Canvassing in the local elections has confirmed the strong opposition of Hammersmith residents to the flawed scheme from Transport for London for a “Cycle Superhighway” along Hammersmith Road, King Street and Chiswick High Road. At a cost of £70 million.
The Labour Party must have spotted have also spotted that it is unwanted. Yet the Labour-run Council still want say whether or not they will allow it to go ahead. Suspicion is growing that they will allow it to proceed – thus avoiding dispute with the Mayor of London. But they have decided not to come clean with residents about their plans and will only announce them after the elections.
Transport for London have refused to disclose the views of Hammersmith residents to their consultation, which closed last September. They tell me in response to a Freedom of Information request:
“I can confirm that we hold the information you require. However, to provide copies of all the consultation responses from stakeholders and local councillors would be a significant burden to our resources and therefore we are not obliged to provide this information in accordance with section 14 of the FOI Act.”
What about the responses sent to the Council? I asked them, again via a Freedom of Information request. Again they won’t say:
“At the Full Council meeting on 18th October 2017 the Council carried forward the special motion that would enable residents to continue to send the council comments until January 2018. It was also carried that the Council will continue consulting during the design process, including resident and stakeholder advisory groups to look at the detailed design.
The council is still receiving and accepting comments from residents and stakeholders, and these comments will be published alongside the TfL Consultation Outcome report at a future Cabinet meeting, the date of which will be determined by the receipt of the full TfL consultation report.
In applying this Section 22 exemption, we have had to balance the public interest in withholding the information against the interest in favour of disclosure.
Factors in favour of disclosure
To disclose the information requested regarding responses sent to the Council about the CS9 proposal would promote transparency and accountability in relation to information held by the Council.
Factors in favour of withholding
The Council considers that it is in the general public interest to disclose the information at the intended time and that there is no specific or pressing public interest in providing the
information before the proposed date. We consider it would not be in the public interest to prematurely disclose information if to do so may mean it is read out of the context of the overall disclosure. To disclose the information while the Council is still accepting comments from residents and stakeholders and before all responses have been evaluated could lead to information being disclosed to the world at large which could give an inaccurate or distorted picture of overall resident and stakeholder views on the issue. It is also fair to all concerned parties to release information to all concerned on the same date, so that, for example, no unfair advantage is gained by any party, in attempts to influence the consultation outcomes.
In all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.”
The truth is that admitting the extent of opposition would be embarrassing for Labour – until the elections are safely out of the way. That is because they intend to ignore it. A pretty arrogant and disingenuous way to behave. Labour can dodge and dive but the the council elections provide a choice. If you want this TfL scheme to go ahead then vote Labour. If you oppose the plans – and would prefer the £70 million spent on more sensible cycling schemes – then vote Conservative.