A low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) trial in the south of the borough will continue after a bid to force a rethink of the scheme failed.
Conservative councillors called on Enfield Council to reconsider the Bowes Area Quieter Neighbourhood scheme, claiming it had pushed traffic on to surrounding roads and increased air pollution.
But council officers and members of the Labour administration defended the trial and claimed more data was needed to judge whether it was a success.
The cabinet’s decision to extend the LTN trial was called in for debate at the overview and scrutiny committee by Tory councillors, forcing a debate on the issue during a meeting on Wednesday, July 21.
Cllr Maria Alexandrou, shadow cabinet member for climate change, told the meeting LTNs had “forced traffic into other areas and divided the community in order to create a few quiet roads in the entire borough”.
She said there had been a lack of community engagement on the scheme and claimed nitrogen dioxide levels had increased by 20 per cent at Bowes Primary School since the LTN was rolled out last summer, but this was later disputed by deputy leader Ian Barnes.
Cllr Alexandrou also raised concerns over the impact on people with disabilities, claiming their rights had not been considered and engagement with blue badge holders had been a “tick-box exercise”. A survey revealed more than three quarters of those with a disability thought the trial had had a negative impact on them.
Cllr Barnes, who also chairs the council’s climate change task force, told the meeting he had asked cabinet for the trial to be extended to allow the authority to collect more data about typical traffic patterns. He said the trial had been accompanied by a six-month consultation period, and the council had followed government guidelines on the scheme’s rollout.
The deputy leader suggested the 20 per cent air pollution rise near the primary school had “come from social media” and said nitrogen dioxide levels typically increase during winter because more people use their cars.
He added that the council had carried out a special survey for people with disabilities and held focus groups with them to find out what issues they were experiencing and what could be done to help them.
Under questioning from Tory committee member Cllr James Hockney, healthy streets programme director Richard Eason confirmed the council was not using air quality monitors to gauge the trial’s impact on pollution levels. Instead, it is collecting traffic data and inputting it into a model to get an indication of the LTN’s impact on air quality.
Two ward councillors for Bowes, Labour’s Yasemin Brett and Achilleas Georgiou, voiced concerns about elements of the scheme.
While she said she supported efforts to tackle climate change, Cllr Brett criticised the government timeline for rolling out the trial and said the way the LTN was implemented in Bowes was “not helpful”.
She said “consulted” was not the right word for the prior engagement with ward councillors, who had been presented with a “very tight timeline” for the trial, and the reason she had agreed was because it was going to be for an experimental period that might contribute to the climate change discussion.
Cllr Barnes claimed all ward councillors were consulted “all the way through the process”.
Cllr Georgiou said he did not believe there had been prior engagement with people living on the North Circular, which is on the boundary of the scheme, and asked if the council would hold focus groups with them.
In response, Cllr Barnes claimed the LTN had reduced the number of vehicles going on to the North Circular. He added that residents on the road had been free to take part in the consultation on the trial.
Cllr Richard Eason said the council would consider carrying out more engagement with those disproportionately impacted by the scheme, adding that it could be modified in response to the concerns raised by people with disabilities.
After the debate, Conservative members of the scrutiny committee and Community First’s Cllr Derek Levy called for the Bowes LTN trial to be referred to a meeting of the full council. But they were outvoted by Labour members of the committee, who opted to confirm the original cabinet decision.