Calls for more consultation over quickfire road changes
Council has to move to fast to secure funding
25 July, 2020 — By Richard Osley
Environment chief Labour councillor Adam Harrison [All photos taken at meetings before coronavirus outbreak]
THE Town Hall has rushed to get quickfire road changes in place in order to qualify for funding, a council meeting heard this week.
Camden Council and Transport for London is in the thick of making a series of changes to improve the roads for walking and cycling.
But residents are getting only limited chances to make any objections known before they are installed.
Instead, the use of new Experimental Traffic Orders (ETOs) mean that projects, like pavement widening, road closures and segregated cycling lanes, are put in place and people are asked their opinions afterwards.
After 12 months, a consultation survey will be held over whether to make the changes permanent.
All the political parties have said they support the principle and ambition to make the roads safer following the lockdown, but concerns have been raised about the need for more consultation.
Lib Dem councillor Luisa Porritt told the Covid-19 oversight committee on Tuesday: “I do have a few concerns about the way in which it is being done. One of them is the lack of consultation in bringing about these schemes.
“I understand from conversations with officers that there’s a limited time period to access this funding pot from Transport for London and that has had an impact on the time available for consultation.”
She added: “I’m concerned that these schemes will then be imposed on residents for a year, often without asking them.”
Lib Dem councillor Luisa Porritt
Conservative group leader Councillor Oliver Cooper told the meeting that the statutory guidance for the changes does “not say not to consult residents”, and asked what chance people actually had to try and stop a scheme before it was implemented.
He praised government for “streamlining” the process but said he did not think Camden was following the guidance properly in all cases.
“The local papers have been replete with stories about residents feeling locked out of the process where major change is happening in their area,” he said. “Swain’s Lane, Regent’s Park Road, Prince of Wales Road, Savernake Road, Parkway, Well Walk, you name it, the list goes on.”
Conservative group leader Councillor Oliver Cooper
He said schemes where people object “en masse” should be reviewed straight away.
Green councillor Sian Berry said she welcomed the “decisive” changes to the roads and said that people should feel like their views will be taken seriously.
“I’ve been stressing to residents that because this is ‘in practice’, not in theory, if they have problems to point out with schemes, these are much stronger objections than usual and so they will be listened to,” she said.
She said the rapid action was “needed”, adding: “It is an emergency and it’s something we’ve needed for a while.”
Green councillor Sian Berry
Camden’s environment chief Labour councillor Adam Harrison confirmed “the funding is being made really quickly”, but added: “Alongside that there is a clear instruction from the Department for Transport to move quickly and that consultation has to be not as extensive as it normally would be.”
He added: “The DfT has said we should be implementing, moving ahead with these projects in ‘weeks rather than months’. So there is a natural constraint that we and others are having to meet.
“Unfortunately, the situation is: we are in a pandemic and we have to respond in an emergency way to what is an emergency.”
Camden has said feedback will be taken during each experimental traffic order’s time in place.