‘Practical difficulties’ partly to blame for no resident exemption in Islington’s People Friendly Streets, council leader says

Cllr Richard Watts. Picture: Polly Hancock

Cllr Richard Watts. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

“Practical difficulties” are part of the reason residents cannot be exempt from the People Friendly Streets schemes, according to the leader of Islington Council.

Cllr Richard Watts took part in a live Q&A Zoom event hosted by the Gazette alongside the authority’s environment and transport chief Cllr Rowena Champion.

The traffic-curbing schemes, which see through-roads blocked to cars in certain neighbourhoods, have been put in place for 18 months.

They are controversial with some residents who are concerned about accessibility, the affect on overall congestion and a lack of pre-consultation.

READ MORE: More through-routes to be blocked to cars as fourth People Friendly Streets area announcedDuring the event, Martijn Cooijmans, the council’s head of transport, said monitoring includes vehicle counts on the number and type of cars, the frequency of cyclists and on air quality.

The council told this newspaper it is “looking into the request” to make that data public.

One questioner, Maya, said: “We (residents) don’t use the streets to cut through, we use the streets to get home and to park, so I was just wondering why the cameras that have been installed from the Essex Road to stop cars getting through, why those cameras can’t recognise number plates and let us through?

“Because we’re not driving through and exiting, we actually want to get somewhere.”

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Cllr Champion replied: “If we allowed residents to drive through the cameras there would be a number of traffic movements every day which would take away the real benefits of the filters, but also it would make it easy for residents to use their cars and that is one of the things we absolutely need to dissuade people from doing.”

Cllr Watts said there were also “practical difficulties” to putting in exemptions, including “data protection” and a more complicated appeals process.

In response to an article written by the Gazette, which revealed the London Ambulance Service had raised concerns about response times, Cllr Watts said: “Response times from the fire brigade have actually improved in Waltham Forest with the introduction of these schemes because there are less cars on the road. What really slows down fire brigade, ambulance and police cars is congestion, not these kind of barriers.”

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