Traffic chief: We had no time to ask you about road changes
First hearing for Haverstock Hill legal challenge scheduled for next month
14 January, 2021 — By Harry Taylor
Cabinet councillor Adam Harrison: ‘The instruction was there to move quickly’
CAMDEN’S environment and transport chief said the council didn’t consult residents and businesses near controversial emergency Covid transport schemes over fears they would miss out on government money
. Labour councillor Adam Harrison said the Town Hall had not checked with the government whether it could survey opinion on changes to Haverstock Hill and Swain’s Lane, as ministers had made it clear funding would not be provided for schemes if they were not treated as an emergency.
Ward councillors were told not to tell residents details of the scheme in Haverstock Hill, and the decision to push ahead with them was formally made by unelected officials rather than councillors.
On newer proposals the council is now holding a two-week consultation beforehand, after government advice on how to bring in traffic changes was revised.
Cllr Harrison said: “The instruction was there to move quickly and you wouldn’t receive that funding unless you moved quickly, it was about getting measures in weeks rather than months.
“It’s clear these are temporary measures, if the willingness after 12 months to keep them is there, there will be a full consultation, but for the time being they are essentially emergency measures. So you wouldn’t expect a full consultation for something that is an emergency.”
He said that he was worried about the state of Transport for London’s finances, which could see Camden receive less money for projects and eventually see bus and tube services cut.
The transport authority received £3.4bn across two bail-outs last year. The council’s long term strategy is to move people away from private cars to walking, cycling and using public transport.
“TfL’s finances dropped off a cliff because the fares dropped off a cliff,” he said. “We’re probably the only major city to have a metropolitan transport network without any major support from the government. That was agreed by the then mayor of London and now prime minister.
“We’re hugely reliant on them to be making changes. We’ve been pushing for many years on increased capacity at Holborn and Camden Town [tube stations] and step-free access at West Hampstead, so the funding situation can put those projects in doubt.”
Since March, the size of segregated cycle routes in Camden has risen to 20km, with another 10km planned for this year. It saw its cycle hangar provision rise two-fold with 150 now installed across the borough.
It is part of a plan by the council to create quieter safer streets, with a particular aim to move cars away from side roads which have seen a big increase in traffic over the past decade.
Cllr Harrison thinks locals will look back in a decade’s time and wonder why changes weren’t made sooner, adding: “It’s about making roads safest for the most vulnerable people. I think [people] will look back in 2030 and ask ‘why on earth did they not have safe cycling routes on main roads and back streets’, I don’t think they’ll understand why it took so long.”
Legal challenge continues over new Haverstock Hill cycle lanes
AN initial hearing in the legal challenge to the proposed cycle route in Haverstock Hill – one of the most contested schemes among Camden’s quickfire revamp of the borough’s roadmap – will take place next month, as the man behind it is tries to raise £25,000 to cover legal fees.
Amit Shah, who lives in Haverstock Hill, launched the action before Christmas over concerns about his health.
He has a crowdfunder appeal up and running. He says if the plans to remove car parking from the mile-long stretch between Prince of Wales Road and Pond Street went ahead it would block ambulance routes and could put his life in danger due to his anaphylaxis.
A remote hearing will take place on February 12 to try and find a date for the case to take place.
Mr Shah alleges that Camden Council didn’t follow the law when not consulting residents about the scheme.
The Town Hall attempted to introduce it using an experimental traffic order (ETO) under emergency Covid-rules meaning a consultation did not have to take place.
Mr Shah said: “I’m really touched by the support I’ve had. I’ve had so many private messages from people saying they want to see a democratic process.”
He said the council had refused a request by his legal team to hold the case in accordance with the Aarhus Convention, which would limit costs to £5,000.
Camden Council declined to comment on the case.