The High Court quashed Transport for London’s Streetspace scheme in January, describing the scheme as ‘extreme’. In a decision on 20 January 2021, Mrs Justice Lang found that, in relation to the banning of taxi drivers on parts of major roads, Streetspace ‘went beyond what was reasonably required to meet the temporary challenges created by the pandemic. It was possible to widen pavements to allow for social distancing, and to allocate more road space to cater for an increase in the number of cyclists, without seeking to ‘transform’ part of central London into predominantly car-free zones. The stated justification for restrictions on vehicle access, namely, that after lockdown there would be a major increase in pedestrians and cyclists and excessive traffic with risks to safety and public, was not evidence-based.’
The judgment states that use of the pandemic as a justification for restricting taxi access to bus lanes would not appreciably reduce traffic volume because ‘taxis would divert’ via other routes. There was no ‘overriding public interest which justified the frustration of the taxi drivers’ legitimate expectation’.
The quashing of the scheme is not taking immediate effect because TfL has obtained a ‘stay’ while it attempts to persuade the Court of Appeal to hear an appeal.
The Streetspace scheme, introduced last summer, aimed to frustrate car traffic all over London. It led not only to bans on some taxi routes but also to a scramble by local authorities to introduce ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods’ in a bid to obtain cash from the government’s pandemic emergency travel fund. The schemes did not use LTN protocols and guidance or consult residents.
There are many legal challenges to local authority Streetspace LTNs in the pipeline. Most schemes are similar to what was introduced in West Greenwich last August. Residents have objected to schemes that indiscriminately block essential journeys, and overburden inner city ‘main’ roads similar to the A2 at Blackheath residential streets that were never planned or built to take the loads now imposed.
Local councils, such as Greenwich, covertly used traffic law to close the streets. The rules make it difficult to overturn such changes. Go to Act Now to find out how to make a Formal Objection to the Scheme, or to make a formal complaint that can later be investigated by The Local Government Ombudsman.
Time will be up on 3 March for making Formal Objections to the West Greenwich Traffic Scheme. The Scheme was introduced under a new temporary traffic order, so that Greenwich qualified for the first tranche of the Emergency Active Travel Fund. The government chose to introduce this new form of temporary order because of the temporary nature of the pandemic.
But Greenwich rapidly changed the legal authority for the scheme to an Emergency Traffic Order (or ETO, normally used to cement permanent changes). The ETO came into force on 3 September. We have very little time to register the Objections. To make a Formal Objection, see our sample on our Take Action page.
As well as creating a smokescreen of obscure regulatory moves, the Council has failed to obey the law on information that must be made public.
The Council has failed to make the full ETO orders and formal ‘reasons’ for them, as well as Formal Objections, publicly available.
The Council also stated in a Freedom of Information Act request made last August, (FOI 42679) that: “The Council commissioned a number of surveys before measures were introduced in the West Greenwich (Hills and Vales) and Westcombe areas. Post implementation surveys have also been carried out on the same roads to capture the impact of modal filters. Once these results have been analysed, a summary of the report can be made available on request.” The Council should disclose this monitoring, which has never been made public.
West ward Labour Councillors have told the local branch Labour Party that “a six month review” of the West Greenwich scheme will begin in March, followed by “a decision on its future” - a process “likely to take six to eight weeks”. Local Councillors are said to have “approved” the changes before implementation last summer.