East London residents have backed keeping traffic restrictions in place for one of the area’s most iconic streets, posing a potential headache for the local mayor who wants to abandon such schemes.
Tower Hamlets Council ran a consultation earlier this year on whether road traffic closures should be retained along Brick Lane, a road famous for its buzzing markets, vintage shops and curry houses, among other notable attractions.
The closures, which were introduced in August 2021 as part of the then Labour-run council’s Livable Streets programme, were implemented at various junctures along the road preventing motor vehicle access at certain times.
These were between 5.30pm and 11pm on Thursday and Friday, and 11am to 11pm on Saturday and Sunday.
In March 2022, three of these were removed, with the remaining two, between Hanbury Street and Woodseer Street and Buxton Street and Taylor’s Yard entrance, having their hours reduced to 12pm and 11pm on Saturday and Sunday.
The consultation, which was launched to determine the fate of the two retained closures, asked residents whether they wished to have them removed or kept in place.
According to a report just released by the council, the consultation found support for the closures, with more than 80% of all valid responses backing them.
When limited to those based within the consultation area, a majority remained in-favour of the closures, with 59%, against 41% wanting them removed.
A total of 825 valid survey responses were received, of which 266 were from those living within the survey area, the council notes.
Explicit support for the restrictions was received from the Met Police and Transport for London (TfL), though concerns were raised by several other stakeholders, including UK Power Networks, and local businesses, who largely supported the removal of the closures in face-to-face engagement with the council.
The mayor of Tower Hamlets Council, Lutfur Rahman, pledged to “reverse the botched Livable Streets road closures” as part of his manifesto ahead of the local elections last May, in which he and his Aspire Party defeated the previous Labour administration.
Earlier this year, the mayor was accused of favouring car journeys over walking and cycling by the Bethnal Green campaign group Save Our Safer Streets, after TfL announced it would be witholding most of its healthy streets funding in-light of Mr Rahman’s policies.
Old Bethnal Green Road area consultation
The Brick Lane consultation was not the only one held by Tower Hamlets Council as it reviews Liveable Street schemes across the borough.
Options to remove or retain several traffic restriction measures around Old Bethnal Green Road, Columbia Road and Arnold Circus were also put to residents, businesses and other stakeholders, with a majority of respondents (77% of all valid responses, and 58.3% of those within consultation area) again backing the traffic calming measures.
Several local schools were among those to support their retention, though accessibility to certain areas was raised as an issue by the London Ambulance Service.
In their report, officers added a third option for the council to consider, which they say is “an amended version of option one which seeks to address concerns raised by key internal and external stakeholders and the public consultation”.
A decision on both the Brick Lane and Old Bethnal Green Road area closures is due to be made at next Wednesday’s (September 20) council cabinet meeting.
Oli Rake, coordinator for Better Streets for Tower Hamlets, said: “The latest consultation results confirm what we’ve been hearing in the borough: people want to keep their LTNs (low-traffic neighbourhoods).
“Across both consultation areas, 76% of survey respondents and 58% of residents want to retain the LTNs as they are: this is a clear majority, and the mayor must listen.
“The LTNs have made the area safer and more pleasant, and there is no justification to spend millions of pounds of council money to remove them.
“We’re concerned by the introduction of an ‘Option 3 in the consultation report: this was not consulted on, and is substantially the same as the removal of the LTNs, which respondents and residents roundly rejected.”
A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council said: “The issue of LTNs otherwise known as Liveable Streets will be decided at the cabinet meeting on Wednesday September 20. The papers for the meeting have been published on our website.”
To read both consultation reports, do so via the Tower Hamlets Council cabinet meeting agenda page here.