Surbiton has been bestowed with a new, and slightly controversial, scheme to help make the area a Low Traffic neighborhood (LTN). 

These LTN schemes have been popping up all around london. In most places they have been received with the same reaction; either pure delight or horror, in many cases it's been both. 

The ‘planters’ on King Charles Road in Surbiton are not permanent for now but they could be if all goes well. The council have said that they are only on a trial period and will review how the scheme has impacted people six months after they have been put into place. 

There have been people complaining about the impacts of the LTN scheme in Tolworth along with local Surbiton residents. According to a few commenters on the ‘Berrylands Hub’ facebook group they have noticed a much larger flow of traffic both ways on roads such as Raeburn Avenue. This is likely due to cars choosing to still avoid the main road into Tolworth and using the smaller residential roads as ‘rat runs’. 

Cllr John Sweeney posted on a Surbiton Facebook group that ‘lots of people quite like the LTN schemes once they've been put in place’ adding ‘at least they do in Brixton’. He also said that the modal filter trail is underway and might not be the right scheme however ‘sometimes the right decisions create a huge outcry (like banning smoking in pubs, compulsory wearing of seatbelts)’. But are these really comparable? 

On one hand, residents complained that there are few exits out of Berrylands and passing through ‘can be difficult at the best of times’. In addition, under the post, people criticized it saying ‘these things might improve one area but logically they have to make other areas a lot worse’ 

Many defenders of the Modal filter trial said that people mistake traffic for ‘behaving like water’. ‘Blocking one exit and it will seek out the nearest alternative. Existing LTNs have shown that this is not what happens’. One commenter also added that people need to be prepared to use the LTNs otherwise we wouldn't know how it will work. ‘If it doesnt work it gets taken out again - simple’

I spoke to Carol, a resident near the King Charles Road LTN block. She said that the scheme ‘is to improve the environment for residents and users of the nearby children’s play park and the two other parks’ She told me that King Charles Rd was used as a ‘rat run’ to avoid traffic on Ewell Road. it is now a ‘much, much safer experience’ including that ‘previously you took your life in your own hands as vehicles ignored the speed limit’. 

One of the largest adversaries to the scheme was the local business, Coffee on the Corner, they started a petition to hold off the scheme which was placed just a few meters from their entrance. They have talked about how it will affect passing trade. However supporters of the scheme questioned how much it would affect business as they get most trade from locals and the park, ‘If anything it might help the cafe’, one commented. 

For the most part people have either been for or against it. Equally there have been those who do not have any opinion explaining that there has been no impact on roads near them and that road wasn't one that they had ever really used before.

The only question left is how will the council be monitoring the impact of the LTN.  No statistics of traffic levels before the LTN's were installed have been published.  If roads such as Raeburn and Pine Walk have not been measured prior to the trial, how will he council know what the actual impact on the local area has been? Does this mean the council has already decided the LTN's are here to stay?

The six month trial has only just begun and at the moment there are no signs the council will be taking the planters down prematurely. There are just over a thousand signatures on the petition created by the local Cafe. Will this change anything? Only time will tell.