Save Our Safer Streets is preparing for a potential legal challenge to Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s pledge to reverse Liveable Streets schemes across the borough.
The local Bethnal Green based campaign group Save Our Safer Streets is calling on the community to help fund a legal proceeding to challenge Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s manifesto pledge to ‘reopen the roads.’
Tower Hamlets council is proposing to remove elements of the existing Liveable Streets schemes that it says restrict traffic movement, add to congestion, and limit emergency service access or compromise how vulnerable residents access their streets.
According to the campaign’s website, the legal challenge is based on the grounds that the Council has breached statutory guidance, undertaken an unlawful consultation, and has failed to consult on alternatives.
Jane Harris, a spokesperson for Save Our Safer Streets said: ‘There have been serious problems with the way the consultation has been done … We want the Council and the cabinet to listen to what residents really want. Turning the clock back is not a solution.’
However, Tower Hamlets resident and former Conservative councillor Andrew Wood warned that the legal challenge is democratically risky: ‘It was very clear in Lutfur Rahman’s manifesto that he would reverse Liveable Streets … you can’t say this is one of those pledges that was slipped in at the last minute that people don’t know about.
‘Mayor Rahman’s voter base want better streets, they want lower air pollution … but generally speaking his voter base doesn’t like the roadblocks.
‘Elections have to matter … way more people voted in the election than have ever responded to any of these council consultations,’ said Wood.
One local resident counters that the manifesto was not well publicised. During Rahman’s 2022 mayoral campaign it appeared he did not attend any hustings or give any media interviews. His Aspire party does not have a website of its own.
In its open letter to Mayor Rahman, Save Our Safer Streets said it is concerned that the consultation is being rushed through before showing solid evidence that the scheme isn’t working. The letter was sent on 19 July 2022 and the group has not received a reply.
The campaign group of Bethnal Green residents was established in June 2022 and its petition to ‘Save Our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets,’ which closes on 25 September, has amassed more than 1,750 signatures.
Harris says the group’s main concern is to protect vulnerable road users, children’s health, and community spaces that have been created through the schemes.
Prior to the implementation of Liveable Streets schemes, lengthy community engagement sessions were held from April 2019 and lasted for more than nine months.
Last month, Reopening our Roads consultations about the removal of the schemes led by the council lasted for three weeks in Brick Lane and Wapping and Weavers, and four weeks for Old Bethnal Green Road. No formal consultations were held in Bow.
In an open letter on 16 July 2022, Mayor Rahman said: ‘It is essential that we reduce air pollution levels in our city, and I am not against LTNs in principle. But the way they were implemented in Tower Hamlets caused too many problems for residents.’
The Council said that they will retain public realm improvements such as widened footpaths that make it easier for residents to get around.
Reopening the streets is in the Council’s strategic plan for October, and the council will make a final decision on 28 September.
If you liked this article, read our piece about Bow residents’ protest against the reversal of Liveable Streets.
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