Camden Council halts Haverstock Hill cycle lane plans
Town Hall to 'follow new engagement process' over road layout
21 January, 2021 — By Harry Taylor
Environment chief Councillor Adam Harrison was a keen supporter of the proposed road changes
PLANS to install cycle lanes in Haverstock Hill have been pulled by the council following months of controversy over whether Camden had properly consulted.
The council had said it did not need to launch a full consultation because the changes to the road were being made under an Experimental Traffic Order (ETO) in which feedback would be gathered during an ongoing 18-month trial before a decision on whether to make the layout permanent.
While cyclists gave the proposals a clear thumbs up, businesses warned the removal of parking spaces would wreck their trade and some residents in said they feared extra pollution if the road became a constant traffic jam.
The Royal Free Hospital had supported the idea but Camden was facing a High Court challenge from one resident, Amit Shah, who feared ambulances would not be able to react quickly if vehicles were queued up in the street. He suffers from anaphylaxis, which can trigger severe allergic reaction.
David Levin from the Tish restaurant appealed to councillors to abandon the scheme as businesses appeared before a full council meeting last year
Last week, Camden’s environment chief Councillor Adam Harrison said tight government deadlines on securing investment for road changes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic had meant there was no time to ask everybody what they thought.
The ruling Labour group, however, had repeatedly given their wholehearted support to cycle route, saying they wanted to encourage walking and cycling as use of public transport dropped.
The lack of consultation remained a key flashpoint, however, and Camden said this afternoon (Thursday) that it would follow a “new engagement process”.
A spokesperson said: “We have brought in over 100 emergency transport schemes across Camden in response to Covid-19 to make our streets as safe as possible and to encourage walking and cycling. We’ve had to do this at unprecedented pace as that’s what the Government asked us to do, but despite this pressure, none of our many schemes have been challenged, with the exception of Haverstock Hill.
“These schemes will also make a huge contribution to our efforts to improve air quality in Camden and tackle the climate crisis.”
The spokesperson added: “When we made the decision on the Haverstock Hill scheme we did so to the published guidance at the time. However, since then we have looked again at how we introduce these emergency transport schemes and included further public engagement in the process.
“Due to a minor technical error in the order for the scheme, we are looking at the Haverstock Hill plans again. This will allow us to follow the new engagement process, focus on all of our schemes and concentrate on fighting the pandemic without the distraction of the litigation, irrespective of its merits.”
But Conservative councillor Oliver Cooper said: “I’m delighted that Camden has withdrawn its illegal plan, but this was no minor procedural matter. 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.
He added: “Local businesses unanimously opposed the proposal and the police said it would make it harder to fight crime. It is unwanted, unneeded, and unlawful. The High Court has just ruled that the whole Transport for London scheme this is being funded by is illegal.
“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.”
Belsize Lib Dem councillor Tom Simon blamed Labour’s “stubborn arrogance” for the decision.
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.”
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