CS11 BLOCKED: Westminster City Council wins legal challenge against Transport for London, meaning cycle scheme will not go ahead in current form
- Credit: Archant
The CS11 cycle route from Swiss Cottage to Regent’s Park has been sensationally blocked by a High Court judge in what seems set to be a landmark ruling.
Sir Ross Cranston, presiding over the case, ruled Westminster City Council was right in its legal challenge heard last week at the same court, and that Transport for London’s current plans for the route are unlawful.
It effectively sends TfL back to the drawing board to come up with fuller traffic modelling, and the prospect of consulting over a new scheme. A consultation on the original programme found 60 per cent support across London – except in the areas that actually neighboured the route, where there was strong opposition.
TfL said this morning it was already considering appealing the decision.
The ruling, in a sparse courtroom at the High Court in the Strand, follows a judicial review hearing on Thursday last week at which the transport authority argued it had the “whip hand” over councils on strategic planning matters, stemming from laws passed in 1999 to set up the body and the mayor of London’s office.
In his written ruling, Sir Ross said: “While ultimately the mayor in this case may have the whip hand in implementing his [transport] strategy [of which CS11 is part], at present he has not even taken up the reins.”
He added: “In the present case, there is no local plan in respect of the mayor’s transport strategy of March 2018 [and] no direction by the mayor [...] requiring that Westminster prepare one.”
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Westminster City Council and local campaigners had raised concerns about a lack of consultation by TfL, what they saw as poor traffic modelling, including vehicles that would be displaced into Hampstead’s residential streets, if the move went ahead.
Work had been due to start on July 30 but Westminster won an injunction to put it on hold until the judicial review could be heard.
The project, which would have seen the Swiss Cottage gyratory ripped up, would have coincided with work to redevelop 100 Avenue Road on the same spot. The route was initially supposed to run from Brent Cross to the West End before being scaled back to end at Swiss Cottage and Portland Place, Marylebone.
In his 16-page judgement, Sir Ross said TfL’s approach to start work at Swiss Cottage before they had consent for other parts of the scheme was wrong as CS11 was planned as one route, not that there might be only partial implementation of the Swiss Cottage works.
He said: “The cost benefit/analysis is premised on the whole scheme being implemented.
“Thus one benefit of a cycle superhighway is said to be continuity for cyclists, but if neither the Avenue Road section nor the Portland Place section can be delivered, that will affect the whole benefit and potential use of these parts.”
His ruling also said the draft “Memorandum of Understanding” between the two parties was only given to Westminster after the decision to go ahead with the Swiss Cottage gyratory had been taken by TfL.
A TfL spokesperson said: “We are disappointed with today’s ruling, which focuses on procedure rather than the merits of the scheme.
“This junction in Swiss Cottage is one of London’s most dangerous. The scheme that was the subject of this ruling would help to protect all road users and particularly those walking and cycling, while significantly improving the area for residents, visitors and businesses.
“We will take the judge’s findings into account and are also urgently exploring all the options available to us to reduce danger around the Swiss Cottage gyratory, which includes considering appealing the decision.”
Campaigner Jessica Learmond-Criqui, who led neighbours’ opposition but withdrew her legal challenge when Westminster formally submitted its own, said today: “I’m delighted. We now expect Camden Council to take on board the ruling of the court – namely, that TfL’s decision to proceed with Swiss Cottage alone, which they did not challenge, was unlawful. Camden must refrain from making any decision on its participation in CS11 until it has worked with residents openly and transparently to understand the impact of the scheme, couple with HS2, on borough roads and communities.
“This is not and never has been a challenge to the principle of cycleways or safe cycling. It was always a challenge to the unacceptable and high-handed manner in which TfL makes and implements its decisions. The High Court agreed with us. It wouldn’t have been possible without our barrister Andrew Parkinson, who represented us as an interested party.”
Mrs Learmond-Criqui also said Camden should share its modelling on the impacts of HS2 and CS11 with campaigners so they can see the impact on traffic and pollution locally.
“Camden needs to be open and transparent with the modelling data in relation to the impact of CS11 and HS2. We have asked for the information and they will not provide it to me. We, as residents, want to understand the impact on our roads.”
The mayor’s walking and cycling Commissioner, Will Norman said: “Cycle Superhighway 11 will play a crucial role in making the area safer for cyclists and pedestrians, removing the outdated, dangerous, and traffic-dominated gyratory at Swiss Cottage.
“There is an urgent need for more safe cycling and walking routes into central London, and once again Westminster Council is obstructing plans that will improve the local environment and road safety for all Londoners.
“Cyclists, pedestrians and Londoners desperate to see improvements for cycling and walking will be disappointed by the stance of Westminster Council.
“Westminster’s objections to this important and much needed safety scheme were upheld by the judge on a procedural point. We will consider how to progress with CS11 having reviewed the judgement in more detail.”
Meanwhile a more delighted Cllr Tim Mitchell, Westminster City Council’s environment chief said: “It’s clear from today’s outcome, TfL have not completed the due diligence that our residents deserve and the current CS11 proposals need to be assessed in more detail. TfL must consider the effects of the entire route before an informed decision can be made.
“As a result, we’re happy with the judge’s decision and call on TfL to work collaboratively with us and other stakeholders to ensure all impacts of CS11 and similar projects are fully assessed for the benefit of everyone, including residents, before they go ahead.”