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Pledge to end rat runs by end of the year

Town Hall leader plans to introduce ‘low-traffic neighbourhoods’ in a third of residential streets

29 May, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Council leader Richard Watts: ‘The air quality in Islington has been noticeably better since this crisis came along’

THE leader of Islington Council has vowed to stop “rat running” traffic on around a third of the borough’s residential streets by the end of the year as he unveiled a massive rollout of low-traffic neighbourhoods – work on which will begin within weeks.

Low traffic neighbourhoods aim to make it so people can park on their own streets, but drivers do not use them as cut-throughs.

Council leader Labour councillor Richard Watts made the announcement during a live Q&A session on Facebook on Tuesday as he answered a question from a resident about plans to encourage the use of cycling and walking by closing or filtering roads in the borough.

He pointed to the pavement widening already undertaken on council roads that will allow more space for two-metre social distancing, and said the council was lobbying TfL to do the same on the roads it controls in Islington.

“However, we absolutely know this is not sufficient,” he said. “The air quality in Islington has been noticeably better since this crisis came along. We have to keep that going. It would be catastrophic if we saw people going back to their cars at the end of this crisis.”

He added: “We’re looking at introducing, very quickly – possibly within a matter of weeks – what we term low traffic neighbourhoods in Islington.

“That’s closing off residential roads in order to stop people rat running through them. Anyone who lives in that area will still be able to drive to their home, but you won’t be able to drive through it without going on to the main roads.”

Green party councillor Caroline Russell 

Green party councillor Caroline Russell said she was “very glad” to hear Mr Watt’s announcement, but called on the council to flesh out its plans with more details.

“It has been so frustrating as the weeks of lockdown have rolled past with very little information coming out about the council’s plans to use our streets to help us keep our distance as lockdown eases,” said Cllr Russell.

“I was very glad to hear something concrete last Friday when Richard Watts announced a third of the borough would be included in low traffic neighbourhoods by the end of the year. Residents across the borough will be waiting to see traffic reductions in their area. Most of us are going to have to stay off public transport for the foreseeable future as capacity is just 15 per cent of usual because of the ongoing need to keep physically apart from each other.”

The Tribune asked the council which streets would be included in the low traffic neighbourhoods roll-out and how much the project would cost, but the Town Hall declined to answer. An announcement is expected next week.

Cllr Watts said the council was not in a position to give details on locations at the moment, and went on to admit this would have to be done “cheaply and quickly”, given the gradual loosening of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions and the previously reported financial pressures faced by the council.

He added that he was talking to TfL about introducing key worker routes on main roads, and promised a “radical roll-out” of the borough’s School Streets plan in September, which he said would aid with social distancing.

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