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Save Our Safer Streets in legal challenge to decision to remove Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in Tower Hamlets

Save Our Safer Streets (SOSS) is a community group which campaigns to protect Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) in Tower Hamlets has applied for a judicial review of whether Mayor Lutfur Rahman acted unlawfully when he decided in September to remove the schemes.

Posted on 07 December 2023

The SOSS campaign, represented by Leigh Day, says the mayor has not complied with the law in several ways, including ignoring government guidance on LTNs, running a flawed consultation and decision-making process, and failing to properly consider if removing the LTNs was a good use of £2.5 million.

SOSS has been campaigning since summer 2022 to keep the LTN schemes in place.

Jane Harris of SOSS said:

“This legal challenge is an absolute last resort for us. We have tried for a year and a half to meet the mayor and look at the specific issues and solutions for Bethnal Green, but he hasn’t even bothered to visit the scheme, let alone meet us.

“Not only has he ignored all the evidence, expert views and residents’ preferences about keeping the schemes, but he has now made a decision which we believe is unlawful.”

SOSS says the outcome of the case will have an impact far beyond Tower Hamlets. Transport for London, which has previously recommended that the schemes stay in place, has become involved as an ‘interested party’ – something it has declined to do in other similar legal cases, such as the recent judicial review into the removal of a cycle lane on High Street Kensington.

Jane Harris added:

“No council has ever removed a permanent LTN that has the support of a majority of residents. If this decision were to be deemed legal, it would set a terrible precedent. It would be a huge blow for healthy, safe travel across the country.”

The SOSS campaign – along with local schools, the Royal London Hospital and the police – has emphasised the benefits of the Tower Hamlets LTNs, underscored by the results of three resident consultations which all came out in support of keeping the cycle lanes, seating areas for residents and wider pavements.

Leigh Day solicitor Ricardo Gama said:

“Save Our Safer Streets feel they have no option but to bring a claim for judicial review because they say the mayor has chosen the most destructive option of completely removing the LTNS when less harmful alternatives were available, and the evidence showed that the schemes were working.

“A judge will now decide whether the grounds of challenge are arguable and if so, a full hearing will be held in 2024. In the meantime, on behalf of SOSS we have asked the council to confirm that they won’t carry out any works to remove the schemes until the court has decided whether the mayor acted within the law.”

SOSS is fundraising its legal campaign.

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