A day in the High Court exposes Mini Holland consultations as a sham
Yesterday (Monday 19th September) Save Our Green Lanes (SOGL) were in the High Court seeking an injunction to stop the work which has begun on the cycle lanes in Ridge Avenue. The council put in a £2m works order to Jacobs to start "mobilisation" just one week into the statutory consultation - not after the results had been evaluated.
This was a real David v Golaith situation in Court 37 - the SOGL team, led by Constantinos Regas, a public policy expert and SOGL member pitted against Mr James Goudie QC, his legal entourage and a coterie of highways and Cycle Enfield officers, with a sometimes frantic passing of notes to Mr Goudie. What ensued was three hours of delving into the legalities of highways acts, TMOs (traffic management orders); references to 'Bob the bus' (Williams v Devon County Council, which was in the High Court and the Court of Appeal); safety concerns about bus passengers crossing cycle lanes, the concerns of Arriva bus company, Transport for London and the emergency services about how the A105 cycle lane proposals would cause congestion and slow them down.
The judge, Mr Justice Dove, was told that Enfield Council had actually signed contracts with its contractors for the first £2m whilst the A105 Statutory Consultation was running. He was read sections of the London Cycle Design Standards that confirm that the scheme design contravenes best practice and that Enfield Council had sought ways to avoid a public inquiry on the cycle lane scheme which they know to be hugely unpopular.
There was a great deal of confusion about what orders Enfield Council had made and the judge asked lots of questions to clear this up. It transpired that although Enfield Council had undertaken a statutory consultation on the Highways Act 1980 works (the construction of the cycle lanes) and the traffic management orders (which regulate their use), the council hasn't yet made the Traffic Management Orders (TMOs).
Only if the TMOs are made can a public inquiry be required. Enfield said that they wouldn't make the TMOs until the cycle lanes are completed! Constantinos told the judge that the Highways Act works were indistinguishable from the TMOs - both are required for the scheme. Mr Justice Dove described this as a 'chicken & egg' situation and questioned at what point it would be possible to raise a legal challenge. Essentially, SOGL was bringing this case too soon but by the time the scheme is completed, it could arguably be considered that the challenge was being brought too late because of the expense incurred. The judge said he wasn't empowered by the law to grant the injunction because the TMOs are not in place.
By 3.15 on Monday afternoon, the whole Mini Holland consultation process and perhaps the wider consultation process for these schemes all over London was exposed as a complete farce. The millions of pounds already spent on exhibitions, consultations, publicity etc was an elaborate smokescreen to kid the people of Enfield that they were being consulted. Enfield signed the multi-million pound works order with Ringway Jacobs just one week into the statutory consultation.
Wasn't the A105 Statutory Consultation intended to consult local people about the Traffic Management Orders?
Weren't there over 1600 objections to the Statutory Consultation?
So is this a fait accompli - a done deal?
People are now realising what this all means for them. To quote local resident Helen S:
"It's astounding that despite several other options and in the face of fierce local opposition, Enfield Council has persisted in pushing on with this farce. I can only suppose that the reason is because they can undertake work on the main roads under the guise of the cycle scheme and use the money granted from the London Mayor to effectively finance maintenance rather than find the money out of their own highways budget. SHAME ON YOU ENFIELD COUNCIL for your disgraceful undemocratic and unconstitutional behaviour".
Enfield Council sought costs of almost £25,000 but the judge said that SOGL's claim was covered by the Aarhus Convention on environmental matters and capped the liability at £5,000.
The Council was quick to put out a press release explaining that the injunction had been rejected - without explaining the circumstances of course.
Council spokesperson Andrew Golder told the Enfiield Independent that after 18 months of consultation and changes to the A105 leg meant it was finally ready for construction, and would benefit "the vast majority of people in the borough."
He said: "During Monday's hearing, the Judge made it very clear that the Save Our Green Lanes group had failed to express any grounds that had any merits. REALLY?
"Save Our Green Lanes has repeatedly failed to persuade independent judges that there is anything flawed about the A105 Cycle Enfield scheme. Instead of working with the Council to identify and address their concerns they have instead resorted to unsuccessful legal action, delaying tactics and spin in a failed attempt to prevent a major regeneration project – which will benefit tens of thousands of people – from taking place" REALLY?
"The A105 scheme has been heavily modified to reflect the comments made by people living along its route and we are confident that Cycle Enfield will transform our town centres, revolutionise transport and hugely benefit businesses in our borough" REALLY?
"The decision to proceed with the borough-wide Cycle Enfield proposals is fully supported by Cabinet." REALLY?
The judge didn't address the issue about the works order having been signed before the end of the consultation.
Is the battle to protect Green Lanes from chaos over?
No of course not, it belongs to the local people, so the fight will go on. If you are not happy with this awful Enfield Mini Holland Mess contact councillors, in particular the leaders of this scheme, but please complain in measured tones, no abusive language please - it isn't yet the time for mass public protests.
SOGL want Enfield Council to undertake a pilot scheme using plastic barriers so that the real-world impacts can be seen.
They first made this request in December 2014 and SOGL have said that if the trial is well-designed, they will support its findings (whether positive or negative).
But will Enfield Council listen to its citizens?
What do you think? - please leave your comments
Yesterday (Monday 19th September) Save Our Green Lanes (SOGL) were in the High Court seeking an injunction to stop the work which has begun on the cycle lanes in Ridge Avenue.