Image above: Protestors going to the LB Hounslow Oversight and Scrutiny sub-committee on traffic restrictions in south Chiswick
A meeting of Hounslow Council’s Overview and Scrutiny sub-committee has decided that the Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes (LTNs) introduced in Grove Park and Strand on the Green over the past 18 months should be sent back to Cabinet to be reconsidered.
The councillors, (four Labour and one Conservative) decided unanimously that consultation on the schemes had not been fair and inclusive and that the traffic data provided was insufficient to be the basis for such important decisions. They were also concerned that impact on vulnerable people, such as elderly and disabled people and pregnant women, might constitute a violation of their human rights.
The meeting was open to the public and a group of protesters turned up to support Chiswick’s Conservative councillors who had ‘called in’ the LTN decisions. The members of the committee said they had received hundreds of emails from residents who were against the LTNs and they wanted them to know they had listened to their opinions and weren’t just there to rubber stamp council decisions.
Image above: Cllr Sam Hearn and Cllr John Todd
Existing traffic restrictions: “a very complicated scheme which people have difficulty in understanding” Cllr Sam Hearn
‘South Chiswick’, the rectangular area which forms a box south of the A4, bounded by the South Circular to the west and A316 to the east, the A4 to the north and the River Thames to the south, has had more LTNs introduced over the past 18 months than the rest of Chiswick put together. Most were introduced during 2020 under emergency measures; the Council’s Chief traffic officer Jefferson Nwokeoma wanted to make these permanent.
His report, which was being considered by the committee on Thursday 23 September, also covered two further schemes announced at the end of August – the closure of Burlington Lane to traffic incoming from the A316 and the extension of the hours during Staveley Rd was closed to traffic incoming from the A316, except to those with a permit. The meeting was delayed while members read a press release which had only just been handed to them, proposing further amendments to these two schemes.
“I’m really disappointed that the changes which have been announced were provided to us just before the meeting” said Cllr Javed Akhunzada
The LTN decisions were challenged by eight Conservative councillors, three of whom live in the area under discussion. When councillors ‘call in’ a decision made by a Cabinet member or a Chief officer, the committee decides whether there is a case for making the Council think again.
Cllr Sam Hearn, one of the councillors for Riverside ward, made the case that it was too early to make permanent schemes which had been introduced during lockdown. He also noted that three residents had referred aspects of the changes to the Local Government Ombudsman for consideration and said the Council should wait for their deliberation before deciding anything definitively.
“We have a very complicated scheme which people have difficulty in understanding” he said, which had been further complicated by the proposals in the press release.
It was more than two hours before anyone explained what those were – the inclusion of the area east of the A316 in Chiswick Homefields ward to those who had permission to drive into Staveley Rd from the A316 and a change to the hours governing access.
Image above: Cllr John Todd
Recent additional proposals threaten to “wreck the community” Cllr John Todd
Cllr John Todd, who represents Homefields ward, spoke of the thousands of emails Chiswick councillors had received, including one from the Sister in charge of the convent in Chiswick, who’d said she would not be able to deliver blood tests on time for patients to get to doctors and another from a carer who’d said she would have to give up her job.
The proposals “wrecked” the community, he said.
In particular he picked up on the issue of 64 Blue Badge holders who at the moment drive into Grove Park from the residential area east of the A316 who would not be allowed to do so because the Council had decided it was ‘too difficult’ to give them access.
He also highlighted that evidence regarding elderly and disabled people and pregnant women had been ‘mistakenly omitted’ from an Equality Analysis form and that the Governance officer had admitted that as drafted, it insufficiently documents the impact on elderly disabled and pregnant residents.
Image above: Chief officer Jefferson Nwokeoma
“It is not a referendum” – Chief officer Jefferson Nwokeoma
The Council’s Chief traffic officer Jefferson Nwokeoma said the measures introduced along Strand on the Green and Hartington Rd, and those in Staveley Road and Harvard Hill had been in place long enough for them to be able to see that they were working and they should be made permanent. There had been a huge reduction for example in the traffic along Staveley Rd, which had been 8,000 cars a day before the introduction of the barrier.
On air quality, he agreed there was insufficient data.
“The pandemic is not yet over. The challenge for us – there has been an improvement but we don’t know whether that’s because of the Streetspace changes or the pandemic”.
It’s not possible, he said, to have monitoring on every road and to have it prior to the introduction of a new scheme so they could make before and after comparisons, but they’d had to introduce the schemes too quickly for that to be the case.
He said there had been consultation with councillors but that when it came to decisions, they were “for the lead member and the chief officer to make … It’s not a referendum”.
Cllr Todd categorically denied that he nor anyone who lived in the Dukes Meadows area had heard of the proposed scheme to further restrict access to Burlington Land and Staveley Rd before it was announced at the end of August.
“I have not been engaged, informed or advised” he said.
Image above: Overview and Scrutiny sub-committee
More consultation needed
Cllr Javed Akhunzada (Labour), Cllr Gurmail Lal (Labour), Cllr Richard Foote (Labour), Cllr Ron Mushiso (Conservative) and Chair of the committee Cllr Daanish Saeed (Laboutr) all agreed there was more consultation needed.
Councillors were supposed to be improving the lives of residents and working in a transparent way, noted Cllr Lal. Cabinet Member Cllr Hanif Khan and Chief officer Jefferson Nwokeoma had agreed the schemes needed tweaking.
“The answers have not addressed the concerns brought to me by residents” he said.
Cllr Richard Foote (Labour) added:
“I think it’s vitally important to stop the rat race that occurs to avoid the Hogarth roundabout. I am uneasy. I think there’s quite a lot missing here about how we can help the large number of people who are affected by this”.
After the meeting Cllr John Todd told The Chiswick Calendar:
“I am very pleased that the Labour councillors conscientiously probed the evidence and readily identified the significant flaws in the respective schemes and the unacceptable treatment of Blue Badge holders and the disabled”.
Hounslow Council’s Cabinet must now decide whether to reconsider the LTNs or to ignore the sub committee’s recommendation and go ahead with making permanent those schemes introduced last year and introducing the further restrictions announced in August.
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