Older residents in Dulwich have complained that the Low Traffic Neighbourhood Scheme (LTN), which was made permanent on Christmas Eve, has severely disrupted their lives, writes Joshua Askew…
They say road closures and restrictions are making visits to and from healthcare workers and loved ones more difficult, alongside the activities that help maintain their physical and mental health.
“Age means that we cannot move around as easily as when we were young”, said Joan Evans of Age Speaks, which represents more than 100 elderly and disabled Dulwich residents. “Walking is often painful and slow, carrying more than small loads difficult [and] cycling (with some energetic exceptions) unthinkable.”
“Nobody thinks they are going to be old, but the reality is you will be like this one day,” she added.
In a press release, Southwark Council defended the LTN: “The changes will help to reduce pollution and traffic, improve safety, and increase walking, cycling and scootering.”
“These are outcomes that the majority of those in Dulwich, and across Southwark, can support.”
The impacts of the LTN are felt particularly in day-to-day activities and by the less well off in the area, as penalty charges of £65 can be applied if residents are caught driving in restricted zones.
“I have to shop in different outlets as I am on a budget,” said one 78-year-old pensioner from Dulwich. “As I shop for my 95-year-old aunt as well, shopping on foot or by bus is not an option.”
“I must use my car and these undemocratically imposed road barriers has inconvenienced this weekly chore greatly,” they added.
Residents are also concerned that the LTN is displacing traffic onto boundary roads, especially East Dulwich Grove, Dulwich Common and Croxted Road, worsening congestion and air quality.
Many of these streets are residential and have schools or health centres on them.
Southwark Council said the Dulwich scheme had led to a twelve per cent decrease in motor traffic and a 60 per cent increase in cycling since the measures were first introduced in March 2020.
A lot of the anger felt by residents over the LTN stems from the way in which they believe it was imposed by the council, with many saying there was not a proper assessment of the impact it would have on residents’ lives or exploration of possible alternatives.
Protest group Dulwich Alliance said in a statement: “Southwark Council has decided to ignore the wishes of people in Dulwich by refusing to accept the outcome of its own public consultation, which showed that more than two-thirds of people living and working in all three Dulwich LTNs wanted the traffic restrictions removed, is an abuse of power.
“It is undeniable that there is deep opposition to these street closures not just in Dulwich, but throughout London,” it added.
Cllr Catherine Rose, cabinet member for transport, parks and sport, said: “We have really listened to local people in making many changes to the schemes, to improve accessibility for people with disabilities and lower mobility. We have introduced a wide range of exemptions and changes to assist our most vulnerable residents. Driving is an important liberty for many older residents, who wish to continue driving after 70.
“Of course walking and cycling aren’t always possible for some people and we do not claim we have got it all right, but we can’t make changes based on unspecified claims. We need residents to contact us with specific cases of where this has had a negative impact on someone we can look at how best to mitigate against that.
Locals said they were urging the council to create a better scheme, which addresses their complaints.
“While we are aware of the need to reduce pollution, we need alternatives that do not discriminate against car-dependent elderly and disabled residents, damage local businesses and displace traffic on to already congested roads,” says Joan Evans.
“What we want is a council that doesn’t treat us like children.”