Low-traffic neighbourhoods set for review amid Tory ‘pro-motorist’ drive

Labour dismissed the announcement as another ‘press release’ by the Prime Minister.

Rishi Sunak has ordered a review of the rollout of low-traffic neighbourhoods as the Prime Minister sought to pitch the Tories as a pro-motorist party.

The move was confirmed in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, with the Prime Minister asking the Department for Transport to review low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) policies.

Under such plans, local councils attempt to limit traffic in town and city centres – with drivers often prevented from using quiet residential roads as through routes.

The measures are also designed to encourage uptake of other modes of transport.

The adoption of the polices has attracted the ire of some Tory MPs, who have criticised the measures as attacks on motorists.

Mr Sunak told the Telegraph: “The vast majority of people in the country use their cars to get around and are dependent on their cars. When I’m lucky enough to get home to North Yorkshire, it’s more representative of how most of the country is living, where cars are important.

“I just want to make sure people know that I’m on their side in supporting them to use their cars to do all the things that matter to them.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper, who has spoken out before about LTNs, said the Tories were “about giving people more choice on how they travel, not banning you from driving your car”.

Labour dismissed the announcement as another “press release” by the Prime Minister.

Shadow international trade secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said he was “staggered” by the position and that the Government had been “accelerating the use of low-traffic neighbourhoods”.

He said Labour were in favour of “well-planned” LTNs.

Mr Thomas-Symonds told Times Radio: “It’s absolutely critical that these decisions are made together with local communities. I’m a big believer in devolution, in making decisions as closely as possible to the people that they affect.

“Of course, there are communities that want to reduce traffic in their neighbourhoods and it’s trying to make sure that we take those views into account when we move forward.”

The pitch to motorists and car owners comes after the Conservatives’ narrow victory in the Uxbridge and Ruislip by-election earlier this month, which saw the Tory candidate tap into local concerns about the expansion of London’s ultra-low emissions zone (Ulez).

That success has seen some Tory MPs on the right of the party urge Mr Sunak to engage in a rethink on net zero, amid hopes of attacking Labour’s green ambitions.

Mileage rates
Rishi Sunak said he was on the side of motorists (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The spread of LTNs in recent months has emerged as a concern among some on the right of the Conservative Party.

Conservative MP Nick Fletcher suggested in the Commons earlier this year that traffic control plans being mooted by local councils across the UK were part of an “international socialist concept” which would take away personal liberties.

This is not the first time Mr Sunak has hit out at LTNs.

In last summer’s Tory leadership contest, he promised to review the policies to consider the impact on emergency services.

The Prime Minister is also facing pressure from some backbenchers to reconsider the deadline for the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales.

More than 40 Conservative MPs and peers, including prominent figures such as Lord Frost and Sir Jacob Rees Mogg, have written to Mr Sunak to claim the “time is right for a rethink” and warned of the dangers of a “heavy-handed ban”.

Mr Sunak ruled out any shift in the Government’s position, telling the Telegraph: “The 2030 target has been our policy for a long time and continues to be. We are not considering a delay to that date.”

He doubled down on attacks on Sir Keir Starmer amid the row over the Ulez scheme, which is being pushed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The Labour leader and other senior party figures have called on Mr Khan to reflect on the policy following the Uxbridge defeat.

The capital’s mayor has promised to listen to Londoners while also stressing the urgent need to clean up the city’s air.

“I’ve become slightly more alarmed by the Labour Party’s position. It’s quite anti-motorist,” Mr Sunak claimed.

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