Sunak Pledges to Stop 'Blanket' Traffic-Restricting Schemes

The prime minister said he's 'slamming the brakes on the war on motorists' and criticised politicians for making 'short-term decisions.'
Sunak Pledges to Stop 'Blanket' Traffic-Restricting Schemes
Bollards in a street in Cowley near Oxford, to create a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN), on May 5, 2021. (Steve Parsons/PA)
Lily Zhou

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to stop schemes like Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTN)s and 20-mile-per-hour (mph) zones from being "done in a blanket way."

The prime minister told The Sun in an interview that he's "slamming the brakes on the war on motorists" in the government's latest move to roll back the so-called green policies ahead of the next general election.

Mr. Sunak slammed the schemes as "harebrained" and politicians for making "short-term decisions" without "any thinking about how that is actually just going to impact ordinary people."

He said there are areas around schools where the traffick-restricting schemes do "make sense."

"What we want to make sure is that ... local communities are not having these things imposed upon them, forced on them. We've seen that happening in Wales. That's not right. And we're going to take a different approach," the prime minister said.

Mr. Sunak ordered a review of LTNs in July as part of his plan to take a “pragmatic and proportionate” approach to meeting the target of reaching net zero Greenhouse Gas emissions in 2050.

It followed two by-election defeats for the Conservatives, with the party hanging on to a third seat thanks to local opposition to London's Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan's Ultra Low Emission Zone expansion.

An LTN, which has similarities to a so-called 15-minute city, uses barriers, planters, bollards, or road signs to stop motor vehicles from entering an area at all times or some of the time.

The scheme grew from Mr. Khan’s “Mini-Holland” pilots to build Dutch-style cycle infrastructure in outer London boroughs. They sprung up across the country after Westminster began funding them in 2020 as part of its £5 billion package to overhaul bus and cycle links outside London.
The Department for Transport previously said the scheme would help reduce car dependency, and in turn reduce pollution, traffic danger, congestion, and improve health by making people more active.

But critics of the scheme said it merely pushes these issues elsewhere and would damage businesses in the zones.

Earlier this year,  Transport Secretary Mark Harper ended central government funding for LTNs and called for a review of the schemes, saying some of them had been implemented during the pandemic without sufficient consultation.

Wales's 20 mph speed limit on all restricted roads came into force on Sept. 17.

A restricted road is defined as "a system of street lighting furnished by means of lamps placed not more than 200 yards apart.”

The Labour-run Welsh government introduced the policy last year to reduce the speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph and the policy was backed by the Senedd.

Last month, an email leaked to the Welsh Conservatives. Assistant chief constable for South Wales Police Mark Travis said the new speed limit would impact police forces and other emergency services.

A  Welsh government spokesman responded by saying the law change doesn't affect the exemptions that allow blue light services to exceed speed limits.

The lower speed limit has been trialled in eight communities across Wales, but residents in one of those, Buckley, have reported a negative impact and have put red ribbons on their cars in a sign of protest.

Local resident Martin Bailey told ITV News last month that there had been more overtakes and tailgating, and drivers had been taking less care.

Nicholas Lyes, director of policy at road safety charity IAM RoadSmart, said "20 mph limits have a role to play in improving road safety, but the proliferation of blanket limits without physical changes to road layouts means compliance is often poor.

“For the most part, drivers support targeted 20 mph limits in high-risk locations and local authorities are usually best placed to judge the location of these," he said.

“There is an argument, however, to strengthen guidance on how we make these limits more effective,” he added.

According to The Sun, Mr. Sunak is also planning a clampdown on England's local councils which fine drivers with “overzealous” enforcement of parking and yellow-box junctions rules.

Utility firms digging up roads in peak times will also face higher charges, with the money being put into fixing potholes, the newspaper said.

Chris Summers contributed to this report.