Residents plan legal action against Tower Hamlets over row back on LTNs

LTN outside the Birdcage pub Pic: SOSS Campaign

Residents are planning legal action against Tower Hamlets Council after Mayor Lutfur Rahman ignored continuous pleas to maintain Low Traffic Neighbourhood restrictions in the borough.

LTN restrictions across Tower Hamlets were removed in September. The issue has been contentious since first proposed in July 2022 , when residents initially rebuffed their removal. 

Save Our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets Coalition’ is a group of residents who have made various efforts to keep LTNs across Tower Hamlets. 

The residents group are now crowdfunding for £80,000 to take a claim of judicial review at the High Court so a judge can rule whether Rahman’s decision to take out LTN’s broke the law. 

Jane Harris, a member of Save Our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets Coalition said: “We have tried every possible way we can to meet the mayor, the mayor promised to be a listening mayor, and it’s been the exact opposite experience.”

Since July 2022, the group have sent an open letter to Rahman, organised a petition signed by over 3,000 residents and taken part in two public consultations set up by the council which found that 75% of respondents were in favour of the LTN schemes.

If the judge rules in the residents’ groups favour, then the LTN’s that were originally put in place in 2021 could be brought back to various neighbourhoods across Tower Hamlets.  

Mayor Lutfur Rahman has already spent £2.5million taking out LTN’s which included cycle lanes, pocket parks, seating areas and planters around Columbia Road, Arnold Circus, near Brick Lane, and Old Bethnal Green. 

Harris said the LTN’s: “Ensure better air for children, safer street crossings for everyone, including older or younger people who are more vulnerable on the roads. They’ve also reduced the number of cars going through the area so they’re working in every possible way. 

“The schools, local police, the local hospitals, the schools, the local GP’s as well as Transport for London all support the LTN’s.” 

The report put forward in the Cabinet meeting on September 20, 2023 said that although the ‘scheme has delivered on some of its key objectives by reducing some traffic levels and improving parts of Bethnal Greens public realm in a way that makes it safer for walking and cycling’.

LTN measures have ‘hindered access for emergency access vehicles particularly around Arnold Circus and Old Bethnal Green Road’. 

EastLondonLines spoke to the Metropolitan police who said: ”Authorities in charge of traffic management consult with police in line with their regulatory requirements. The Met Police does not “sign off” such plans but is merely a consultee.”

A London Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We work closely with local authorities and Transport for London to ensure emergency vehicle access is properly considered in new traffic management schemes and the impact of any changes on services is monitored.

“Each report is reviewed and, if required, raised with Transport for London or the relevant local authority. We will then work closely with our partners to help adapt such schemes.”

The group must raise £80,000 to to take legal action within the three-month window of the council’s decision to take legal action, otherwise the decision cannot be challenged. The money will cover the legal fees of the court case. Harris said that ‘legal action was the last resort’. 

The resident’s group are plan to take legal action against Rahman on the grounds that he:

  • Ignored Government guidance on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods
  • Failed to consider if ripping this out is a good use of £2.5m 
  • Followed a flawed consultation and decision-making process. 

A public consultation held between January 23, 2023 until Sunday February 12, 2023, resulted in three options being detailed in the report that was discussed at the cabinet meeting on Wednesday September 20.

Option three was to “retain most of the low traffic benefits of the scheme without the adverse impacts that have been caused by physical closures”.

The London Ambulance service said that their various ‘concerns have been addressed through option three and amendments to option one where northbound access for emergency service vehicles is not affected by the proposals.’

The MET Police said: “MPS Road Safety Engineering Unit would urge LBTH to retain as much of the LTN infrastructure as possible in these areas.”

However, the public consultation found that “option three scores highest overall by striking a balance between competing demands on streets within the scheme area.”

The cabinet, led by Mayor Lutfur Rahman chose option one from the report which was to “Remove the Liveable Streets closures and implement a series of areawide improvements to the public realm to encourage active travel.”

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