Dulwich residents have held a protest against the closure of the Dulwich Village junction as part of the London-wide move to cut air pollution.
People living and working in the area gathered on Bank Holiday Monday, May 3, to coincide with a meeting held by local ward councillors Margy Newens and Richard Leeming.
Demonstrators say they kept numbers deliberately low to stay on the right side of rules on public gatherings, but numbers will increase in future protests as lockdown continues to ease.
Among groups represented were One Dulwich, who have over 1,900 supporters, East Dulwich Grove Residents’ Group, Dulwich Village traders, Melbourne Grove Vale Traders Against Closures, and residents from Turney Road, Dulwich Village, Court Lane, Woodwarde Road and Dovercourt Road.
A spokesperson from the Dulwich Alliance, which brings together these groups, said: “We were able to put our point across that 24/7 closures stop emergency vehicles getting through, discriminate against elderly, vulnerable and mobility-impaired residents, and push traffic and pollution on to residents and schools in neighbouring streets.
“We want a solution that balances the needs of the whole community, both young and old, and which doesn’t empty some streets of traffic by increasing congestion on others.”
Southwark Council issued more than 22,400 fines between January 11 and February 28 this year to people driving in the Dulwich Village low traffic neighbourhood (LTN). If all of these had been paid early at £65, then the council netted a total of £1,457,560 in just seven weeks.
Researchers have come to different conclusions on the effect of LTNs on pollution. A November 2020 study by scientists at the University of Westminster found that LTNs do not disproportionately benefit richer people, as is sometimes claimed. But a study by Wandsworth Council last December and reported by the Daily Telegraph found that toxic gases increased on main roads as congestion rose.
Southwark Council is due to launch an eight-week review of the Dulwich low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) this month. The review will gather the opinions of residents and people living nearby on the scheme.
Other measures will include online meetings in May and June, reviewing previous feedback, counting vehicle numbers in the area before and after the road closure, looking into bike and pedestrian movements, and monitoring local congestion and air quality.
The demonstration came after Southwark Council made changes to another LTN further north in the borough.
Changes to the Great Suffolk Street LTN were made at the end of last month to remedy “a disproportionate effect on journey times for local residents” caused by the closures, after discussions with ward councillors and emergency services.
Changes include allowing access to Webber Street from Great Suffolk Street and Southwark Bridge Road and removing the no entry rules on Sawyer Street and Southwark Bridge Road and on Lant Street and Southwark Bridge Road.