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Updated: Regent’s Park Outer Circle - Georgian quango under fire for refusal to close park gates to curb rat-run danger to cyclists and pedestrians

Meet the CEPC - the unelected body set up in 1813 that is accused of failing in its duty to improve public safety

An unelected and effectively unaccountable Georgian quango  that manages certain roads in and around Regents Park stands accused of failing in its duty to ensure public safety by prioritising rat-running motor traffic over park users through keeping park gates open at rush hour. 

Regent’s Park’s Outer Circle currently sees three times more collisions than the central London average, while police there caught more than 200 drivers last quarter, speeding and driving the wrong way around pedestrian islands, along with 211 prohibited trade vehicle drivers.

Responsibilities of the Crown Estate Paving Commission (CEPC) include opening park gates, which it does from 7am to midnight. Extended gate closures were part of multi-million-pound plans for the delayed Cycle Superhighway 11 (CS11), and park campaigners and Transport for London (TfL) say rush hour gate closures alone would reduce collisions, improving air quality and safety for the park’s eight million annual visitors.

However, although the CEPC has said it remains willing to consider gate timings, it has so far refused to do so.

London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, Will Norman, accused the CEPC of failing in its duty of safety. He said: “Closing the gates would save lives. It would mean less collisions, less pollution in the park. It would give Londoners a safe route to get to work or to see their family. It would mean Regent’s Park becomes a park again, as it was originally intended by John Nash when he designed it.

“He would be horrified if he knew what the park had become – a dangerous cut through for impatient drivers to get into central London a few minutes faster in their cars.”

Adrian Jackson, Chair of campaign group Parks for People, which wants extended gate closures in Regent’s Park, told road.cc the Outer Circle “becomes quite horrible quite quickly”, in the morning when the gates open.

“There’s cars going around the wrong side of pedestrian islands, there’s an enormous number of trade vehicles. It’s dangerous, it’s making the park a much less pleasant place be,” he said.

"Dangerous" road rife with speeding

There are 7.4 injury collisions per kilometre per year on the Outer Circle, almost three times the 2.6 inner London average – and more than half of vehicles exceed the 30mph speed limit, with drivers recorded in excess of 80mph. Of the 778 tickets or fines issued by police from January to March 2019, 86% were to drivers. 181 drivers were booked for speeding, 41 were caught disobeying directional signs.

The Outer Circle is extremely popular with road cyclists, who use it for training laps, often first thing in the morning, but it is also a commuting route for cyclists. Cyclists are 74% of those injured, which is statistically higher than the London average.

Norman said: “We would like to reduce the volume and speed of traffic to make it safer for all users of the park. We have proposed a varying number of options – closing four gates, but also just two gates. We have proposed varying times for the closures. But the CEPC are unwilling to make any changes and are therefore failing in their duty to improve public safety.”

In January 2018 Max Jack, former CEPC director, said in a Guardian interview: “We were happy to support those [four gate closure] ideas because they had a strong chance of improving the park.”

However, nothing has yet been agreed, 16 months later. In September 2018 the CEPC said it awaits traffic modelling from TfL - but road.cc has seen the traffic modelling already provided to CEPC. TfL figures show rush hour gate closures alone won’t tackle collisions, however, which spike between 11am and midday.

So what is the CEPC?

The CEPC, which is unrelated to the Crown Estate, has responsibility for the Outer Circle and certain roads on the periphery of the park, home to some of London's most expensive real estate.

The CEPC has a staff of 30 as well as currently 14 commissioners, 11 of whom are past or present business or domestic residents, the other three being appointed ex-ufficio – the chief executive of The Royal Parks, the head of residential of The Royal Estate, and an MP representing HM Treasury.

Some 1,200 people live in the streets it is responsible for, and have to pay rates to CEPC as well as council tax, without relief, to Camden or Westminster, depending  on which side of the park they live on. 

One resident has said closing gates would amount to creating an ‘open prison’. TfL points out residents could still access the park at all times.

The CEPC was set up in 1813 by an Act of Parliament, initially to care for and maintain the Crown Estate from Whitehall through Regent's Street to Regent's Park. Its members are appointed by the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury - a handful of MPs, including the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Its current area of operation was established by a fresh statute in 1851, with responsibilities including operating the park gates as well as regulating parking and maintaining street lighting and road surfaces .

