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Lambeth facing legal challenge over low traffic neighbourhood

A disabled local resident expects to take the London Borough of Lambeth to court next month in a dispute over a low traffic neighbourhood.

These are areas where councils have been encouraged by the government to close routes to through traffic to encourage walking and cycling when public transport use is reduced by social distancing.

London mayor Sadiq Khan’s Streetscape policy on this was held to be unlawful and is now is subject to appeal but many boroughs have implemented schemes.

The Lambeth case is led by resident Sofia Sheikh for local campaign group One Lambeth, which has raised £17,733 from a crowd funding page.

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It argued that Lambeth set up its low traffic neighbourhoods without consulting residents and that these hampered emergency services’ access and transferred traffic and pollution onto main roads.

Ms Sheikh has suffered from Covid-19 and has developed a debilitating lung condition, but says her access to hospital, carers and the ambulance service has been severely affected by diversions near her home introduced as part of low traffic neighbourhoods.

The group said Mr Justice Kerr gave permission to proceed and that Ms Sheikh’s case was cost-capped at £5,000 should it have to pay Lambeth’s costs after hearings on 9 and 10 June.

A Lambeth council spokesperson said: “Last summer the council produced an emergency transport plan in response to the significant challenges the coronavirus pandemic posed to the borough's transport system.

“This plan included pavement widening, temporary walking and cycling infrastructure and low traffic neighbourhoods.”

The council said the pandemic saw public transport capacity reduced by up to 80% to accommodate social distancing while 60% of Lambeth households lacked access to a car.

“We needed to make our streets safer to enable them to walk, cycle, scoot or wheel safely in their local area and access local facilities during the pandemic,” the spokesperson said.

There would be a public consultation prior to any decision on the future of the low traffic measures.

Mark Smulian

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