Tavistock Place scheme to face public inquiry

The iconic #TaviPlace scheme, including Tavistock Place, Torrington Place and Byng Place, is set to face a public inquiry. But don't worry (too much). Despite the LTDA and some local residents' objections, we think the overwhelming likelihood is that the scheme will be made permanent because of the inquiry.

Camden Council has produced one of the most comprehensive officer's reports ever seen on the detail of this scheme - which has seen the #space4cycling available along the incredibly popular route double by the route being made one way for motor vehicles.

In the report, it's clear that cycling levels have dramatically increased, while traffic has reduced, and pollution not just along the route, but elsewhere nearby has dropped. Meanwhile, "traffic evaporation" has occured - with overall motor vehicle traffic in the area having dropped. And redistribution of traffic from the route to other roads nearby has largely been minor. Judd Street is the main exception, with traffic up significantly. There, however, Camden has already proposed a scheme to mitigate this issue, with filtering at the Judd Street/Euston Road junction - which would not only cut traffic on Judd Street significantly, but also enable a cycle crossing of the Euston Road to tie up with a scheme on Midland Road.

The scheme is hugely supported - 79% of respondents to the consultation were in favour of the scheme being made permanent. But the scheme is also supported by a majority of just about every slice of the respondents going bar one - taxi drivers (and even 13 of them wrote in favour of the scheme!). Camden residents want the scheme, including Camden residents living on it, and those living nearby on the streets most negatively affected by motor traffic displaced off the route.

The report also delivers a damning indictment of the alternatives proposed by those against the scheme, with officers having clearly assessed and scrutinised alternatives carefully before rejecting them utterly.

Given the scheme ticks every policy box for Camden going, doesn't heavily impact anyone negatively, has been proven to be hugely positive, has widespread support and no one has come up with a half-decent alternative, why the need for an inquiry? Because a few grumpy folks were clearly intent on dragging the scheme into the courts even if Camden didn't call one.

The report states: "Some organisations appear to be strongly opposed to the trial and could be expected to make formal objections, but whilst that would trigger an inquiry, it would start the processes necessary to convene the inquiry, at a date later than if the Council decided voluntarily that it should be held. The holding of a public inquiry voluntarily, would enable consideration of objections by an independent Inspector and would voluntarily opening up the ETO to public scrutiny. A decision to hold a public inquiry voluntarily would enable the Council to apply to the SoS for an extension of the current ETO with a view to keeping the current layout in situ. This is recommended in light of officers’ view that returning to the pre-trial layout undesirable.... A public inquiry would ordinarily be limited in scope to considering formal objections received, but the scope of a voluntary inquiry could allow the Inspector to review the merits of the trial scheme as a whole."

In other words, by pre-emptively calling an inquiry, Camden controls the timetable and scope and retains the interim scheme too. And remember, those against cycling in London have repeatedly tried to dismantle cycling shemes using legal methods - and have failed repeatedly. The officers and Camden have done their due diligence. The scheme is widely supported within the borough's residents and beyond. It would be a very surprising and odd decision for any inspector to find against the scheme.

So, for now, we wait for a date for the inquiry - and rest assured that Camden Cycling Campaign and London Cycling Campaign will continue to support Camden in ensuring the scheme moves forward.