The Tavistock-Torrington Place saga has come to a hiatus, of sorts, with Camden’s cabinet members choosing to agree with the Officer’s report at a meeting on 5 September. Despite the huge cost of appointing an independent inspector, a barrister and acquiring extra traffic management expertise (SYSTRA), the Council has chosen not to implement the Inspector’s recommendations.
As a result of the Cabinet decision, the ETO (Experimental Traffic Order) will be made permanent (the Inspector said it shouldn’t) and traffic will continue to flow eastbound along the Tavistock-Torrington corridor. Having heard evidence from both supporters and objectors during the Public Inquiry, the Inspector recommended westbound as the better solution. Camden Council does not agree.
Officers have however stated that a new consultation on westbound versus eastbound traffic flow will be carried out in the autumn and that another report will be presented to Cabinet in April 2019, for a final decision. This formal recommendation was noted by the Cabinet on 5 September.
BRAG has been critical of Camden’s consultation processes and we hope that Officers will see fit to follow law as it is laid down in the Gunning Principles.
Details of the Cabinet meeting on 5 September, with information about deputations, including BRAG’s, is available on the BRAG website www.brag.org.uk
The enquiry is over. The report is written. The Inspector's recommendation is: the Tavistock - Torrington corridor should be WESTBOUND for vehicular traffic, with two separate cycle lanes with no loading restrictions.
Camden Council’s Cabinet Members will make the final decision as to whether the Inspector’s recommendations will be accepted. A date of 5th September has been put into the diary.
In the meantime, the Secretary of State for Transport has, by a letter dated 2nd February 2018, directed that the Experimental Order shall continue in force until 31st October 2018.
You can read the Inspectors report on Camden's website:
Or, if you prefer, here's the text of his recommendation:
10.1 Having regard to these and all other matters raised at the inquiry and in the written representations I recommend that The Camden (Torrington Place to Tavistock Place) (Prescribed Routes, Waiting and Loading Restrictions and Loading Places) Traffic Order  is not made.
10.2 Noting my conclusions above [8.16.11] I recommend that the Council consider the modification of the Order so as to provide for westbound only vehicular traffic whilst retaining the provision for separate west bound and east bound cycle lanes. As noted above such a modification would require further steps to be taken under regulation 14 (4) of the Local Authorities’ Traffic Orders (Procedure) (England and Wales) Regulations 1996. If the Council takes a view that the Order cannot be modified then it is open to the Council to make a further Order to provide for the westbound configuration.
and if you're wondering what 8.16.11 means:
8.16.11 In respect of a westbound configuration for motor traffic such a proposal could deliver similar benefits to pedestrians and cyclists and whilst there will be a resultant increase in vehicular traffic, the geographic spread of traffic has a lesser impact. A westbound configuration would provide a much needed westbound route and would address issues relating to access to the Tavistock Hotel for black cabs. This alternative would be consistent with Camden’s Transport Strategy and there is nothing to suggest that it does not comply with other National, Mayoral or Local polices. An Order for a westbound configuration would be for a qualifying purpose under the 1984 Act. The Council will also note that ILHL [6.1.48] considers that this alternative would meet the objectives of section 122 of the 1984 Act. There are disbenefits to the westbound configuration including the effects on Endsleigh Gardens and Endsleigh Street. However, when taking into account all factors the disbenefits do not, on balance, outweigh the advantages.
Bloomsbury Residents’ Action Group hails this as a success for campaigners. "Although BRAG's preference was for a return to two-way traffic plus two separate cycle lanes, we also supported a westbound solution. This seems a pragmatic approach to sharing the space - giving sufficient room for safe cycling but allowing less mobile residents who need to go west an alternative route to the Euston Road."
However, this is an issue that not only remains contentious, but is clouded in a swirling fog of misinformation and misunderstanding. Here's an extract from BRAG's letter to the CNJ in response to Tom Foot's article:
THREE of Tom Foot’s four introductory facts on the Tavistock-Torrington public inquiry outcome report were misleading, (Taxis gain ground in row over cycle route, May 31).
One, the number of cyclists on the corridor has not “doubled”. A council claim that cycling had increased up to 52 per cent was withdrawn under cross-examination. The inspector concludes (8.5.4): “In the absence of reliable data it is only possible to conclude that cycle use of the [Tavistock-Torrington] corridor has not decreased.”
Two, along the corridor there has not been a “significant increase in pedestrian casualties”. The inspector says (8.16.1): “while pedestrian casualties along the corridor have reduced there has been an increase in cycling casualties which is unexplained but cannot be attributed to an increase in cycle use.”
Three, pollution has not “reduced” across the area. The inspector says (8.9.4) that in some streets “pollution levels are higher than expected” and that “it is difficult to quantify the level of improvement in air-quality on the corridor”. (8.9.3).
However, four, your report is right to say that “traffic jams… got worse”. The inspector says (8.6.18): “since the implementation of the trial there has been an increase in congestion which has resulted in increased journey times and travel costs; this has had an adverse effect on the quality of life and commercial operations.”
Traffic continues to be a contentious issue. HV has been critical of the increased congestion on Grays Inn Road towards Kings Cross station. An over-abundance of seemingly uncoordinated road works also cause incidences of chaos. Guilford Street sees temporary traffic lights almost every other week. With this approach to motor traffic (and don't get us (re)started on resident parking) some people may well feel that Camden has an informal War on Motorists.
This is what BRAG have to say:
Lack of joined up approach re: traffic planning
BRAG has been critical of Camden's lack of joined-up approach to traffic issues, as any change to the road network will inevitably have a knock-on effect elsewhere.
It has been confirmed by Councillor Adam Harrison (Cabinet Member for Improving Camden's Environment) that there is NO single overall plan for the whole of Bloomsbury ward or any other ward / large area in the borough.
To quote from his recent email: "Developing such a plan is unlikely as this would be unfeasible due to the constraints on resources and funding, would probably be too large to be deemed a genuine consultation (you would still have to run localised consultations for particular proposals), and would also not be conducive to responding to, say, issues raised by things like the Prevention of Future Death Notice or to tackling other matters such as improving air quality or encouraging more people to walk and cycle. That said, schemes that are in close proximity to each other and are likely to impact on one another are considered together. However, the Holborn local safety scheme and the other schemes in the Bloomsbury area are considered to be independent of each other."
We are told that the overarching plan for transport in the borough is set out in the Camden Transport Strategy. This strategy is currently being updated and will be subject to consultation in November 2018.
Camden have published all the enquiry documents on their website: https://www.camden.gov.uk/ccm/content/transport-and-streets/transport-strategies/torrington-place-to-tavistock-place-public-inquiry/