Leaked Government report finds Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are popular

Images above: South Chiswick Liveable Neighbourhood signage

Government report shows Low Traffic Neighbourhood are supported by twice as many people as oppose them

A study commissioned by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) has found they are generally popular and effective. The research carried out by The Department for Transport in England found twice as many people in the places they were installed supported them as opposed them, with 45% people in favour and 21% against.

The Council-run schemes seek to promote walking and cycling and to increase air quality by stopping drivers using residential streets as cut-throughs. Some have been in existence for decades, but many more were created during Covid, heavily promoted by Boris Johnson’s government, which made funds available for local councils to create new schemes.

They have proved controversial, as inconvenienced drivers have been caught out by the new rules and fined. Opposition to them has been loud and angry, but it seems there is a quiet majority who prefer fewer cars driving through their residential streets.

When the Conservatives narrowly won the Uxbridge by-election with a hard fought single issue campaign against the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), the Government changed tack, seeking to capitalise on the idea that Labour was “anti-motorist” (a quote from Rishi Sunak in an interview he gave to the Sunday Telegraph in July 2023).

The prime minister said he was “slamming the brakes on the war on motorists” and the Government has affirmed any new Low Traffic Neighbourhoods will only be permitted where there is local consent.

He ordered the review in July last year in the immediate aftermath of the Uxbridge by-election. Contrary to expectation, it found that in each of four locations surveyed – London, Birmingham, Wigan and York – the percentage of people who supported the LTNs in their area was between 19 and 31 points higher than the percentage who opposed them.

Government accused of burying a report which does not fit with its narrative

The report has not been published. It was leaked to The Guardian and the Government has been accused of requesting it be shelved permanently because the results do not align with its agenda.

According to The Guardian‘s Deputy Political Editor Peter Walker, other ‘myths’ dispelled in the report, often cited by critics of LTNs, include the idea that traffic is simply displaced into neighbouring  streets and emergency service vehicles response times are adversely affected. The report found:

“There are tensions between evidence and perceptions. There appears to be limited evidence of adverse impacts on boundary roads, but residents are more likely than not to think that schemes have added traffic congestion and queues to these nearby roads.

“LTNs do not adversely affect response times for emergency vehicles.”

The Government response has been that The Guardian “selectively plucked” findings from the report, and ignored some “very real concerns”, but it still has not published the report.

Images above: Ruth Cadbury MP; Amy Croft, Councillor for Riverside ward

Labour won Riverside council seat “because of the LTN”

In Chiswick the most hotly contested Low Traffic Neighbourhood has been south of the A4 in Strand on the Green and Grove Park. Here the majority of residents wanted some traffic restrictions to stop thousands of commuters pouring through the area, directed by their sat navs to shave a few minutes off their journey on their way to M4 in one direction and Chiswick Bridge in the other.

But the way the scheme has been implemented has been highly controversial and split opinion.

MP Ruth Cadbury, who represents the area, told The Chiswick Calendar Labour had not expected to win a seat in Chiswick Riverside in the 2022 Council Elections. The fact that Amy Croft was elected the first Labour councillor in Chiswick in 30 years they put down to the popularity of the Low Traffic Neighbourhood.

Images above: Georgian house on Grove Park Terrace; Charlotte Pendred outside her home 

“Cars don’t queue along Grove Park Terrace any more”

I spoke to some of the residents of south Chiswick on Monday about how they felt now the LTN had had time to bed in.

Charlotte Pendred lives on Grove Park Terrace with her partner and three children. She is a big fan of the LTN and said it has dramatically changed her transport habits.

“For us it’s really good” Charlotte said “because this road, because of the level crossing, used to be a bit of a cut-through. Every morning we’d have a queue of cars coming through here – and now we don’t.

“We actually got rid of our car for environmental reasons. We decided not to have one, we would rent one when we have one, we cycle a lot more and we use public transport a lot more… which is much easier to do in London.”

