A priest has warned that low-traffic neighbourhoods will prevent him from carrying out last rites at the bedside of patients.
Father Gerard King, of St Joan of Arc Roman Catholic Church in Islington, north London, used to drive from his home to Whittington hospital in around 20 minutes.
But the journey can now take as long as one hour and 15 minutes because of heavy traffic since the introduction of the Highbury Hill and Aubert Park low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) by Islington council.
Father King and the priests in his deanery have now experienced a number of “near misses”, in which they have only just managed to reach dying parishioners in time.
They fear that eventually they will not be able to reach a patient to perform the Catholic sacraments of last rites, which are confession, anointing of the sick, and final Communion.
“It’s making access to the hospital difficult for me personally and eventually that’s going to end in tears,” Father King told The Telegraph.
“There’ll be an occasion where I just won’t get there in time and that would be of great distress to the family.
“It’s not happened yet but the potential is there when the journey time has gone from 20 minutes to an hour, it’s a tragedy waiting to happen.”
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He added that since the Highbury Hill LTN was introduced, he must park his car and walk in order to reach a 98-year-old parishioner to take her to mass, rather than being able to pick her up at her door.
“One gets the impression that they want to make it so awful for motorists that people will just stop driving. My feeling is that the chaos is just going to increase with the expansion of it.”
Businesses also suffering
Chris Godfrey, who has a butcher’s shop in nearby Highbury Barn, said the green roads scheme was stifling his ability to deliver to customers.
“There’s a whole list of postcodes that we just don’t deliver to any more because it’s not viable,” he said. “That includes a bunch of restaurants, so it might end up affecting when they can open.
“Our local deliveries have more than halved versus the start of the pandemic and since these LTNs came in. We need to see something done but I don’t think anyone has the answer for it.”
Hundreds of residents took to the streets of Islington on Saturday to protest against the planned expansion of the initiative, including further low traffic traffic neighbourhoods, which is overseen by Transport for London and is in line with the Government’s travel policy.
Islington council took in £491,180 in penalty charge notices from its LTNs between August 17 and December 23 last year. Consultations are not scheduled to be held until after the scheme has been in place for 18 months.
Keith Townsend, the council’s corporate director for environment and regeneration, said: “We want to ensure our streets work for everyone, including Islington’s fantastic local businesses.
“Our people-friendly streets programme aims to make our streets cleaner, safer and healthier while maintaining access to every street in the borough by motor vehicle, ensuring that those who need to travel by car can continue to do so.
“We know that these are significant changes, and the council is fully committed to engaging with businesses and residents and, where necessary, making changes to schemes based on feedback from local people.”