Editorial comment: Patronising TfL just like patronising parents

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. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK - Credit: Archant

Sitting in the High Court last week took me back to my childhood. No, it wasn’t one spent anywhere near a courtroom of any kind. In fact, it was Transport for London’s trump argument that took me back.

Tim Straker’s argument that the acts to set up TfL and the mayor of London’s office mean they have the power to overrule councils came down like a lead fist inside the court.

If true, it’s damning – but it reminded me of arguing with my dad as a teenager. Any fierce stalemate arguments were ended with: “If you live under my roof, you live by my rules.”

TfL’s barrister’s argument had a similar tone and could be just as unpopular.

The point of the judicial review, along with the planning process, consultations, and elections, is to give people their say, and allow decisions to be scrutinised.

If, as expected, TfL fights off Westminster City Council’s legal challenge this week, then it will show councils that no matter what their objections are, however valid, ultimately they can be overruled.

In doing so, the mayor’s office makes a mockery of the process.

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I’ve got no doubt Westminster’s objections are, even on a low level, politically motivated. Its decision to nix the Oxford Street pedestrianisation was the same, as are TfL’s proposals for CS11. However, TfL has to work with councils, not against them.

Londoners need to be convinced to cycle more, and the danger that some of the city’s cyclists face on a daily basis is a blot on the city. Infrastructure, funding and encouragement needs to be better. However – that should not be to the detriment of proper consultation, scrutiny and co-operation.

“Far-reaching implications” is an overused phrase. But if TfL is successful, it will never be truer than the judge ruling in favour of the transport body.

TfL’s argument is one of judicial arrogance. It may prove successful. But the last thing it needs is to be perceived as patronising local councils, with the attitude of a parent with a teenager.