Camden Council is to hold a public inquiry ahead of any decision on the future of the experimental Torrington Place and Tavistock Place road layout which prioritises walking and cycling.
The new traffic system along the east-west route linking Fitzrovia, Bloomsbury and Kings Cross was implemented in 2015 to address concerns about motor traffic volume and road safety. The changes removed westbound motor traffic from the whole length of Tavistock Place between Gower Street and Judd Street, and doubled the size of the cycling lanes along the route.
Senior councillors at a meeting last week approved a report which published the results of the consultation on the experimental traffic order (ETO) and asked the council to progress the scheme with the goal of making it permanent, and to make further changes including widening pavements to improve pedestrian capacity and safety.
Ahead of approving the report councillors heard deputations from Camden Cyclists, Bloomsbury Residents Action Group, the London Cycling Campaign, and the London Taxi Drivers Association.
Transport officers stressed the need to keep the experimental road scheme for the time being because the council has a responsibility to reduce air pollution and the Torrington-Tavistock scheme is consistent with a London-wide strategy to encourage cycling and walking and create “Healthy Streets”.
Although the Torrington-Tavistock scheme is largely supported by pedestrians, cyclists, businesses, employees, residents, and the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association, there is strong opposition from the London Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), Imperial Hotels and the Bloomsbury Residents Action Group (BRAG).
Over 15,000 responses were received during a public consultation on the road layout with 79 percent in favour of keeping the scheme and improving it. Camden says 2,208 of the respondents were Camden residents and that 73 percent of these supported the new street layout. Of the residents living close to the route 56 percent said they were in favour.
The exception according to the report is residents living in the WC1B postcode area (around Russell Square) where 68 percent are opposed. However, BRAG claims opposition is strongest in the WC1H postcode area according to a map they have produced.
“BRAG’s Petition was signed by a total of 1,083 people. 831 signatures were from people who live in the London Borough of Camden, of which 92% are residents of WC1 (760 signatures) i.e. from Kings Cross, Bloomsbury & Holborn & Covent Garden wards – plus 5 from Fitzrovia (W1),” says BRAG.
Camden’s traffic planners recommended that the council voluntarily hold a public enquiry on the merits of the scheme because objectors could force a inquiry and delay any decision on the future of the scheme.
It also appears that an administrative error by the council meant that the necessary documents were not made publicly available when they should have been.
The report to cabinet states: “An ETO can be made permanent without further notice and consultation if specific procedural steps have been followed throughout, but it seems that copy documents, which were stated to be on deposit once the ETO had been made, could not be inspected by the public at the due place and time.”
Having now taken the decision to hold a public enquiry the council can apply to the secretary of state to extend the current experimental road layout for a further six months beyond May 2017 when the current traffic order expires.
Camden will also be considering at a later date recommendations for changes to the road layout at the junction of Judd Street and Euston Road, and for changes to Brunswick Square. Transport planners say that these changes would reduce through traffic in the WC1 area and address the concerns by some residents.