Old Bethnal Green Road pocket park created through the Liveable Streets scheme

Liveable Streets campaign group launch crowd funder for legal challenge to Tower Hamlets Council

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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4 thoughts on “Liveable Streets campaign group launch crowd funder for legal challenge to Tower Hamlets Council

  • Not just the baffingly short consultation period, but the confusing wording used in the packs, the unsubstantiated claims made in them, and the fact that we were asked to either support or oppose re-opening the roads. We should have been given facts, and the option to seek improvements and changes to the schemes. A nuanced community issue deserves a thoughtful decision-making process.

    Above all, dragging the LTN issue back up just as the community was getting used to them (they are brand new, give us a chance!!) has stoked division. I was verbally attacked and physically intimidated in the street for discussing this issue with a likeminded neighbour, the rhetoric on Twitter is abhorrent, neighbours who have known each other for years have fallen out over it… Aspire is utterly failing the people of Tower Hamlets with its handling of this situation, it’s disgraceful and such a shame. The cynic in me thinks that pushing an “us and them” narrative to the forefront is exactly what they wanted. It is exactly the opposite of what the community actually needs.

    As a military kid, I never felt at home anywhere until I moved here. I feel part of a community, and as a sexual assault survivor I also feel safe walking alone outside for the first time since I was a teenager. Now I am told that I don’t deserve a say in local issues because my family didn’t originate here. We are called names and accused of wanting the roads closed because we are all rich homeowners, when I rent my flat, worked in retail from 16-29 and am now a frontline charity worker. Climate change and community safety impact *everyone*, and the idea that everyone opposing the LTNs fits into one demographic is totally absurd.

    Road closures make streets safer, create community spaces, reduce pollution and discourage car use. They put people first. It is not selfish to want these things for the area where I live, and I know that if these schemes were given a chance to settle in and demonstrate their worth, TH would reap the benefits.

    Reply
  • LH – thanks.

    If a particular road closure enhances your life and betters your situation then obviously you are for it.

    If the same road closure means cars are diverted to underneath your balcony, you suffer from more noise, pollution, you cannot get deliveries due to traffic jams, you are against it.

    We all love crispy fresh air, smelling daisies and saving the planet, of course we do, but the brutality with which these schemes ignored certain groups and incentivised others was the Mount Everest of unfairness.

    Reply
    • Would love to see traffic reductions measures on all TH roads! We have the second lowest car ownership of all London boroughs, so planners should be prioritising pedestrians and cyclists throughout TH, including your road. I really hope that, instead of reversing the scheme, Aspire works with community members and finds ways to improve and extend it so that everyone benefits.

      With several schools, thousands of social housing tenants and a residential care home, Old Bethnal Green Rd was an ideal place to start. You’re right, I have certainly benefitted as an OBGR resident! But more importantly, many thousands of vulnerable and disadvantaged people’s quality of life has been improved.

      Reply
  • I am instinctively supportive of Liveable Streets but was alienated by their righteous and implacable anti car attitude when they campaigned for road closures. It felt like it was : ‘2 wheels / legs good, 4 wheels bad’ and there was nothing in between. I know lots of people who were put off by their campaign. There is widespread support for anti pollution measures but demonising all drivers was a way to ‘get out your base’ but not to build a strong and lasting consensus. Therefore, like it or not, democracy has won – I am not a supporter Lutfur Rahman but he did campaign very clearly on removing the road closures. I think this legal challenge is a waste of time and money. BTW – I am 100% behind reducing traffic, increasing cycling and walking and even some road closures; I am definitely pro public realm improvements; but I think bigger strategic decisions are needed to ween people off polluting cars, E.g. more investment in public transport (I recently moved to the Isle of Dogs and am near a DLR station; my private car use has dropped by around 70% as taking trains and tubes, whilst more expensive is so much more convenient and relaxing….); install hundreds more electric charging points with access reserved for electric cars whilst charging (for my business we have been changing diesel vans for electric but have paused and expect to get another diesel van because charging vans is so difficult. Pro liveable streets campaigners need to focus on long term, lasting measures that have genuine and wide support. Finally, I’m registering my name here simply as DT, as I found having an opinion on this issue that didn’t fit the polarised ‘for’ or ‘against’ position drew too much social media type anger; so better to stay anonymous but offer these thoughts as a constructive comment.

    Reply

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