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Politics

Anti-LTN candidates fail to make inroads in local elections

A host of candidates across England promised to get rid of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. Here’s how they fared.

Candidates running against divisive Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) have fallen flat in the local elections, with just a handful managing to pick up seats.

Turning out mostly under independent and Conservative banners, in London and across England, candidates running on promises to get rid of or rule out LTNs have largely failed to pick up council seats.

Shooting to prominence during the pandemic, LTNs are schemes aimed to reduce traffic and improve local areas for pedestrians and cyclists by partially closing roads.

Ahead of this week’s local elections, a number of candidates attempted to capitalise on the strength of feeling by using opposition to LTNs as their main campaign platform. But Big Issue analysis of election results announced so far shows these candidates have failed to make inroads.

In Enfield, north London, the local Conservative party ran on an anti-LTN platform and picked up eight seats. Despite this, a number of heavily anti-LTN candidates in the borough failed to win seats.

Of a list of over 30 anti-LTN candidates across England, compiled by The Big Issue, Enfield was the only area where gains were made.

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Two Conservative candidates for Dulwich Village, in south London’s Southwark, failed to win voters over with their promise to “remove the road closures”.

It was the same for two anti-LTN candidates in Islington, Will Woodroofe and Nick Brainsby, who won fewer than 1,000 votes between them.

Letterboxes in Ealing’s Northfield ward were stuffed with leaflets saying: “Only a Conservative administration will guarantee no return of the failed LTNs.”

The candidates on those leaflets were rejected by the owners of those letterboxes – but they only fell short by a few hundred votes.

Charles Edwards, an anti-LTN campaigner who was banned from contacting council staff, failed to win a seat on Waltham Forest council. He won just 307 votes.

Thomas Gray, a Conservative candidate in Lambeth who listed removing the “unfair LTN” as one of his key priorities, failed to win a seat.

LTNs are seen as a vital measure to reduce air pollution and urban traffic and create nicer areas for people to live and travel in. They are welcomed by most, but have also been the subject of fierce debate and waves of protests.

Critics say they simply push traffic elsewhere, and often that they are created without consultation. There are also largely unfounded arguments that they impact on poorer communities and affect local business footfall.

The majority of anti-LTN candidates compiled by The Big Issue stood for opposition parties – hoping to unseat incumbent councillors – and so perhaps faced an uphill battle. But nearly all made their antipathy to LTNs their core pledge, and so their fortunes at the ballot box can be seen as an indication of how the issue is treated by voters.

While LTNs are most prominent in London, they were also turned into a battleground elsewhere in England.

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In Oxford, a handful of independent and Conservative candidates failed to make a mark, despite rallying crowds to a protest on the eve of the election.

A trial LTN in East Oxford has proved so controversial up to 200 people attended a protest against it on Wednesday, including a number of candidates.

Sadiea Mustafa-Awan defected from Labour over its support for LTNs to stand as an independent in Oxford’s Littlemore ward.

She fell short, winning 557 votes – compared to the 718 of the least popular successful candidate in her ward.

David Henwood, an independent candidate in the Cowley ward who had said LTNs are “poisoning the local community”, also fell short.

Mark Bhagwandin, a Conservative running in the Quarry & Risinghurst, said before the election: “LTNs harm the environment by creating traffic congestion and pollution and cause misery for residents.

“We have listened to residents. Its time to rip them out.”

He won just 231 votes – some way short of the 1,343 picked up by the least popular successful candidate he was up against.

It was announced last month that a controversial LTN in King’s Heath, Birmingham, would be made permanent.

Two candidates – Conservative Harvey Whitby and independent Mark Hudson – ran on commitments to get rid of the scheme, but failed to win their seats.

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