Major plans to green up Islington win political backing – as resident calls for a referendum on LTNs

A school street outside Ambler primary School. Photograph: Islington Council

Ambitious plans to green up 70 per cent of Islington’s streets have won the backing of Town Hall bosses – despite calls to give residents a vote.

Council leader Kaya Comer-Schwartz said: “We need to tackle the climate emergency. We are ensuring that 70 per cent of the borough is covered by people-friendly street schemes and liveable neighbourhoods.”

Measures also include extending school streets to secondary schools, closing roads near schools at the start and end of the school day, more bike routes and further improvements to pavements.

The controversial low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), or people-friendly streets as they are known in Islington, were introduced in June 2020.

There are now seven schemes, covering almost a quarter of the borough.

The first ones to be introduced have attracted strong feelings from both fans and detractors.

The council said traffic has dropped by 64 per cent but that some boundary roads have seen an increase. Bike use has risen by almost 50 per cent on people-friendly roads and by 10 per cent on boundary roads.

Six new LTNs are set to be introduced, including a joint one with the City of London at Bunhill South and the Barbican.

More than a dozen Islington residents who are unhappy with the plans attended a crunch cabinet meeting, with one calling for a referendum.

“We want to be able to vote for these streets and LTNs or not at all,” he told the council leader, who said it was included in last year’s election manifesto.

Another resident, Rebekah Kelly, said: “People-friendly streets have created haves and have-nots, fit against disabled, rich against poor.”

Blue badge holders pointed out they were not exempt from the fines – which start at £65, if paid promptly. The council has now given exemptions to 1,000 residents.

Carer Eirlys Mackenzie told councillors she has had difficulty getting an exemption and other residents have faced similar problems.

The council said the schemes have helped tackle social injustice as well as climate change, and made streets safer.

The latest step to boost Islington’s environmental credentials will see the school streets network expanded to cover 10 secondary schools.

Comer-Schwartz said this should make things safer for children, improve air quality and encourage people to walk or cycle instead of drive.

Ten primary schools whose locations mean they cannot be turned into school streets will instead be given more plants, bike parking and wider pavements in a bid to combat pollution.

These include Robert Blair School, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Montem Primary School and Samuel Rhodes Primary School.

Islington Clean Air Parents welcomed the extension of school streets.

They said parents “have found them to be very successful in creating safer environments for children when they arrive and leave school, and statistics prove they significantly reduce air pollution outside schools”.

They also backed LTNs “but are against the watering down of these schemes by allowing through traffic on some residential roads”, pointing out that just 30 per cent of Islington residents are car owners, so most traffic comes from elsewhere.

Another part of the council’s greenprint includes “people-friendly pavements”, which involve more dropped kerbs, tactile paving to help people with sight problems, and the decluttering of street furniture.

Cycle routes will also be expanded, with a new route connecting the Regent’s Canal and Highgate, and work with Transport for London on creating Cycleway 50 will continue.