Spokes in consultation process
22 October, 2020 — By John Gulliver
The bus shelter still in the cycle lane
A HEALTH warning should accompany a request by Camden Council whenever they set out to hold a “public consultation” on the installation of traffic changes.
Why? Because, I discovered this week that whatever views residents may hold, the law is the law and the council is free to introduce whatever changes it believes are best. You’d never believe that is the case judging by the way the council advertises its public consultation document and asks residents to respond to it.
The legal power of the council is made clear in a ruling by the Ombudsman received by a Kentish Town resident, Brian Lake, who lives a few yards from Prince of Wales Road, and complained – along with many critics – about the dangers of removing of traffic islands in this busy road to make way for cycle lanes.
The consultation was held last year and most of the new cycle lanes have now been installed.
Another local campaigner, Nick Harding, complained about the risks to pedestrians to the Ombudsman but his complaint could not be considered because he was ruled to live beyond the “affected area and could not suffer ‘an injustice’ from the decision” – in fact, he lives just a few hundred yards from the road but too far it seems for the government’s investigation team.
So, Mr Lake took up the complaint – and this week an email sent by the Ombudsman clearly rejects it, pointing out there was a “sufficient consultation” process, adding that “statutory consultation” only requires a highway authority to “consult”. But, the judgment stresses, this is not “an appeal or a referendum” on the proposals.
“There were comments by the public relating to the removal of the traffic islands but at the end of the day the highway authority is free to introduce a traffic management scheme if it believes it is beneficial to traffic management, regardless of the response of the residents,” says the judgment. “This is part of the powers which highway authorities are granted by legislation.”
It seems to me that the law needs to be redrafted so that the views of local residents can play a more crucial part in whatever changes are planned for their neighbourhood.
Meanwhile, a reader George Coulouris (see Letters, page 20) took slight exception to a photograph in this column last week showing how the design of the cycle lane in Prince of Wales Road had somehow left a seat in a bus stop in the middle of the lane.
He said that in his opinion it was only “temporary”.
Temporary or not, the seat was still there this week – and my latest photograph (above) shows an elderly woman sitting on the seat waiting for a bus – actually sitting in the lane!
Apparently, bus drivers have complained to Transport for London who have passed on the complaints to Camden Council.