'The council thought asking your view is unnecessary'
Cllr Oliver Cooper, leader of the opposition, Camden Council
- Credit: Archant
Ham&High readers will recall last year’s backs against the wall fight that local residents and Conservative councillors put up to require consultation on Camden and TfL’s traffic schemes: from Swain's Lane to Queen’s Crescent to Finchley Road.
But a fight was necessary. Camden was so opposed to listening to residents that it spent tens of thousands of pounds fighting a legal challenge to their introduction of traffic projects without consultation.
The test case was the cycle lane on Haverstock Hill. Camden proposed removing every parking space up a mile of steep hill – without consultation with residents or with the dozens of local shops that said it would put them out of business.
After it became obvious it would lose in the High Court, Camden retracted the decision and committed to consult residents in future. This week, it became obvious why Camden didn’t want to consult, as it announced its plan to introduce the Haverstock Hill scheme.
In March, Camden held the consultation that Camden Conservatives forced it to hold. Despite skewing the consultation by presenting only the propagandistic spin, and none of the many downsides, 69% of residents and 78% of businesses objected. Yet Camden is proceeding anyway.
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This dismissive approach to the people who will be impacted is typical of Camden. Two weeks ago, I asked Camden to consult you on its plan to allow the O2 Centre site on Finchley Road to be replaced with 1,900 flats – yet the council again refused.
Camden’s chief planning officer replied to me that the council thought asking your view is unnecessary, because the process had already gone on for too long. This once again shows that asking residents is an afterthought.
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You might say that given Camden’s response to the overwhelming opposition on Haverstock Hill, it doesn’t matter if residents are consulted on other major proposals. You’re just going to be ignored anyway, right?
But a consultation makes Camden look you in the eye and tell you that they don’t care what you think. And as long as you tell them you’ll bear that in mind in next year’s local elections, they’ll have to listen.
Oliver Cooper is leader of the Conservative opposition on Camden Council, and ward member for Hampstead Town.