Haverstock Hill cycle lanes should take different route, say opposition
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Calls are being made for Camden Council to consider alternative routes to its proposed cycle lanes scheme in Haverstock Hill.
The town hall launched a consultation on Monday (February 15) for the divisive project that would initially run as a 12-month trial. It could become permanent following further consultation.
The council says the scheme aims to encourage cycling and help reduce air pollution, and it has received support from some residents and cycling groups.
But residents opposed to the scheme claim their alternative routes are being ignored.
Camden Council’s opposition leader Cllr Oliver Cooper (Con, Hampstead Town) said: “Instead of trying to force through a scheme that's not wanted and would take cyclists up a steep hill, Camden should work with us on the proposal to travel to South End Green via the flatter route to the east of Haverstock Hill.
“That would create a flatter, quieter, cleaner route. It would lead to less congestion, the loss of less parking, and leave more space for cycle parking. And it would serve more schools, go straight to the Royal Free, and help us to revitalise South End Green."
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The Conservative leader said the cycle lanes scheme will disproportionately harm the elderly, increase congestion and reduce cycle parking.
He said: “[The council] wanted to dodge scrutiny, because they know most residents opposed removing every single parking space on the hill - the council's own survey shows people oppose it by 2-to-1, and Camden Conservatives' survey shows residents that live locally oppose it by 4-to-1.”
Haverstock Hill resident Amit Shah launched a legal challenge against the council’s project, which led to the town hall halting the scheme, saying it it did not want to spend taxpayers' money in the courts.
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“Camden fought tooth and nail to avoid giving the neighbourhood a say on its scheme and now they have had to come back to consult,” Amit told the Ham&High.
“It’s vital that all those affected respond and Camden take note of their views, especially as there are some better alternative proposals put forward by residents and businesses that would make it easier for cyclists to avoid the hill by routing through Maitland Park or Malden Road, and making use of existing routes.
“This scheme was their first for the neighbourhood and their worst. I hope they work with the community and not against it."
The scheme being put to the public is the same as previously planned.
Lynn Whiting, chair of the Steele's Village Business Association, said: “It's very upsetting because nobody doesn’t want cycle lanes - they're really good schemes.
“We could take the cycle lanes up Maitland Park or Malden Road which would work for everybody. But there's not the willingness to work with us.
“To call it a consultation is an absolute farce. If you don't like it, it's tough.”
Cllr Tom Simon (Lib Dem, Belsize) said had the council listened to calls for consultation in the first place, "we would probably have a really good scheme in place by now".
“The Labour administration has wasted time and money and lost the goodwill of many parts of the local community," he said.
“While it is better that the council is consulting now than not at all, people would be forgiven for doubting the sincerity of this consultation and wondering if the council isn't simply covering its own back following the known risk of legal challenges.”
In a letter published in this week’s Ham&High, Camden Cycling Campaign backed the bike lanes scheme.
“We thank Camden Council for proposing this scheme and urge people to give it a chance," a group statement said.
“We look forward to the benefits to hospital staff, residents of Hampstead and Belsize Park and others including families with children from being able to cycle from Kentish Town and Camden Town up the hill to Belsize Village and to schools in a safe cycle lane rather than being terrified by the motor traffic trying to push past.”
A Camden Council spokesperson said previously: “We have brought in over 100 emergency transport schemes across Camden in response to Covid-19 to make our streets as safe as possible and to encourage walking and cycling.
"We’ve had to do this at unprecedented pace as that’s what the government asked us to do, but despite this pressure, none of our many schemes have been challenged, with the exception of Haverstock Hill. These schemes will also make a huge contribution to our efforts to improve air quality in Camden and tackle the climate crisis.
“When we made the decision on the Haverstock Hill scheme we did so to the published guidance at the time. However, since then we have looked again at how we introduce these emergency transport schemes and included further public engagement in the process.”