£50 to Drive into Westminster, and Superhighway Challenge?

The City of Westminster is proposing to impose a 50% surcharge borough-wide for parking of older diesel vehicles – those registered before 2015. It has already trialled such a scheme in Marylebone. On-street parking charges will rise therefore to £7.35 per hour in the West End.

The Times newspaper suggested that taking into account the London Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax), and the additional tax of £12.50 being imposed by the Ultra Low Emission Zone in 2019, that will mean that driving into the area and parking for just a few hours will result in charges of over £50. That should deter the casual shoppers or business visitors unless they own newer lower emission vehicles.

There is likely to be a public consultation on this proposal so if you are affected by it keep an eye out for that. Westminster Council consultations are listed here: https://www.westminster.gov.uk/consultations

Cycle Superhighway Challenge

Westminster Council are pushing ahead with a legal challenge to Cycle Superhighway 11 (CS11) which runs through Swiss Cottage. A judicial review has been launched and will likely be heard in September. In the meantime, the street works which were due to start imminently have been put on hold. New Deputy Mayor of Transport Heidi Alexander called the Council’s move a “disgrace”. But why should not a local council challenge the typically unaccountable actions of Transport for London (TfL) if enough of their residents object? CS11 has been vigorously opposed by many people who live in North London. The basis of the council’s objections is that the current plans will increase congestion and air pollution.

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Cycle Superhighway 11 – Yet Another Legal Battle?

To follow on from my last blog post about current and future legal cases, another pending one is the application for a judicial review by Westminster City Council and a campaign group both opposing the route of Cycle Superhighway 11 (CS11). This runs through Swiss Cottage and Regents Park but there have been many objections from residents north of the Park due to the likely increased traffic congestion and the closure of Regents Park to vehicles. A very active public campaign against the proposals was run by local activists, countered by the usual vociferous cyclists’ groups who even alleged that tacks had been sprinkled in the Park as a protest against the cyclists.

Westminster are also blocking the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street – again because of the many objections from local residents. This is what Mayor Sadiq Khan’s office had to say: “There is an urgent need for safer cycle routes into central London and there is an equally strong case for pedestrianising Oxford Street. The idea that Westminster Council think they can hold the rest of London to ransom is totally unacceptable. Both of these schemes have significant public support. They will make a real difference to making London’s streets safer and cleaner and they shouldn’t be held up by petty political posturing.”

TfL intends to start work almost immediately on CS11 at Swiss Cottage, but legal proceedings may halt work on the stretch that runs through Westminster.

Comment: If Sadiq Khan wonders why he is getting entangled in legal battles it is because he is not listening to a major proportion of the population, or the people most affected by his proposals. Cyclists may support the changes in Regents Park but favouring their views alone and ignoring others is not what democracy is about. There needs to be a compromise that satisfies everyone and which does not change the status quo to the major disadvantage of one group versus another. It is of course the same reason why the Mayor is supporting a legal challenge over Heathrow airport – because the Government is not listening, and why so many people don’t like the Mayor’s Transport Strategy. The latter is a strategy that favours young, active people who live in central London and ignores large swathes of the capital’s population.

When politicians stop listening, the law tends to be invoked. Nobody goes to law if they can avoid it because it is a very expensive and time-consuming process for even the simplest case (and judicial reviews are potentially simple but rarely are in practice). Westminster Council should not be criticised for listening to the electorate and pursuing their concerns.

On the subject of “not listening”, I have requested a meeting with the new Deputy Mayor for Transport Heidi Alexander, but she has refused it. More on that at a later date.

Roger Lawson

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