A police officer said trial barriers in Lee Green to stop rat running will leave emergency services “buggered” at a heated assembly meeting on Tuesday (February 11).  

Some roads will be blocked off to through traffic in a six-month trial – with a date yet to be set – as part of the Lewisham and Lee Green Healthy Neighbourhood plan.  

The scheme aims to reduce rat running, improve air quality and encourage greener modes of transport.   

The latest version involves 11 barriers, or modal filters, which will close off the roads so that only cyclists and pedestrians can get through.  

Lee Green Councillor Octavia Holland told the packed school hall that the community needed to “work together” to make a success of the scheme.  

She said: “60 per cent of the traffic going through our ward is not stopping or starting within our ward.  

“It’s coming from Bromley or Kent […] and it’s making things very difficult for people who live here.  

“We want to improve the air quality for everyone who lives here, we want to improve the safety for pedestrians.  

“We’ve got six schools within this ward […] all of these schools are desperate to see measures because it is so dangerous.” 

Cllr Holland also apologised to those people who did not hear about the scheme when it first emerged.  

Council officer Josh Learner presented a chart showing a significant decrease in air pollution in Waltham Forest after a similar scheme was put in place.  

But some residents were not convinced, concerned about emergency services, journey time to the hospital, more pollution around schools and traffic being pushed onto other roads, trains already being at capacity, and access to the South Circular.  

One said emergency services would be slowed down.  

“My overriding concern, being a copper and living in the borough, is the modal filters – you say that the emergency response policing teams are going to have keys for them. 

“Anyone, chief inspector and above, is probably on board with this [but] anyone from inspector down who is on this team, who has to fly around to emergency calls to save life and limb is going to find it a real problem coming up to one of these filters. 

“If you’re double-crewed, your operator gets out, unlocks it, the car goes through, lock it back up again, jump in the car – we’re talking a golden hour here to save life and limb.  

“If you’re single-crewed – I’m really sorry but you’re buggered,” she said.  

Mr Learner acknowledged a “fair point” but said the “objectives of everyone” needed to be weighed up. 

“We have to go forward with schemes that are showing that we are reflecting the Mayor’s transport strategy. 

“We are going to commit to working with the police services as closely as we can to make sure we’re not impacting it unnecessarily,” he said. 

One woman said residents on Burnt Ash Road were “completely forgotten” and that they would be “poisoned”. 

Mr Learner said previous schemes had worked.  

“The first two weeks after the trial you will see a spike in traffic on surrounding roads. 

“But what research has showed is that you see the traffic dying off because people either use a different route ie when they’re coming from Kent they’ll go around rather than through or they’ll choose a different mode of transport,” he said.  

Another resident worried about the time it would take to get to hospital but was told there was nothing that could be done about it.  

Others were supportive of the scheme, with one man saying: “We’ve all got hopes, we’ve all got fears but we won’t know until we actually do it. If we want to change then things have got to change.” 

Cllr James Rathbone said consulting on whether to do the trial was a “waste of time and money”.  

He said: “What we focused on was trying to design the best possible scheme with as much public engagement as possible for a six-month trial. 

“We can tell you what we think is going to happen […] but people won’t believe us.

“If we try this out for six months and it does show vast reductions in traffic, air pollution and road accidents then that will be a success. 

“We are proposing that we get the best possible design we can by working with the community and the council’s partners and then we’ll test it and see if it works. 

“If it doesn’t we are not then going to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not millions, over the next five years trying to make it permanent because that would be incredibly silly.” 

It emerged that businesses that could be affected, such as local shops, were not consulted but Mr Learner said they would be in future.