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Councils fight residents over road closures introduced during pandemic

After a judge found that Sadiq Khan shut streets “unlawfully”, the lawyer who won the case says councils that introduced “unfair and irrational” road closures face a battle with residents.

The suggestion is that the judgment found the London Mayor, and Transport for London (TfL), took “advantage of the pandemic” to try to make the capital car-free. This included roads being closed and pop-up cycle lane schemes being introduced as part of Grant Shapps’s “green transport revolution”. The lawyer involved, Mr Darren Rogers, who brought the successful case on behalf of black-cab drivers, believes “elements in the judgment will assist the current judicial reviews”.

Key issues in his case, such as a failure to fully consider the needs of disabled people, and a lack of consultation, are also pivotal in future legal battles. Many groups used Freedom of Information to obtain documents proving that the emergency services had complained they were not properly consulted, or their concerns about the changes were not fully addressed. Mr Rogers said: “The impact of these road closures on all of the blue light ­services will, in all likelihood, be explored and developed in the other judicial reviews.”

A key finding that will help local legal teams fighting the changes was how TfL and the mayor seemed to view the cycle lanes and road closures, part of the scheme called Streetspace, to be permanent, rather temporary. “In my view, it was cynically railroaded through on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Mr Rogers said. “The Streetspace Plan and Guidance was so far-reaching and transparently not temporary as maintained by the Mayor and TfL.”

The judgment trampled the TfL guidance sent to London councils, however, the mayor and TfL are appealing against the judgement. TfL has called a key meeting with all 33 of the capital’s authorities’ lawyers and transport bosses, who are urged to “take legal advice” about “any implications” the judgment has on their road closures.

It stresses the importance of considering the needs of disabled people and explains how “impact assessments” must “record in appropriate detail” risks associated with those protected under the Equality Act.

At least 10 groups across the country are seeking a judicial review of the schemes next month.