Close the gates: all stakeholders agree to Regent’s Park CS11 plan

Westminster City Council and Crown Estates Paving Commission have written to LCC to confirm they will not oppose closing the gates of Regent’s Park to through motor traffic as part of the proposed new Cycle Superhighway 11 (CS11).  After many months of rows and delays this now clears the way for CS11 to finally be implemented.

A spokesperson for the Mayor said: “If all the relevant authorities are now in agreement, we are very keen to proceed with the plans as quickly as possible. We will be immediately asking for confirmation and for the highway permissions to proceed with construction”.

LCC CEO Ashok Sinha said: “It is great news that all obstacles to the roll out of CS11 have now been cleared. Implementation of this vital new cycling route will enable many more people to cycle safely and in comfort in and out of the centre of London. It will also make Regent’s Park a safer, less polluted and more enjoyable place for everyone to visit, whether on foot or by cycle. We urge TfL and all other stakeholders to now press forward together as quickly as possible to get CS11 into construction.”

What’s been happening?

Months of behind-the-scenes negotiation and campaigning from London Cycling Campaign and other organisations appears today to have ended the deadlock over the four gate closure proposal that TfL publicly consulted on in March 2016.

The gate closure proposals form part of TfL’s plans to create Cycle Superhighway 11 running from Swiss Cottage in north London to Portland Place, near Oxford Circus, in the west end. The Outer Circle in the Park already sees high volumes of commuter, sports and leisure cyclists, but is also blighted by excessive amounts of fast moving through motor traffic.

It is unsurprising then, that the Outer Circle experiences three times the injury rate compared to the central London average. The proposals to close four of the gates around the park apart from 11am – 3pm would allow motor vehicles to continue to enter the park as they do now, but not cut-through from the north to south or vice versa. This plan received 60% support from over 6,000 responseshen when publicly consulted on in 2016, .

The talks about this proposal had been reduced to a stalemate between the key stakeholders, and erupted into a war of words recently over who is responsible for this delay. But today, it looks like that deadlock might have been broken by pressure from the London Cycling Campaign.

Correspondence with all major stakeholders has revealed that there is no longer any significant barrier to the four gate closure proposal. 

What are the stakeholders saying?

The key stakeholders involved with the decision on the gate closures are the Royal Parks, the Crown Estate Paving Commission, Westminster City Council and Camden Council.

Westminster City Council was widely held to be the stakeholder responsible for blocking progress. Previous Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan said the council was “apparently against any gate closures at all”. And LCC has been lobbying the council to “no longer oppose the four gate closure that is necessary for CS11 to be a success”.

In an email today to our CEO, Councillor Danny Chalkley, Cabinet Member for City Highways at Westminster Council, said: “Westminster are only responsible for the sections of CS11 along Portland Place… Westminster has no decision making role in relation to Regents Park… Westminster are not in a position to prevent any schemes or gate closures.”

Max Jack, Director, Crown Estates Paving Commission (CEPC), which controls the gates, recently told LCC the four gate proposal would be a: “really significant benefit” to the park. Jack told The Guardian they were “happy to support those [previously consulted] ideas because they had a strong chance of improving the park” and that it was Westminster Council at fault for delays, saying that the council “don’t want cycle proposals, they are not keen on cycle routes, and they aren’t very keen on gate closures.”

The Royal Parks, which is responsible for the park, but not the gates, has repeatedly told attendees of its Walking & Cycling Development Group that LCC sits on alongside other organisations, that it “supports the overall scheme as consulted on” and views the gate closure proposals as “important”.

Camden Council has long supported the scheme. Its consultation response to CS11 read: “Camden Council is broadly supportive of the scheme including the proposed changes to the Swiss Cottage area, provision of a new strategic cycle route into central London and the part-time closure of the outer circle gates at Regents Park.”

So as of today, all of the key stakeholders therefore either support the gate closure proposals or they have stated they have no say over the gate closures and cannot stop them from happening.

Now can we shut the gates?

Given this, the only question that remains is: when will the Mayor of London, TfL and the Crown Estates Paving Commission close the gates?

Closing the gates will not just make CS11 a viable Cycle Superhighway and improve conditions for those cycling from north to central London, but also hugely benefit all park users – pedestrians, residents, joggers, sports cyclists, leisure cyclists, and offer commuters and others the opportunity to swap motor vehicles for more sustainable modes of transport.

London Cycling Campaign has worked alongside several other organisations to campaign for the Regent’s Park proposals to be brought forward:

 “Over 22,000 regular riders have completed over 1.5 million laps of Regent’s Park in the last five or so years, according to Strava. All in the face of vehicle danger and under the fog of pollution. Implementing meaningful gate restrictions will make a hugely healthy difference to all those that want to cycle for fitness or travel,” said Justin McKie, Chairman, Regent’s Park Cyclists.

“London’s great parks should be people-friendly sanctuaries for walking, relaxing and playing. The current rat run through Regents Park makes it an unsafe and unpleasant place for people on foot or on bike. It’s fantastic that all the key players are now on board with the Mayor’s original proposal to stop cut-through driving through the park – we must not delay any further in making the improvements promised,” said Tompion Platt, Head of Policy and Communications, Living Streets.

Heart of London appeal

This is great news. CS11 and Regent's Park was highlighted in LCC's current Heart of London appeal as one of six central London schemes under threat. The money members and supporters have given us to focus our fire where it's needed means today there's one down, five to go!