Representatives of Stamford Hill’s Jewish community say Hackney’s new traffic regulations are causing “mayhem” for a group that relies on transporting its large families by car.
Since spring 2020, Hackney Council has been closing off streets around the borough as part of a plan to reduce car use, called the Low Traffic Neighborhood (LTN) scheme. The Labour-dominated council has shut down 55 per cent of streets under the scheme.
Proponents say the policy encourages people to get out of their cars and walk and cycle - and reduces air pollution. But Councillor Simche Steinberger, one of five Jewish Conservative councillors on Hackney’s 57-seat borough council, said the Charedi way of life makes a car a necessity.
He said: “Being Jewish means having a big family. For them a car is a necessity not a luxury. Children going to different schools, you have to get them there. The father has to daven in the morning. He doesn’t have time to go around on a bike.” Cllr Steinberger added that there was no prior consultation with residents before streets were closed.
Closing off a large number of streets has forced more traffic on to the very few main roads that go through Stamford Hill. Reverend Efrayim Goldstein, a community activist, said: “Voluntary organisations like Hatzola and Chaverim are short of services now, because their volunteer drivers won’t drive in certain hours because they end up stuck in the traffic which has been forced onto the main road. Waiting times in emergencies have shot up. It is mayhem and there is no understanding from the council or sympathy for the residents. People are angry.”
At the first in-person council meeting this year on June 30, dozens of members of the Stamford Hill community were joined by other anti-LTN campaigners for a protest outside Hackney Town Hall.
Two lawsuits have been launched to get the LTNs suspended until what campaigners call “a proper consultation” is carried out. The council is carrying out an 18-month consultation after thepolicy was put in place, but wants the LTNs to remain, which it claims meet its statutory obligation.
Councillor Steinberger pointed out that Hackney has issued 70,000 parking charge notices since the scheme went into effect, netting the borough £2.7 million in fines. Judgment in the lawsuits against Hackney are expected next month.
Mete Coban, Hackney Council Cabinet Member for Transport and Public Realm, said: “Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) schemes are being implemented on a trial basis so the local community can have their say.
“We will consider local people’s views, alongside traffic monitoring, before making a final decision on whether to make these schemes permanent. The emergency services, including Hatzola, are exempt from LTN restrictions.”