Southwark’s cabinet is set to consider a petition with nearly 2,500 local signatures asking that emergency road closures in Dulwich be reversed.  

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, councils across London are bringing in a host of measures to help enable social distancing, encourage active travel, and reduce motor vehicle use and air pollution.  

Some of these measures include blocking access to through-traffic at junctions and pedestriansing streets.  

However, the measures are not without opposition, with petitions popping up all over the capital.  

The petition set to go before cabinet on October 20 looks to completely reverse “all closures and partial closures” in Dulwich Village and East Dulwich, including Melbourne Grove, Derwent Grove, Elsie Road, Tintagel Crescent, Carlton Avenue, Court Lane and to “cancel the future planned camera-enforced closures of Townley Road and Dulwich Village at certain hours of day”.  

“The council claims that these road closures are to aid a cleaner greener streets initiative with the aim of reducing air pollution and promoting other forms of transport.  

“However, whilst the fortunate ‘few’ living on the newly closed streets are enjoying pollution-free air now, the ‘many’ living on the other streets taking the significant additional traffic burden are more polluted than ever and suffering vastly increased congestion at various different times of day.  

“Additionally, anyone who has no choice but to drive – due to work, disability, familial life, lack of public transport alternatives etc – are being penalised by having to endure significantly increased journey times due to sitting in standstill traffic jams,” it states. 

The author of the petition wrote there was “no sign of any let up” of now gridlocked roads and warned the situation “will very likely get worse as more and more people got back to work and the remaining schools open”, while some bus services have reduced timetables. 

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The petition says low emissions schemes are more effective than road closures at reducing air pollution.  

“And we would ask the council to consider that pollution spread evenly across all streets in the area is a far fairer approach than to concentrate it on a few unfortunate residents’ streets,” it states.  

According to the council report, a second petition in support of the road closures with 29 signatures, as of October 8, was also received. 

This petition asks that the council “maintains and completes as soon as possible” the road closure programme in and around Dulwich Village, while agreeing the changes are “essential to make those roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists and encourage residents and non-resident to move away from their dependency on cars”. 

Responding, the strategic director of environment and leisure said there is a “very real risk” of a car-led recovery as London comes out of lockdown. 

Caroline Bruce said: “In order to avoid the detrimental impact this will have on air quality and the health of Southwark residents the council needs to take measures to encourage people to make the change to walking and cycling instead of private motor vehicles wherever possible.” 

She added that the road closures around Dulwich have been installed in response to resident and local councillor comments “over the last few years”. 

“However, projects of this size require many separate interventions that need to work together,” she said, adding that time “must be allowed to complete all of the changes and allow people to realise the benefits”.  

Ms Bruce said “it is accepted” that traffic will initially be displaced onto other roads “but experience demonstrates that this often settles when drivers become accustomed to the changes and people begin to feel safer and more confident in walking and cycling to get to local destinations”. 

“That said, these measures have been implemented as experimental in accordance with national and TfL guidance, and to ensure they were in place for school returns and timing of easing of lockdown measures.  

“And a review of their effectiveness against the original objectives will be carried out as standard practice,” she said.