Images above: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan; Royal Courts of Justice
The Mayor of London and Transport for London acted unlawfully by introducing a Streetspace scheme at the height of the Covid pandemic, a judge in the High Court has ruled.
The scheme, introduced in London last May, introduced bus-only corridors and restricted licensed taxis from entering the A10 Bishopsgate, a major road in east London, between 7.00am and 7.00pm on weekdays.
Two trade bodies representing the black cab sector took the Mayor of London and Transport for London to court over loss of earnings.
Mrs Justice Beverley Lang ruled the introduction of the Streetspace scheme unlawful, saying the scheme was ‘unfair and irrational’. Mrs Lang told the court the mayor and TfL failed to distinguish taxis from “general traffic” and failed to recognise them as a mode of public transport.
She said Sadiq Khan and TfL “took advantage of the pandemic” to push through “radical changes”. In the lengthy and detailed judgement she outlined a series of failings by TfL and the Mayor, describing their decision-making process as ‘seriously flawed’, with the decision to exclude taxis being based on ‘superficial’ and ‘inadequate evidence.’
The Mayor of London announced his “bold new Streetspace Plan” to “overhaul London’s Streets” on 6 May 2020. The Plan, which he said was a response to the coronavirus pandemic, promised to “repurpose London’s streets” with the intention of “rapidly transforming London’s streets to accommodate a possible ten-fold increase in cycling and five-fold increase in walking”.
At the time, Mayor Khan said:
“The capacity of our public transport will be dramatically reduced post-coronavirus as a result of the huge challenges we face around social distancing. Everyone who can work from home must continue to do so for some time to come. The emergency measures included in our major strategic London Streetspace programme will help those who have to travel to work by fast-tracking the transformation of streets across our city.”
TfL said it was “disappointed” and it would appeal the ruling.
What does it mean for other ‘Streetspace’ schemes?
Opponents of the Streetspace schemes, which have been introduced all over the country, immediately claimed this ruling as a victory, and say it sounds the death knell for all Streetspace schemes.
‘Lockdown cycle lanes could now be ripped up across the UK’ said the Daily Mail.
A lawyer acting on behalf of the taxi drivers said the scheme and others like it could now be scrapped. Darren Rogers, of Chiltern Law 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’.
‘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.’
In Chiswick the changes made to Devonshire Rd and Turnham Green Terrace and those south of the A4 are all Streetspace schemes (though plans for the Fisher’s Lane changes and Cycleway 9 both pre-dated the Streetspace Plan).
Tom Edwards, BBC London’s Transport correspondent, says the Judge’s comment that the Streetspace plan would now have to be reconsidered and seriously amended ‘muddies the waters for these types of schemes.’
Streetspace schemes will stay in place pending the appeal
Transport for London said:
‘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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