small town high street unsplash

Low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) are proving to be catastrophic for clusters of small shops.

At Bounds Green in London, trade dropped 15%-20% last August when the scheme was introduced by Haringey London Borough Council. Now, of 68 businesses on Myddleton Road, which for over 100 years has been a community of independent shopkeepers, businesses, cafés and restaurants, 75% say they will look to close or relocate in the next 18 months.

Oxford’s Cowley Road, home to one of the largest, most diverse collections of independent businesses in the UK, has suffered similarly. Since Oxfordshire County Council decided to break Oxford down into six 15-minute neighbourhoods, despite widespread public opposition, 95% of East Oxford businesses report turnover has decreased by anything from 15% to 50%. They are also experiencing major issues with deliveries. Vans are having to travel further – the irony – to get to them, and are getting stuck in traffic on more peripheral routes.

LTN schemes emerged from ‘15-minute city’ ideology: “a residential urban concept in which most daily necessities can be accomplished by either walking or cycling from residents’ homes”. A lovely idea, but if you can’t cycle all your food shopping home, or lug it back because you’re too old or burdened with toddlers, you become a casualty of environmental piety.

15-minute cities are promoted as “supporting neighbourhood businesses and entrepreneurs” and “bringing more footfall to local high streets”. Try telling that to traders currently battling them, who are being sacrificed on the great green altar.

It has been obvious for decades that traffic reduction measures, such as pedestrianisation, have a nasty habit of killing off independent high street shops, merely funnelling would-be patrons to out-of-town supermarkets with free parking, or online delivery.

Yet even after the economic devastation caused by lockdown, councils from Edinburgh and Liverpool to Bath seem hell-bent on making it harder for locals to visit existing parades of small shops, critically undermining their viability.

What a win for the environment that is! The sheer hassle of blocked roads, cameras, fines, and permits turns lively shopping parades into dead zones overnight.


Have your say

The Grocer wants to hear from you about this article and the topics raised in it. If you would like to submit your opinion to be considered for publication in our letters section, get in touch at