail, disabled, those who cannot walk or cycle, those who live on the poorer boundary roads of the borough, should be retained. This, of course, will be good news for the privileged few whose quality of life has been improved enormously by road closures. But it will be lamented by the many, who have tried everything they can to get the council to rethink. The only solution is to challenge Labour at the next council elections on 5 May 2022.

Vote Liberal Democrat in Lee Green and in the other Lewisham wards. The Liberal Democrats would never have introduced such an LTN in the first place and if elected would do all they can in opposition to reform it. We are in favour of sensible arrangements to create healthier neighbourhoods: school and play streets, enforcement of speed limits, more pedestrian crossings, the use of camera-enforced filters to control rat-running, measures to encourage walking and cycling, more facilities for bikes and electric cars. This can, however, be achieved without ruining the lives of many residents by dumping on them our unwanted traffic pollution.

 

Karen Pratt

Lee Green Lib Dems


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