United Kingdom

London goes to WAR with Sadiq's 'illegal' road schemes

Residents in five London boroughs have taken the fight against cycle-friendly 'Low Traffic Neighbourhoods' to the high court.

Sadiq Khan's controversial road scheme was this week ruled 'illegal' by a high court judge who said it was found to be 'seriously flawed'.

Dozens of roads were closed and others narrowed to create new cycle lanes in the height of lockdown last year in an effort to encourage walking and cycling.

But residents in Hackney, Ealing, Hounslow, Lambeth and Croydon have now launched a legal challenge to stop the road closures.

The hearing on February 12 could be decisive in the battle between councils and motorists across the capital.

Police and ambulance service said Low Traffic Neighbourhoods were preventing officers from chasing criminals and paramedics from reaching the sick

Motorists vandalised traffic cameras and sent Labour councillors death threats, as the 'culture war' over road closures continued to escalate. Pictured, a road in Hackney

One of the challenges, by residents in Hackney, said the road changes were unlawful because of the lack of consultation, failure to consider the impact on traffic, air pollution, and the disproportionate effect on people from Black and ethnic minority groups. 

At least 200 separate changes have been made to UK roads to create Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) in the last nine months. They were touted as a way to help Britons to avoid public transport during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Craig Mackinlay, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for fair fuel, told World at One of BBC Radio 4 the schemes were in 'ridiculous places'.

'I think the judgement in London has highlighted very well some of the things that are going wrong,' he added. 

On Wednesday, Justice Lang ruled London's 'Streetspace' scheme was 'seriously flawed' and 'took advantage of the pandemic' to push through 'radical' and permanent changes to London's roads.

An unknown female vigilante took it upon herself to defend drivers at risk of £130 fines after Hounslow council quietly converted a popular road into a bus lane. The 'Turnham Green fairy' was regularly spotted in a high-vis jacket in Chiswick

The judgment followed a legal challenge by organisations representing black cab drivers who were angry about being banned from a new bus-only route on the A10 in Bishopsgate. 

Justice Lang said the A10 scheme treated cab drivers unfairly and should be abolished.

But her judgment also called for an end to the Mayor's wider Streetspace initiative, including the introduction of several hundred miles of temporary cycle lanes.

The lanes sparked criticism from motorists for increasing congestion, and one on Kensington High Street was removed late last year following a local outcry.  

In addition to cycle lanes, Streetspace - which was put in place last May - saw the implementation of bus gates, banned turns and restricted access to streets in Low Traffic Neighbourhoods across London with the aim of encouraging walking and cycling.

In November it was reported drivers had turned to guerilla tactics to battle against London's increasing number of cycle-lanes as some shared tips online for how to remove road bollards.

A London-wide protest against LTNs. In Wednesday's judgement, Justice Lang added: 'The scale and ambition of the proposals, and the manner in which they were described, strongly suggest that the Mayor and TfL intended that these schemes would become permanent'

Justice Lang said the A10 scheme treated cab drivers unfairly and should be abolished, but her judgment also called for an end to the Mayor's wider Streetspace initiative, including the introduction of temporary cycle lanes. Pictured, one on Euston Road 

A social media user, with the handle @BobfromAccounts, tweeted out a photograph of a missing bollard on Cleveland Road in London. 

Tweeting Islington Council, they wrote: 'Someone appears to have commandeered your centre bollard on Cleveland Rd. Cue drivers reading the signs but ignoring them.'

First Oxford Low Traffic Neighbourhoods approved in Cowley as scheme branches outside London

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods have branched outside of London as three are approved in Oxford.

Church Cowley, Temple Cowley and Florence Park will become LTN's by March, according to the Oxford Mail. 

An Oxfordshire County Council chief said she was voting for a 'bit of boldness'.

Yvonne Constance, council cabinet member for transport, said: 'I do believe there is extraordinary support for this. I know it is a new plan, I know it is change, and I know that can be difficult. But I am going to decide in favour.'

Sajad Khan, of the City of Oxford's Licensed Taxicab Association, blasted the scheme for putting people off using taxis because blocked roads would lengthen journey times.  

