Local residents have forced Hackney Council to U-turn on their “shambolic” traffic reduction scheme proposals for London Fields.
The council had planned to close 12 junctions as part of a trial traffic scheme in the area from January 2016. However, local businesses, residents and schools were not consulted during the planning, triggering an online petition that gained over 1,000 signatures.
A full consultation is now scheduled to take place in January. Councillor Feryal Demirci, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and sustainability who proposed the scheme, said the new consultation “will allow residents to have their say on a number of options, before any decisions are made”.
Campaigners said that the council’s original decision to proceed without consulting residents was undemocratic. Mike Hood, who started the petition, said: “Councillor Feryal Demirci and the Streetscene department have used the propaganda machine to spin a variety of reasons why this scheme was going to be implemented.”
“They now understand the strength and depth of the residents’ and businesses’ feelings about the shambolic way they have tried to force this proposal without having any detailed back up data to support their wild accusations.”
The route was devised with input from campaign groups Hackney London Cycling Campaign and Hackney Living Streets Group. In addition to cutting down traffic, it supposedly aimed to reduce pollution and improve safety on one of Hackney’s busiest roads, Middleton Road.
Many have expressed fears that influential individuals including Diane Abbott had supported the project because it would benefit their homes on Middleton Road.
Hood said: “Councillor Feryal Demirci wanted this scheme to succeed so she could prove to the Mayor what a clever person she is. She belongs to the Hackney Cycle Campaign group and went about carefully selecting her friends in Middleton Road who all became involved in the design process with Streetscene.”
Those wanting the scheme to go ahead have contested these claims. Brenda Puech, a campaigner for Hackney Living Streets and Fume Free Streets, said: “I think the Middleton Road lobbying was just one or two residents…it’s Hackney cyclists who have made this happen.
“The scheme will make it a much more pleasant area with less pollution, less congestion and less danger… just a few weeks ago an 8-year-old boy was killed on our streets.”
Despite forcing the council to reverse its decision to go ahead with the closures, Hood regretted that the scheme had “divided a community which was very close before”.
The council will hold a public meeting to discuss the issue on Monday December 14.
Hackney Council refused to make any further comment.