Residents in Hither Green are dismayed after seeing a surge in traffic by their homes following the introduction of the Lee Green low traffic neighbourhood.  

Lewisham Council's plans to do a six-month trial had been discussed pre-lockdown, where roads would be blocked off to through-traffic as part of the Lewisham and Lee Green Healthy Neighbourhood plan.   

The LTN, which was implemented at the end of June, aims to reduce rat-running, improve air quality, and encourage greener modes of transport, and is now covered by emergency measures brought in in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It involves 13 modal filters, barriers which are either physical or camera enforced, which close off roads to motor vehicles. 

The scheme has been divisive – many people back improving air quality and making streets safer, but people from Hither Green, who were concerned traffic would be displaced into their streets, are now reporting gridlocked roads for hours during the day. 

Videos from Hither Green Lane show cars at a standstill, with a build-up of traffic starting as early as 1.30pm, while others show bin lorries getting stuck and cars driving onto pavements.  

Springbank Road has also been badly affected, along with Torrindon Road.  

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Springbank Road

Mopeds were spotted driving on the pavement in Springbank Road to get past the traffic.   

Megan Kelly, who lives in the area, said the difference between now and before the LTN is “incomparable”.  

“Hither Green Lane during rush hour was never a pedestrianised road, there were always cars on it, but never a standstill.  

“You might have to wait a few minutes at the lights by the South Circular, but now we’re seeing 30 to 40 cars at a standstill for 30 to 40 minutes. 

“It’s night and day, it’s incomparable and I don’t see a world where it gets better as lockdown eases and when school starts in September – it’s a completely unsustainable situation for those of us who live here,” she said.  

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Hither Green Lane

A group of residents in Hither Green west have petitioned Lewisham’s cabinet member for environment and transport, Cllr Sophie McGeevor, to “prioritise and implement a LTN” on the west side of Hither Green/Catford North “as soon as possible”. 

Megan said: “The party line from the council is that it’s a six-month trial, with six months to extend and six months to review, so they say ‘shut up for 18 months’ and then we’ll review whether or not your side also needs an LTN pending funding. 

“I’m not sure what the answer is, scrap it until you have enough money to make the streets cleaner for everyone or to petition for emergency funding to bring it into the area they displaced the traffic into.” 

Megan added that some of the tweets from councillors were “pretty tone-deaf” and “arguably arrogant”. 

“It’s very disheartening for us – our ultimate goal is to get our streets back to what they were. 

“The goal of the scheme is to create safer, clean streets that people can walk and cycle on and it’s done the exact opposite.  

“You’re sacrificing one neighbourhood for another based on postcode and it’s unfair. 

“I think people think we want to take away their toys because we don’t have any, but really we would like some toys too. 

“We just want to make it better for everyone, and not better for some at the expense of others,” Megan said. 

Leading campaigner Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, a Hither Green resident whose daughter’s death might have been linked to air pollution, has also criticised the LTN.  

Ella died in 2013 when she was just nine years old after suffering three years of seizures from severe asthma attacks.  

The High Court granted a fresh inquest last year after new evidence came to light.  

On the new LTN she said: “Traffic doesn’t just disappear, it is a myth.  

“I will be showing you where the traffic has been pushed to. A clue, I live in the poorer part of Hither Green.  

“I will be demonstrating to you why there is such inequality in our borough. The only way to have less traffic is less cars,” she said.  

Cllr McGeevor said she had a “constructive conversation” with Ms Adoo-Kissi-Debrah on Friday.  

“Improving air quality is a key priority for us and air pollution has been significantly reduced in recent years.  

“Over lockdown air quality has improved by up to a third and we are working to maintain these improvements.  

“On Friday, I had a constructive conversation with Rosamund about the need to reduce unnecessary car journeys and improve air quality in Lewisham. I look forward to working with Rosamund in improving air quality.  

“The majority of car journeys in London are short, 60 per cent are less than 2.5 miles, and could be walked or cycled instead.  

“Our measures encourage local residents to walk or cycle for these shorter non-essential journeys.  

“Additionally, much of the traffic in Lewisham comes from outside of the borough and these measures are the most effective way to stop Lewisham being used as a short cut and reduce traffic.”