Insolvent council seeks to raise £4m from ANPRs on green road scheme

An insolvent council has been accused of "filling its empty coffers" by closing roads to fine motorists millions of pounds, despite residents insisting they do not want to be part of Grant Shapps's green transport revolution. Campaigners claim Croydon Council is being "undemocratic" by "forcing through" a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) scheme, where streets are closed to promote walking and cycling. The south London authority, which technically declared itself insolvent after revealing it had a GBP67 million budget black hole, wants to fit five automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras and shut residential roads in Crystal Palace and South Norwood.

But its own survey about a temporary LTN it introduced in the area last year found 61 per cent wanted it scrapped entirely while 75 per cent were against it remaining in its current form. A report for Croydon's traffic committee admits "the attempt to create an LTN has given rise to considerable anger". And, because only a quarter - or 1,523 people - replied to its public consultation the council concluded "the majority of people did not provide a response suggesting they don't have a view on the scheme".

The 62-page document adds how "most of the feedback ... was negative", in part due to "extended distances" needed to drive to and from homes, as well as fears of increased traffic on major roads and poor air quality in areas of higher deprivation. Eliska Finlay, of Croydon's Open Our Roads campaign, said: "This is a failure of democracy and policy by diktat. When the council asked the community what its needs were, the answer was unequivocal - open our roads with no restrictions.

"The LTN is not working, and it's not meeting promoting active travel or easing vehicle emissions. "Instead, the council is cynically pushing to impose an unwelcome money-making scheme to fill its empty coffers. It contravenes Grant Shapps's claim the Government-funded traffic reduction schemes must align with the will of the community."

In May, the Transport Secretary introduced his controversial active travel project, offering GBP250 million to councils to promote a safer environment to walk and cycle. There has been widespread criticism, with some claiming that although ANPR cameras are preferred by emergency services because they allow access, they are being used as a "cash cows" by councils. Croydon's report says: "In reality, compliance will be less than 100 per cent and there will be income derived from penalty charge notices."

They anticipate one camera will issue 450 tickets a week, making the council GBP1,287,000 a year. But the true figure could be far higher because calculations were based on only the lower GBP55 fine rate being paid, rather than GBP160 full charge. The document repeatedly says public opposition to LTNs illustrated what Mr Shapps had called "the noise and passion schemes can generate", insisting the consultation had not obtained a "truly representative picture of local views".

As a result, the council says it wants councillors to approve the introduction of an 18-month 'experimental' series of road closures before another public consultation is held and a decision made whether to make the changes permanent or not. A council spokeswoman said: "This project has never been about making money, we want to make residential streets safer for families to walk and cycle by encouraging fewer car journeys, reducing pollution and congestion, and improving the quality of life for everyone." She added how it was hoped amendments to the existing scheme - including removing planters -  would address concerns of those residents opposed to the LTN.

Any money raised from fines is ring-fenced to fund other transport projects.

On Tuesday, the council will decide whether to rubber stamp plans to introduce an 18-month LTN that could make GBP4 million in fines each year.

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