"Make improvements but make improvements for everybody, not just for a certain few."
Mark and his family live on the Ashmole Estate, inside the Oval Triangle 'low traffic neighbourhood' (LTN) area. We spoke with him recently about his experience of the scheme.
Mark needs no prompting to share his views on the LTN: "I think the road closures around and on the Ashmole estate at the moment, and all up South Lambeth Road are absolutely ridiculous. I’ve got a disabled daughter, her bus is gonna take an extra half hour on her journey to pick her up and drop her off, just because of these road closures." He's clear that communication on the LTN was simply absent, and is aggrieved at the failure to consult: "I didn’t see it [any letters or communication] but apparently there was a leaflet put through the door after they started doing it! Nonsense, there was no consultations about it, no meetings about it...it's so wrong they just don’t seem to comprehend. Have a sit down proper discussion about it, don’t just say ‘oh this is what we are doing, it's done with’". Mark's strong views are based in large measure on the needs of his family: his daughter Claire lives with disabilities and "has to go to different [hospital] departments because of her condition". However, increased traffic from the LTN means public transport is slower to use - "by the time they come I'm already half way up to St Thomas’s". And Mark knows he is not alone in struggling to adapt to the changes: "it's so much hardship on everybody not just me, the local shops – its everyone."
Along with our previous interviewees, Mark believes that some degree of access into what is now the LTN area is essential: "think logically, don’t cut all the turnings off just to please a certain few people. Make some a one way only – no entry, no entry, one way only, that’s the best way to do it...make it [Claylands Road] a one-way street, some access, but make it a one way street". Alluding to the perceived role of local resident associations in lobbying for car-free streets, he says "you can’t just close a road off because people want a walk-way. And that’s what it boils down to." But Mark and his wife also see hidden motives at play; as his wife says, "at some point along here, it will just make them money again and that’s what its all about – making money." Mark agrees: "of course it is, stop the people from cutting through all the estates here to get to like Vauxhall, so they so that they have to pay the congestion charge, £15 a day for every car that goes that way. Pushing it into congestion charge that’s what he's doing." Aside from this, Mark's wife wonders how the LTN has affected "the old people here as well, you know they must have, I can only imagine, the same sort of transport my disabled daughter does, to go to the hospitals or their appointments...well they can’t get it now can they." Mark adds that other forms of transport are now further out of reach: "you gotta walk half way down Fentiman Road or to Clapham Road to get a cab, because they can't come in. It puts another 20 mins onto their journey to come pick you up...shopping deliveries too, as I say my son drives for Sainsburys – all around Clapham, all around this way. They are going mad about it because they have to park away and then carry the stuff to the front door. Crazy!"
Apart from the immediate issue of difficulty accessing health services, another risk factor for older residents arising from the LTN is left implicit: isolation. While charity Age UK's 'isolation map' shows the older population of Oval ward mostly face a low- or medium risk of experiencing isolation or loneliness, neighbouring Stockwell, Prince's and Vassall wards face much higher risk levels. The danger is that restrictions on physical movement imposed by the LTN drive greater psychological isolation for Oval's older population, triggering related conditions including depression, anxiety and related conditions, which themselves require treatment, impacting on healthcare budgets. This would add to an already substantial total spent in this area: 2018 figures indicate around a quarter of all Lambeth's expenditure goes on adult social care, much of it directed to support for older people. Greater mobility or connectedness are required for those in later life, or who have limited mobility, to avoid the chronic loneliness Age UK estimate is experienced by 1.4m people across the UK, and which local authorities like Lambeth spend hundreds of millions of pounds combating. But greater connectedness is precisely the opposite effect of the Oval LTN reported to us to date by local residents.
And failure to consult or to plan properly are compounded by missteps in basic operations of the LTN: "that road by Palfrey place – [the LTN signage] tells you that you gotta go straight across, the signage it doesn’t make no sense. I was always led to believe that if it’s a round circle it means no entrance. Whys is all changed now? Its just absolute nonsense." He believes a lack of joined up thinking has led to one arm of the Council disrupting the work of other Council services: "even the dustmen, alright – They come out of Palfrey place, they gotta drive up towards Clapham road to reverse back to come down to pick the rubbish up." For urgent access for emergency services, this question becomes acute: "just 3 weeks ago, 4 weeks ago the front of that tower block caught on fire twice, twice in 3 weeks. Right on the canopy part of the building, twice in 3 weeks. Now, if there was traffic trying to get out of the road and the fire brigade is trying to get in, what happens then?"
The conversation turns to the iniquity of the LTN as Mark highlights the feedback on the Council's LTN webpage: "When we vote, the votes in green are all Fentiman Road." This, and the other factors mentioned, mean he could not be clearer on the Oval LTN in its current form:
"Whoever thought this up needs to rethink it."