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Councils will have to consider resident support over Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

Councils will be obliged to consider whether residents support the implementation of a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) in their area before schemes can be introduced, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced.

LTNs are an area where vehicle numbers are reduced, and work by preventing vehicles from using certain streets as through roads into other destinations, quite often through using temporary or permanent barriers which stop traffic from being able to drive along a certain route.

DfT has published draft statutory guidance for councils on LTNs – to come into force this summer – setting out that they must gain buy-in from local residents, businesses and emergency services when considering implementing new schemes.

We’re on the side of drivers, and these latest measures show we’re getting on with delivering what we promised in our Plan for Drivers – making their lives better, fairer and cheaper, and helping people travel in the way that works best for them

Transport Secretary Mark Harper

It comes after a review uncovered a raft of concerns over LTNs, including potential risk to life from emergency services delays, impact on disabled residents and high numbers of Penalty Charge Notices coming out of the schemes.

If councils fail to deliver road schemes that work for local people, they could see future funding withdrawn and the Government could take control of an authority’s roads, under powers from the Traffic Management Act, if they are deemed to be “widely mismanaged”, DfT said.

Labour called it a “a blatant and desperate attempt to distract people from a Government that has run out of road”.

A review showed only 13% of residents responded to councils’ planning consultations on LTNs and 18% feel their views have influenced council decisions.

The report also found that local authorities operating LTNs issue an average of 36,459 Penalty Charge Notices per scheme, with the highest number of notices issued for a single LTN scheme exceeding 170,000.

The review further highlighted concerns over the impact on disabled residents and from emergency services that delays to crews caught up in LTNs could “potentially risk lives”.

Rishi Sunak called LTNs examples of “hare-brained schemes” in an interview with The Sun in September last year.

A group of local residents blocked cars on a road in Streatham Wells, south London, in November 2023 as part of a protest against the area becoming an LTN.

The scheme was removed, as was an LTN at Jesmond, Newcastle, and DfT said the new guidance aims to prevent councils having to reverse poorly-implemented or unpopular schemes.

Councils have also received “strengthened guidance” on setting 20mph speed limits, reminding them to reserve them for sensible and appropriate areas only- like outside schools – DfT added.

The measures come as part of the Government’s Plan for Drivers.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the Government is on the side of drivers.

“We want local people to have their voices heard, and any traffic schemes to have the consent of those they impact,” he said.

The Conservatives’ latest attempt to dictate to local communities how to run their streets is a blatant and desperate attempt to distract people from a Government that has run out of road

Louise Haigh, Shadow Transport Secretary

“Well thought out schemes, like 20mph limits outside schools, can make our roads safer, but we are raising the bar to help ensure all traffic schemes work for everyone in the community.

“We’re on the side of drivers, and these latest measures show we’re getting on with delivering what we promised in our Plan for Drivers – making their lives better, fairer and cheaper, and helping people travel in the way that works best for them.”

DfT have also announced traffic lights will be upgraded across the country and issued new guidance on bus lanes to make sure they only operate “when it makes sense”, like when traffic is heavy enough to delay buses.

Consultations are being launched to prevent councils from turning drivers into “cash cows” by profiting from enforcing traffic restrictions, including looking at fines for drivers going into yellow box junctions or parking restrictions.

Local authorities will also be encouraged to install noise cameras which have been found to help in cracking down on illegally modified exhausts and anti-social drivers.

Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh said: “The Conservatives’ latest attempt to dictate to local communities how to run their streets is a blatant and desperate attempt to distract people from a Government that has run out of road.

We’re very pleased to see the Government responding to our calls for clearer guidance on yellow box junctions with their consultation on the misuse of these measures

Simon Williams, RAC

“All this ongoing Conservative chaos has a real cost for working people and our public services.

“Working people want answers on the soaring cost of living, the woeful state of our transport infrastructure, and how the Tories are planning to fund their £46 billion of unfunded spending commitments that threaten the health service and risk the state pension as we know it.

“Labour will act on the real priorities of drivers by tackling soaring car insurance costs and the traffic clogging up our roads. And we will leave decisions over local roads where they belong: in the hands of local communities.”

Simon Williams, head of policy at the RAC, said: “We’re very pleased to see the Government responding to our calls for clearer guidance on yellow box junctions with their consultation on the misuse of these measures.

“It’s also extremely positive to see progress made on the installation of noise cameras, after six-in-10 drivers (58%) told us they would be in favour of these measures last year.

“Excessive noise pollution is not only extremely frustrating, it could also have a really serious impact on residents’ health and lives, and until this point there’s been very little anyone can do about it.

“We’re keen to see if this new technology goes some way towards resolving the issue and hope it can be rolled out quickly and efficiently.”

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy at The AA, said: “The best traffic management schemes are the ones which have undergone significant local consultation from their inception.”

He added: “Allowing more councils to impose fines for yellow box junction offences has resulted in some drivers feeling that they are seen as ‘wallets on wheels’ by their local authority.”

Mr Cousens said the majority of drivers “make honest mistakes” and providing warning letters to first-time offenders “would help educate the public whilst maintaining trust in town halls”.