An ambulance was delayed reaching a woman who had fallen from a fourth-floor window, residents say – because a council flower-bed blocks the road just seconds from her home.
The woman fell at around 2.30pm last Thursday afternoon in Lorrimore Square, Kennington. She is said to be recovering from her injuries.
But multiple residents around the area have told the News that her ambulance was delayed because roads surrounding Lorrimore Square have been blocked off by flower beds, as part of a ‘low-traffic neighbourhood’ initiative from Southwark Council.
The Ambulance Service said all crews arrived within target time despite reports of delays, and that the first crew on scene did not report a delay.
But it dramatically admitted that Southwark’s low traffic neighbourhood schemes risk delaying crews giving life-saving treatments to critically ill patients.
Emergency services being blocked off from reaching those in need is a common occurrence say those who live on Chapter Road, which leads to the square.
“The ambulance was really tearing up the road, it slowed down at the barrier and then had to do a quick three point turn,” said eye-witness Jaimie Todd.
The vehicle then went down a cul-de-sac, before turning around, finding another council-installed roadblock, and then eventually managing to get to the scene minutes later, said the 45-year-old.
“The air ambulance arrived even as the other ambulance was still going around the houses,” he said.
He estimated there has been fourteen times where one roadblock, installed in July, had impeded the emergency services – so he has even drawn a map of directions for police and paramedics on the flower bed itself.
“Changes to road layouts, traffic management schemes, and road closures all have the potential to impede our response to the most critically ill people and could delay life-saving treatments or conveyance to the nearest emergency department,” an ambulance spokesperson admitted.
“We are in ongoing discussions with Transport for London and local authorities including Southwark to ensure emergency vehicle access is properly considered, and the impact of any changes monitored.”
Resident Giles Baleny can see the roadblock from his house. He said: “I regularly see police and ambulances being forced to turn around.
“They want to stop people going the most direct route, but some people have to go the most direct route.
“I think it just speaks to the failure to properly consult on the process.”
Others have said they suspect the new road-blocks – rapidly installed during the pandemic – do not show up on sat-navs used by emergency services.
“Their system doesn’t seem to have been updated,” said Fiona McClean, who can also see the roadblock from her house. “The main thing is that it’s putting people’s lives at risk.”
Only one of those the News spoke to was opposed to the ‘low-traffic’ scheme, with most saying it needs to be adapted. “I like the idea,” said Fiona, 60, who also witnessed the ambulance involved in the incident. “But it’s just badly implemented.”
Since the incident, several more ambulances have been stuck at the barrier, claimed resident Tristan Noakes, who has taken multiple videos of the stranded cars.
Southwark Council’s newly appointed head of transport, Cllr Catherine Rose, said: “We are deeply saddened by the news of this incident, and wish the woman a full and swift recovery.
“We will continue to work with the London Ambulance Service and all the other emergency services, as part of our planned ongoing review of schemes such as this, across the borough.”
Opposition Lib Dem councillor, Damian O’Brien, said the council had to listen more carefully to local residents when implementing low traffic neighbourhoods.
“The devil is in the detail,” said the Liberal Democrat transport spokesman. “Waltham Forest have been very successful while Hackney is suffering a severe push-back by some road users and a hostile atmosphere is developing.
“There is no point moving the problem to a new location – we want fewer car journeys, more environmentally-friendly forms of transport and for traffic to keep moving.
“These goals will only be aided by LTNs if local residents are listened to and that is what Liberal Democrats are always asking for.”