Town Hall’s ‘secrecy’ over Haverstock Hill cycle lanes criticised by businesses and councillors
- Credit: Archant
“Astonishing secrecy” over plans for two new cycle lanes to replace car parking in Haverstock Hill has been slammed by businesses and councillors.
Camden Council officers asked councillors for views on the mooted scheme, but told them via email they could not speak to residents or businesses affected by the confidential plans, the Ham&High can reveal.
The proposals, which see segregated lanes run down both sides of the road from Pond Street to Prince of Wales Road, have been kept under wraps for weeks. The council hopes to put the restrictions in place using emergency Covid-19 transport powers.
The Ham&High has seen an email from a council official asking councillors for their views, while telling them to keep details of the plans confidential. This meant councillors were technically unable to ask those nearby how they might be affected.
READ MORE: Nurses rally around Royal Free nurse who help battle Covid-19 after leukaemia diagnosisDozens of car parking bays will be removed. Several businesses in Steele’s Village said it could be the “final nail in the coffin” for them after a difficult year of trading. Many say they rely on customers being able to park nearby.
They called for both directions of the cycle route to be put down one side of the hill, leaving bays on the other side untouched. A decision on whether to go ahead is expected in the next few weeks, with changes set for the autumn.
Lisa Hauck, who owns a hairdressing salon on the hill, said: “It was really quite a shock to the system after having the whole Covid lockdown.
“This will have an impact, it feels like the last push for us. I lost parking spaces when I moved my salon from Primrose Hill to Haverstock Hill and had customers who couldn’t park so they don’t come to us any more.
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“I’m a cyclist and I’m from Berlin. There they still have parking spaces. I know in London you have narrow roads but I don’t understand why they can’t plan for a cycle lane to be on the one side of the road, so you can still have the parking spaces.”
Meanwhile, dentist Mervyn Druian who has had his dental clinic in Haverstock Hill for more than three decades, said he feared the move could trigger the “end of his career” because of the impact on his livelihood.
Lynn Whiting, chair of Steele’s Village Business Association, said she thought the changes would trigger the closure at least ten businesses.
“It’s absolutely going to devastate Steele’s Village. They are struggling as it is,” she said. “It’s a destination, you don’t have a passing footfall, so you need parking. It’s not going to help the community if you have a load of boarded up shops.”
Towards the top of the route, Andrew Thornton, of Thornton’s Budgens in Belsize Park, was one of the few business owners who spoke in support of the scheme. His store will lose 12 bays nearby.
Councillors from both the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats have criticised the secrecy and lack of consultation.
Leader of the Tories on Camden Council, and Hampstead Town councillor Oliver Cooper has told officers that the scheme doesn’t make sense due to the incline of the hill and older demographic of nearby residents.
He told this newspaper: “Camden have hidden their schemes in an astonishing amount of secrecy. These changes have a huge impact on residents and businesses, many of which will go under if decisions are made without considering the effect on them. Labour’s secrecy can’t be for reasons of speed, but for reasons of shame.
“Residents are not the threat to Camden that Labour think they are. Consultation means good schemes are strengthened and bad schemes are scrapped - and we should ask people their views before proceeding a step further.”
Cllr Cooper raised the issue of transport changes at Camden’s virtual full council meeting on Monday night, saying residents expect the council to “go beyond the bare requirement“ of consultation when planning schemes.
Councillor Tom Simon who represents Belsize ward, which includes Steele’s Village, said: “It’s a bit weird to be told as a local councillor; we are doing this and want your views but don’t tell anyone about it. How are people supposed to give an informed view about it if we can’t talk to any of the people we represent?”
Last week, transport secretary Grant Shapps told the Telegraph that councils should now consult those affected by schemes properly, as the first peak of the coronavirus pandemic has passed.
If passed, an experimental traffic order will be put in place for the changes. Its impact will then be reviewed by council officers throughout an 18-month long trial, with a public consultation taking place a year in.
Cllr Adam Harrison, Camden’s transport chief said: “The design and proposals for a pop up cycle lane on Haverstock Hill are currently at the development stage so we are not able to share any plans yet. We will contact local businesses about their needs before anything is decided to inform any final proposals.”