Campaigners are planning to pursue legal action against Tower Hamlet Council’s decision to scrap most low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) schemes across the borough.
Members of Save Our Safer Streets (SOSS) have applied for a judicial review and have accused Tower Hamlets Mayor, Lutfur Rahman and his Aspire cabinet of running a ‘flawed consultation’ when they decided to remove LTNs in September of this year.
Jane Harris, a member of the SOSS group, said: ‘This legal challenge is an absolute last resort for us. We have tried for a year and a half to meet the Mayor and look at the specific issues and solutions for Bethnal Green, but he hasn’t even bothered to visit the scheme, let alone meet us.
‘Not only has he ignored all the evidence, expert views and residents’ preferences about keeping the schemes, but he has now made a decision which we believe has broken the law.’
If a judge believes there are grounds for a legal challenge, a full hearing will be held in 2024. SOSS has been fundraising for the legal challenge, with £40,060 raised as of Thursday, December 7.
Earlier this year, Tower Hamlets residents and businesses took part in a public consultation which asked them whether they wanted traffic closures in Bethnal Green and Brick Lane to remain or for roads to open up again.
Traffic calming measures were first implemented under Labour in August 2021 and limited road access for cars and other vehicles. The measures aimed to tackle pollution, improve air quality, and make it easier for people to get around by foot, bike or public transport.
It had been highly divisive ever since it was first introduced because some vulnerable residents argued it became more difficult to get around the borough, while emergency services such as the London Ambulance Service (LAS) and the London Fire Brigade (LFB) raised concerns because they could not get to an address as quickly and easily.
Mr Rahman told a packed out council chamber in Whitechapel that ‘division is not the answer’ and there are better ways to reduce air pollution that will unite residents and businesses ‘rather than divide them’.
He said: ‘We need to start again by removing the bulk of existing LTNs in Tower Hamlets and get working on solutions that share the cost-benefits of traffic reduction schemes among residents.’
Mr Rahman said the council is investing £6 million into improving air quality measures, road safety, building more infrastructure to encourage walking and cycling as well as enhancing public spaces such as planting more trees.
The council was approached for comment but declined to respond to the legal challenge. A spokesperson did however refer to a statement that was made by Mr Rahman when the LTNs were scrapped in September.
He said at the time: ‘LTNs have been one of London’s most contentious issues – a one-size-fits-all solution that has divided boroughs, communities, and even political parties.
‘The repercussions have been more severe in Tower Hamlets as an inner-city borough with little space to move around.’
Mr Rahman added: ‘While LTNs improve air quality in their immediate vicinity, they push traffic down surrounding arterial roads, typically lived on by less affluent residents.
‘They are also a barrier for families to get around in what is the most densely populated place in the country.’
Visit the fundraiser of SOSS here.
If you found this interesting, read Bethnal Green’s LTN divide – are the most deprived shouldering the burden of traffic?
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