"One Rule for One and One Rule for Another"
Leslie has lived on the Ashmole Estate, near several family members and a close-knit groups of friends and contacts, since 1979. However, the Oval Triangle 'low traffic neighbourhood' (LTN) has thrown up challenges she could have done without. We spoke to her to learn about these.
Leslie lives with health issues, and often needs to travel for her appointments: "I have to get transport to the hospital, quite a lot, and I’m starting to go back to the hospital soon, and its going to take them forever to get through." As we speak, she points to the traffic build-up on the road around the Oval cricket ground, already visible from her home: "can you see the queues already building up? That’s the only road they have to go, there’s no other way they have to go through." When asked what she would have said had she been consulted on the LTN, she says "if I’d have been consulted and they’d done it in a proper way, not blocked every single road...there are certain roads that people cut through, they’re not a problem, but [to block] the main streets [is] ridiculous".
She is realistic as to the need to restrict access to certain street and roads: "go up Claylands Road, there are about two turnings, they are ‘rat runs’ as people call them, they’re not a problem [to block], but we need Claylands Road, we need that...ambulances, cabs, whatever. Claylands Road should be open." Potential problems of emergency is also a concern for Leslie: "somebody could have a heart attack here and that ambulance couldn’t get through, and that persons a goner. God forbid it’s no-one round here. What about us with cleaner air? That’s one rule for one and one rule for another and it doesn’t work like that." She is visibly upset at what she sees as a clear iniquity: "Everybody has to pay their taxes. Everybody has to pay the same, you know? I can’t see why anyone should be different. It’s wrong." She thinks the timing of the LTN trial is storing up future problems: "thank god [the kids] are off school this week. It must be hell...with people [u-turning dangerously]." She worries that children may bear the brunt of dirtier air from built-up traffic: "Ashmole, Archbishop Tennisons, St Marks - three schools around here. They haven’t thought about it at all."
In common with all our interviewees to date, Leslie had no communication regarding the commencement of the LTN: "the first thing I knew about it was when my friend told me about it, she said they've blocked Claylands Road. Then the next day she said they’ve blocked every single road, you can’t even get your children to school. I can’t see at the end of the day [how businesses can continue to run]; you’ve got a garage there, a shop there, a fish shop there. They might have consulted that triangle, but they didn’t consult anyone else, no letters - nothing."
One detail she shares is telling: "the cost of my taxi was £9 or £10 but [post-LTN] they literally have to drive you all the way round, so now its £15". The additional cost - £5 - is not an insignificant sum for Leslie. This illustrates the level of care needed for her, and other residents we spoke with, in their budgeting - even a few pounds makes a material difference. The Council's failure to engage with her, or her community, makes it even harder to manage when such careful budgeting is called for. Unfortunately, pressures on household finances are likely to be amplified by the economic effects of Covid-19; the recent Resolution Foundation 'Living Standards Audit' found that UK household incomes had fallen more, and more quickly, than at any time since the 1970's - , or since around the time Leslie has lived at her home. Her clear hope is that, looking ahead, the LTN is changed or removed, so that the impact she's already endured from it does not last much longer.