'Future phases' of traffic ban programme scrapped following review
- Credit: Mike Brooke
The controversial Liveable Streets programme of road closures has now been halted by Tower Hamlets Council, with assurances that "future phases" of the scheme have also been scrapped.
This comes after Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs announced the programme would be “briefly paused” and reviewed.
Additionally, an independent council member who defeated Labour in a by-election on a manifesto promising to scrap the scheme is holding an open meeting in Bethnal Green tonight (September 14), where a barrier has been installed across the B118 Old Bethnal Green Road.
Kabir Ahmed snatched the Weavers by-election for ex-mayor Lutfur Rahman's Aspire party, citing traffic controversy in the aftermath.
Mr Biggs now faces a threat over the issue in next year's local council elections.
In a statement to the East London Advertiser, he has now promised no further projects under the Liveable Streets banner.
“We’ve paused to see what changes are needed,” he said. “Any future schemes will be taking in the lessons learnt. We need to reflect on the impact the schemes have on some residents.”
But he’s not backtracking on the B118 closure of Old Bethnal Green Road. He tweeted: “Liveable Streets was my proposal and there are no plans to scrap it in Bethnal Green, Bow or the other five areas.”
But Cllr Ahmed is taking up the fight in Bethnal Green, with tonight's meeting at St Peter’s Church in Warner Place at 6.30pm.
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He told the Advertiser: “There was a striking feeling from voters in the by-election to have these barriers removed.
“Public funds can’t just be spent without analysing the impact, then looking at them again later. We can’t run schemes on a 'trial and error' basis while rents and council tax go up – it's all public money.”
Seven schemes were pushed through during lockdown in a bid to prevent through-traffic and congestion in Bethnal Green, Bow, Wapping, Old Ford, Shadwell and Barkantine on the Isle of Dogs.
Linda Wilkinson, former head of Amnesty International UK who chairs a residents’ group in Columbia Road, said: “Closing Old Bethnal Green Road has put all the traffic onto Hackney Road instead, which is now at a standstill all day.
“The whole thing’s badly managed — no joined-up thinking. It’s not beyond the wit of man to work out a proper transport strategy.”
The council argues that Tower Hamlets has the most traffic in the country with transport “the main source of air pollution responsible for nearly 40 per cent of carbon diode emissions”.
Further impact studies are needed in Bow following TfL comments about the impact on bus services, the council admits, while “elements of the scheme will need to be delayed and possibly redesigned”.
Cllr Kahar Chowdhury, the mayor’s cabinet member for highways, said: “We’re hearing from residents that Liveable Streets in some cases is not solving congestion as people are still making local car journeys. Traffic is just being pushed onto other roads and journey times are increasing.
“We quickly need to get it right. It means we will not be developing future phases of Liveable Streets as we had planned.”