Cycle lane road works begin - a dark day for local democracy in Enfield
On Thursday 8th September, the Conservative opposition leader Cllr Terry Neville explained to Enfield Council's Overview & Scrutiny Committee why the hasty decision to approve the A105 (Green Lanes) cycle lane should be sent back to the 'decision maker' Cllr Daniel Anderson for further consideration.
On Tuesday 13th September the temporary traffic lights were in operation on RIdge Avenue; residents standing around in utter disbelief; traffic queuing as far back as The Green Dragon - congestion, pollution and rat running - the chaos has begun.
1600 objections to the Statutory Consultation
Concerns raised by the emergency services?
Contracts were sigend and the curt letters to local residents and businesses telling them to remove their cars went out even with legal action pending
Makes a mockery of local democracy?
The Call In
The Overview & Scrutiny Committee is made up of six councillors, four Labour and two Conservative, including the Chair, who only votes in the event that the vote is tied. Given the composition of the Committee it was no surprise that the decision was not sent back to Cllr Anderson for further consideration.
Here are the main reasons given by Cllr Neville for the 'calling in' or challenging the decision to proceed with the A105 cycle lane scheme:-
Reason 1 - Insufficient Consideration of Objections
There were over 1600 objections lodged in the statutory consultation. Cllr Neville argued that it wasn't feasible that the decision maker - Cllr Anderson could have read and digested all of these objections. Cllr Anderson argued that the objections were analysed as and when they came in. They fell into four groupings:
- Objections about the principle of the proposals
- Objections about a common feature of the proposals
- Objections about a specific location
- Objections based on a technical or procedural matter
When asked to elaborate why he had taken the decision so quickly, Cllr Anderson commented "they contained nothing new under the sun".
A large number of the objections appear to have been submitted as a result of the Save Our Green statutory consultation awareness leaflet, enclouraging people to object to "the whole of the A105 cycle lane scheme from Enfield Town to Palmers Green.". This does not in anyway devalue the responses, as residents and businesses were being helped to understand the scheme in a way that was not done by Cycle Enfield.
Just because the objections are the same as had been previously stated - that this cycle lane will only benefit a tiny minority of cyclists and have a massive negative impact on the lives of the majority of residents and business owners doesn't mean that tier views don't have any validity?
Enfield Council cite the relevant legal principles concerning consultation (approved by the Supreme Court in R (Moseley) v London Borough of Haringey). One of the four principles states that 'the product of consultation must be conscientiously taken into account in finalising any statutory proposals.
In essence this statutory consultation was an elaborate and expensive exercise in non-demcracy
Reason 2 - Arriva Objection
Section 9 (3) (a) of The Local Authorities' Traffic Order (Procedure) (England and Wales) Regulations 1996 specified that "a public inquiry should be held before mAking an order if its effect is to prhohibit or restrict the passage of public service vehicles along a road and an objection has been made to the order".
Arriva operate the 121, 329 qnd W6 bus routes along the A105. Arriva's Commercial Planning Manager Bob Pennyfather wrote in an email 28/7/16:
"We have no wish to impede the provision of improved facilities for cyclists but we do have to raise serious concerns about the impact on bus services of these proposals. Enfield Council publicly supports the provision of good bus services but these proposals, as framed, will have a significant impact on bus services"
Mr Pennyfather submitted a formal objection to the proposals on the following grounds:
"Parts of the A105 are wide, but parts are sufficiently narrow that reduction in carriageway width will delay buses;
We have major concerns over the introduction of speed tables or any other vertical deflection. These have a disproportionate impact on buses and their passengers, even before the constant impact of heavy vehicles coming off the deflection affects the road surface on the exit side;
We rely on bus lanes to help give some predictability to journey times, and we object to the proposed removal;
I seek clear and specific assurance that the bus stands on, or adjacent to, Green Lanes at Green Dragon Lane, Fords Grove and Hedge Lane are protected for continued use by buses.
Until such time as we can resolve these issues, I have no option but to raise a formal objection to the proposals".
It appears that Transport for London has put pressure on Arriva, because on 1 September 2016, the objection was withdrawn.
However, on Friday 26th August when when Cllr Anderson too the decision to proceeed with the A105 cycle lane this objection still stood in place.
Reason 3 - Loading & Unloading
In the commercial sections of the road it is proposed that "loading bays are located outside of the cycle lanes and vehicles do not need to cross them in order to load or unload.
In the residential sections "loading gaps will be provided at regular intervals along the residential sections of the route. These are created by making the cycle lane advisory over a short distance; placing doulbe yellow lines at the kerb side to prevent parking; and introducing a loading restriction to prevent loading and unloading during peak periods.
Section 9 (3) (a) of the Local Authorities' Traffic Order (Procedure) (England and Wales) Regulations 1996 specifies that a public inquiry should be held before making an order "of its effect is to prohibit the loading or unloading of vehicles or vehicle of any class in a road on any day of the week
- at all times;
- before 07.00 hours:
- between 10.00 and 16.00 hours; or
- after 1900 hours
and an objection has been made to the order (other than one which the order making authority is satisfied is frivolous or irrelevant) and not withdrawn
Enfield Council has circumvented this by making use of an Experimental Traffic order, rather than a conventional Permanent Traffic order for these loading changes. This has not been done because the Council is prepared to undertake a pilot scheme on their proposed loading and unloading arrangements, although they argue that "this will enable them to be modifie in an expediant manner in the loght of feedback and operational experience".
Under curent legistation, there is no need to hold a public inquiry when loading and unloading changes that are made under an Experimental Traffic Order, which can last up to eighteeen months.
Mini Holland Minutes 14.6.16 (obtained under a Freedom of Information request) show that 'measures' have been taken to avoid a public inquiry.
Reason 4 - London Ambulance Service Comments
The London Ambulance Service did not submit a formal objective, but has raised "issues/potential concerns"
- The reduction in the road width
- Managment of vehicles that breakdown and block the road
- Traffic that avoids main routes and use rat runs
- Issues around the ability of vehicles to move out of the way of 999 ambulances on route to 999 calls
- If congestion does increase on these routes then the potential for ambulamance service fleet to be slowed down while on duty"
With legal action still pending, work begins on the cycle lane - the chaos has started