Police are scouring social media to try to spot ‘green’ road closures, inspector’s email reveals

Police are finding out about council road closures through Facebook and Twitter, an inspector has warned, as senior ministers are becoming increasingly critical of Grant Shapps’ green transport revolution.

An email seen by the Sunday Telegraph from the Metropolitan Police Service’s roads and transport policing command to local authorities reveals the extent of growing concern so-called ‘low traffic neighbourhoods’ are having on 999 emergency response times.

Hundreds of roads across the country have been blocked off with planters and bollards or had cycle lanes introduced in an attempt to promote social distancing and healthier forms of travel. 

However there have been numerous reports that police, ambulance and fire engines are finding routes blocked meaning critical response times for emergency callouts are being hampered. 

Now, a letter released under Freedom of Information Act, shows an inspector based in North West London has written to councils and traffic authorities to stress the importance of consulting police, fire and ambulance services to prevent “risks to the public”.

The officer, whose name has been redacted, writes: “My most major concern is that emergency services are becoming aware of a lot of the projects, either on the day or after works have started.

“Sometimes a few weeks after they have been completed and often through scouring social media.”

It adds how the Met is “not being given suitable time” to provide “detailed consultation”, a process requiring between three and 14 days. 

In a stark warning, it says any input the force provides is based on the road closures and cycle lanes being “temporary measures solely for the purpose of providing a safer environment … in response to the Covid pandemic” adding how ant councils failing to give “due notice of the works” will mean the “full risk and associated responsibility will sit with the Local Traffic Authority”.

Although the letter, sent in June, says it supports promoting social distancing and cycling, it adds how officers have to consider “emergency services response times … as well as the realistic risk to the public.”

It adds how police “want to ensure that it doesn’t further risk through the hindering of all the emergency services getting to calls and performing their core business.”

A spokesman for the force said it does not “sign off” the street closures councils propose, but is “merely a consultee”. 

Last week Mr Shapps, the Transport Secretary, announced the second £175 million phase of the controversial scheme, unveiled in May. 

Meanwhile, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal several senior ministers are highly critical of the scheme in private. 

One said: "He [Mr Shapps] should try driving around London a bit more."