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Campaigners raise £37,000 for a legal challenge to stop Tower Hamlets mayor from ripping out low-traffic neighbourhoods

The London borough’s council had previously voted to scrap the traffic calming measures, despite “overwhelming” support for the walking and cycling schemes

Campaigners in the Tower Hamlets borough of London have managed to raise almost £37,000 through crowdfunding for a legal challenge on the council's decision to scrap key traffic calming measures including low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), despite the council's own reports showing that the backing to get rid of the schemes was only fringe.

In September, The Tower Hamlets Council, led by its pro-car mayor Lutfur Rahman, had voted to remove a number of key LTNs in the borough — despite a series of consultations showing that a majority of the residents were in favour of retaining the measures.

Following the decision,  the group Save Our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets Coalition had pledged to launch a legal challenge against what it describes as a decision that ignores what residents want, as well as "making the air dirtier and making cycling and walking more dangerous at a time when people need cheap forms of transport more than ever".

The group said: "Lutfur Rahman has taken the most extreme, undemocratic, and dangerous decision available to him this evening. He has decided to rip out all the walking and cycling infrastructure in Bethnal Green.

"This is not the end. We know we have public support for our cause and the overwhelming evidence too. With the advice of our lawyers, we will monitor the legality of what the council has done."

> “Extreme, undemocratic, and dangerous”: Council scraps majority of low traffic neighbourhoods – despite “overwhelming” public support for cycling and walking schemes

Arnold Circus LTN (via Bob From Accounts on Twitter)

Arnold Circus LTN (via Bob From Accounts on Twitter)

And following through with that threat of a legal challenge, the group, with the backing of all 700 people, has managed to raise £37,000 for the legal fighting fund — although it is still short of £45,000 to fund the case if the court decides there are grounds for a full hearing before a judge.

Jane Harris, from Save Our Safer Streets, told The Standard: "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 has broken the law."

Campaigners also added that Transport for London, which has been in support of the schemes and had previously blocked funding to the council because of the pro-motorist and anti-active travel stance taken by the mayor, has become an "interested party" in the case.

Lutfur Rahman, whose Aspire Party won 24 of the borough’s 45 seats at last May’s local elections after standing with a pro-motorist manifesto, has spent his time in office rolling back initiatives aimed at reducing motor vehicle traffic and promoting active travel, which he claims have increased congestion and contributed to more CO2 emissions in the area.

Last October, the council put an end to School Streets initiatives in the borough, designed to restrict the use of motor vehicles outside schools at drop-off and pick-up times, despite opposition from teachers, parents and pupils.

> Children take to the barricades to save School Street

Chisenhale Primary 'School Street' protest (credit - Twitter, ChisenhaleRoad)

However, his one-track mind actions have been met with resolute resistance in the form of juggernaut campaigning and protests. When the council shut the School Streets scheme, children and parents took to the barricades and blocked the road after workers began to remove the play area and traffic restrictions, including seats, planters and artwork that the schoolchildren had helped to build and create.

Even on the night when Rahman — whose previous spell as mayor was cut short when he was found guilty of electoral fraud and “corrupt and illegal practices” — claimed that he was scrapping the LTNs introduced by the previous Labour administration in 2021 in Columbia Road, Arnold Circus, and Old Bethnal Green because they "divided communities", a unified yet diverse protest by active travel campaigners was being staged outside the town hall.

Even the police force has been against the council's decisions, with the Met police urging the Tower Hamlets Borough Council to not scrap the Liveable Streets initiative in Arnold Circus, saying that it has resulted in a reduction in antisocial behaviour-related crime.

In fact, according to papers ironically published by the council’s cabinet, 59 per cent of residents in Bethnal Green supported retaining the traffic-calming schemes, while 58 per cent of those surveyed in Arnold Circus were also in favour of the initiatives.

The council report also confirmed that air quality and road safety has improved both within the areas where the schemes have been implemented, as well as on boundary roads.

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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15 comments

Avatar
eburtthebike | 2 months ago
6 likes

"Even on the night when Rahman — whose previous spell as mayor was cut short when he was found guilty of electoral fraud and “corrupt and illegal practices”.........

Good to see he's learned his lesson and has dropped all that illegal stuff and gone straight into anti-democratic but legal dictatorship.

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mattw | 2 months ago
3 likes

I can't find a link to the fundraiser.

Avatar
Markle replied to mattw | 2 months ago
5 likes
Avatar
eburtthebike replied to Markle | 2 months ago
2 likes

Thanks, donated.

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Geoff Ingram | 2 months ago
11 likes

Extremely worrying that someone convicted of corruption and electoral fraud is back in power. Who on earth would vote for him and why? Are there really that many climate denialists? I despair at times.

Avatar
HoldingOn replied to Geoff Ingram | 2 months ago
1 like

Netflix's series of "The UK" has churned out another thrilling episode.

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mattw replied to Geoff Ingram | 2 months ago
2 likes

It's a corrupt setup.

He's back because he had a 5 year ban by the election court.

Avatar
ROOTminus1 replied to mattw | 2 months ago
6 likes
mattw wrote:

It's a corrupt setup.

He's back because he had a 5 year ban by the election court.

I don't get how "sit on the naughty step for 1 election cycle and think about what you've done" from a minor governing body is an appropriate response to the criminal charges of corruption and fraud? The man shouldn't be in Council, he should be in custody

Avatar
Stephankernow replied to mattw | 2 months ago
0 likes
mattw wrote:

It's a corrupt setup.

He's back because he had a 5 year ban by the election court.

People also elected him democratically! Which to many from outside that area seem.at best surprising. That question is best addressed to the people of Tower Hamlets as they voted for Aspire and Mr Rahman and his policies
The national press will have virtually nothing to do with this due.to the demographics of the two sides.

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Miller replied to Geoff Ingram | 2 months ago
5 likes

He seems to have a grip on the Bangladeshi community. I understand that's where his votes come from.

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Brauchsel replied to Geoff Ingram | 2 months ago
7 likes
Geoff Ingram wrote:

Who on earth would vote for him and why?

The men who control the Bangladeshi community's votes, and self-interest largely based on Bangladeshi kinship structures.

Given his past form, I'd be amazed if as many votes were validly cast for him as were recorded. 

Avatar
brooksby replied to Geoff Ingram | 2 months ago
3 likes

Private Eye has done a great deal of coverage over the years.  There are a couple of articles googled, below, which give you an indication:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/25/tower-hamlets-dict...

https://www.slow-journalism.com/long-reads/the-unlikely-return-of-lutfur...

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Geoff Ingram replied to brooksby | 2 months ago
1 like

Thanks a lot: good info. So he's at least as bad as Trump, then.

Avatar
Stephankernow replied to brooksby | 2 months ago
0 likes
brooksby wrote:

Private Eye has done a great deal of coverage over the years.  There are a couple of articles googled, below, which give you an indication:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/25/tower-hamlets-dict...

https://www.slow-journalism.com/long-reads/the-unlikely-return-of-lutfur...

As a Private Eye reader myself im well aware of this person and the issues.

Avatar
Stephankernow replied to Geoff Ingram | 2 months ago
0 likes
Geoff Ingram wrote:

Extremely worrying that someone convicted of corruption and electoral fraud is back in power. Who on earth would vote for him and why? Are there really that many climate denialists? I despair at times.

The reason this person was elected was down to demographics and politics and if you look at the children and parents of those objecting, They are of differing demographics than those of Mr Rahman and a large majority his voters.

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