The low traffic neighbourhood scheme (LTN), a set of road barriers to reduce traffic in Lee was brought in under Covid-19 emergency transport measures and has received mixed feedback.
The scheme aims to promote active travel such as cycling, walking, and public transport, which many residents support but it has also caused division in the community.
Traffic has been displaced onto roads outside of the LTN, leaving locals concerned about road safety and air pollution.
The protesters held signs which said “we are the 99 per cent, open roads now”, and “you’ve taken our freedom”, while chanting “open up the roads”.
Cheryl McLeod, a campaigner from the group Catford Against Social Cleansing, who also went to the protest, said the LTN measures “have come in under the guise of Covid-19”.
She mentioned an elderly couple who were affected by the program.
“It has added an extra 20 minutes to their journey to visit another elderly gentleman – they advise they will no longer be able to visit him anymore due to these restrictions and their own physical well-being.
“If these measures were to bring the community together, they’ve failed miserably.
“This is actually dividing the community and has not been well thought out by Mayor Egan, councillors or officers; moreover, people’s livelihoods are at stake here.
“Either the LTN is scrapped or another more [thought-out] resolution is brought in with consultation with residents,” Ms McLeod said.
The council recently announced it would be tweaking the scheme in response to issues that have stemmed from it.
The changes have yet to be published but a revised traffic order launched in late September seems to allow dial-a-ride drivers, who transport people with disabilities and/or special educational needs, to go through some camera-enforced barriers.
In a statement released on September 18, mayor Damien Egan said the “vast majority of residents” he speaks to “support the principle of LTNs, support measures to make it easier to walk and cycle in the borough and support our work to improve air quality”.
But he said: “Our current scheme that was implemented in Lee Green is causing problems in neighbouring areas.
“We are very aware of this and we are working urgently to plan changes which we hope will see things improve.”
Mayor Egan said the council would speak to residents before making any changes, and reiterated that the scheme is a trial.
“If we cannot make the scheme work we won’t continue it.
“But we should take this opportunity to try and make it work because if we can get it right, the benefits will be felt by thousands of residents,” he said.
The mayor said he was sorry that people are experiencing problems, that he “understands why some people feel frustrated” and that he “shares some of that frustration too”.
“The urgency to access Government funding and implement measures continues to be very challenging for all London councils. The timeframe is just too short.
“This has meant the council has been playing catch-up as issues have emerged and it’s taken longer than I would like to get them rectified.
“Investment from this Government comes rarely and we’ve been eager not to lose the chance to get this funding for our borough,” he said.
Catford Against Social Cleansing is planning another protest next Saturday.