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Khan urged to use powers to stop Tower Hamlets removing Liveable Streets

Deniz Huseyin
12 October 2023
Siân Berry: The Mayor cannot just be a bystander when a council is removing changes that made congested, polluted streets into green, pleasant spaces. All the more so when he is far off meeting his own targets to deliver safer and cleaner streets.
Siân Berry: The Mayor cannot just be a bystander when a council is removing changes that made congested, polluted streets into green, pleasant spaces. All the more so when he is far off meeting his own targets to deliver safer and cleaner streets.
 

Sadiq Khan must take legal action to stop Tower Hamlets from pressing ahead with plans to remove its Liveable Streets schemes, Green London Assembly Member Siân Berry has told the London mayor.

At a meeting yesterday, Berry urged Khan to use powers set out in the Greater London Authority Act 1999 to stop Tower Hamlets taking out most of the road closures introduced as part of the borough’s Liveable Streets programme.

Last month mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman announced the removal of most of the schemes even though a consultation showed that the majority of residents were in favour of them remaining.

Every few years, London boroughs are required to set out plans illustrating how they will implement the Mayor’s Transport Strategy at the local level, said Berry. “In 2019, Tower Hamlets made legally binding commitments to deliver liveable streets, specifically naming Columbia Road, Arnold Circus, Old Bethnal Green Road, and Brick Lane.”

But in May 2022 Lutfur Rahman was elected mayor and his Aspire party won a majority, replacing Tower Hamlet’s Labour administration. Removal of modal filters had been among Rahman’s manifesto pledges.

Berry told Khan that he could not afford to “sit on the sidelines” and should take legal action, as he had when successfully defending his decision to extend the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) at the High Court.

Khan said the “problem” with using the GLA Act in the Tower Hamlets case was “the process may not work and that would lead to a lot of tax payers’ money being expended”. He told Berry: “We will explore whatever options there are. We are considering all options - the GLA Act is just one of them.”

Berry said she was not satisfied with this response, and followed up her queries with a formal letter. In the letter she requested that, under Part IV of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, the mayor should prevent Tower Hamlets removing its Liveable Streets.

Tower Hamlet’s decision was “contrary to the binding commitments made in its Local Implementation Plan” agreed between the council and Sadiq Khan in 2019, she stated. She called on the mayor to consider what impact of the removal of these schemes would have “both on targets and ambitions in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, as well as national targets, including the 2030 Climate Target and the 2028 Particulate Exposure Reduction Target”. 

Berry stated that “given the risk of the borough taking rapid action unilaterally,” she asked the mayor to respond to her letter within two weeks.  

Removal of the Liveable Streets programme would “raise equalities issues” due to the significant deprivation in Tower Hamlets, stated Berry. “Besides these compelling environmental and social reasons for intervention, there are vital economic ones too.”

The Transport for London funding settlement runs out in March 2024, Berry reminded the mayor. “If you allow this borough to waste funding by ripping out high quality active travel schemes (also increasing the burden on the NHS) this increases the risk for the whole of London of unfavourable future settlements.”

Download Siân Berry's letter to London mayor Sadiq Khan here

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