Theresa Villiers MP on sticking up for Chipping Barnet motorists
Whether it is looking back at 2023 or ahead to next year, one of the issues which is certain to be the subject of major debate in this borough will be driving.
In Barnet there is a high degree of dependence on car journeys. I will always campaign for improvements which make public transport a viable option for more journeys than it currently is. For example, I was part of the successful campaign to restore a bus route between High Barnet and Potters Bar.
But as an outer suburb, the Chipping Barnet constituency I represent inevitably has sparser public transport than central London. Moreover, our public transport is primarily radial; i.e. we are well served with options to travel to and from the centre, but getting from place to place across different parts of the neighbourhood can be complicated to achieve via public transport.
So I want a fair deal for constituents who depend on their cars. We should never forget that the private car can be a source of freedom, especially for people with impaired mobility or who have elderly relatives to look after and get from place to place.
I fought hard against the recent Ulez expansion. The Mayor of London’s own impact assessment admitted it will have only a minor or negligible impact on air quality. But a £12.50 a day charge will certainly have a negative impact on the household budgets of people who cannot afford to replace an older car. I remain determined to try to get this year’s expansion reversed. Conservative candidate Susan Hall will do this on day one if she is elected as mayor next May.
There are other battles ahead on how our roads are used. Barnet’s Labour council is spending thousands of pounds on considering new bus lanes on the A1000 in Barnet High Street and Whetstone. These would be hugely disruptive, causing major traffic congestion. They would almost inevitably mean the removal of all on-street parking along these routes, to the detriment of local businesses.
On top of this, the council now wishes to spend £560,000 on the A1000 cycle lane between East and North Finchley, which seems seldom used. The money being spent on all of these projects would be better devoted to pothole repairs, something about which residents really care.
As if this wasn’t sufficient to torment drivers and create hassle for them, in much of London, Labour has introduced so-called low traffic neighbourhoods or LTNs. These have caused chaos. They have also disadvantaged lower income communities who tend to live on the main roads into which traffic is pushed by LTN road closures. I will continue to do all I can to stop LTNs being introduced in my constituency.
Another source of division is 20 miles per hour zones. In the right place, for example in quiet residential side roads, these can work well. But they make no sense on wide main roads. On routes like Finchley Road, they just cause exasperating and unnecessary delays. Reverting to the old speed limits on the Finchley Road is another change Susan Hall would make if she wins.
Add to all of this mayor Khan’s demand that we build tower blocks in the suburbs, with zero off-street parking for the people due to live in them, and it looks like my Labour opponents have an ideologically anti-car approach.
I just want my constituents to be able to get to the places they need to be, without excessive cost and difficulty. That is not much to ask. But some in the London local authority establishment seem intent on preventing that. We need a reset: a shift to a more balanced approach which fairly takes into account the needs of all types of road-user. Above all, we need an end to Labour’s policies which soak drivers for more and more money, lock them out of more and more roadspace, and make it more and more difficult to get around our capital city.
Theresa Villiers is Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet