Lewisham and Westminster Road Closures

The closure of roads in Lewisham continues to generate strong opposition. South Row (near Blackheath) is a particular concern to local residents although the Council has made one change already and has another in motion. This is what one person said on the CommonPlace web site:

“Having read through all the comments I now understand what has happened. A small number of local residents have long been advocating for their own interests to get this road closed through democratic processes, but have previously failed. The council now has emergency discretionary powers due to COVID which it is arguing it is using to enable social distancing. This is clearly wrong (see comments re walking on the adjacent heath). The council has decided to assuage this small number of vocal residents by using these powers for this scheme, enabling them to side step consultation. However, roads belong to everyone, not just those whose house happens to be on them and this is clearly creating so much increased traffic, risk and confusion to legitimate road users including those accessing their own homes, schools and businesses that it should be immediately scrapped – rather than adding further barriers. This is misconceived scheme and really must be a misuse of the powers provided. This is by far the most controversial scheme of all those put forward and should be abandoned immediately”.

That’s typical of the over 400 comments posted to date. The Council is also having to replace the “temporary” planters that closed the roads, and which people have been moving, by “rising bollards” which will increase the cost very substantially. This reinforces our belief that these changes are intended to be made permanent.

You can see all the comments about the closures, and add your own, here: https://lewishamcovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is/overview

PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU ADD SOME NEGATIVE COMMENTS AND “LIKE” THOSE WHO OPPOSE THESE CLOSURES ON COMMONPLACE!

Westminster Road Closures

Another borough who are introducing road closures using the Covid-19 epidemic as a justification is Westminster – more specifically in this case as a way to re-open the hospitality sector in some parts of the borough. To quote from their report: “In order for hospitality businesses to continue to trade whilst social distancing measures remain in place, we want to support them to serve as many customers outside as they possibly can in a safe and responsible manner. To allow this to happen, we will close some roads to traffic at certain times of the day. We will also widen pavements in appropriate areas of the city. This will create the space needed for restaurants, cafes and similar businesses to put tables and chairs outside. Roads will be closed using ‘soft’ measures which can be installed and removed at the beginning and end of each timed period such as barriers and cones”.

The map below shows the areas that will be affected – such as Soho, Covent Garden, Oxford Circus, etc. Many of the road closures only apply after 5.00 pm. They may mainly affect taxis, delivery vehicles and local residents.

Comment: These do not seem unreasonable measures to enable more social distancing and allow for more open-air activity by such measures as widening pavements. However the closures in Soho might be considered excessive. But you can send your own comments to: movementstrategy@westminster.gov.uk

See https://tinyurl.com/y84v6dnb for more details.

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Westminster Proposes 20 MPH Limit Everywhere

The City of Westminster is proposing to implement a 20 MPH speed limit on all its roads. The only exception will be those roads they do not control which are TfL controlled roads and where TfL may impose such a limit anyway. This move is despite the fact that a report published by the Department of Transport shows there is no road safety benefit in signed-only 20 MPH limits and there is also no evidence of any other benefits.

Readers should oppose this move, which is in essence a waste of money that would be better spent on other measures, by responding to the public consultation here: https://www.westminster.gov.uk/20mph

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Westminster Diesel Parking Charge

The London Borough of Westminster is to trial an increased on-street parking charge for diesel vehicles. It will be a trial scheme in the Marylebone/Fitzrovia areas starting in April. Diesel vehicles will pay an extra 50% on the normal charge of £4.90 per hour.

The object is stated to improve air quality by deterring diesel vehicle usage and ownership. The additional money raised will be used to subsidise public transport schemes.

There are potentially two problems with this. Firstly it looks like a revenue raising measure when the law is quite clear on this matter (see Camden v. Cran and the more recent Barnet case). The Acts of Parliament that enable councils to charge for parking do not permit “revenue raising” measures.

Secondly, how will parking enforcement staff know whether a vehicle is diesel powered or not? Some models can be powered by either and the badge on them may not differentiate. Will parking attendants have access to DVLA records or will they be relying on the honesty of vehicle owners?

Hammersmith & Fulham

Diesel surcharges for permit parking are also an issue in the Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. Councillor Greg Smith, Leader of the Conservative Group on the Council, had this to say at a recent meeting: “It is nonsensical from an environmental perspective. Diesel cars are simply not the worst offenders for putting nitrogen dioxide and nitrous oxide into the air. The worst offenders are aircraft and heavy goods vehicles, with buses and black cabs also contributing.”. He suggested the Council should encourage renewal of domestic boilers to cut pollution.

He also said “Bizarrely from a party who are supposed to be about fairness and the redistribution of wealth, it is deeply unfair to those who can least afford to change their vehicle AND beneficial to the owners of more expensive, fuel inefficient cars.

Indeed, we must ask ourselves why is it that a Labour Council is taxing the owner of a diesel Ford Fiesta on Crookham Road in my ward more, but the £119,000, 16 feet long Porsche Cayenne Turbo S parked next to it gets a tax break by still only paying £119 a year, despite taking up five feet more in length! Or perhaps they are proud of wanting to charge the owner of the 75mpg Skoda Fabia on Mimosa Street more to park, but the £132,000, 15mpg, 550hp, 5.0 Litre V8 Supercharged Petrol, Range Rover SV Autobiography parked next to it less.

Is that what the Labour Party has become? Champion of the supercar? Promoter of the Porsche? Friend of the Ferrari? All great cars, but it just doesn’t add up with what they say they are trying to achieve.

To be generous, Labour are confused on this matter. To be more accurate, I think they are engaged on a mission of spite – desperate for a headline, but without any substance or foundation.”

Comment: Yes these kind of taxes are token environmental gestures when there is little data provided on what the benefit will be. So as so often these days we get policies promoted without any proper cost/benefit analysis and the cost of introducing these schemes is simply ignored. It’s truly “gesture politics” of the worst kind.

Westminister Council is also a particularly bad example of a lack of democratic accountability and information provision. Try searching their web site for information on these proposals, reports on the topic, minutes of meetings that considered the issue, public consultations, or ways to object etc. You can’t find anything!

Roger Lawson