The next stage of Islington’s transformation of its roads to cut down on pollution, congestion and accidents got the green light despite concerns of residents, campaigners and businesses.
One local, Andrew Martin, said: “In my 42 years of being disabled I have never felt as disabled as I have done since the implementation of low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs).”
Islington Council will press ahead with its people-friendly streets plan, which include school streets, LTNs, cycleways, a lorry control scheme and a new pavement project.
Its executive approved the plans at a lively meeting during which some residents made their concerns clear.
Environment and transport boss Cllr Rowena Champion said the climate change emergency has made the move even more pressing.
Islington was recently identifed as one of six areas in the capital most at risk of bearing the brunt of climate change.
“It is no longer about transforming the streets for people to walk, cycle, wheel and just to be, it’s also about making Islington a resilient borough, making it greener, making it safer,” said Cllr Champion.
She said if traffic increased “it would have a devastating effect on local people”.
The executive also agreed to trial an exemption for Blue Badge holders in LTNs.
Cllr Champion added: “It is to ease some of the difficulties experienced by people in their local area while keeping the very real benefits that low traffic areas have.”
Martin said he did not think the borough’s 9,000 Blue Badge holders had been properly consulted and that a recent drop-in session for residents with disabilities was not advertised properly.
Martin said residents had explained how “problematic” the LTNs were, adding: “They clearly don’t work for many disabled people.”
He pointed out that 42 per cent of people with disablilites are passengers who would potentially be ineligible for the planned Blue Badge exemptions.
“People who are reliant on a taxi have no hope at all.”
Cllr Champion said the council had spoken to many people with disabilities: “We will continue to talk to people as we go forward.”
The council created seven of the LTNs during the pandemic, but the schemes have proved controversial throughout the UK.
They are at St Peter’s, Canonbury East, Clerkenwell Green, Amwell, Canonbury West, Highbury West and Highbury Fields covering 22,907 households. There are similar measures in the Mayton Street area in the Nag’s Head.
The council is now planning to open another one at St Mary’s Church, south of Highbury Corner, by the end of the year.
The council said the LTNs have seen ” reduced motor traffic and associated road danger, reduced air and noise pollution, and improved opportunities for active transport, and are generally making the borough cleaner, greener, and healthier for all”.
Its report said the schemes “are likely to be bringing widespread benefits to Islington’s most vulnerable residents, including helping to tackle childhood obesity”.
The number of serious accidents on Islington roads in 2020 also dropped by 35 per cent, according to government figures.
The council’s report states: “LTNs help improve access to walking and cycling, particularly for children and older people, and people with disabilities.”
One mother whose son has physical and neuroligical disabilities said the St Peter’s LTN has made life worse for him and put extra time on his trips to medical appointments. He has also missed sporting trips and three full days of school.
“It is causing an extreme amount of distress,” she said. “It feels like our children and disabled people are collateral damage”.
Cllr Champion said the Blue Badge exemptions are for residents like her son and the council brought the scheme in quickly.
“We have been looking at what we can do,” she said.
Jody Graber from We Are Islington said:”You haven’t inconvenienced people, you’ve ruined a lot of people’s lives and businesses.”
He plans to run for council in May’s local elections.
The council’s report adds that if more people walk and cycle, businesses get a boost of up to 30 per cent.
One Canonbury newsagent told councillors that since an LTN was introduced near him, he had seen a significant drop in trade.
He said: “I don’t understand why you are making life miserable. Since you started the LTN, everything is ruined.”
Cllr Champion said the council wants to work with businesses and has appointed a new officer to help them.
The Town Hall is also introducing 23 further school streets using 18-month trials, in addition to the 13 set up before the pandemic. Motor vehicles are banned from school streets at the beginning and end of the school day.
The next stage will see school streets at all Isington primary schools, if practical.