Fulham 'clean air' scheme to expand and be made permanent as 100,000 drivers get parking tickets

The LTN has been blamed for causing near-gridlock on main roads in the area (Jeremy Selwyn)
The LTN has been blamed for causing near-gridlock on main roads in the area (Jeremy Selwyn)

More than 100,000 motorists have been issued with £130 parking tickets in one of London’s most affluent riverside areas in the past two years.

The figures have been revealed as Hammersmith & Fulham Council prepares to make a second low-traffic neighbourhood scheme in Fulham permanent and expand the number of streets it covers.

Many of the fines were issued after the second “clean air neighbourhood” in south Fulham was introduced in a bid to crack down on out of borough “rat-runners”.

However it is not clear how they relate to enforcement of the LTNs, which is done by numberplate-reading cameras.

The second LTN, which was introduced on a trial basis, has sparked about 1,000 complaints and has been blamed for causing near-gridlock on main roads in the area.

Many businesses blame it for a “25 per cent” fall in trade and say it has contributed to almost half of the shops in Wandsworth Bridge Road reportedly lying empty.

But Hammersmith and Fulham council says the zone has improved air quality and resulted in 15,000 fewer cars a day in a notoriously congested area.

The Labour-run council’s cabinet is expected to rubber stamp proposals to retain the zone on Monday - and widen it to incorporate adjacent streets that suffered an increase in traffic when it was introduced.

The zone, which covers streets west of Wandsworth Bridge Road and south of New Kings Road, was launched in December 2022 and enforced from February 1 last year.

It mirrors a scheme on the eastern side of Wandsworth Bridge Road that was launched in July 2020 to protect residents from “rat-running” motorists seeking a shortcut between Wandsworth Bridge and New Kings Road.

Council figures show that traffic on Wandsworth Bridge Road has increased by more than eight per cent since the western scheme began, to more than 50,000 vehicles on a weekday.

In addition, traffic on the western section of New Kings Road has risen by almost 24 per cent to 15,400 vehicles a day.

However weekday traffic levels on both roads remain lower than in March 2022, prior to the second scheme launching.

The zone covers streets west of Wandsworth Bridge Road and south of New Kings Road (Jeremy Selwyn)
The zone covers streets west of Wandsworth Bridge Road and south of New Kings Road (Jeremy Selwyn)

The council said the aim of the scheme, which was requested by residents, was “not to fine motorists but to improve air quality by discouraging people from using the residential streets as cut-throughs”.

Figures prepared for next week’s meeting reveal the number of parking tickets issued to motorists in the south of the borough increased from 51,096 in 2022 to 54,541 last year.

It is not clear if the increase in parking fines – which are halved to £65 if paid within a fortnight – is connected with the LTNs.

Numberplate-reading cameras are used to check whether vehicles belong to local residents, with “out-of-borough motorists'' who enter the LTN being fined separately.

Under the scheme, residents and their guests, black cabs, carers, business visitors and others with exemptions can go through the cameras covering an area in South Fulham without penalty.

Masum Choudhury, the council’s assistant director of transport, said removing the western LTN would result in through-traffic returning to residential streets and would ignore “significant support”.

He said: “An analysis of residents’ comments and sentiments over the past 18 months demonstrates that, over time as the scheme settled, initial negative sentiment towards the scheme was reversed as residents started to experience the benefits the scheme provided to the community.”

But actress Leslie Ash, who lives inside the LTN with her husband, former footballer Lee Chapman, was appalled it was being made permanent.

Ms Ash said: “I have not met one person who supports this scheme during the whole time it has been running, so God knows how the council can claim it is wanted.

“They have created a massive traffic jam in Wandsworth Bridge Road, so the emissions must have shot up. Yet they claim it is making the air better.

“Cabs refuse to come to my flat now, so I have to walk down to Chelsea Harbour to meet them. The whole thing is a total nightmare and a disaster for the area.”

Residents and businesses can apply online for an exemption for friends or customers, to prevent them receiving a fine.

The Standard reported that some Uber drivers have refused to drop passengers at home if it meant passing a camera – raising concerns about late-night safety for women.

Previous data indicated the majority of traffic in the area was made up of out of borough motorists, who used residential streets as shortcuts.

The council said there had been a “notable drop” in pollutants in the area and across the borough during the trial period, though traffic is only one factor.

There had been a “reduction of 15,000 vehicles” across south Fulham due to the two LTNs. It admitted there had been a reduction in trade on Wandsworth Bridge Road but businesses were doing “slightly better” than those in Hammersmith town centre.

Greg Hands, the Tory MP for Chelsea and Fulham, said 3,800 people responded to his survey about the Fulham LTNs, with a “clear majority” opposed.

He told the Standard: “The scheme has had an awful impact on local businesses, and heaped extra congestion on to New Kings Road and Wandsworth Bridge Roads. Ubers don’t enter the zone, and women’s safety has become a huge concern locally.

“I am calling on the council to go back to the drawing board, to consult the whole area properly and come back with something which works for women, local businesses and those who live on our main roads.”

Rob McGibbon, 58, a freelance journalist who lives in nearby Chelsea, said: “All they have managed to do is displace all the traffic in that area onto Wandsworth Bridge Road, which has become a choking car park most of the day. This is an unmitigated nightmare for all the residents on that road.

“The only residents who support this scheme are the ones living in the quiet side-streets that are now devoid of traffic."