A photograph showed the central bollard had been removed from its socket to leave a space wide enough for a car to pass through.

The month before an unknown female vigilante took it upon herself to defend drivers at risk of £130 fines after Hounslow council quietly converted a popular road into a bus lane.

The 'Turnham Green fairy' was regularly spotted in a high-vis jacket striding into the path of oncoming cars while waving a placard warning motorists that cameras are out to catch them on Turnham Green Terrace in Chiswick.

In Wednesday's judgement, Justice Lang added: 'The scale and ambition of the proposals, and the manner in which they were described, strongly suggest that the Mayor and TfL intended that these schemes would become permanent, once the temporary orders expired.

'However, there is no evidence to suggest that there will be a permanent pandemic requiring continuation of the extreme measures introduced by the Government in 2020.'

It followed a legal challenge by the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) and United Trade Action Group (UTAG) against the decision to ban cab drivers from the new Bishopsgate Bus Gate scheme.

The scheme was part of plans to make the area one of the largest car-free zones in any capital city in the world.

In the lengthy and detailed judgement Justice Lang noted that denying taxis access to London's roads could have 'severe consequences' for passengers who cannot walk, cycle, or use public transport and that 'the needs of people with protected characteristics, including the elderly or disabled', were 'not considered'.

A similar lane on Kensington High Street was removed following an outcry from motorists and local businesses 

Mr Khan oversaw the rapid construction of a cycling network using temporary plastic bollards 

Sadiq Khan was criticised for 'superficial' and 'seriously flawed' planning by a judge 

The court also highlighted the inadequacy of the Equalities Impact Assessment (EIA) undertaken by TfL, describing parts as 'perfunctory or non-existent' and finding that it 'read as if its purpose was to justify the decision already taken'.

The judge also found taxi drivers had a legitimate expectation that they would be able to access bus lanes to ply for hire effectively, which had been unlawfully breached.

This expectation was supported by TfL's own Bus Lane Policy, which asserts that taxis 'fulfil demands that cannot be met by the bus, train or tube', and by previous Mayoral statements on the importance of taxi access to bus lanes.

Lawyers for the Defendants argued breaching this expectation was justified by the pandemic, but Justice Lang found it 'unfair and contrary to good administration to use the pandemic as a justification for restricting taxis access to bus lanes'.

Finding the treatment of taxis was irrational, the Judge described excluding taxis as an 'ill-considered response', which 'sought to take advantage of the pandemic' to push through 'radical changes' which 'far exceeded what was reasonably required'.

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the LTDA, said: 'It's fantastic to see the Judge rightly recognising the key role licensed taxis play in our great City.

'This is an extremely important judgement for London's hard working taxi drivers and the passengers who rely on them.'

Wednesday's judgement followed a legal challenge by the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) and United Trade Action Group (UTAG) against the decision to ban cab drivers from a new bus lane in Bishopsgate (pictured, the road shortly before the works were completed) 

Darren Rogers, of Chiltern Law, who acted on behalf of the claimants, said: 'This was a hard fought and complicated Judicial Review where the regulated took on the regulator and sets a precedent when authorities close roads without proper analysis and care. 

'Untrammeled discretion must be scrutinised and reviewed. Mrs Justice Lang's judgement lays bare the unlawfulness of Streetspace as a plan and in practice.

'This sets a very decent precedent for similar schemes being challenged in other parts of the country.' 

TfL said: 'We are disappointed with the court's ruling and are seeking to appeal this judgment.

'Temporary Streetspace schemes are enabling safer essential journeys during this exceptionally challenging time and are vital to ensuring that increased car traffic does not threaten London's recovery from coronavirus.

'We absolutely recognise the need for schemes such as our Bishopsgate corridor to work for the communities they serve and have worked hard to ensure that people across London, including those who use taxis, can continue to get to where they need to be.

'We also recognise the need for schemes to be delivered in a fair and consistent manner and have worked closely with the boroughs to create clear guidance for implementing schemes, updating this regularly to reflect what we have learnt. These schemes will stay in place pending our appeal.'  

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