Opposing Positions Harden on Clean Air Neighbourhood

Can the Can protestors claim traffic measures will destroy local businesses

Lauren Clark says her boyfriend has seen a 40 per cent collapse in custom since the scheme has been implemented
Lauren Clark says her boyfriend has seen a 40 per cent collapse in custom since the scheme has been implemented

July 25, 2023

South Fulham residents and business owners have lambasted an air pollution traffic scheme, as shops claim they are losing customers.

The Clean Air Neighbourhood (CAN) scheme, which fines out-of-town drivers for using roads in the area as a ‘rat-run’, has come under fire from tradespeople who claim that customers are being driven away by the cameras.

Protesters gathered on Wandsworth Bridge Road on (Monday, 24 July), to plead that a suspension of the CAN should be implemented during the 10-week closure of Wandsworth Bridge for repairs, in an attempt to re-boost footfall.

But Hammersmith and Fulham Council claims it already offers support to the local economy by offering business visitor access permits to enable shoppers, deliveries and staff to drive through the CAN cameras without receiving a fine.

Lauren Clark, 20, works for her partner, who owns Randall’s Butchers along Wandsworth Bridge Road, hit back at the council saying that she believes the high street will be a ghost town in a matter of months.

“We’ve lost about 40 per cent of our trade. So many of our customers came from out of the borough and we’ve had people email and call us and tell us they view the area as a no-go zone now and won’t make the trip.

“On a daily basis, we put dozens of people on the Ringo app, but not everyone knows how it works and they then get fined and it puts them off coming back.”

Teo Catino, who owns Il Pagliaccio on New Kings Road, also claims it has seen vital weekend turnover collapse by 38 per cent.

David Tarsh, a local resident, has been the driving force behind the protest movement
David Tarsh, a local resident, has been the driving force behind the protest movement

But another local business owner along New Kings Road argued that the council have only ever been reasonable and that they haven’t experienced any negative impact on their shop.

They said, “From what I’ve experienced, the council has been very supportive. When it first started out it was a hassle to get across the river, but the council was really quick to get my vehicles registered on the cameras so there’s no problem for me now.”

A council spokesperson added that they are aware of the disruption from the bridge closure but that measures are being taken to mitigate the impact.

Alongside free visitor permits, they added, “We have also suspended the traffic camera in southbound Imperial Road to make it easier for visitors to get to shops and businesses in Wandsworth Bridge Road.

“Opening up the roads to all traffic during the closure would result in sat-nav systems re-routing drivers into residential streets and bringing gridlock. This would cause more chaos and inconvenience to residents and businesses and generate more pollution.”

David Tarsh, a resident of the borough, slammed the council for ‘greenwashing’ and blasted the scheme as a ‘money-making activity’ that benefits few.

He added, “The council is not listening, we’re seeing the impact on business and it’s really bad. This will make the council millions in fines and charges which is why we believe they won’t give in on it and they’re using the green agenda as cover when it’s nothing to do with that.”

Protestors on Wandsworth Bridge Road call for Clean Air Neighbourhood scheme to be suspended
Protestors on Wandsworth Bridge Road call for Clean Air Neighbourhood scheme to be suspended

The council argues that since the CAN scheme was implemented, it has reduced the number of vehicles in the area by approximately 7,000 per day, which it states has removed just under 1 tonne of CO2 and about 0.6 tonnes of NOx every day from the air.

However, a survey was carried out by the boroughs MP Greg Hands, which reveals that one in two local residents are opposed to the scheme.

The Conservative politician added, “I will be rolling out my survey across the whole of my constituency. I am keen to hear from all residents, local businesses, and services, as the more views I have, the better informed I will be.’’

But concerns have been raised by the Labour-led council over the validity of the research and there are worries that there may be political motivations.

A council spokesperson said, “It would be inappropriate for us to comment on a political poll clearly organised to gather voter data by the current MP for Chelsea and Fulham.”

Alicia Curry - Local Democracy Reporter

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