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Judge throws out legal challenge to Hackney low traffic neighbourhoods

Ruling finds that schemes brought in as response to coronavirus pandemic were legally implemented

A judge has thrown out a legal challenge to low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) in the London Borough of Hackney.

The High Court action had been brought by HHRC Ltd – the acronym stands for Horrendous Hackney Road Closures – which claims to represent some 7,200 local residents.

HHRC had applied for a judicial review of the decision by the council’s cabinet in September last year to introduce and emergency transport plan (ETP) in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

They argued that the council had “failed to discharge its duty under section 16 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 in approving the ETP proposals” by not assessing the impact of the LTNs on nearby main roads and that “the approval of the ETP failed to properly investigate or have regard to the impact on air quality of the LTN proposals.”

In rejecting those arguments, Mr Justice Dove said: “In the absence of the global pandemic and the bespoke guidance provided by the Secretary of State for Transport to address it, the earlier 2004 guidance might in some instances have supported deploying the time and resources necessary to undertake detailed surveys and traffic modelling to attempt to predict the operation of the proposals.

“However, that was not the situation with which the ETP was seeking to grapple.”

HHRC also claimed that Hackney had “breached its public sector equality duty (PSED) under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 by failing to have due regard in approving the ETP to the impact which its LTN proposals would have upon groups with protected characteristics.”

However, the judge found that the ETP “was designed to provide an overall strategy to provide an overview and assist streamlining progress without by-passing future LTN scheme preparation or the statutory requirements for creating ETOs” [experimental traffic orders].

Referring to an earlier case in which a judge had dismissed an application for judicial review against the London Borough of Lambeth following its introduction of LTNs, Mr Justice Dove said: “I share the view of Kerr J set out in his judgment in the case of Sheakh that it is possible in some circumstances for a form of iterative, or progressive, assessment of equalities impacts to properly discharge the PSED, and whether that is the case is, of course, sensitive to the facts of individual cases (see paragraphs 163 -165).”

> High Court judge rejects challenge to Lambeth LTNs

Finally, HHRC argued that there had been “a failure to undertake any proper consultation on the ETP before it was promulgated in breach of the consultation requirements of the common law.”

Rejecting that argument, the judge said that it was “an agreed position that the specific terms of section 16 of the [Traffic Management Act] 2004 Act do not provide for an express duty to consult in relation to proposals related to the discharge of the network management duty.”

“It is clear that specific guidance in relation to the approach to be taken to the traffic management duty under the conditions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic were provided in the COVID-19 Guidance,” he continued.

“Whilst the COVID-19 Guidance did not replace the 2004 Guidance, it ‘provides additional advice on techniques for managing roads to deal with COVID-19 response related issues’.

“The approach taken by the defendant reflected the COVID-19 Guidance which had been specifically produced to deal with the conditions created by the pandemic which envisaged that in relation to these COVID-19 related traffic management initiatives consultation would accompany their experimental implementation.

“Having considered the claimant's case in respect of all four grounds upon which this application for judicial review is advanced, I am not satisfied that there is merit in the substance of the claim.

“It is therefore not necessary to proceed to evaluate the defendant's contentions in relation to alternative remedy, delay or discretion as, in the result, they do not arise as I am not satisfied that there is any basis upon which the claimant could be entitled to relief,” he added.

The decision was welcomed by Hackney’s former cabinet member for Energy, Waste, Transport and Public Realm, Jon Burke, who received death threats when the plans were first unveiled last year.

> Hackney councillor sent death threats over support for low traffic neighbourhoods

Hackney, which is home to around 280,000 people, has among the lowest levels of access to a motor vehicle among London boroughs, at just three in 10 households.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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