A group of residents has filed an application for a Judicial Review of the decision by Hounslow Council to install Cycleway 9 on Chiswick High Rd. The group, calling themselves ‘One Chiswick’, claim that the council’s use of Experimental Traffic Orders to construct a temporary version of the Cycleway is unlawful.
Cycleway 9 links Olympia with Brentford and is part of a network of cycle routes across London. Designed by Transport for London on behalf of the Mayor’s office, the initial design was put out for public consultation three years ago, in September 2017, and went through two phases of consultation before being signed off by Hounslow Council in September 2019.
But in August 2020 Transport for London and Hounslow Council decided to install a cheaper, temporary version. TfL had suffered a dramatic loss of revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic and rather than seeing the project shelved, the decision was taken to build the majority of the Cycleway on the road to reduce construction time and cost, rather than using a mix of carriageway and pavement, as previously agreed. The council announced in August that the temporary scheme would be reviewed in 2021/22 to determine whether it would be made permanent.
According to ‘One Chiswick’, the application for Judicial Review is being brought by Asal Shirazi BEM, a Chiswick resident and mother of five who suffers from autoimmune disease, and Mike Ormrod who runs Ormrod Lighting and Electrical shop on Chiswick High Road. It is asserted that Hounslow Council acted unlawfully in not complying with the Equalities Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998.
The Government gave local authorities emergency powers to introduce walking and cycling schemes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. With people fearful of using public transport they wanted to avoid pit was feared that everyone would resort to using their cars and London would be in a state of permanent gridlock as a result. Central government, the Mayor of London’s office and the London borough councils have been unanimous in wanting to persuade people to abandon their cars and use ‘active’ travel instead, ie. walking and cycling.
The Traffic Orders Procedure (Coronavirus) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 was designed to allow councils in England to better deal with the road traffic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic:
‘The amendments are intended to speed up and simplify making Traffic Orders to put in place measures to deal with the effects of coronavirus, the need to social distance as a response and to support the Government’s aims for a restart and recovery that helps to enable active travel, for example, cycling and walking’.
But after residents groups around London erupted in fury at the closure of roads and introduction of ‘Streetspace’ schemes, Secretary of State for Tranport Grant Shapps has rowed back on the policy, saying in October:
“I want to be absolutely clear; we are not prepared to tolerate hastily introduced schemes which will create sweeping changes to communities without consultations, and ones where the benefits of cycling and walking do not outweigh the dis-benefits for other road users.”
Image above: The Queen stuck in traffic in Chiswick High Rd
According to ‘One Chiswick’ Hounslow Council made the Emergency Traffic Order authorising the C9 works five weeks after construction started, ‘leaving local residents, traders and business owners with no time to challenge the orders’. They say the order should have been made at least seven days before work started.
They are questioning whether Hounslow Council properly consulted with the emergency services before implementing Emergency Traffic Orders. While the roadworks have been in progress on Chiswick High Rd, several times in recent weeks emergency vehicles have struggled to cut through the traffic.
They are also challenging whether three Hounslow councillors who were party to the approval of the Emergency Traffic Orders should have declared their membership of Hounslow Cycling Campaign, claiming a potential conflict of interest.
The One Chiswick is a Facebook group of local residents ‘who have joined together to campaign to reverse the road closures and altered access routes including on Devonshire Road, Duke Road, Dukes Avenue, Fishers Lane, Park Road and Turnham Green Terrace; to remove C9; and to reinstate all the free 30-minute stop-and-shop parking spaces while a full and proper unbiased consultation can take place on how best to manage traffic, reduce pollution, make cycling more attractive, support our walking culture and encourage local shopping to promote our retail economy’.
They don’t give their names, but prefer instead to offer comments from a ‘spokesman’. A ‘One Chiswick’ spokesman said:
“Hounslow Council is destroying Chiswick. It is misusing the ETOs permitted under emergency Covid legislation to implement road changes, including Cycleway C9, which are severely impacting on the whole of Chiswick. The changes are preventing people who are old, pregnant or with a disability from accessing health and social services, going to the shops or being visited by care workers. They are also critically impeding emergency vehicle access. They are devastating Chiswick businesses by making journeys so long and gridlocked that trade customers are going elsewhere, and by removing parking – forcing shoppers to shop out of town and out of borough where they can park more easily. And they are forcing drivers on long detours and into less road space causing increased congestion and pollution. We could not let the Council go unchallenged.”
Steve Curran, the Leader of LB Hounslow told The Chiswick Calendar that while he could not comment on the application and the Council would have to let things take their legal course, the Cycleway was temporary and experimental. It is due to be reviewed in 2021/22 to determine whether or not to make these changes permanent.
Chiswick’s Conservative councillors introduced a motion of no confidence in Steve Curran at the Council meeting on Tuesday 11 November, which was defeated by a massive majority. Only the nine Conservatives present voted for it, while the majority Labour group voted unanimously against the motion.
The Conservative councillors had done Chiswick and Hounslow a “disservice” Steve Curran told The Chiswick Calendar, by distracting the officers and the administration at a time when they should be concentrating on Covid and the thousands of jobs the borough had already lost. Red the full story here.
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