Liveable Streets traffic schemes halted after protests across East End
- Credit: LBTH
Controversial schemes to stop through-traffic in neighbourhoods from Shoreditch to Bow have been halted.
Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs has announced that the Liveable Streets programme, which measures in places like Columbia Road and the B118 Old Bethnal Green Road, will be “briefly paused” and reviewed.
It could also mean second thoughts about proposals around Arnold Circus conservation area, which were halted in their tracks by demonstrators last summer, and along Roman Road.
“I’m making some changes as we focus on recovering from the pandemic,” he said.
“We will be briefly pausing and, where necessary, changing the Liveable Streets programme. This might mean changes to existing schemes and looking at our future plans.
“The programme is not popular with some of those less directly benefiting and who face inconvenience. We will change it where needed to make sure we are balancing those concerns.”
The move follows a defeat in August's by-election at Bethnal Green’s Weavers ward, where Labour lost heavily to Aspire which has pledged to scrap the traffic barriers if it wins next year’s local council polls.
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Aspire’s new councillor Kabir Ahmed told the Advertiser: “We said we'll undo these schemes. Voters told us the consultation was underhand and they felt they were being excluded.
“These barriers have created a nightmare. There’s no evidence showing why these roads need to be closed.”
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Labour also lost votes to Tories, who campaigned to scrap the barriers and came third place in the voting.
A Tory Group spokesman told the Advertiser: "It shouldn't have taken a by-election defeat for Mayor Biggs to realise there was real opposition to the divisive road closure scheme. We have repeatedly raised concerns with road closures restricting access for the disabled and emergency services."
Campaigners like Linda Wilkinson, former head of Amnesty International UK who now chairs the residents’ body in Columbia Road, say the barriers have led to a rise in crime on the streets that no longer have police patrols and rubbish piling up because the council’s refuge lorries can’t get through.
She is sceptical about the mayor’s announcement, insisting: “This is a PR stunt after Labour’s bloody nose in the by-election. It’s been a PR disaster for them.”
The council also closed Old Ford Road further along the A118 during lockdown to "improve air quality”, while opponents pointed out it was next to Victoria Park.
It was then reopened because the B118 acts as a bypass to the congested Roman Road, which was also being part-pedestrianised with cycleways.