Council accused of acting like North Korea with threats against low traffic zone protester

A campaigner opposed to low traffic neighbourhoods was threatened with legal action by a local council after she erected a sign criticising its “green” policy, The Telegraph can reveal.

Lambeth Council wrote to Lyudmila Grygoryeva ordering her to remove a “Stop Road Closures” placard from her terraced home in Camberwell, South East London, because it was “unauthorised advertising”.

Mrs Grygoryeva said she and her family had been exercising their democratic right to oppose a policy of low traffic neighbourhoods, where roads are closed to try to promote walking and cycling in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Critics claim they have created more congestion on major roads, shifted pollution to poorer areas and hampered police, fire and ambulance response times to 999 emergency calls.

The Labour-run authority told the 44-year-old mother of two to “completely remove” the poster fitted to her front garden gate pillar by January 11 or face “formal action”. That included the possibility of a “maximum fine of £2,500 upon summary conviction, with a continuing daily fine of £250 for failing to remove the unauthorised advertisement”.

The letter, sent on January 4, which included a picture of the offending protest poster, added that house “will be monitored and in the event that the advertisement, together with its associated fixtures and fittings, has not been removed by the deadline, the council may instigate prosecution proceedings and serve notices requiring [its] removal”.

The letter from Lambeth Council ordered Lyudmila Grygoryeva to 'completely remove' the poster fitted to her front garden gate pillar

While Mrs Grygoryeva has removed the sign amid fears of legal action, she is reporting the council to the Local Ombudsman – insisting the authority has acted like a communist dictatorship.

The disputed sign has become popular in Lambeth, where campaigners opposed to low traffic neighbourhoods are displaying them in windows and on signs. 

A group called One Lambeth, which wants low traffic neighbourhoods scrapped, has even produced a montage of the numerous signs on display in the borough.

Numerous signs have been put up in Camberwell protesting against low traffic neighbourhoods

Mrs Grygoryeva said: “Having grown up in the Soviet Union, I see the council are acting in a similar way with heavy-handed, draconian repression of free speech and trying to stifle any expression of opposition.

“Other residents with signs up have received no communication from the council. It feels as though the council is trying to stop opposition to the low traffic neighbourhoods, rather than engage with residents to understand why there is opposition to their policy.

“The council’s actions conflict with the treatment of the various other signs plastered everywhere around Lambeth in support of LTNs, including the green signs that say roads are open to cyclists those in wheelchairs on scooters or walking.

“We see it as a protest sign in the public interest rather than advertising. We are not advertising a product or service and doing our bit to help raise awareness of Lambeth Council cabinet decisions of pushing traffic from the roads of a privileged minority to the rest of the borough.”

She said she felt she had been singled out by the council, which she believes has not targeted the Black Lives Matter banner on a nearby church or signs in favour of low traffic neighbourhoods.

Council ‘acting like a one party state’

Tim Briggs, a Tory Lambeth councillor, said: “It’s staggering. They’re acting like a one party state, the North Korea of South London.”

A spokesman for Lambeth Council said: “We have been clear throughout that people are entitled to express their views over our low traffic neighbourhood trials, including through our extensive consultation programmes with residents.

“Signs put up in residential areas need consent under national and local regulations. We have a duty, on behalf of all residents, to respond to queries and complaints about all unauthorised signs.”

The spokesman added that low traffic neighbourhoods are meant to improve safety and wellbeing by creating more space for people to walk and cycle safely when public transport was "constrained" during the pandemic.

“We are determined that everyone feels the benefits of the LTNs, and we will continue to monitor their effectiveness, taking into account the views and experiences of all our residents,” the spokesman added.

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