It is unelected, and immune from Freedom of Information requests, which campaigners say makes it effectively unaccountable. Following the Guardian interview last year the CEPC deleted its Twitter account.

"We take a park view"

In the article, Max Jack, who left the CEPC a month after the article's publication, said: “It’s a recreational space, you want to be safe cycling in a park. Whatever proposals happen, we take a park view: are they going to work for the park, are they going to improve the environment for all park users? That’s our frame of reference.”

Last year London's former cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, wrote the CEPC had "strongly backed the original plan and continues to do so", but was opposed to the "dog's breakfast" of two gates, "because it’s not good enough".

Parks for People says: “One of the key charitable objectives of The Royal Parks charity is to promote the use of the Royal Parks for public recreation, health and well-being. As part of some quirk of regulatory history, they have delegated part of this responsibility (the roads) to the CEPC. It’s time that we held the CEPC accountable to more than just a handful of residents.”

In a letter to City Hall last January, obtained by Freedom of Information request, the CEPC raised concerns about gate closures generating "entrenched opposition from some residents groups concerned by traffic congestion outside the park", adding it wanted to avoid "finding itself enmeshed in any long and costly legal process". 

The CEPC were contacted, but declined to comment for this story.

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34 comments

Avatar
MarsFlyer | 4 years ago
2 likes

I've just sent this to their email:

"As a resident of Chalk Farm and someone who regularly uses Regent's Park for recreation (enjoying the gardens, running, cycling and visiting the zoo), I am shocked that you want to perpetuate the situation where cars that have no intention of using the park, are instead using the roads as a rat run, adding to the local pollution and often driving at a speed that is dangerously fast.
As you well know there are parallel roads that can take all of the general traffic. If you close some of the gates as suggested by TFL, then the local residents and recreational users will still be able to access the park, with only minor inconvenience, but with massive improvements to the park's well being.
As the Crown Estate Paving Commission (CEPC) has avoided modern legislation due to it's historically unusual setup, your should be more transparent. You have a duty of care to make Regent's Park a Park rather than a Rat Run."

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Xena | 5 years ago
0 likes

I’ve cycled round there . It’s so fa&£ ing boring zzzzzzzzzzz ,I don’t care. 

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Rich_cb | 5 years ago
1 like
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hawkinspeter replied to Rich_cb | 5 years ago
0 likes
Rich_cb wrote:

Bristol Downs Committee. https://democracy.bristol.gov.uk/mgCommitteeDetails.aspx?ID=212

Some of those white men have quite feminine names and also Lord Mayor Cleo Lake has quite dark skin for a white man (maybe she's been out in the sun).

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FluffyKittenofT... replied to hawkinspeter | 5 years ago
1 like
hawkinspeter wrote:
Rich_cb wrote:

Bristol Downs Committee. https://democracy.bristol.gov.uk/mgCommitteeDetails.aspx?ID=212

Some of those white men have quite feminine names and also Lord Mayor Cleo Lake has quite dark skin for a white man (maybe she's been out in the sun).

 

She's also green!

 

Still, though, the point seems to stand, about the 'male' if nothing else - it's hardly 50-50 male and female.  Seems more like 80-20.

As it apparently includes a lot of elected councillors it doesn't seem on-a-par with the way London's Royal Parks are run.  That does seem a genuine residue of feudalism.  The clue being in the word 'Royal', I guess.  (And 'Crown')

Avatar
brooksby replied to FluffyKittenofTindalos | 5 years ago
1 like
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
hawkinspeter wrote:
Rich_cb wrote:

Bristol Downs Committee. https://democracy.bristol.gov.uk/mgCommitteeDetails.aspx?ID=212

Some of those white men have quite feminine names and also Lord Mayor Cleo Lake has quite dark skin for a white man (maybe she's been out in the sun).

 

She's also green!

 

Still, though, the point seems to stand, about the 'male' if nothing else - it's hardly 50-50 male and female.  Seems more like 80-20.

