Demand for secrecy is unacceptable
17 September, 2020
‘Camden must halt these schemes being decided behind closed doors’
• LESS than two weeks ago, Camden gave councillors representing Haverstock Hill just three working days to express our views on Camden removing every parking space on a nearly mile-long stretch of the steep hill and replacing them all with two cycle lanes.
Despite the huge impact this would have on communities, Camden asked that this not be shared with anyone else: no discussion with residents, no discussion with businesses, and no discussions with community groups.
This demand for secrecy was clearly an unreasonable request, and belies the undemocratic mindset of the council.
Camden’s addiction to implementing changes without consulting residents is not because of the need for speed.
You can do things openly but quickly. No, the specific request that the information be deliberately withheld from residents shows that it was done for reasons of shame.
My responsibility is to represent residents, so we could never accept Camden’s demand for secrecy.
So Belsize Conservative councillor Steve Adams and I established a survey and wrote to residents near Haverstock Hill asking them their views.
In the last week over 500 people have responded, including over 80 in each of the four wards covering the hill: two of them with Conservative councillors and two with Labour councillors.
In each ward over 80 per cent of residents opposed the scheme. Over 90 per cent of people in Gospel Oak – represented by Labour councillors – did.
If they’re your councillors and you don’t want a huge change to your community without you being asked first, let them know, just like you let us.
Dozens of people told us that because of disability or age this change would make it impossible for them to get to the shops or other community facilities. Several small businesses told us that they will likely go under if this goes ahead.
This near-unanimous opposition should be a wake-up call to Camden, including the Labour councillors that represent two-fifths of the road.
To just choose not to consult residents, including the large number of elderly and disabled affected, is one thing. To risk judicial review by not consulting businesses or other stakeholders, as the law requires, is another.
But to continue to refuse to consult even after the vast majority of your own constituents have said no is inexplicable: morally and democratically.
Camden must halt these schemes being decided behind closed doors and kick Labour’s habit of secrecy. That has to start with scrapping its scheming for Haverstock Hill, as residents told us they want; and would tell Camden if only Camden bothered to ask.
CLLR OLIVER COOPER
Leader, Camden Conservatives