Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has ordered a review of low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) in England, saying that he is on the side of drivers.
He told the Sunday Telegraph he was supporting people to “use their cars to do all the things that matter to them”.
LTNs aim to reduce traffic, in part by preventing drivers using quieter residential roads as through-routes, said a BBC report.
LTNs have been set up in recent years in London, Bristol, Birmingham, Bournemouth and more cities, with tens of millions of pounds of government funding given to councils for them since 2020.
Some research suggests they reduce localised pollution. But critics, including some Conservatives MPs, argue they harm the freedom of motorists and push traffic onto other roads, causing congestion.
In 2022 authorities around the country reported that nearly 200 had been installed over a two-year period, with about 50 scrapped, said the BBC report.
Mr Sunak said he had ordered the Department for Transport to see how LTNs were working. Earlier this month, Transport Secretary Mark Harper announced that the government was stopping the funding of new LTNs in England.
It is not clear whether the government could make councils alter or scrap existing schemes.
Mr Sunak said: “The vast majority of people in the country use their cars to get around and are dependent on cars.
“I just want to make sure people know that I’m on their side in supporting them to use their cars to do all the things that matter to them,” he said.
The adoption of LTNs has attracted the ire of some Tory MPs, who have criticised the measure as an attack on motorists.
But the Local Government Association, which represents local councils, said the review was “unnecessary” and councils were best placed to make decisions with their communities.
In a Sunday Telegraph interview, Mr Sunak also said he was not planning to change the deadline for the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesels cars despite calls from some Conservatives to do so.
In a letter to Mr Sunak on Saturday, a group of 43 Conservative MPs and peers including Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Sir Jacob Rees Mogg and David Davis, suggested moving the target to 2035 to avoid “grave harm to the economy”.
It read: “The public can only be left worse off by a heavy-handed ban that leaves them unable to purchase the vehicles they want.
“The future for this country is in imposing fewer burdens and being more lightly regulated than the EU, not in unilaterally imposing additional job-destroying burdens to meet an unnecessary and unworkable deadline.”
But Mr Sunak said: “The 2030 target has been our policy for a long time and continues to be – we are not considering a delay to that date.”
It said councils needed long-term certainty over funding if they were to help meet the government’s own target of 50% of urban journeys being walked, wheeled or cycled by 2030.
The review will only look at LTNs in England, as they are a devolved matter in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.