Charlotte also said the rollout of the LTN could have been smoother, criticising an “unnecessary” road closure, but on the whole she thinks it has been a success.

“The whole point of it is to encourage people onto public transport and bikes and that’s what it’s done. This whole stupid thing about ‘war on motorists’ is just nonsense as far as I’m concerned.”

Image above: Grove Park Gardens; photograph Joanna Raikes

The measures have “divided the community”

Mr and Mrs Pericos on Grove Park Gardens said the LTN had “divided up the community” and the measures were still hard to understand.

“It’s never clear. Like, for instance I don’t know if I can come in Staveley Road because they kept changing it so many times and the sign just says ‘permit holders only’. Well, which permit holders?”

Asked whether the LTN had reduced through-traffic locally, Mrs Pericos said: “Of course it has” but complained through traffic had just been diverted to Burlington Lane.

The couple both said they would rather the LTN had not been implemented at all.

Images above: Staveley Road/ Park Road barrier shortly after being made permanent; Staveley Road’s famous blossom in spring

“We all feel more safe and its quieter”

When the LTN was first installed and a barrier installed in Staveley Rd there were protests, and a token attempt to stop the workmen putting it in.

I twice surveyed homes along Park Road and Staveley Road, and in 2022 found that a majority of residents along both roads said fewer cars were using the roads as rat runs.

READ ALSO: Residents protest against permanent barrier at Staveley Rd

READ ALSO: Majority of residents think Staveley Rd barrier is a success

The new road layout has become a permanent fixture and now that the shrubs are growing, it has lost the ‘barrier’ look. Initially the change in road layout caused a displacement of traffic onto Burlington Lane, until further amendments were made to the scheme, blocking off entry to Grove Park from the A316.

On Monday I spoke to Shigeko, who lives on Chatsworth Road nearby. She told me the LTN had been successful overall, despite the difficulties with having visitors and problems with the rollout:

“This road used to be a cut-through before, and since they built that barrier we all feel more safe and its quieter.”

She took issue with the way the Council dealt with fines. A significant number of local people and visitors have been wrongly fined by Hounslow Council since the LTN was introduced. Over the Christmas period in December 2023, when access restrictions should have been temporarily suspended, 169 penalty notices were wrongfully handed out due to an ‘operator error’.

“I got fined when I shouldn’t have. I didn’t have to pay because I appealed. But the reply was like, ‘Oh this time I’ll let you off’ which I thought was a bit rude.”

Image: LTN signage on Burlington Lane

Traffic “better” along Burlington Lane since LTN rollout but still “confusing”

Jo Roberts lives on Burlington Lane and doesn’t drive. She said when the scheme was first introduced, there was wave of traffic coming down Burlington Lane.

“Originally we noticed loads of traffic” Jo said, “like really annoying, there was a lot of traffic. White vans, builder’s vans and they were going really fast, like really fast. It bothered me as I’ve got two kids who walk to school.

“I do think that since they’ve put the additional restrictions… since they did that it’s been better.”

Her neighbour a few doors down, David Sickle said initially the LTN was “divisive” and condemned some of the messaging from Hounslow Council. David works from home and has a lot of clients travel to visit him in Chiswick. He said he finds it “difficult to accommodate” clients despite access exemptions.

“It’s still confusing. Even to this day I don’t know whether we can come in and leave from Thames Road at Kew Bridge. It’s still a little bit confusing.”

Images above: Chesterfield Road resident Nick Brook; photograph Matt Smith; Chesterfield Road; photograph Savills

“Annoying” for taxi access

Nick Brook lives on Chesterfield Road, close Sutton Court Road. He said the LTN was “a bit annoying” but it had definitively reduced traffic in the area.

“I think there’s less traffic generally, people are working from home much more. I would say probably on balance, it’s probably better. But it’s one of these things that there are times when you’re thinking about how annoying it is.”

