Local councillors accused of ‘undermining’ Minister’s transport plans

29 September, 2020 / by Matt Smith

Images above: Karen Liebreich MBE; Andrea Carnevali, two of the signatories 

A number of prominent Chiswick residents have alleged that local Conservative councillors in the area are undermining the Minister’s plans to put walking and cycling ‘at the heart’ of transport policy.

In a letter to the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, the group supporting LB Hounslow’s measures said:

“We would like to offer our strong support for the policies you have announced to put walking and cycling at the heart of transport. We also wish to respond to the open letter sent to you by some of our local councillors earlier this month ‘The destruction of Chiswick’s community, town centre and retail economy’.

“A number of us have been in the front line of public health efforts against the pandemic and welcomed the statement you made on May 9 announcing a £2 billion package to support active travel to help the country emerge from the coronavirus crisis. Given the predicted upsurge in traffic and the virus, the reallocation of road space in favour of walking and cycling is even more necessary now.

“Our council (London Borough of Hounslow) has implemented measures exactly in line with your guidelines: pop-up bike lanes, wider pavements, cycle and bus-only streets and modal filters to create low traffic neighbourhoods.

“We are therefore disappointed that some of our local councillors have failed to back your vision, opposing the measures from our council that are making it a reality.”

The letter was drafted in response to the local Conservative councillors urging the Secretary of State for Transport to put a number of recently implemented traffic measures on hold. In their letter, the councillors claimed that the borough’s transport policy was “a hammer-blow to Chiswick’s retail business” and dividing communities.

Tories are ‘misrepresenting the situation’

The group suggests that the local Conservative councillors are misrepresenting the situation.

The letter continues: “They claim a Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme is ‘a massive over reaction (sic) to a problem that exists for only a few hours a day’. Traffic counts show the opposite, with many of our residential streets blighted by rat-running through the day.

“Their reference to the ‘revival of the discredited Cycleway-9 scheme’ concerns a protected bike route that was initiated by the Prime Minister while he was Mayor of London. Construction of the first phase has just been completed and it is now being expedited using temporary measures. Safer cycling on Chiswick High Road is more important than ever given the shift to shopping locally.

“A hammer-blow to Chiswick’s retail businesses” fails to convey that the shift to shopping locally has triggered a local boom. Shops that were long empty are finally being let. The first ever Flower Market on Chiswick High Road two weeks ago saw over 7,000 visitors with our shopkeepers enjoying their highest sales for years. Notably, an overflow car park was provided for this event but not a single car used it. Traders on two more roads have asked the Flower Market team of local residents to expand to their streets.

We welcome the opportunity to affirm our strongest support for your vision, and the measures needed to realise it by reallocating road space to people walking and cycling, both to encourage active travel and to enable social distancing.”

The signatories are listed below.

Dr Edward Seaton, DM FRCP, Consultant Dermatologist, London
Professor Jeremy Levy, Professor of Medicine, Imperial College London
Dr Mark Esler FRCA, Consultant Anaesthestist, Imperial College NHS Trust
Kate Frayling, Physics Teacher, Local School
Dr David Game PhD FRCP, Consultant Renal Physician, London
Andrew Hurn, Parent Governor, Cavendish Primary School, Chiswick
Dr Sheila Hunt, General Practitioner (within LTN area), retd.
Dr Radegund Norbury MRCGP, General Practitioner, London
Dr Tran Seaton FRCR, Consultant Radiologist, Imperial College NHS Trust
Dr Anna Wilson MRCGP, General Practitioner, London
Dr Karen Liebreich MBE, Author, Director Abundance London
Peter Murray, Architect, Chair Bedford Park Bicycle Club
Professor Tom Pike, Professor of Microengineering, Imperial College London
Christopher Richardson, Architect
Michael Robinson, M.Eng C.Eng MIET, Engineer
Christopher Blishen, Business Mentor
Paul Campbell, Managing Director, Consulting Business
Andrea Carnavali, Filmmaker
Keith Dickson, Emeritus Professor of Technology Management, Brunel University

See the full text of the letter here.

‘Perverse effects’

The Conservative Transport Spokesperson, Councillor Sam Hearn, spoke on behalf of all the local Conservative Councillors in his letter to Grant Shapps earlier this month, in which he said:

“There is unanimity across Hounslow Council and amongst Chiswick residents that we want to end the scourge of rat-running, curb excessive speeds and discourage unnecessary car journeys. These are laudable objectives but the complex and draconian measures being imposed under the guise of the Covid-19 emergency are having many perverse effects. Many of the changes are sadly making the lives of residents worse, not better”.

Image above: Councillor Sam Hearn

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Councillors write to Transport Secretary protesting Chiswick’s traffic changes

See also: Staveley Rd protest ‘not acceptable’ says council