Sunak orders review of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has asked the Department for Transport to carry out a review of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) across the country, despite local authorities stating that a review is “unnecessary”.

LTNs are groups of residential streets bordered by main roads where “through” traffic is discouraged or removed. The aim is to encourage people to walk, cycle or use public transport through the use of barriers such as bollards and planters, as well as road signs and CCTV cameras. 

There are reported to be around 300 LTNs already running or planned across the country, with tens of millions of pounds of government funding being given to councils to set them up. 

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph this weekend, Sunak said he wants to “make sure people know that I’m on their side in supporting them to use their cars to do all the things that matter to them”, and so has ordered a review of the schemes. This comes after transport secretary, Mark Harper, announced earlier this year that the government was stopping the funding of new LTNs in England. 

The Times also reported earlier this month that the government was considering plans to ensure that no new LTNs are approved, with ministers said to be considering banning councils from using the national number plate database to enforce them. 

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Speaking to the Telegraph, Sunak said he has “become slightly more alarmed by the Labour Party’s position. It’s quite anti-motorist”. 

This comes after the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, confirmed on Friday that the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expansion will go ahead at the end of August, despite internal political pressure, after the High Court ruled in favour of the mayor and dismissed a claim brought against the expansion by the London boroughs of Bexley, Bromley, Harrow and Hillingdon, and Surrey Council Council.

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On Twitter, Sunak labelled LTNs “anti-car schemes”. He posted a picture of himself sitting in Margaret Thatcher’s “old Rover” and wrote: “Earlier I spoke to the Telegraph about how important cars are for families to live their lives. It’s something anti-motorist Labour just don’t seem to get. And it’s why I’m reviewing anti-car schemes across the country.” 

The Local Government Association, which represents local councils, said the review of LTNs is “unnecessary” and said it is councils who are “best placed to make decisions with their communities in improving the lives of people and businesses.” 

“Only with long-term certainty of funding and consistency of government policy can councils invest confidently in transport schemes and help meet the government’s own target of 50% of urban journeys being walked, wheeled or cycled by 2030,” said Cllr Linda Taylor, Local Government Association transport spokesperson.

The Labour party's shadow international trade secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, told Sky News it was "staggering" that Sunak was pitching himself as a friend of motorists, adding it was "yet another press release" policy from the prime minister.

Writing on Twitter, Zack Polanski, deputy leader of The Green Party and London Assembly member said: “This is so pathetic from the Conservative government. They are out of touch, out of ideas and out of time. They're governing by headline - unable to do anything more than try and keep stoking up culture wars whilst the planet burns.” 

Despite growing pressure, Sunak said during the interview that the government is “not considering” a delay to the 2030 target to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. 

This follows reports that the government was considering scaling back the plans by introducing what has been called an “Aston Martin exemption”, which would give small car makers longer to convert to electric vehicles.