'LTNs are killing us': Hundreds of Highbury traders sign petition
- Credit: Polly Hancock
Hundreds of shopkeepers in Highbury claim "people-friendly streets" are killing their businesses, with some reporting a 50 per cent drop in trade.
Nearly 300 traders within the Highbury Fields and Highbury West low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) have signed a petition against the traffic-calming measures.
It was delivered to the town hall by Highbury Barn butcher Chris Godfrey, who led the drive to speak to firms.
He discovered 95pc of business owners are struggling with issues caused by traffic jams created by introducing the measures designed to stop motorists using the back streets as rat-runs.
Many of them claim they are not being helped or even listened to by the council, which says it wants to reduce pollution and encourage walking and cycling by blocking off some entrances as through-roads for cars with bollards and traffic cameras.
But the increased travelling times on main roads has had an impact on deliveries to and collections from shops, staff getting to work, and customers refusing to travel to reach them.
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They have reported that jobs which used to take five minutes to reach are now taking over half an hour.
Many shop owners only wanted to talk anonymously, and Stephen Behnam of Da Mario's Highbury Barn has even received hate mail by a supporter of LTNs for having spoken out against them.
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One business owner who set up 40 years ago now claims to get “virtually no passing trade whatsoever”, and as a consequence has cut down to opening just three days a week.
“Having dealt with the last year’s problems with Covid and trying to get back to normal after lockdown, the LTNs have stopped us in our tracks and are going to have a far greater impact on us than Covid,” said another owner speaking anonymously.
Another added: "This is killing my business. For a local council to add to the obvious pressure small businesses in the area are facing right now is irresponsible.
“Government restrictions have forced us to rely on take away and delivery to survive. Rather than supporting us when we are on our knees we are kicked down even further."
“Our trade counter business has significantly dropped due to our customers finding it difficult to get to us," said another.
"I have had eight of my clients tell me it now takes them four times longer to get to us.”
One owner who has run a business in Blackstock Road for over 25 years said the issues are “making me want to leave the area for the first time.”
Even safety issues have been flagged up, with a pharmacy owner reporting temperature controlled medicines, which must be delivered within a short time frame, are regularly not arriving in time.
A laundry firm no longer offers collections and delivery to elderly people "because of the restrictions and getting so many penalty tickets".
Ironically one shop owner said they felt the "shop locally" motto - which is what the scheme is supposed to encourage - had "gone out of the window".
Although one firm uses an electric vehicle to transport goods around, they "still are not allowed to move freely" despite the green mode of transport.
However a spokesperson for the council insisted the schemes are “designed to create streets that work for everyone, including Islington’s local businesses”.
They cited a study by Transport for London (TfL) which found that over the course of a month, people who walk to the high street spend up to 40pc more than those who drive.
The council has been looking into how businesses can use more sustainable ways of delivering, like cargo bikes, and the firm Peddle My Wheels is working with the council and offering discounts and interest-free loans.
Keith Townsend, the council’s corporate director for environment and regeneration, said: “We want to ensure our streets work for everyone, including Islington’s fantastic local businesses.
"Less traffic means easier and safer access for cycling and walking, and quicker journeys for those needing to travel by motor vehicle.
“Our people-friendly streets programme aims to make our streets cleaner, safer and healthier while maintaining access to every street in the borough by motor vehicle, ensuring that those who need to travel by car can continue to do so."