Last week the Green Lanes Business Association (GLBA) wrote an extraordinary letter railing against the council’s Fox Lane Quieter Neighbourhood plans – and the residents who support them. Read it here.

Claiming to be ‘the voice of local businesses’, GLBA Chairman Costas Georgiou has launched a tirade against the customers of those same businesses.

Residents are newcomers and snobs

He accuses Fox Lane area residents of ‘snobbery’ and being part of an ‘influx of new residents’. They are ‘bored individuals who have nothing better to do with their time than create a non-existent bubble to live in.’ Residents are, Mr Georgiou says, ‘using pollution and climate change as a facade to get what they want – a village lifestyle on the outskirts of London.’ He advises them to move to the countryside.

‘For those wishing to enjoy quieter, greener, cleaner living they can make more use of the local parks with their children and have picnics and nice bike rides’


Are these really the views of Green Lanes businesses?

Our first question is: does this offensive letter really represent the views of the GLBA’s members, including Morrisons and popular local restaurants like Aksular? (See all their members here.)

Many of us will think twice about spending money in businesses with such contempt for their customers. But if Mr Georgiou has simply penned this letter without consulting them, he has done them a huge disservice.

His other points include:

  • The Fox Lane plans are the work of one rogue councillor and a small local pressure group
  • The cycle lanes have turned Palmers Green into a ‘ghost town’ of vacant units
  • The plan will increase pollution.

One councillor and a handful of residents?

Are the plans really the work of ‘one key individual’ at the council, aka deputy leader Cllr Ian Barnes, and a ‘handful’ residents? Cllr Barnes has come in for criticism for not involving local councillors earlier in the design of the low traffic neighbourhood. This seems to be the problem, rather than those councillors opposing the principle of reducing through traffic. We would now urge cabinet and ward councillors to work together to find a solution.

Far from being a ‘handful’ of residents calling for less traffic, meeting after meeting of the Fox Lane and District Residents Association has witnessed an outcry against traffic speed and volume in local streets. Plus the Fox Lane LTN (low traffic neighbourhood) group are hardly a ‘handful’, hailing from 15 streets across the area.

Have the cycle lanes turned Palmers Green into a ‘ghost town’?

We are tired of hearing this fact-free rant about the cycle lanes. It’s common knowledge that nationally high streets are doing badly. Palmers Green high street is relatively successful and certainly no worse than similar areas without cycle lanes – see our article here. The large empty units were vacated by national chains – such as Store 21 or Multi York – where the business collapsed nationally, or Starbucks, where they decided the unit was too big. See here for a full list.

This had nothing to do with the cycle lanes and the loss of a few parking spaces. In fact, plenty of evidence shows that high streets benefit when they’re easier to access on foot and bike – exactly what low traffic neighbourhoods will achieve. Mr Georgiou is hardly helping by talking down the area. Anyone thinking of locating their shop to Palmers Green would think again after reading this letter!

Will pollution get worse on the high street?

Mr Georgiou complains about more traffic on the high street – but also about not enough traffic (a ‘ghost town’ caused by lack of parking). Which one does he want? Surely we all want less motor traffic and less pollution. If he’s concerned about pollution, he will welcome low traffic neighbourhoods.

The effect of low traffic neighbourhoods is to reduce traffic overall (see more here) – which reduces pollution overall. Bordering main roads are likely see an increase in traffic in the short term, settling down to roughly their previous levels as travel patterns adjust.

Household exposure to pollution has dropped in Waltham Forest thanks to a number of low-traffic neighbourhoods reducing traffic

And an overlooked effect of making neighbourhood streets low in traffic is that it releases people of all ages to walk, cycle and scoot across the area – which generates no pollution at all.

In any case, pollution from traffic is worse on narrow roads due to ‘funneling’ – the houses on each side stop the air pollution dispersing. It disperses better on bigger, wider main roads – another reason through traffic should go on main roads.

Why is the business association so out of step?

There is so much wrong with this letter, from its analysis of what makes ‘community’, or that lots of car journeys are good for local businesses – even the assessment of the number of empty shops. Perhaps GLBA leaders are still smarting about losing their expensive battle with the council over the cycle lanes. One business owner said to us back in 2017 – “If my shop shuts down they’ll be happy because they can say ‘I told you so’ to the council”.

Local businesses need to think hard about whether they are happy with the GLBA representing them in this way. We would also encourage them to support low traffic neighbourhoods in the area – not just for a happier, healthier community, but to get more customers walking and cycling to their local shops.

Hal Haines and Clare Rogers

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