Campaigners launch legal challenge against Hackney LTNs
Ed Sheridan, local democracy reporter
- Credit: Holly Chant
A group set up to oppose low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) has issued a High Court legal challenge against the schemes, which it claims have “divided the borough into haves and have-nots”.
LTNs were first implemented last year in a bid to make Hackney’s streets cleaner, safer and less congested for cyclists and pedestrians in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
An application for a judicial review by campaign group Horrendous Hackney Road Closures (HHRC) will be heard on February 12, alongside similar cases from other boroughs, including Ealing, Hounslow, Lambeth, and Camden.
Hackney Council used experimental traffic orders (ETOs) to consult on schemes for up to 18 months while they are implemented, rather than beforehand, and HHRC's application claims this was “unlawful”.
HHRC will also argue that traffic flow and air pollution impacts were not considered, as well as a disproportionate impact on children, people with disabilities, the elderly, faith groups, and Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) residents.
Hackney local Ade Alabi said: “Everyone wants cleaner air and safer streets but a policy that disadvantages some residents in favour of others is not the way forward.
“What is needed to tackle traffic hazards is a comprehensive approach, in which all residents are consulted and all roads are considered. Creating higher levels of pollution and congestion on some roads harms cyclists as well. We don’t all just cycle around London Fields on a Sunday afternoon.”
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Another resident, Kiva K Scott, added: “I have to drop my child at nursery at 8am and then be at work by 8.30am. That’s impossible by public transport and it's now taking me up to 20 minutes longer just to exit the LTN and then battle through congested roads – I now have to drive further and for longer every day.”
Campaigners are also seeking a court order to force Hackney to disclose all information and documents on its planning of the LTN schemes.
HHRC grew out of an active Facebook group, members of which recently formed a not-for-profit company, and has already crowdfunded more than £5,200 for its legal campaign.
The group has levelled criticisms at the council for not giving exemptions to Blue Badge holders, registered carers, Hackney’s NHS Community Children's Nursing Team or the Orthodox Jewish community’s volunteer medical emergency service Hatzola.
The Town Hall announced in November that the borough’s three LTNs in Hoxton West, London Fields and Hackney Downs have not caused a rise in traffic levels at its monitoring sites on five A and B roads, according to Transport for London (TfL) data.
It is understood that HHRC members will use hours of video footage of congestion on the Together-Legal platform in order to rebut these claims, arguing overall traffic has not decreased but been displaced.
HHRC’s solicitor, Bill Parry-Davies of Dowse & Co., said: “Hackney implemented its LTNs without any prior public consultation, without any current air quality action plan, without any up-to-date air quality review data or assessment of it, without any clear policy basis for the schemes and, so far as there was any prior assessment or modelling of potential traffic and air pollution impacts, it has refused to disclose it.”
Responding to the points raised in HHRC’s statements, Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville said: “Residents and businesses can have their say online and in writing on the work we’re doing to rebuild a greener Hackney in the wake of the pandemic.
“This is in line with direct guidance from the Department for Transport and Transport for London on supporting people to walk, shop and cycle locally at this time.
“Residents’ views – including those of our diverse communities, older and disabled people – are, and will continue to be, considered alongside traffic monitoring before a decision is made on whether or not to make these measures permanent.
“We are monitoring traffic levels following the introduction of School Streets and low-traffic neighbourhoods, and will make adjustments to schemes if necessary.
“I am not anti-car, and I recognise that there are essential journeys that do need to take place by car. Our ambitions and policies are aimed simply at reclaiming Hackney’s roads from unnecessary and short journeys, and supporting people to safely walk, cycle and use public transport.
“This is underpinned by our Transport Strategy and Local Implementation Plan, which were consulted on in 2014 and 2018/19 respectively.”