Sunak orders review of low traffic neighbourhoods in pro-motorist messageon July 30, 2023 at 10:03 am

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Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, the prime minister says he wants to support people to use their cars.

A bridge closed to traffic in Kelham Island, Sheffield as part of a Low Traffic Neighbourhood

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has ordered a review of low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), saying that he is on the side of drivers.

He told the Sunday Telegraph he was supporting people to “use their cars to do all the things that matter to them”.

His remarks form part of a sharpening debate on green policies following last week’s by-elections.

LTNs aim to reduce traffic, in part by preventing drivers using quieter residential roads as through-routes.

Some research suggests they reduce localised pollution. But critics, including some Conservatives MPs, argue they harm the freedom of motorists and push traffic onto other roads, causing congestion.

LTNs have been set up in recent years in London, Bristol, Birmingham, Bournemouth and more cities, with tens of millions of pounds of government funding given to councils for them since 2020.

In 2022 authorities around the country told iNews that nearly 200 had been installed over a two-year period, with about 50 scrapped.

They aim to encourage people to walk, cycle or use public transport through the use of barriers such as bollards and planters, as well as road signs and CCTV cameras.

Mr Sunak said he had ordered the Department for Transport to see how LTNs were working. Earlier this month, Transport Secretary Mark Harper announced that the government was stopping the funding of new LTNs in England.

It is not clear whether the government could make councils alter or scrap existing schemes.

Mr Sunak said: “The vast majority of people in the country use their cars to get around and are dependent on cars.

“I just want to make sure people know that I’m on their side in supporting them to use their cars to do all the things that matter to them,” he said.

The adoption of LTNs has attracted the ire of some Tory MPs, who have criticised the measure as an attack on motorists.

Conservative MP Nick Fletcher described them earlier this year as being part of an “international socialist concept” that take away personal liberties.

Labour’s Nick Thomas-Symonds told Sky News it was “staggering” Mr Sunak was pitching himself as a friend of motorists. He pointed to cuts to the potholes budget and said the government had failed to step in when petrol retailers were not passing on cheaper prices to customers.

The shadow international trade secretary said his party backed well-planned LTNs, but that decisions about them must be made by local communities.

The review comes as intense heatwaves worldwide and climate change warnings propel the UK’s net zero target to the top of the political agenda.

The target, set for 2050, is to no longer add to the total amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The UK’s strategy includes generating all electricity from clean sources, switching gas boilers for heat pumps and banning new petrol and diesel cars.

Within the Conservative Party, however, there are internal divisions over green policies and some MPs are calling for a rethink.

Mr Sunak said in the Telegraph interview that he was not planning to change the deadline for the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesels cars following calls from some Conservatives to do so.

“The 2030 target has been our policy for a long time and continues to be – we are not considering a delay to that date,” he said.

In the coming week, Mr Sunak will meet energy leaders to set out details of his plans for the UK fossil fuel and green industries.

On Saturday, environment groups warned Mr Sunak they will not “stand by” while politicians use the environment as a “political football”.

Ulez anger sparks green debate

In last week’s Uxbridge by-election, the Tories capitalised on voters’ anger over Labour London mayor Sadiq Khan’s plans to extend the capital’s ultra-low emission zone (Ulez), a key factor in their victory.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer blamed his party’s defeat on the planned Ulez expansion – and Mr Sunak has urged Mr Khan to “think twice” on the expansion.

Ulez was introduced by former London Mayor Boris Johnson, but Mr Khan has sought to expand the scheme further into London as part of his efforts to improve air quality in the capital.

Earlier this week the High Court ruled plans to expand Ulez were lawful, saying the mayor’s expansion decision was “within his powers”.

City Hall has said that 90% of cars driving in outer London comply with Ulez standards, which has been backed by the UK Statistics Authority – although the watchdog criticised the mayor over data transparency.

In the Sunday Telegraph interview, Mr Sunak said the scheme effectively levies charges to “take your kids to football practice or do your weekly shop or see a GP”.

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