CS11 judicial review: TfL intends to build cycle route despite Westminster’s opposition because it has ‘whip hand’, court hears

Anti-CS11 campaigners Jessica Learmond-Criqui and Daniel Howard outside the Royal Courts of Justice

Anti-CS11 campaigners Jessica Learmond-Criqui and Daniel Howard outside the Royal Courts of Justice last week. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Transport for London intends to press ahead with CS11 without Westminster Council’s consent because Sadiq Khan and the transport authority legally have the final say, a High Court judge has heard.

An artist's impression of CS11 at Swiss Cottage. Picture: TfL

An artist's impression of CS11 at Swiss Cottage. Picture: TfL - Credit: Archant

At the one-day hearing into the future of the controversial cycle superhighway scheme, Timothy Straker QC – representing the transport authority – said powers given to it by the 1999 Greater London Authority Act gave the mayor and TfL the “whip hand” over other authorities when it comes to strategic transport decisions.

He said: “The mayor has statutory powers to put into place any projects in his transport strategy, if the council does not provide a local plan.

“In Sadiq Khan’s transport strategy, published in March this year, he included cycle superhighways as a strategic priority, along with increasing cycling and cutting down car usage.”

He referred to former-German chancellor Otto Von Bismark and said the option was the “iron fist behind the velvet glove.”

He referenced the battle between TfL and Kensington and Chelsea Council over the Earl’s Court “red-route” in 2000 as an example of when strategic transport decisions override local councils if they don’t come up with a local plan for work.

“If [the local council] defaults on this obligation, the mayor has default powers available to him, as we could see with the red route.”

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Nathalie Lieven QC, representing Westminster Council, said TfL had been “inconsistent” in its approach. In one meeting with the town hall, TfL’s representatives had said Westminster’s requests for further traffic modelling “seemed the right approach to deliver” both CS11 and the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street.

The council withdrew its support for the pedestrianisation of the road after May’s elections, in a decision the City Hall called “politically motivated”.

He also said that for cyclists at Swiss Cottage, using the gyratory was a “matter of life and limb, with fast moving cars.”

But according to Ms Lieven, no further models were provided and TfL didn’t include any contingency for Westminster not agreeing to the project, in its report on CS11 published in March.

A packed court also heard her contest Mr Straker’s argument that Westminster City Council had defaulted in their role to provide a local plan. “The default power that he relies on when all these stages of planning have gone through. First of all there is a very long way to go before we get to that default power.

“Transport for London are putting up straw men so they can knock them down.”

Presiding, Sir Ross Cranston heard that Ben Plowden, who signed off the CS11 project didn’t have to make a formal note of the decision being taken to go ahead with CS11. In a protracted argument put forward by Mr Straker, he explained that because the project is worth less than £100million, there doesn’t have to be a formal account, and reasons for the project being signed-off. “There will be thousands of decisions made by TfL every day, involving quite large sums of money,” he said. “If it spends less than £100m there is no record of the decision. There is no requirement as a matter of law.”

Mr Straker said the decision to go ahead with the project was included in a report produced by TfL in March this year, and included in Mr Plowden’s witness statement.

Mr Cranston is expected to give his judgement next week, ending the hearing by saying he would deal with it “quickly.” “