TRIAL BY ORDEAL . Letter sent to Camden New Journal
published in summary on Thursday October 5th 2017
To the Editor, Camden New Journal
The Public Inquiry on the future of the Torrington Place/Tavistock Place experimental one-way system will open next Tuesday 10th October, at Camden Town Hall on Judd Street. It is open to the public and will run for about four weeks. Documents can be found at: www.camden.gov.uk/tavistockpublicinquiry .
BRAG (Bloomsbury Residents’ Action Group) is just one of many local residents groups who will be objecting to the trial being made permanent.
Our case against the east-bound one-way system, supported by extensive evidence and many local witness statements, is, in brief:
Most importantly, the trial has not met its objectives with regard to safety and pollution. There is no evidence that the trial has improved safety for cyclists, or pedestrians, or that air quality has improved. In fact, the traffic displaced from Tavistock Place has caused significant and frequent congestion in the surrounding streets, making them much more dangerous for cyclists.
In addition, the trial has created multiple adverse impacts, which the Council seems determined to ignore. These adverse effects, witnessed and recorded by local residents include:
Greatly increased pollution in surrounding residential streets, caused by the traffic congestion. One resident writes: ‘The pollution is now horrendous. Not only the smell. One can also taste the fumes’. Another told us: ’My partner’s children have difficulty breathing since this started and the noise is unbearable’.
Delays for emergency vehicles. Tavistock Place and Judd Street are both part of the network of key routes for emergency vehicles, which are now either blocked or impeded – (and residents, beware – the Council is thinking of making things even worse by further road blocks in Judd Street and Hunter Street). A local resident told us: ‘I have personally experienced being stuck in a traffic jam on Euston Road whilst in an ambulance. A journey that should have taken five minutes at most, took nearly 20 minutes, because nobody could go anywhere. I ended up in ICU because of this delay.’ This area has been a terrorist target (the bombings of 7/7) and it has several major hospitals and railway stations. The problems for police, fire and ambulance vehicles and the risk to security caused by the gridlock, have been raised with the Council on many occasions but it seems that the Council does not consider this important. We have told them it is extremely important for the people who live here.
Longer vehicle journeys, because cars and delivery lorries now have to take very round-about routes to get to their destinations. This increases pollution and the risk of accidents.
Delayed patient and health care staff journeys between hospital sites. Every day, staff and sometimes seriously ill patients have to travel between the various medical sites in our area. East-west journeys which used to take 20 minutes now take 50 minutes.
Mobility and access made more difficult and costly for frail, older and disabled people. One resident, who needs taxis to get around, told us: ‘Since the Trial started, a taxi ride that used to cost £10 can now cost £40; a ride that used to cost £15 can now be £45.’ Some residents dependent on taxis or dial-a-ride cannot now be picked up or dropped off at their front doors.
The sustainability of the community threatened by making the practicalities for local businesses more difficult and stressful. A local resident who has to transport goods for her business told us the one way system had added two hours a day to her car journeys. Others tell us it is deterring customers and delaying deliveries.
The Council’s case relies heavily on the so-called ‘support’ for the one-way system. Yes, thousands of people responded to the Council online consultation but the vast majority (86% !) of respondents did not even live in the borough of Camden, let alone the affected area around Tavistock Place. Responses to BRAG’s petition show clearly that more local people are against the scheme than for it, but the Council refuses to give greater weight to local residents than to outside online responders who may have never even been here.
BRAG and others have put forward alternative plans – including two-way traffic and two separate cycle lanes; or changing the one-way to west-bound The Council has dismissed these but the Inquiry is an opportunity for alternatives to be looked at again.
This is especially necessary when the Council’s system of consultation was so seriously flawed. Consultation forms were poorly distributed – and in many ways the whole consultation process has seemed like a sham: Council documents, and tweets from the councillor who drove this scheme, Phil Jones, strongly suggest that the Council has always intended to keep the one-way system, whatever the outcome of the consultation, and regardless of the evidence.
We in BRAG have great hopes that the Public Inquiry, led by an Independent Inspector, will look objectively at the evidence, and will take account of the serious and multiple adverse impacts on local people of this ill-considered scheme.
The Inspector’s decision is not binding on the Council. But we must hope that, if the Public Inquiry decides against the experimental east-bound one-way system, the Council will respect that decision. Otherwise the vast amount of money that Council has opted to spend on this Inquiry (originally estimated at £100,000, but the Council is not saying what the latest estimates are) will have been a shameful waste of our money.
Chair, Bloomsbury Residents’ Action Group