Rishi Sunak orders a review of low-traffic neighborhoods

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has ordered a review of low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) in England, saying that he is on the side of drivers. He told the Sunday Telegraph he was supporting people to “use their cars to do all the things that matter to them”.

His remarks form part of a sharpening debate on green policies following last week’s by-elections. LTNs aim to reduce traffic, in part by preventing drivers using quieter residential roads as through-routes.

Some research suggests they reduce localised pollution. But critics, including some Conservatives MPs, argue they harm the freedom of motorists and push traffic onto other roads, causing congestion.

In his Sunday Telegraph interview,Mr Sunak also said he was not planning to change the deadline for the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesels cars despite calls from some Conservatives to do so.

In a letter to Mr Sunak on Saturday, a group of 43 Conservative MPs and peers including Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Sir Jacob Rees Mogg and David Davis, suggested moving the target to 2035 to avoid “grave harm to the economy”.

It read: “The public can only be left worse off by a heavy-handed ban that leaves them unable to purchase the vehicles they want.

“The future for this country is in imposing fewer burdens and being more lightly regulated than the EU, not in unilaterally imposing additional job-destroying burdens to meet an unnecessary and unworkable deadline.”

But Mr Sunak said: “The 2030 target has been our policy for a long time and continues to be – we are not considering a delay to that date. LTNs have been set up in recent years in London, Bristol, Birmingham, Bournemouth and more cities, with tens of millions of pounds of government funding given to councils for them since 2020.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

In 2022 authorities around the country told iNews that nearly 200 had been installed over a two-year period, with about 50 scrapped.

Their aim 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.

Mr Sunak said he had ordered the Department for Transport to see how LTNs were working. Earlier this month, Transport Secretary Mark Harper announced that the government was stopping the funding of new LTNs in England.

It is not clear whether the government could make councils alter or scrap existing schemes.

Mr Sunak said: “The vast majority of people in the country use their cars to get around and are dependent on cars.

“I just want 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,” he said. The adoption of LTNs has attracted the ire of some Tory MPs, who have criticised the measure as an attack on motorists.

Conservative MP Nick Fletcher described them earlier this year as being part of an “international socialist concept” that take away personal liberties.

Labour’s Louise Haigh accused the Conservatives of “pure hypocrisy” for accelerating and funding LTN’s before “denouncing” the policy.

The shadow transport secretary said road safety measures were often demanded by local communities so the decisions must be properly consulted on and made by them.

The Local Government Association, which represents local councils, said the review was “unnecessary” and councils were best placed to make decisions with their communities.

It said councils needed long-term certainty over funding if they were to help meet the government’s own target of 50% of urban journeys being walked, wheeled or cycled by 2030.

The review will only look at LTNs in England, as they are a devolved matter in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It comes as intense heatwaves worldwide and climate change warnings propel the UK’s net zero target to the top of the political agenda.

The target, set for 2050, is to no longer add to the total amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The UK’s strategy includes generating all electricity from clean sources, switching gas boilers for heat pumps and banning new petrol and diesel cars.

Within the Conservative Party, however, there are internal divisions over green policies and some MPs are calling for a rethink.

In the coming week, Mr Sunak will meet energy leaders to set out details of his plans for the UK fossil fuel and green industries.

On Saturday, environment groups warned Mr Sunak they will not “stand by” while politicians use the environment as a “political football”.

In last week’s Uxbridge by-election, the Tories capitalised on voters’ anger over Labour London mayor Sadiq Khan’s plans to extend the capital’s ultra-low emission zone (Ulez), a key factor in their victory.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer blamed his party’s defeat on the planned Ulez expansion – and Mr Sunak has urged Mr Khan to “think twice” on the expansion.

Ulez was introduced by former London Mayor Boris Johnson, but Mr Khan has sought to expand the scheme further into London as part of his efforts to improve air quality in the capital. Earlier this week the High Court ruled plans to expand Ulez were lawful, saying the mayor’s expansion decision was “within his powers”.

City Hall has said that 90% of cars driving in outer London comply with Ulez standards, which has been backed by the UK Statistics Authority – although the watchdog criticised the mayor over data transparency.

In the Sunday Telegraph interview, Mr Sunak said the scheme effectively levies charges to “take your kids to football practice or do your weekly shop or see a GP.

Source: BBC

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