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Supporters of the new Lee Green low traffic neighbourhood are calling for patience as the scheme is rolled out.  

Lewisham Council launched the controversial LTN at the end of June as part of the emergency Covid-19 transport measures, though it had already planned to create a healthy neighbourhood in the area.

The scheme, which involves 13 modal filters that cut off roads to through-traffic, has created much more space for cycling and walking, but has left some streets safer than others as traffic is displaced to neighbouring areas.  

See related: Hither Green west residents ask for LTN after traffic surge

Affected residents are reporting daily gridlocked streets and are concerned about increased air pollution, while others worry they will have to give up their jobs as a result of the longer journey times. 

Others are concerned about local businesses being affected by either an increase or decrease in traffic.  

The issue was raised at the latest overview and scrutiny business panel meeting, during which Lewisham Central ward Councillor Patrick Codd urged council bosses to “listen to residents”, many of whom are having different experiences of the measures. 

See related: Lewisham's emergency transport measures raised by committee

Others are very happy with the LTN.

The local democracy service spoke to supporters, who said that LTNs are a necessary part of a broader package of measures to tackle air pollution and want to reiterate that the schemes are still being rolled out.  

We all know that air pollution is a massive problem, it’s the root cause of an awful lot of illnesses and we all have to breathe this in all day, at work, at home

Matthew Sparkes, 38, lives just below the LTN in Grove Park, and is a trustee of the London Cycling Campaign. 

He stressed that the scheme is in its “really early days”, and people must be “patient” to see the benefits unfold.  

“The paint is barely dry, but already you can see that there are safer ways to cycle from where I live through and on to central London – it’s absolutely great.   

“[The area] has always been busy; there are thin, residential streets but now they’ve put these filters in you can plan a route on virtually empty roads. It makes it so much more viable as a way to get around.  

“We all know that air pollution is a massive problem, it’s the root cause of an awful lot of illnesses and we all have to breathe this in all day, at work, at home. 

“Something needs to be done, electric cars are part of the solution but they are not the whole solution by any means, so we need to get lots more people out of cars and walking and cycling,” Mr Sparkes said. 

By 2041, Lewisham Council wants 80 per cent of all journeys in the borough to be made sustainably, such as via walking, cycling and public transport.

“So it needs to start doing this now,” he added.  

Since the Lee Green scheme was put in, surrounding areas have experienced a surge in traffic and are concerned about an increase, rather than decrease, in air pollution.  

The idea is that the displaced traffic will eventually dissipate as drivers get frustrated with longer waits, and more swap cars for cycling and walk.  

But some argue that it doesn’t work like that, especially when the South Circular is where it is, and that people will continue to drive because of their circumstances. 

Mr Sparkes said: “It’s understandable if they think that, but at the moment there are so many variables going on – we’ve just come out of an unprecedented lockdown and lots of people are nervous about getting on public transport. 

“It’s very hard to know what is causing changes to traffic at the moment, so we need to give it time.” 

The schemes are not fully in place yet, closures involving camera enforcement yet to be set up.  

“Until this is all finished, we can’t really gauge the success of the scheme. 

“Lewisham Council said they’ll roll this project out all the way across the borough over time, and they have to start somewhere.  

“There’s a long way to go before we live in some sort of Dutch utopia, but there’s no reason that we can’t get there. People have to be patient and pragmatic,” Mr Sparkes said. 

Michael Diamond, 62, from Lewisham Pedestrians, was one of the original people pushing for an LTN in Lee Green.

A Cambridge Drive resident, he and another local started doing traffic surveys in April 2017 in response to increasing cut-through traffic.  

From there they set up LiveLee, a group campaigning for three goals. 

“LiveLee was created for three purposes, only in the streets east of Burnt Ash Road, and that is to get rid of commuter parking which we are plagued by, to reduce road traffic, and to improve air quality,” Mr Diamond said, adding “you can only affect change where you are”.  

“Most importantly we wanted to create a database of everyone in the street. People had to answer questions about the street they lived in, to check the voracity of the data. 

“That worked well, and we got a comprehensive database of actual people who support the scheme locally,” he said.   

This Is Local London:

Cambridge Drive on Sunday

This Is Local London:

Cambridge Drive on Monday with commuter parking before the LTN

The group submitted two petitions, while Mr Diamond spoke at a Greenwich full council meeting.  

The London Assembly Member for Greenwich and Lewisham, Len Duvall, stepped in to help and Lewisham Council’s Third Local Implementation Plan (LIP3) bid last year included a healthy neighbourhood programme across the borough.  

Mr Diamond said: “We were selected [first] because we were the area that was most supportive of an LTN because we’ve been doing this stuff for years. 

“We have a superb LTN now. Our streets are beautiful. It’s amazing, you can just walk around the streets and people are more likely to say hello to you. 

“We went from 700 vehicles an hour in the peak period going one direction along Upwood Road, and that is now gone down to about eight or nine.” 

Mr Diamond said he was sympathetic to those in neighbouring areas experiencing a surge in traffic, and said it would be preferable if the LTNs were rolled out next to each other.  

“I’ve had meetings as part of Lewisham Pedestrians – I understand entirely the knock-on effects of the scheme across the Lewisham and Lee Green healthy neighbourhood.  

“But once the scheme is fully in place, then there will be a virtual LTN in all of the roads to the west of the railway line up to Hither Green Lane – they’re going to be quiet roads.  

“There’ll be no reason for any car to enter those roads because they don’t go anywhere. 

“There is still an outside chance that people will drop down into the roads closer to the railway line from Hither Green Lane simply to rejoin Hither Green Lane further on if they are travelling from west to east.  

“There is a chance but that seems very unlikely,” he said.  

Mr Diamond said the idea to put traffic filters in Hither Green Lane was “fantastic”. 

“I completely an utterly support it […] it would completely turn that massive area into such a quiet place.  

“When they started the healthy neighbourhoods, what they should have done was roll out the schemes one after the other next to each other.  

“But by doing places all over the borough, it’s creating conflicts between nearby residents unnecessarily, people who live in streets next to one another.  

“If they let the schemes roll out next to each other, [Lewisham] could be a model borough. Not just in London, the whole world would come to see it,” Mr Diamond said. 

He added that the delay in installing the camera-controlled filters needed to addressed quickly.  

“We know that there are people who are disadvantaged by LTNs, but it’s about the greater good and how much better it is for everybody,” Mr Diamond said.