CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Traffic experiments: to consult or not to consult

New government regulations say councils should be doing more to get views of residents

20 November, 2020

Camden was accused of not doing enough consultation ahead of new cycles lanes planned for Haverstock Hill

THE Town Hall is under pressure to get more residents’ views on its traffic experiments after new government guidance said there should be more consultation.

New regulations could mean Camden has to go back and survey opinion on its new cycle lanes planned for Haverstock Hill, Belsize Park.

The plans had been approved but work had not started before the publication of new government rules on Friday. They say councils are now being encouraged to consult the “local community, particularly at an early stage, [which] is essential to ensuring the political and public acceptance of any scheme”.

Camden and Transport for London have reworked the roadmap of the borough with a series of experimental traffic orders – ETOs – in a bid to encourage more walking and cycling as use of public transport falls during the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of an urgent response to Covid, the Town Hall has already been able to introduce a series of road changes and closures without full consultation, leading to several flashpoints over traffic jams.

But a Department for Transport spokesperson told the New Journal a second tranche of funding for schemes will come with an expectation that local authorities “engage properly with communities on proposed schemes”.

The new rules stopped short of saying a full consultation should be held before implementation and Camden said it was reviewing the guidance.

“It is too soon since receipt of [it] to assess any implications with respect of Haverstock Hill,” a spokesperson added.

The cycle route was approved last week by council officials after months of controversy.

Parking spaces will be removed from both sides of the hill from Pond Street to Prince of Wales Road in favour of two cycle lanes. Businesses have complained about the impact on them after a difficult trading year, and others have questioned how many cyclists will attempt to cycle up the hill with an average gradient of 3.5 per cent.

Conservative group leader Councillor Oliver Cooper said: “Time and again, Labour have refused to ask the public for their views, sat on these secret schemes, and demanded that residents not even be told about them, let alone asked what they think.

“Labour said Conservative councillors were ‘obsessed with process’ for wanting big decisions to be made in public. This revised guidance shows that Labour’s obsession with secrecy doesn’t just ignore residents, but ignores the law too.”

The Haverstock Hill changes have been supported by the Camden Cycling Campaign who see the bike lanes as part of a wider network of cycle routes.

And Camden’s environment chief Cllr Adam Harrison has endorsed it, saying last week that it would “create new opportunities for kids to ride a bike to school” and “make Camden a more family-friendly borough.”

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