I asked him whether enough time had passed for people’s behaviour to change since the LTN was introduced:

“Well yes my family know, they live in Barnes my son and daughter-in law and they have to go and drive all the way around the roundabout and come back that way. The traffic can be quite bad along the 316, it can be right up to the gates of the park and that’s pollution spewing all over the place.

“But mind you, on the other hand, you don’t want them all pulling around here so on balance I think it’s probably okay.”

What he finds particularly annoying is the restriction placed on taxis:

“Black cabs can’t come down here which is stupid. It’s not as if black cabs are going to be cutting through here on a regular basis. It’s slightly annoying that any of our family and friends coming from the west have to go all the way round to Chiswick roundabout and filter back again, it certainly puts miles on the clock.

“If they can do something about allowing black cabs in, I’ve literally  just come back in a black cab and he said there’s one local neighbourhood scheme in Parsons Green which allows black cabs and it makes absolutely no difference at all to the traffic.”

Image: Hounslow Conservative Group Leader and Chiswick Riverside ward Councillor Peter Thompson

“Over 80% of respondents opposed making LTN permanent” says local Tory Leader

Peter Thompson, Leader of the Conservative Group on Hounslow Council, told The Chiswick Calendar:

“It is difficult to comment on a Government report that hasn’t been published.  I am not sure what the report will tell us about the South Chiswick Scheme when it comes out, since Hounslow Council astoundingly refused to cooperate with the government’s Low Traffic Neighbourhood review.

“What we do know from the Council’s most recent consultation is that over 80% of all respondents were opposed to making the scheme permanent. I disagree with Ruth Cadbury’s interpretation of the 2022 local election results. The 2022 local elections were difficult for the Conservatives because of Partygate and dissatisfaction with Boris.

“At a time when the Party ended up with its lowest-ever number of seats in a London local election, to see eight out of nine Chiswick Conservative councillors re-elected, who campaigned strongly against the poor implementation of LTN measures in our local community, speaks volumes.

“We still need a scheme that controls rat-running, gives proper visitor access, is easy to understand, manages speed, and does not divide the local community.”

Image above: Grove Park

Majority want measures to control traffic, say residents groups, but they still want improvements

Ann Collins, Chairman of the Strand-on-the-Green Association, told The Chiswick Calendar:

“In Strand on the Green our residents mostly supported the idea of the LTN, but were unhappy with the lack of consultation and the details of the scheme which was implemented. For example, the arbitrary use of parking permit areas for defining access to roads has increased local journey times, and the lack of access for non-residents such as carers.”

A recent survey by the Grove Park Group showed that just under 70% of residents believe there should be traffic restrictions in Grove Park, with just over 26% opposing any traffic measures. These numbers are largely unchanged since a joint Strand on the Green Association and Grove Park Group survey carried out two years ago.

However, 57% oppose leaving the current measures in force without amendments, with only 38% wanting them left as they are. Residents still find the bureaucracy involved in being able to drive to and from their homes a hassle, and the difficulties in access for visitors and tradespeople unacceptable.

“The level of fines being issued – 800 a week according to a recent FOI – shows that there is still an issue with understanding and signage” Ann told me.

Rob King, Chair of the Grove Park Group, added:

“The discussion on LTNs is much more nuanced than the hard core of opponents and supporters want to explain. It all depends on the location, the design of the scheme, the consultation and engagement with residents, and the impact depends on where a person lives in relation to the precise measures, differing even between those living within an LTN.

“As a Residents Association, it is our view that the experience and views of residents impacted must be paramount. Residents still find access for visitors and tradespeople unacceptable, and the LTN has distracted LBH [London Borough of Hounslow] from effective action on other key issues, such as speed.

“We urge LBH to avoid participating in polarised discussions and soundbites, and to engage properly with residents. Our recent survey shows that most residents want measures to control traffic (c. 70% of residents), but oppose the current measures (57%), but that over a quarter of respondents have used a Lime bike and over half would like the service to continue. Most residents defy the extreme positions taken up by lobby groups on either side – and some in LBH.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar