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Officials give go-ahead for controversial Haverstock Hill cycle lanes

Unelected director makes final decision

12 November, 2020 — By Harry Taylor

Haverstock Hill

COUNCIL chiefs have been accused of hiding behind unelected officials over a decision to approve a controversial cycle route in Haverstock Hill.

The route will see parking spaces removed from a stretch of the road running from Pond Street to Prince of Wales Road during an 18-month trial, in favour of crossing points and two cycle lanes.

It has received heavy criticism from businesses along the route, as well as from councillors who were initially told not to tell residents about it.

The decision has formally been taken by Camden’s director of environment, rather than the Labour councillor heading the portfolio, Adam Harrison.

Belsize ward councillor Luisa Porritt, the leader of Camden’s Lib Dems, said: “The cabinet member could have made the decision publicly, but instead hid behind officials while they made the final decision.”

Conservative group leader Councillor Oliver Cooper said it was “an undemocratic farce” adding: “Camden has completely ignored the views of over 80 per cent of local residents, local councillors, and the unanimous views of local businesses.”

Conservative group leader Councillor Oliver Cooper

He has warned that a queue of traffic will build up behind buses as they pause to let passengers on and off.

A council spokesperson said the decision to delegate the approval was taken in May. A full consultation survey has not taken place, as the changes are being brought in through emergency Covid-19 laws to increase walking and cycling. Business owners are worried about the impact on their trade.

Tish restaurant owner David Levin told a full council meeting in October that it could lead to the loss of 60 jobs, and pleaded with councillors and officials “please don’t destroy us”.

Restaurant owner David Levin addressing the council last month

The council, however, disputes that the scheme could have a negative impact on businesses.

Separately, there has been a debate about how many cyclists will want to tackle the steep hill. The plans will see the removal of 99 parking spaces, including 66 for residents.

Hair salon owner Lisa Hauck said: “We expected this from the council meeting with Camden. I felt like this is just a box-ticking exercise: they had to listen to a business owner and a wheelchair user, to tick the box. They need to provide alternative spaces elsewhere. If they don’t, I still worry about my business. I have 5-6 people working here, we will have no option but to close.”

Lynn Whiting, chair of the Steele’s Village Business Association, said: “They keep talking about the trial for 18 months. Fair enough, but in these times, people aren’t going to survive for 18 months.”

Environment chief Councillor Adam Harrison

Camden’s Cycling Campaign has endorsed the plan as part of a wider network of cycle lanes.

Cllr Harrison said: “Public transport capacity will be down for some time, so we urgently need to provide new ways for people to travel safely. Since September, I have also being contacted by parents asking for much safer travel for their children. With numerous schools on or close to Haverstock Hill, segregated cycle lanes could create new opportunities for kids to ride a bike to school, improving their health and making Camden a more family-friendly borough.”

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