Councils introducing controversial road closures meant to be temporary are instead planning to keep them for three years amid fears town hall bosses may secretly want to make them permanent, it can be revealed.
Lambeth Council is claiming hundreds of thousands of pounds to close off London streets while budgeting for three years of maintenance for bollards and planters.
A Freedom of Information request has highlighted how it has claimed nearly £200,000 of Government cash to block off five streets in an affluent area as part of its “Oval Triangle low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) temporary scheme”.
The breakdown reveals how nearly £50,000 was spent installing new signs and road markings, £25,000 was ploughed into “design and project management”, and nearly £5,000 forked out on ‘traffic counts’ to monitor how the road closures were working.
However, the majority of the money claimed was invested in technology to fine motorists breaching the new rules, with £90,000 – nearly half the total obtained – used to buy automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras and fit columns or bollards.
A staggering £24,420 was spent on 10 wooden “planters” used to close streets in an area where lavish Victorian houses cost more than £2 million.
When asked why a single “planter” cost £2,420, a spokesman said: “The attributed cost includes buying them, installing, planting, labour and up to a maximum of three years of maintenance and replanting depending on how long they remain in place.”
However, the council states 10 times on its website about the Oval Triangle road closures they are “temporary” and in response to the “current pandemic”, but admits it has been considering the scheme before Grant Shapps announced his £250 investment meant to promote social distancing while the virus is rife.
The Freedom of Information request states how one legal order used to close the roads was “temporary” and the other “experimental”.
Councils have used both ‘temporary’ and ‘experimental’ traffic orders as the legal mechanisms to close roads to through access.
A temporary order can last up to six months for cycle lanes, but up to 18 months for a road before the town hall consults the public and decides whether to apply for a permanent order to keep it.
An experimental traffic order will see the public consulted six months after road closures are introduced.
Then, it can remain in place for 18 months before a decision is made about whether to scrap, amend or make them permanent.
The south London borough has seen numerous road closures introduced as part of the Transport Secretary’s policy, prompting a mixed reaction from residents.
While some have welcomed them, others have held demonstrations in Brixton complaining they have led to increased congestion and pollution on routes where poorer communities live, hampered emergency response times and had little or no public consultation.
Harry Fone, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “With council tax on the rise, ratepayers do not want to see their money wasted in the rush to change local roads. “Councils should ensure cash is focused on urgent local priorities, particularly during a pandemic.”
A Lambeth Council spokesman said the Oval to Stockwell triangle LTN is part of its “emergency response” to the “significant challenges posed to Lambeth’s transport system by the coronavirus pandemic”.
He added: “It is focused on making our streets safer by reducing road danger and redressing the balance of priority so that everyone – particularly the majority of Lambeth residents who don’t own a car – have genuinely accessible and safe transport options.
“The council will be monitoring traffic flows and air quality during the programme and despite the big challenges coronavirus has placed on the council, we have put a huge amount of effort into engaging with all our communities.
“Residents have been able to feedback online, face to face and by phone. As our emergency transport strategy makes clear, the temporary measures cannot be made permanent without public consultation, and we are fully committed to that.
“As we have made clear throughout, the temporary measures will not be considered to be made permanent without public consultation, and we are fully committed to that. Tackling inequality on our streets and in our transport system is fundamental to making our streets safer and fairer for all Lambeth residents.”