As it apparently includes a lot of elected councillors it doesn't seem on-a-par with the way London's Royal Parks are run.  That does seem a genuine residue of feudalism.  The clue being in the word 'Royal', I guess.  (And 'Crown')

Wikipedia helps make it a bit clearer:

"Since an Act of Parliament in 1861, when Bristol Corporation acquired Durdham Down, the Downs have been managed as a single unit by the Downs Committee, a joint committee of the corporation and the Merchant Venturers. They have been designated common land since the early 1970s by Bristol City Council."

And for those who don't know, the Society of Merchant Venturers are basically Bristol's very own Illuminati  It owns and/or runs a surprisingly large amount of Bristol's 'civic' stuff and land.

Again, from Wikipedia:

"The society can be traced back to a 13th century guild which funded the voyage of John Cabot to Canada that marked the origins of the British Empire.  The society received its first Royal Charter in 1552 and for centuries had almost been synonymous with the government of Bristol, especially Bristol Harbour. In recent times, the society's activities have centred on charitable agendas."

Avatar
FluffyKittenofT... replied to brooksby | 5 years ago
1 like
brooksby wrote:
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
hawkinspeter wrote:
Rich_cb wrote:

Bristol Downs Committee. https://democracy.bristol.gov.uk/mgCommitteeDetails.aspx?ID=212

Some of those white men have quite feminine names and also Lord Mayor Cleo Lake has quite dark skin for a white man (maybe she's been out in the sun).

 

She's also green!

 

Still, though, the point seems to stand, about the 'male' if nothing else - it's hardly 50-50 male and female.  Seems more like 80-20.

As it apparently includes a lot of elected councillors it doesn't seem on-a-par with the way London's Royal Parks are run.  That does seem a genuine residue of feudalism.  The clue being in the word 'Royal', I guess.  (And 'Crown')

Wikipedia helps make it a bit clearer:

"Since an Act of Parliament in 1861, when Bristol Corporation acquired Durdham Down, the Downs have been managed as a single unit by the Downs Committee, a joint committee of the corporation and the Merchant Venturers. They have been designated common land since the early 1970s by Bristol City Council."

And for those who don't know, the Society of Merchant Venturers are basically Bristol's very own Illuminati  It owns and/or runs a surprisingly large amount of Bristol's 'civic' stuff and land.

Again, from Wikipedia:

"The society can be traced back to a 13th century guild which funded the voyage of John Cabot to Canada that marked the origins of the British Empire.  The society received its first Royal Charter in 1552 and for centuries had almost been synonymous with the government of Bristol, especially Bristol Harbour. In recent times, the society's activities have centred on charitable agendas."

 

That indeed makes it clearer.  So it's half democratic and half the aforementioned rich old white dudes?  Seems quite typical of the country - even our legislature is a bit like that.

 

Google turned up this, after wiki and their own site

 

https://emeraldinsight.com/doi/full/10.1108/S0198-871920150000029007

 

Which seems to be saying the society was just too snobbish and elitist to be an effective tool for supporting white supremacy.  With anything involving Bristol I generally expect the slave trade connection to come up, but this is an odd twist.

Avatar
srchar | 5 years ago
2 likes

Did any of the "blame white men" brigade do any research before guffing out a load of bollocks on your keyboards? List of CEPC commissioners: https://www.cepc.org.uk/about-us/commissioners/

They're not all white, nor are they all men. It's chaired by a woman FFS. Almost as if race and gender don't have anything to do with it!

It doesn't advance the argument one bit and does nothing to get people on our side.

Anyway, D-locking the gates is an excellent idea. 

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Helmut D. Bate replied to srchar | 5 years ago
3 likes
srchar wrote:

Did any of the "blame white men" brigade do any research before guffing out a load of bollocks on your keyboards? List of CEPC commissioners: https://www.cepc.org.uk/about-us/commissioners/

They're not all white, nor are they all men. It's chaired by a woman FFS. Almost as if race and gender don't have anything to do with it!

It doesn't advance the argument one bit and does nothing to get people on our side.

And nary a more diverse set of single-issue nimbys we ever did see, governer.

