Residents of a prime residential area of central London that was the post-war home to Sir Winston Churchill have called on Westminster council to rethink its scrapping of plans for a low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) there.
In October, the council unveiled plans to install a low-traffic neighbourhood in the Hyde Park Estate, which occupies a triangular site bounded by Sussex Gardens, Edgware Road and the northern side of Hyde Park itself from Lancaster Gate to Marble Arch.
Lancaster Gate lies at the southern end of a protected cycle track along Westbourne Terrace, as well as at the western end of Cycleway 3 which extends to Tower Hill and beyond via Hyde Park, Parliament Square and the Embankment.
While the government is urging councils to implement measures such as cycle lanes and LTNs to promote active travel and discourage car use, such schemes have polarised attitudes among some residents and certain media outlets, led by the Mail Online and Telegraph.co.uk, have published a succession of articles opposed to them.
Plans for this particular scheme were withdrawn after the council canvassed the views of local residents, with the Evening Standard reporting that the plans were opposed by Hyde Park Estate Association chairman Dr Allen Zimbler, who in a letter to the council claimed that residents “will be kettled into very small areas and their freedom of entry and exit will be substantively curtailed.”
He added: “The roads around us, already compromised by cycle lanes, will become impassable, with bus and car journeys taking longer, taxi rides becoming far more expensive, and pollution on our peripheral routes increasing.”
The rival Hyde Park Estate Residents’ Group (HyPER) delivered an open letter signed by 200 people living locally to the council earlier this month.
Spokesman Chris Gunness said: “With so many signatures on our open letter to the council leader and with such solid support behind our new group, it’s clear there’s solid support for the low-traffic scheme.
“We ask councillors to listen, not to the noisy minority, but to the unrepresented majority who want to see a greener, cleaner, safer, and healthier Westminster.”
Following the scrapping of the scheme, the group pointed out that the decision was contrary to government instructions, had been made without transparency and was at odds with the council’s stated commitment to tackle the climate emergency.
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It added that while LTNs typically lack consensus to begin with, as schemes bed in, it was “slowly forged over time, as local people experience for themselves the benefits of the schemes.”
Earlier this month, announcing its decision not to proceed with the scheme, Westminster Council said: “The 28 day engagement on the proposed Low Traffic Neighbourhood for the Hyde Park Estate area has now concluded, and we thank you for your comments on these proposals.
“We were eager to get views on the scheme, designed in response to resident requests, before considering its implementation, and this is why we ran an engagement exercise to share with you the objectives and proposals.
“We are currently assessing the responses. There have been many comments from across the community and, while there is a recognition that the volume of traffic passing through the area is an issue, it is clear there is not a consensus in support of the proposed scheme.
“We acknowledge the concerns that have been raised, and we have made the decision not to progress with the proposed Low Traffic Neighbourhood.”
The statement continued: “What is clear from many of the comments received before and during the engagement, is that there is a problem with rat running through the Hyde Park Estate area, and that some intervention is needed to manage the through traffic.
“On that basis, we acknowledge that more work is needed to assess what measures might be possible, and acceptable. Therefore we will continue to work with residents and local businesses to identify such measures to deliver improvements to the area.”
The upmarket neighbourhood, which lies south of Paddington Station and where flats and houses can cost several million pounds was home to Sir Winston Churchill, who owned 27 and 28 Hyde Park Gate, from 1945 until his death in 1965, while one of his successors as Prime Minister, Tony Blair, lives on Connaught Square.
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