Candidates in 21 council areas in Thursday’s local elections have pledged to roll back low traffic neighborhoods (LTNs) or clean air areas, a Guardian analysis of data from Facebook’s advertising library has found.
Most of the adverts – 136 out of 164 analyzed – were placed by Tory candidates, putting local Tory parties at odds with the central government which encouraged councils to adopt clean air zones and LTNs, and funded the programs.
Labor candidates placed six ads criticizing a clean air zone or LTN, while the Liberal Democrats placed three and independent candidates placed 19.
Clean Air Zones restrict the movement of older, more polluting vehicles to improve air quality, while Low Traffic Neighborhoods are areas in which automobile traffic is restricted from using residential streets as passageways. .
If clean air zones were implemented in eight UK cities, they would, on average, deliver an 18% reduction in harmful nitrogen dioxide, according to a study by CBI Economics.
However, these regimes have often divided opinion and ads that oppose a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) or LTN have been viewed 613,000 times on Facebook so far this year.
Advertisements opposing clean air zones were particularly prevalent in Greater Manchester, with 51 adverts placed by local candidates during the period analysed.
The Trafford Conservatives ran 14 adverts criticizing Clean Air Zones. An advert that ran in April said: ‘Labour has done nothing for you but spend millions trying to tax you for driving with the Greens and Lib Dems.’
The start date for a Manchester CAZ, which would be the biggest in the UK, has been delayed after disagreements between Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and the government over funding.
Misinformation about Manchester CAZ has been widely shared on Facebook, according to a separate analysis using the Crowdtangle analytics tool.
The most popular organic post mentioning the scheme claimed that authorities had cut down trees at a motorway junction near Wigan in order to install CAZ signage. The post later received 43,000 interactions on Facebook when it was reposted by a meme page.
A spokesperson for Highways England, which manages the land around the Orrell Interchange, said no trees were removed to install the sign.
The Trafford Conservatives said in a statement: ‘On Thursday, Trafford voters have a choice. They can vote for the 493 square mile fare zone of a Labor council, backed by the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, who all want to make it more expensive and harder to get to work, see family or get away from it all. move through his day.
“Alternatively, they can vote for a fresh start with the Conservatives, who will prioritize making life easier for hard-working families and small businesses.”
In London, which has the highest coverage of low-traffic areas in the UK, Tory candidates placed 65 adverts with pledges to remove them. The largest number were led by local parties in the suburban boroughs of Croydon and Enfield.
Enfield Tories said the Labor administration had failed to listen to people over two new LTNs and had created ‘more pollution, more congestion’.
Official monitoring data from Enfield Council shows that traffic volumes within its Fox Lane LTN fell by an average of 72% after its introduction, while border roads saw an average increase of 6%.
Stephen Edwards, chief executive of Living Streets, said: ‘Nobody wants to vote for dangerous roads, air pollution and the rat race. The government’s own evidence shows there is overwhelming support for reducing traffic and reallocating space to people who walk, cycle and cycle.
“Of course, if low-traffic programs aren’t working, authorities should work with residents to find other ways to reduce car dominance and put people first.”