Man behind legal challenge ‘delighted’ as Haverstock Hill cycle lanes are cancelled
Opposition councillor slams ruling Labour's group's 'stubborn arrogance'
22 January, 2021 — By Harry Taylor
Amit Shah, who launched a legal battle against Camden Council
THE man behind a legal case against now-withdrawn plans for cycle lanes in Haverstock Hill says he is ‘delighted and relieved’ at the decision.
Amit Shah, 38, was set to take the Town Hall to court over a lack of consultation over plans for two cycle lanes from Pond Street to Prince of Wales Road. Officials and Labour’s transport chief had been criticised over a lack of transparency on the project.
Initially ward councillors had been told not to inform residents, before the decision to go-ahead was formally made by an unelected official.
Mr Shah, who suffers from anaphylaxis, said the bike lanes could be a matter of life or death for him, and that it could stop a friend taking him to hospital if he has an allergic reaction.
He said: “I am relieved and delighted that the right decision has been made, and the scheme has been dropped in its current form. I think they’ve acknowledged the fact that they were about to embark on something that wasn’t legal, because they have admitted they have to consult even though tlast week they said they had no time to do so.”
In an interview earlier in January, Camden’s transport chief Adam Harrison told the New Journal that the council didn’t consult residents over fears they would miss out on the emergency funding.
Businesses told the council that if the scheme went ahead it could have been the death knell for many of them amid unpredictable trading conditions. Car parking spaces, which they said were vital for customers, would have had to make way for the new lanes.
“It’s not just about me, it’s about the vulnerable and elderly as well as the businesses,” said Mr Shah.
“There is a lot of people who have been worried by this, I think if [Camden] can engage everyone then I think we could see the alternatives rather than them just impose something.”
The scheme was one of many in the borough that were set to be introduced under Covid-19 legislation that saw an order from government for local authorities to make active transport facilities more available in light of a collapse in public transport use.
Labour councillor Adam Harrison
However Transport for London (TfL) ran into difficulties, having to remove an unpopular cycle lane from Euston Road, and City Hall was defeated in the courts this week over its Streetscape project and an attempt to ban taxis from Bishopsgate in central London. This was seen as a lithmus test for how Camden may have fared in its own court battle.
Leader of Camden Conservatives Oliver Cooper had written to Camden’s legal chief in November saying that new Department for Transport (DfT) guidance meant the low-level of consultation as part of the Experimental Traffic Order was insufficient. If it had gone ahead, the lanes would have been installed for 18-months, before a full consultation would have taken place.
He said: “I’ve been warning Camden for several months that proceeding without consultation was illegal, but the council proceeded anyway because Camden’s Labour leadership is allergic to public scrutiny.
“It is vital that Camden doesn’t put its grant at risk by proceeding with this unpopular scheme after some procedural tinkering. It must urgently put it towards other schemes instead.”
Lib Dem Belsize councillor Tom Simon said the bungled bike route was a sign of Camden’s “stubborn arrogance”.
He said: “We repeatedly warned the council that a scheme of this nature must be done with proper consultation, that it must be done in a way that has as wide support as possible. The Labour administration refused to listen to the local community and to our warnings.
“It may be that a more balanced scheme, with effective consultation, would have been able to proceed and the area would still have seen a big improvement in cycling infrastructure.
“Active travel schemes such as this one are key to tackling the climate emergency and improving air quality. Through its stubborn arrogance the Labour-run council has potentially set back these causes significantly.”