‘We’ve had minimal issues’ says Southwark Fire Brigade on Low Traffic Neighbourhood road changes

Josh Salisbury (06 November, 2020)

Critics say Low Traffic Neighbourhoods increase emergency service response times

39569(c) Sebastian Garraway

Southwark firefighters say they’ve had “minimal issues” with new Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, despite concerns they could lengthen response times.

Widespread new road changes across the borough have provoked an intense debate, with some opposed alleging they prevent the emergency services attending calls quickly.

The News has reported on one case in Walworth, where residents filmed firefighters being forced to get out of their engine to ask for directions at a roadblock.

But according to Steven Vydelingum, of Southwark Fire Brigade, firefighters have not encountered major issues on access.

“At present, we’ve had minimal issues, I think it’s more so how fluid the situation is, getting the information quick enough,” he told a meeting of councillors on Wednesday evening. 

“We would rather be in the consultation earlier on and ironing out those problems before it becomes a problem.”

He said the bigger issue was sometimes getting the information from the council quick enough. “I think on occasion, it may just be that the contact they may have for our current management team may not be up to date,” he said.

Residents in Walworth resorted to putting up a map of directions on a roadblock for firefighters and paramedics in September

However, Mr Vydelingum added that planters blocking roads could prove difficult for fire engines. 

“Depending on what the proposed restrictions are, if it’s a static flower pot or raised planter we would have issues getting through those,” he said. 

“Removable bollards over planters, that would be our aspiration, but that depends on costs for the council.”

Fire engines also sometimes have difficulties navigating residential roads because of parked cars, he told councillors.

The London Ambulance Service has consistently opposed physically road blocks, over fears it could increase response times, instead asking for camera-operated barriers.

The Met Police have also indicated a preference for camera-operated barriers. Camera-operated barriers are more expensive to install than fixed flowerbeds.

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