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burtthebike replied to srchar | 5 years ago
1 like
srchar wrote:

Did any of the "blame white men" brigade do any research before guffing out a load of bollocks on your keyboards? List of CEPC commissioners: https://www.cepc.org.uk/about-us/commissioners/

They're not all white, nor are they all men. It's chaired by a woman FFS. Almost as if race and gender don't have anything to do with it!

Nobody said that the CEPC were white men, I said it about the Bristol Downs committee, because last time I had anything to do with them, that's what they were.

Criticising people for something they haven't done is seldom fruitful and is unlikely to improve respect.

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srchar replied to burtthebike | 5 years ago
0 likes
burtthebike wrote:

Nobody said that the CEPC were white men, I said it about the Bristol Downs committee

...which you described as "similar" to CEPC.

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burtthebike replied to srchar | 5 years ago
1 like
srchar wrote:
burtthebike wrote:

Nobody said that the CEPC were white men, I said it about the Bristol Downs committee

...which you described as "similar" to CEPC.

Similar means that it is different.  Wriggling doesn't make you look any better.

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srchar replied to burtthebike | 5 years ago
0 likes
burtthebike wrote:
srchar wrote:
burtthebike wrote:

Nobody said that the CEPC were white men, I said it about the Bristol Downs committee

...which you described as "similar" to CEPC.

Similar means that it is different.  Wriggling doesn't make you look any better.

You’re redefining “similar” to mean “different”... and I’m the one who is wriggling?

Avatar
burtthebike replied to srchar | 5 years ago
0 likes
srchar wrote:
burtthebike wrote:
srchar wrote:
burtthebike wrote:

Nobody said that the CEPC were white men, I said it about the Bristol Downs committee

...which you described as "similar" to CEPC.

Similar means that it is different.  Wriggling doesn't make you look any better.

You’re redefining “similar” to mean “different”... and I’m the one who is wriggling?

I'm afraid if you don't understand English, I can't help you.  If I'd said the same, you'd have a point, but similar means like something else, but different.

Avatar
brooksby replied to srchar | 5 years ago
4 likes
srchar wrote:
burtthebike wrote:

Nobody said that the CEPC were white men, I said it about the Bristol Downs committee

...which you described as "similar" to CEPC.

I'd presumed burt meant that the Downs Committe and the CEPC were 'similar' in that they're both ancient and unelected committees with a shed-load of power but absolutely no accountability... 

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workhard replied to srchar | 5 years ago
3 likes
srchar wrote:

Anyway, D-locking the gates is an excellent idea. 

 

Ain't it just...

Avatar
Organon | 5 years ago
5 likes

You'd think they would want rid all the white vans, to make space for their ferraris and bentleys. Nice return of the word 'quango.'

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Helmut D. Bate replied to Organon | 5 years ago
5 likes
Organon wrote:

You'd think they would want rid all the white vans, to make space for their ferraris and bentleys. Nice return of the word 'quango.'

They don't mind the white vans. It's the black, brown and rainbow vans that they don't want hanging around.

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Username replied to Organon | 5 years ago
5 likes
Organon wrote:

You'd think they would want rid all the white vans, to make space for their ferraris and bentleys. Nice return of the word 'quango.'

 

I've never understood why the residents seem to be blocking any attempts to remove the through traffic. If I ever won the lottery and bought a Nash property on the park, the first thing I would be campaigning against would be LGVs and HGVs in "my" park.

I think they are afraid their chauffeurs won't be able to come and go with ease. These people might be of a certain age group and are challenged by technology. Maybe no one has explained to them they could have the best of both worlds with rising bollards which are used regularly on the Continent. They would have exclusive 24 hour access and the riff raff would be kept out.

I suspect it is not the residents. I suspect it is CEPC and The Royal Parks protecting their own ease of driving to work. They have a large staff car park beside the allotments on the Inner Circle. The zoo is the same, they've awarded themselves a large lump of prime London real estate as their private staff car park. It's in their interest to block any proposals to curtail vehicular access; and that's what they've done.

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zero_trooper | 5 years ago
6 likes

What do the gates actually look like? Are they as old and decrepit as the organisation that controls them?

Do they take a U-lock?

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muhasib | 5 years ago
3 likes

Let's remind ourselves of another similar organisation:

http://www.verderers.org.uk/court.html

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a1white | 5 years ago
5 likes

"One resident has said closing gates would amount to creating an ‘open prison’." Oh jeez, those poor residents. Nimbyism at its finest.

