Camden councillors look likely to defer a final decision on the Tavistock/Torrington Place traffic scheme at Wednesday night’s long awaited Cabinet session. The papers for the meeting contain a recommendation that the consultation findings should first go to a formal Public Inquiry which would “further examine the merits of the scheme”. This is likely to delay the decision for up to another six months and could cost the Council as much as £100,000. Opponents of the plans will see this as a final chance to state their case, with those in favour hoping it is just a final hurdle to clear.
It’s understood that the recommendation for a public inquiry is the consequence of an administative oversight by planning officers when the trial was set up in autumn 2015. At that time the necessary copy of the experimental traffic order was not lodged at the Town Hall. This would have left the Council exposed to a possible legal challenge, subsequent to a decision being made. Whether an objection has already been made by a member of the public, or whether the council is taking a safety-first approach to ensure that it doesn’t face a later legal challenge isn’t clear from the paperwork.
In the meantime the trial layout, with one direction of vehicle traffic and separate east and west bound cycle lanes, will be maintained.
The papers for Wednesday night’s meeting also include a detailed review of the consultation results, at a much more local level than we have seen before. These show local residents did back the Council’s proposals. Overall 79% of the 15,000 responses supported the trial layout. Amongst local residents living in WC1 addresses, the majority was also in favour – though by a slimmer 56%.
Local support extends across Bloomsbury. At the smaller-scale four digit postcode level, there was a majority in favour in all postcode areas with the exception of WC1B – which covers the area around the British Museum and Southampton Row – where 68% were opposed. But residents living closest to Tavistock Place and Torrington Place backed the one-way traffic proposal. In WC1H – which includes Judd St – 56% were in favour, whilst in WC1E (around UCL) it was 60% and in WC1N (Russell Square / Great Ormond St) a majority of 53% were supportive.
A lot of detail by types of respondent is also provided in the report, and shows very high support for the trial amongst students (95% in favour), local business employees (92%), University staff (95%) and hospital staff (87%). Even 57% of people providing services and deliveries to local businesses were supportive. The only groups opposed to the layout were patients travelling to nearby hospitals and – unsurprisingly – taxi drivers. 99% of the cabbies to respond to the consultation were opposed. But there were 13 in favour.