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Potential blow for planned Greenwich LTNs as new government Plan for Drivers guidance released

Gridlocked traffic on Blackheath Hill

The future of Greenwich Council's West & East Traffic Management trial scheme has taken an unexpected turn following the release of new draft statutory guidance concerning the rollout of low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), sparking important questions about whether it will actually go ahead.

The guidance, which forms part of the government's broader Plan for Drivers initiative, will require local authorities across England, including the Royal Borough of Greenwich, to prioritise community input before introducing LTNs, meaning councils must have the general support of residents before implementing schemes such as the one approved by decision maker and Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport, Cllr Averil Lekau, on 8 March.

As outlined in the draft statutory guidance from the Department for Transport, which is due for implementation this summer, councils have been urged to engage directly with residents. Methods such as distributing leaflets, conducting online surveys, and hosting face-to-face meetings are recommended to gather feedback on LTN proposals. The support of residents, businesses, and emergency services is deemed essential.

The government's Plan for Drivers

Although the council attempted to engage directly with residents through leaflet distribution, online surveys, and online/face-to-face meetings, support for the scheme was limited, with an overwhelming majority of residents and businesses rejecting all proposals.

According to the new guidance published, councils failing to demonstrate sufficient local support for schemes such as the one proposed on both sides of Greenwich Park risk consequences, including potential impacts on future transport funding, which could affect plans to pedestrianise much of Greenwich Town Centre, something the council has been working on for some time.

In addition, councils are advised to restrict the implementation of 20mph speed limits to specific zones, such as those around schools, with Transport Secretary Mark Harper emphasising the government's dedication to ensuring community involvement in traffic schemes, aiming for effectiveness and acceptance among residents.

The guidance also aims to prevent councils from profiting from traffic restriction enforcement, improve the time it takes to complete roadworks, and invest £50m in upgrading traffic lights, as revealed in advertisement materials released today (pictured above).

Greenwich Council generated £474,295 in fines as a result of the last LTN, installed between August 2021 and February 2022.

Questions remain whether the council will attempt to implement the trial scheme ahead of the government guidance coming into effect and whether the guidance will cover schemes that have already been consulted on.

However, statutory consultation will be required during the first six months of the trial scheme. Residents, businesses, and other key stakeholders, such as emergency services, will be required to provide feedback and be given the opportunity to formally object to the scheme.

News of the new guidance comes just days after the decision to trial the West & East Greenwich Traffic Management trial scheme was 'called in' by Leader of the Opposition Cllr Matt Hartley and three of Cllr Lekau's fellow Labour councillors, Lakshan Saldin, Leo Fletcher and Maisie Richards Cottell.

A scrutiny panel hearing is due to take place after the mayoral elections in May. During the hearing, councillors who have challenged the decision will be permitted to question Cllr Lekau along with members of the public who pre-register to do so.

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