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FluffyKittenofT... replied to a1white | 5 years ago
3 likes
a1white wrote:

"One resident has said closing gates would amount to creating an ‘open prison’." Oh jeez, those poor residents. Nimbyism at its finest.

 

Furthermore, that really doesn't make any sense as an objection.  Since when is the defining feature of prisons, open or otherwise, that they obstruct access for motorised vehicles only?  Not to mention it would be an unusual prison that had no buildings and that people only visited.

 

  Is the 'resident' actually resident within the park itself?  Are there residential buildings within the park boundaries?  I don't actually know, offhand, though if so they must be some very high-status homes, and if not the 'resident' must be drunk or on drugs to be talking such nonsense.  Is there a New Age Travellers encampment in the park?  Bloody hippies!

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to FluffyKittenofTindalos | 5 years ago
0 likes
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

  Is the 'resident' actually resident within the park itself?  Are there residential buildings within the park boundaries?  I don't actually know, offhand, though if so they must be some very high-status homes, and if not the 'resident' must be drunk or on drugs to be talking such nonsense.  Is there a New Age Travellers encampment in the park?  Bloody hippies!

Well in the park is a University campus, London Cenral Mosque and London Zoo.  But I suppose it is everyone who lives on the Outer Road that are the main complainers. From what I remember there are two gates at Park Square at one end of the route that lead onto the A501 which is a main arterial road through the center of London that goes past several major train stations. 

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FluffyKittenofT... replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 5 years ago
2 likes
AlsoSomniloquism wrote:
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

  Is the 'resident' actually resident within the park itself?  Are there residential buildings within the park boundaries?  I don't actually know, offhand, though if so they must be some very high-status homes, and if not the 'resident' must be drunk or on drugs to be talking such nonsense.  Is there a New Age Travellers encampment in the park?  Bloody hippies!

Well in the park is a University campus, London Cenral Mosque and London Zoo.  But I suppose it is everyone who lives on the Outer Road that are the main complainers. From what I remember there are two gates at Park Square at one end of the route that lead onto the A501 which is a main arterial road through the center of London that goes past several major train stations. 

 

So I guess the animals in London Zoo are technically the only residents of the park?  I doubt any of them drive, though. (Plus they are already in a 'prison', I guess.)  Now I find myself thinking about what kind of drivers they'd be.

 

 

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to FluffyKittenofTindalos | 5 years ago
3 likes
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

So I guess the animals in London Zoo are technically the only residents of the park?  I doubt any of them drive, though. (Plus they are already in a 'prison', I guess.)  Now I find myself thinking about what kind of drivers they'd be.

I don't know, I saw a Jaguar on the road, the other day...

...and some windscreen vipers.

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HarrogateSpa | 5 years ago
7 likes

On a positive note that's the first time, in his 2 and a half years as cycling & walking commissioner, that I've heard Will Norman actually stand up for cycling.

Up to now, it's all been wishy-washy aspirations/get-nothing-done for fear of upsetting anyone at all.

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Bill H | 5 years ago
2 likes

IT rubs salt in the wound that one of the commissioners is Professor Ajit Lalvani, a heart and lungs specialist!

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Username | 5 years ago
4 likes

Yes they are unaccountable and seem to be masters at promising and then ducking and diving.

But we do have their email addresses and we can all help by dropping them a polite line every now and then.

https://www.cepc.org.uk/about-us/commissioners/

Also, Andrew Stephenson MP HM Treasury, who is our representative on the board of commissioners, has a twitter account. I am sure he would love to receive regular reports from us all.

@Andrew4Pendle

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burtthebike | 5 years ago
9 likes

Your typical rich club of right wing car drivers making decisions for the plebs.   ".....are they going to improve the environment for all park users? That’s our frame of reference.”  They clearly don't give a damn for the frame of reference or anything else apart from their god-given right to drive through the park they are sworn to maintain for the public.  Clearly the CEPC are an anachronism whose time has come to be abolished.

We have something similar in Bristol, the Downs committee; unelected, unaccountable, rich white men.

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