Road closures sparks Islington Town Hall protest
Loose Women and Birds of a Feather star Linda Robson joins hundreds in Upper Street protest
24 July, 2020 — By Calum Fraser
Actress and TV presenter Linda Robson
LOOSE Women and Birds of a Feather star Linda Robson joined hundreds of protesters outside the Town Hall yesterday (Thursday) calling for a stop to road closures across the borough.
However, environment activists and councillors have countered the protests saying that a lot of the people who turned up were “misguided” and that there were “a lot of misconceptions” surrounding the rollout of “people friendly streets”, also known as “Low Traffic Neighbourhoods” (LTN).
LTNs are designed to stop rat-running in residential streets and make neighbourhoods safer for cyclists and pedestrians. The first area to undergo changes was St Peter’s ward – Prebend Street, Danbury Street, Colebrooke Row and Wharf Road.
There the council installed traffic filters, some enforced by cameras, which block motor vehicles while still allowing cyclists through. The new measures will be put in place via a temporary experimental traffic order set to expire after 18 months.
Once the measures have been in place in each area for a year, the council will then consult with residents over whether they would like a return to the previous road layouts or not.
But the “lack of consultation” before the first roads were blocked has infuriated many.
Actress and TV presenter Ms Robson, who lives in St Peter’s ward, told the Tribune: “I just feel really strongly about the road closures and I think we were not informed about them and we were not consulted. It was done without any feedback from us and it is affecting so many people, especially the elderly, they are struggling to get to places.”
She added: “I think they think they are stopping pollution but they’re not, it is taking longer to get to places now by car, causing more pollution. “I was born in Islington. I have never lived anywhere else and I just think it is really unfair the way we have been treated.”
Town Hall leader Richard Watts has pledged to cover “a third” of the borough in LTN measures.
Work on the second LTN in Canonbury is set to start next week with traffic filters brought into 10 streets: Dove Road, Ockendon Road, Englefield Road, Northchurch Road, Elmore Street, Downham Road, Henshall Street, Cleveland Road, Halliford Street and Shepperton Road.
Mother-of-three Joanne Spinks, who lives in Rotherfield Street, said: “My dad is in his 80s. He’s going to be trapped like a prisoner in his own home because of these measures. His car is his lifeline, it’s his access to the outside world. How dare they do that.
“We can’t believe they have made these decisions without consultation. If they could have a meeting with us and discuss what they are going to do then maybe we can come to an agreement.”
Helena Farstad, who co-founded Islington Clean Air Parents, supports the council’s measures.
She said: “I think it’s fine for people to express their opinions, we all should be allowed to do that. I think the protest is a bit misguided in that they are protesting against something that a lot of people don’t quite understand.
“I think there are lots of misconceptions about what this rollout means, about what is possible and what isn’t. Lots of people are scared they won’t be able to park outside their homes, or get to their homes, which isn’t true.
“I’m assuming these people who are protesting are driven by a professional group of people that use the roads a lot, and there’s a bit of fear that it’s going to impact on trade.”
Green party Highbury East ward councillor Caroline Russell said: “The council is rightly introducing low traffic neighbourhoods as a way to avoid traffic gridlock and a pollution spike as our public transport capacity is massively reduced due to the ongoing need for physical distancing due to coronavirus.
“These emergency measures allow access to every home but all the rat-running through traffic is deterred. It’s so important that our streets support children, older and disabled people to get around safely as we build community resilience to help as we live with the ongoing virus threat.”
The Town Hall’s environment and transport chief Cllr Rowena Champion said: “We have been listening to local people’s concerns on Islington’s streets. It is vital that we act now to create people-friendly streets, in order to make it easier and safer for people to walk, cycle, and use wheelchairs, buggies and scooters as alternatives to using public transport, for people to socially distance and to avoid a spike in motor vehicle use as we come out of lockdown.
“Our people-friendly streets neighbourhoods will help local people to socially distance as they make essential trips, whilst contributing towards a greener, healthier Islington in the long-term.
“Local people know their streets better than anyone else and that is why we have launched a Commonplace webpage to allow them to share their comments and ideas with us. In addition, local people will have the opportunity to have their say during the formal consultations on our people-friendly streets neighbourhoods.”