Beech Street runs under the Barbican in the City of London. It was closed to all but zero emission vehicles recently using an Experimental Traffic Order. But that order will expire in September and it seems a mistake has been made by the City Corporation so it will be reopened. This closure was exceedingly inconvenient to Barbican residents and this is what a residents association had to say about this news:
“There has been an unexpected development in the continuing saga of the Beech Street traffic experiment. It appears that Beech Street is to re-open to all traffic for anything up to a year when the experiment traffic order expires on 18 September 2021 because the City has bungled the introduction of a permanent traffic order which would be necessary to keep the traffic restrictions in place.
This means that on 18 September 2021, Beech Street will revert to how it was before the experiment began. All vehicles of all types will be at liberty to use Beech Street at any time without penalty, just as they were before the traffic scheme came into operation. The traffic signs will be taken down, the cameras will be de-activated, the junctions with Bridgwater Street and Golden Lane will re-open, the concrete blocks will be taken away and the new gaps in the central reservation allowing right turns into Lauderdale Place and Defoe House car park will be blocked off.
You may be wondering why the gaps in the central reservation have to be closed since they are of value with or without the experiment. The City says the gaps can only operate safely at low levels of traffic because vehicles making right turns into off-street premises leave their tail ends sticking out into the eastbound carriageway.
The reason why Beech Street is to re-open is a little convoluted. As many will know, the City’s refusal to postpone the experiment when the pandemic struck has been challenged in the High Court. The ground for the challenge was that a traffic experiment carried out in abnormal traffic conditions was not a fair test and that the start of the experiment should have been delayed until traffic conditions returned to normal.
The High Court hearing took place on 29 and 30 June. Prior to the hearing, on 15 April 2021, the High Court issued an injunction prohibiting the City from making the Beech Street scheme permanent in advance of the court’s decision on the challenge. The City wasn’t sure whether this meant it had to stop all monitoring and consultation in relation to the experiment. Instead of asking the judge for clarification, it took the decision to suspend the monitoring and consultation, which threw its timetable for making a permanent traffic order into disarray.
At the hearing, the judge said this was entirely unnecessary since she had never intended the monitoring and consultation to stop and if the City had sent her an email asking for clarification, which was what everyone else did when they wanted the meaning of a court order clarified, she would have told them there and then.
The City told the court that it would not now be possible to make a permanent traffic order until February 2022 at the earliest and possibly not until autumn 2022.
A ruling on the High Court challenge is likely to come in about a month. It is possible that the High Court will revoke the experimental traffic order which in the circumstances would be good news. It would mean that the City could start a new experiment as soon as traffic conditions returned to normal, thereby reintroducing the Beech Street traffic restrictions much earlier than would be possible if it were to make a permanent traffic order. And there would then be a proper experiment”.
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