Editor's comment: TfL is to blame for Westminster Council's High Court defeat of CS11
PUBLISHED: 10:26 18 September 2018 | UPDATED: 10:37 18 September 2018
“Today’s ruling [...] focuses on procedure rather than the merits of the scheme.”
Well, yes, that’s what a judicial review is: establishing whether a decision is lawful, not whether it will result in something good. Transport for London might think it’s being sassy here but the truth is that a potentially vital piece of transport infrastructure has run aground on its watch because it didn’t do its homework properly.
TfL is right that the High Court hasn’t struck down CS11 on the basis that it will, say, divert too much traffic into Hampstead’s residential streets; that it will increase air pollution and congestion; that cyclists don’t pay “road tax” (which of course doesn’t exist); that Regent’s Park has too many bikes already; or any of the other arguments I’ve seen levelled against the scheme.
No, CS11 is in trouble because TfL decided to plough on despite the fact Westminster hadn’t agreed to it yet, and then either missed its chance to state that partial delivery of the scheme was an option (something that would probably have been torn apart), or backpedalled and told the court that incomplete delivery of the route had always been on the table when actually it hadn’t at all.
It may still be the case that, as TfL argued a fortnight ago, it can force through projects where there is a disagreement between itself and a local authority. But Sir Ross Cranston said on Thursday it had essentially played this trump card too late, and without even really having tried to secure Westminster’s consent.
Whether or not Westminster’s actions have had the result of prolonging dangerous conditions or failing to tackle London’s critical air quality problem isn’t the point: it is that TfL was responsible for steering the scheme through – bearing in mind Westminster has its own motives, loyalties and legal duties as a planning authority – and it failed. If you’re delivering a project as controversial as CS11, you can’t afford weak links, let alone open goals.