Haverstock Hill cycle route to be given go-ahead next week

Scheme recommended for approval, despite majority objecting in consultation

Monday, 26th July 2021 — By Harry Taylor

Belsize Park-Haverstock Hill-2016

The cycle route will be in place from late September this year

A PROPOSED £541k cycle route up Haverstock Hill looks likely to go ahead later this year, despite objections from more than two-thirds of people living and working nearby.

The scheme will see car parking spaces removed from both sides of the road, and replaced with cycle lanes on the 1.25km stretch between Pond Street and Prince of Wales Road. Camden Council, who is behind the plans, said it’s in an effort to increase walking and cycling and make roads safer.

A decision by transport chief councillor Adam Harrison will be made next week, on August 3.

It proved controversial last year when it was first floated by the Town Hall, with businesses owners in Belsize Park and Steele’s Village saying it would threaten their livelihoods.

One man, Amit Shah, said the removal of car parking spaces from outside his home in Haverstock Hill and potential increased congestion on the roads could put his life in danger due to his anaphylaxis, which can need urgent hospital treatment.

Yet in the consultation in February and March, 55 percent of the 1,000 respondents objected. Those living closer to the route rejected the proposals by a greater margin, with 69 percent saying they should not go ahead, as did 78 per cent of business owners nearby.

One objector called it a “hair-brained scheme for a vital shopping hub”. They added: “[It] is clearly constructed so a community can die on the altar of a cycle lane.”

David Levin, owner of Tish, a restaurant in Belsize Park, said last year that 60 jobs could be lost along the route if it went ahead.

Lynn Whiting, chair of the Steele’s Village Business Association (SVBA) said: “They were never interested in listening to anyone. We gave them alternative proposals, drawn up by architects and they wouldn’t even look at them.

“We already have three empty shops now because of this, because they feared this. No question about it. How do you deliver sheets of glass to a glass shop if you have to cross a cycle lane? How do you get a wedding dress and get on the bus to go home with it? It’s just not feasible.”

The proposals will see the loss of 72 spaces, 66 for residents and 25 paid-for-parking – with some shared ones for residents and paid-for-parking being created in side roads.

The London Ambulance Service raised concerns about delays reaching the Royal Free due to increased congestion, with Camden officials behind the plans saying “wands” used to segregate the cycle lanes had been spaced out further which would allow cars to pull in to allow ambulances to overtake.

The scheme has support from groups including Wheels for Wellbeing, Camden Cycle Campaign and The Royal Free Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Those in favour said it would make roads safer for cyclists and drivers, as well as tackling the climate crisis by encouraging people to stop driving. A majority living outside the consultation area also supported them.

The council also asked about general backing for broad initiatives, including new cycle lanes, or pedestrian crossings – and new cycle hangars in Glenloch Road.

The scheme will be in place by late September for an 18-month trial. After the trial a further consultation will take place on whether to keep the cycle lanes or revert the scheme. The steepness of the hill was once referred to in HG Wells’ science-fiction novel, War of the Worlds.

The consultation in February and March came after the council was criticised for trying to install the scheme last year under emergency Covid measures. They were introduced to quickly set up walking and cycling infrastructure in London, amid plummeting public transport usage and a rise in car traffic during lockdown. Previous initiatives, including widened pavements in Finchley Road, Hampstead High Street and Camden Town have been removed.

Cllr Harrison said the lack of a consultation was because he and officials had to act quickly to secure funding from Transport for London. It had been held up last year, after pressure from locals and councillors to consult residents, and a legal challenge in the courts to a similar Transport for London scheme in Bishopsgate.

Leader of the Conservative group on Camden Council, Oliver Cooper said: “In Camden’s own consultation, two-thirds of local residents and almost every local business oppose this flawed proposal.  To proceed anyway makes a mockery of consulting the public and is an insult to local communities.

“Last year, Camden Conservatives had to drag the council’s leadership kicking and screaming to consult the public at all – and they only relented when it became clear they would lose in the High Court.  Now that a consultation has taken place, it is clear that Labour refused to hold a consultation because they didn’t care what people think.

“Haverstock Hill’s geography hasn’t changed in the last year.  It’s still too steep to make it attractive for unconfident first-time cyclists to cycle up, with or without cycle lanes.  By rejecting both alternative routes and Conservative plans to teach cycling proficiency in schools, Labour have shown they don’t really want to promote cycling – they just want to make life harder for people that need to use cars, buses, or taxis.”

Liberal Democrat councillor for Belsize, Tom Simon said: “The Liberal Democrats are in favour of improving cycling infrastructure in the borough, but the council has made a mess of the Haverstock Hill scheme from the outset.

By refusing to involve the local community, as the Lib Dems urged, we have ended up with a scheme that is being done to the community instead of with it.

“Labour lost the Fortune Green by-election last week because of their failure to listen to local residents. Their arrogant, poorly-handled approach to this scheme is another example of their dismissive view of communities in the north of the borough.”

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