"I think it’s not fair": LTN Car Crash for Oval Small Businesses
After several years working in the close-knit Portuguese community centred on South Lambeth Road, Ana struck out to establish her own salon on Claylands Road. But her successful business has been hammered by restrictions imposed by the Oval 'Triangle' 'low traffic neighbourhood' (LTN). We spoke with her to find out about the fall-out from the LTN.
Ana's salon, which serves clients from across greater London, uses an appointment system, but the LTN has made travel times much more upredictable, putting this business model in jeopardy: "when the clients drive, imagine, I’m not going to have all my clients at once, they will come in one's or twos'. If they don’t know this happening, that may happen because I’ve got clients from Norwood, from Croydon, from St Albans, from everywhere, they’re Portuguese, they know me for a long time, so they drive in." Added to this, Lambeth has removed two parking spaces outside her shop that were previously available for her customers. All this means that her customers face the prospect of delays and missed appointments when after having travelled miles to reach her: "you think 'I’m just ten minutes to the appointment', but that 10 minutes won't be enough to go around and around and around to get a space. So, I’ll have problems with my appointments, I’m going to run late, I’ll have a lot more people on top of people waiting outside because they can't wait inside". Ana mentions that a recent client of hers is likely to have received a fine for unknowingly entering the LTN area, after trying to arrive for an appointment: "it is not good for my clients. They come from everywhere. Already one client today got a traffic ticket. She didn’t realise and she came straight through." Ana's local clients have told her of the disruption the LTN has brought for them: "I got a client, she lives at the end of this road for 33 years, she works in Camberwell, how she will manage to go all the way around?" Alongside the impact on her business, the LTN has affected Ana personally. The journey from her home near Waterloo, now takes longer, and affects her routine dropping journey dropping off her daughter at a school near her salon.
In common with all of our interviewees to date, Ana was not consulted nor communicated with prior to the roll-out of the Oval LTN: "They did it without asking." Also in common with other local businesses, her simple plea is for some level of access into the LTN area for her and her clients: "I would like someone to have asked me, and I would say at least leave one road open, just one access. I will say between Dorset Road and Albert Square...I don’t understand why they close every single road. It doesn’t make any sense." After weathering Brexit and Covid-19, Ana is now worried at the potentially terminal effect the LTN could bring, as her customers choose not to make the now-difficult journey to her salon.
Ana raises the issue if inequity; at the most basic level, she feels there is a fundamental issue of injustice: "It’s not fair. I think it’s not fair. Just because a few people want it. I think not everyone has to have the same." The stated rationale for the LTN does not provide her with reassurance "I feel more afraid to get the virus, because if they’re saying it is the virus that makes this happen, if I walk on the street every day, there’s a lot of people walking, I need to walk around there...I don’t want to be close to them, I feel more afraid. It’s easier to get the virus walking than driving. By stopping these roads, it’s not gonna stop the virus." She repeats the view that a vocal groups on nearby streets were instrumental in driving the changes: "Fentiman Road is the one, I think, who really want to be closed."
Lambeth Council has for some years styled itself 'the Co-operative Council'. The question now facing businesses like Ana's, which are fighting for survival, seems to be: who exactly is it that the Council are co-operating with?