Another challenge to an Experimental Traffic Order used to implement an LTN in Hackney, brought on behalf of a disabled child, has been rejected by the High Court. This was not a judicial review but using provisions in the Road Traffic Regulation Act. The challenge was based on increased journey times which breached the Equality Act, the failure to consult properly and that the Traffic Order was unjustified. But all the grounds were rejected.
Comment: This case demonstrates how difficult it is to challenge Experimental Traffic Orders which only have limited duration and which were supported by Government Guidance when the pandemic arose. The judiciary seem to be accepting that local councils are not unreasonable in taking emergency steps to close roads irrespective of how irrational that was in practice.
In October 2020 I made an “Ethics Complaint” about Councillor Octavia Holland in Lewisham after she issued a tweet which said I had organised for our contacts to “…bombard me with abusive emails….”. This was a false allegation which clearly damaged my reputation and the campaign I have been running against the road closures in Lewisham.
All that I did was to ask our contacts to give their views on the matter directly to her as she had alleged that she had received many emails backing her support for the LTN in Lee Green.
After numerous reminders the Council’s Monitoring Officer has finally issued a judgement on the matter. She has rejected my complaint on the basis that “It was not an unforeseen consequence of such encouragement…. that Councillor Holland should in fact receive emails where such objections are raised, including in vehement tones, given the apparently heated public views around the issue”.
But on the same day I received the above judgement Councillor Holland issued this tweet:
My news to add to the pot: I have confirmed this week I will not be restanding in 2022. Being a Cllr is a privilege and I am very grateful for the chance & support I have had. But as a single, working parent with a child about to enter his teens I need to be around more. Over the next 4 years and despite many understanding colleagues I can’t get away from the fact I want to be here to make dinner, help with homework, be a listening ear. I’ll be working hard until April, & looking forward to supporting the many brill candidates coming through”.
At least we have got rid of an incompetent and dishonest Councillor. She is lucky I did not pursue a legal case for defamation. Next time I will. Let us hope that any new Councillors proposed by the Labour Party in Lee Green are less divisive and will actually listen to all their electorate, not just a minority of car haters.
Councillors Not Responding
I have seen numerous complaints about Lewisham Councillors not responding to comments received from their electorate, and not just about Councillor Holland. For example this was an email I received in the last few days: “FYI, I live in Lewisham’s Blackheath ward and can vouch for the fact that none of our 3 councillors – Bonavia, De Ryk and Campbell all Labour – will answer emails from any of their constituents on any subject and haven’t done so since pre-Covid days. Between them they rake in £50K’s worth of allowances for attendance at meetings and their places on Mayor Egan’s cabinet. What exactly are they for!!”
Many councillors in Lewisham do not seem to understand that they have a responsibility to listen to their electorate and represent their views. For example the Local Government Association says this in one of their publications about how to be an effective councillor: “Representing local voices – being a channel of communication between the communities you serve and the council, representing the views of others and speaking up for the unheard, e.g.younger, older or disabled people.…”. See https://tinyurl.com/6tdxarn3 for details.
How can they do that if they are unwilling to participate in any dialogue with members of the public? The role of councillors is onerous and requires many hours of work but they should not be taking on the role if they cannot handle it properly.
Hackney Judicial Review over LTN Rejected
A judgement in the High Court last week by Mr Justice Dove rejected a judicial review claim brought by Horrendous Hackney Road Closures (HHRC) against the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) brought in by Hackney Council.
There were several grounds for the claim including the failure to comply with the Traffic Management Act 2004, a failure to have regard to the impact of the road closures on air quality, a failure to comply with the public sector equality duty under the Equality Act 2010 and a failure to undertake proper public consultation. All the grounds were rejected.
Experimental Traffic Orders (ETOs) were used to introduce the measures and the judge said that the Covid-19 guidance to introduce such measures urgently by the Secretary of State for Transport (Grant Shapps) justified the ETOs and also justified the lack of consultation.
This is a disappointing judgement but it was always going to be a difficult case and it does not mean that other similar legal challenges to LTNs may not succeed.
The main promoter of the LTNs in Hackney was Councillor Jon Burke. In January he announced he was resigning with the intention to move to the North of England. There seem to be a number of councillors in London who have been stepping down after promoting LTNs. They seem to be following the old proverb “If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen”. Perhaps if they took a more consensual approach to local politics they would not need to quit.
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