Newham and Waltham Forest create the first cross-borough lower traffic neighbourhood in London

Newham and Waltham Forest Councils have come together to create a cross-boundary low traffic scheme that is set to improve the lives of residents in both boroughs.

Both councils are committed to creating people-friendly streets and neighbourhoods to actively encourage walking, cycling and public transport use. They have been working together over the past 18 months, developing and submitting funding bids to the Transport for London (TfL) Liveable Neighbourhoods programme for improvements in the Forest Gate, Maryland in Stratford, and South Leytonstone areas. It is the first time two London boroughs have come together in this way.

The Covid-19 pandemic has made the imperative to improve streets for walking and cycling, to reduce pressure on road and public transport networks, and to support social distancing, even more urgent.

With London’s public transport capacity currently significantly reduced, millions of journeys a day now have to be made on other modes of transport. If even a small fraction of these are replaced by car journeys, roads will become heavily congested, air quality will worsen, and road safety reduced.

To prevent this from happening Newham and Waltham Forest are creating an experimental Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) at their border. A proposed LTN was included in 2018 and 2019 joint-borough TfL Liveable Neighbourhoods bids. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 crisis, TfL has suspended the Liveable Neighbourhoods programme and redirected funding towards emergency interventions to support social distancing and enable active travel.

However although the Liveable Neighbourhoods funding is currently suspended, both boroughs have agreed to allocate their own funding towards the LTN as part of their commitment to delivering better streets for walking and cycling.

Councillor James Asser, Newham’s Cabinet member for Environment, Highways and Sustainable Transport, said; “Many residents from our two boroughs do not own a car and with capacity on public transport limited by Covid-19, we need to ensure that walking and cycling are safe and attractive options.

“This experimental scheme is designed to stop drivers using our quiet residential areas as ‘rat-runs’ where vehicles cut through our neighbourhoods to avoid main roads, bringing with them pollution, congestion and road safety hazards.”

Detailed traffic surveys completed during the original bid process found that around 40 to 45% of vehicles use Odessa Road in Forest Gate as a cut through to avoid busier main roads.

The scheme aims to stop this kind of road use, but local residents, businesses, visitors and services, such as waste collection and emergency services will still be able to access every address within the LTN boundary.

Councillor Asser added: “With less traffic, noise and pollution, local streets will be safe and more pleasant to use, especially for children to cross the road and walk and cycle to school. The LTN will reduce the level of harmful emissions from motorised vehicles driving through the area, help people stay physically active and healthy, and encourage a shift to more sustainable ways of getting around.”

This scheme is experimental, and while in normal circumstances the councils would hold a consultation before introducing a scheme like this, the Covid-19 crisis means action is needed quickly to keep roads safe.

Construction will begin in mid-August with residents encouraged to take part in an online survey over the next six months to make comments and suggestions on how the scheme is running, and how it might be improved.

Since 2018, when Newham and Waltham Forest first considered bidding for the TfL funding, there has been engagement with residents who have highlighted that vehicle speeds, safety and lack of cycle routes were key barriers to people walking and cycling.

The Low Traffic Neighbourhood will be formed of two parts, one of which is bounded by Crownfield Road, Leytonstone Road, Forest Lane and Leyton Road, and area two, which is bounded by Cann Hall Road, Dames Road, Woodgrange Road, Forest Lane and Leyton Road.

In some cases the schemes will be created by installing physical barriers using large planters placed in the streets at various locations to restrict access for motorised vehicles, however these will still allow enough space for pedestrians and cyclists to travel through them.

In some other areas there will be no physical barrier, but CCTV and signage will be installed creating no entry streets which will be enforced by Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras – with Fixed Penalty Notices (or fines) issued for failure to comply.

The views of local people are important to the success of this scheme and over the next six months local people will be able to give feedback by visiting Newham and Waltham Forest Low Traffic Neighbourhood Scheme.

The feedback will help shape or improve the scheme in light of evidence about how it is working. At key milestones in the project, local people will be invited to complete a series of questions to give more detailed feedback that will help develop a permanent scheme. This will be done through the Commonplace website, so residents are encouraged to sign up to updates.

Councillor Asser said: “I am delighted we have been able to work with our neighbours and colleagues in Waltham Forest to get this unique scheme off the ground, especially in the light of the difficulties and complications created by the suspension of TfL funding, and the Covid-19 crisis.

“Newham is committed to improving the quality of life for our residents by creating more pleasant environments in the streets where they live, but critically we do not want to simply push the problems across our borders into neighbouring boroughs. This scheme recognises that traffic rarely recognises such borders, and this co-operative approach will ensure the benefits are felt for both sets of residents.”

Councillor Clyde Loakes, Deputy Leader for Waltham Forest Council, said: “We’re pleased to be able to start works across Waltham Forest and Newham, creating the first cross-borough Lower Traffic Neighbourhood in London. We’re making sure we provide residents with safer streets to live and travel on.

“Collaborating with Newham Council allows us to benefit both boroughs’ residents, many who live, work and travel between the two areas. These traffic calming measures make streets more pleasant to use, due to there being less traffic, noise and pollution. This work will also reduce the level of harmful emissions from motorised vehicles driving through the area, helping our residents to stay physically active and healthy, and encourage a shift to more sustainable modes of transport, which we’re passionate about here in Waltham Forest.”

Published: 05 Aug 2020