Save Our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets

by Save Our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets Coalition

Save Our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets

by Save Our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets Coalition
Save Our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets Coalition
Case Owner
We are a group of Tower Hamlets residents who want to keep and improve the newly built pedestrian-friendly streets in Bethnal Green, Wapping, Bow and Brick Lane.
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£17,360
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Save Our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets Coalition
Case Owner
We are a group of Tower Hamlets residents who want to keep and improve the newly built pedestrian-friendly streets in Bethnal Green, Wapping, Bow and Brick Lane.
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This case is raising funds for its stretch target. Your pledge will be collected within the next 24-48 hours (and it only takes two minutes to pledge!)

Latest: Oct. 17, 2022

Campaign secures delay to decision but we're still awaiting detail on next steps

We at Save Our Safer Streets have been campaigning hard to stop Tower Hamlets Council from “reopening the roads”. Most recently, our petition asking the council to slow down and listen to…

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Please help fund our legal campaign, fighting to keep safer, healthier, friendlier streets for all in Tower Hamlets.

What’s the issue?

In the last year, changes to residential street layouts in Bethnal Green, Wapping and Brick Lane have reduced through traffic and made them safer, healthier and friendlier places to be. In a borough where over 70% of residents don’t own a car, many people are finding their lives quietly transformed. Children can walk to school more safely, breathing cleaner air. Elderly and disabled people are coming out of their homes and using the new parklets and community spaces to chat with neighbours. And some are beginning to change their habits to walk more, get on a bike, or use public transport instead of driving.

But these changes are under threat. The newly-elected administration of Tower Hamlets Council has launched a series of consultations about ripping out the multi-million pound schemes and re-introducing heavy traffic. We are facing the loss of much-loved shared spaces before they’ve even had the chance to bed in, and the rollback of important progress towards tackling the climate crisis.

Save Our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets Coalition is a group of Tower Hamlets residents who want to keep and improve the schemes. It includes the Better Streets for Tower Hamlets group and the community behind I ♥ Bethnal Green. We hope you share our mission of protecting our safer streets and community spaces, as well as tackling pollution in our cities: this is a local cause with global echoes.

"There were lots of cars here, it was noisy and dangerous for vulnerable people. Look at it now! I want to keep it like this. It's precious, like a diamond." – Saciido

Old Bethnal Green Road:

Bow:

Wapping:

Columbia Road:

Arnold Circus:

"Just as we're getting used to the new street, they want to change it back, but they need to talk to us." – Mehraj

Why legal action?

Our main aim is to get Tower Hamlets to listen to residents. If that happens, we think the mayor, cabinet and council will understand the huge benefits the new street design has brought to so many people. But we have to keep the option of legal action open in case the politicians refuse to listen to the people who live and work on these streets. There is sadly a chance that the council will try to rush through its plan to ‘re-open the roads’ without understanding how important the current design is for children’s health, for vulnerable pedestrians and for people who need safe places to meet their neighbours.

The timescales for judicial review mean we have to begin the legal process now, while we continue trying to get the council to listen - if we wait for its official decision it will be too late to file a legal claim.

We have legal advice that suggests that the council has breached statutory guidance, undertaken an unlawful consultation and has failed to consult on alternatives, giving us three potential grounds for challenge.

Call to action

We are initially raising £15,000 to fund a judicial review and we need your support!

What are we trying to achieve? 

We want the council to read our petition, to speak with local residents and consider our demands to work with the whole community to find solutions that work for us all without having to go too far down the legal route. We don’t want a day at the High Court and would rather have a proper discussion than a confrontation with the council.

However, the new administration has given many indications – through its manifesto, the rushed proposals, statements the mayor and his councillors have made and the flawed consultation – that it is likely to “reopen the roads” whatever we residents say.  We don’t have the luxury of time to wait and see whether the council listens to us because there is a limited window of time to ask for a judicial review. If the council decides to follow through with its proposals, despite significant opposition and evidence against them, then a legal challenge is the best chance we have to keep our safer streets. 

This case is not just about a flawed consultation, but about the kinds of streets our cities need if we are to address the climate crisis that threatens all of us, and if we want to build friendly communities, keep our children healthy and keep older and disabled people safe. This case is also about how decisions about urban planning are made and whether they really include the local communities affected by them. It’s an important cause to fight, not just for the residents of Tower Hamlets, but for anyone who cares about making our streets safer, friendlier and healthier, encouraging us all to walk, cycle and use public transport, and addressing the pressing environmental issues of polluted cities and CO2 emissions. Not to mention anyone who cares about due process in local government.

What are the next steps in the case?

On 16 August 2022, Leigh Day solicitors issued a “letter before action” to Tower Hamlets Council, which was prepared with the advice of barristers Sarah Sackman (Matrix) and Jack Parker (Cornerstone), and was sent on behalf of the proposed claimant, Oliver Hawes, a local resident of Tower Hamlets. 

By 14 September, the council should reply to the letter and if we think the response is satisfactory then the legal process may end at this point. 

By 29 September, if we are unsatisfied with the council’s responses, we would need to prepare and issue a claim at the High Court. This is to meet the court’s expectations that judicial review claims be filed within three months of the start of the consultation process (6 July).

On 5 October the full council will meet and hopefully discuss this issue before reaching a decision. If their position changes we won’t need to pursue the legal claim further. If it doesn’t change, our claim will need to already be in place by this time.

How much are we raising and why? 

We are raising £15,000, as this is the absolute minimum we need in order to cover the costs of the claimant. This covers the legal work already undertaken and the liability for legal costs of the council and court fees.

Our stretch target of £35,000 would cover the above plus legal fees for submission to the High Court.

We may need to further extend our stretch target to cover all the legal costs our campaign will bear if we are to pursue the legal case to its full conclusion. Our project is ambitious but we are fortunate that our lawyers have agreed to act at discounted rates.

A full breakdown is:

  • £3,960 in legal fees already undertaken
  • £21,000 in legal fees for the submission to the High Court      
  • £18,000 in legal fees will in preparation for and undertaking court hearing
  • £11,000 in liability for legal costs of the council and court fees

Thank you for considering this and for any donations you are able to give!

Want to know more? Read on...

Background

Following the May 2022 local elections, one of the first actions of the new Tower Hamlets Mayor and his administration was to publish their proposals to remove all the new pedestrian-friendly street layouts under the banner “reopen the roads”. A huge range of residents throughout the borough disagreed strongly with this plan and we joined together to say that we like the new seating areas, parklets and community spaces created in and around Bethnal Green, the pedestrianised roads in Brick Lane, as well as the quieter neighbourhoods in Bow and Wapping which were created by the introduction of traffic filters.

The council is in a rush to remove the new street layouts. Firstly, the public consultations were undertaken mainly in the school holidays and residents received very little warning. The consultations were also issued without any supporting data/evidence or alternative options for people to consider. They have presented plans without nuance or recognition of the benefits that the changes have brought to communities across the borough - in every instance they are proposing ripping out all of the changes and going back to the previous road layouts in their entirety.   

And before the consultation period even ended, the council adopted its new strategic plan, which included a commitment to “commence process for removing any schemes (if agreed)” in October 2022 (see point 8.2 on p31 of this appendix to the 1 August 2022 cabinet). This isn’t how a council behaves if it wants to consider all the facts and enable stakeholders/the public to make an informed decision.

How did the local community respond?

In Bethnal Green, we campaigned loudly during the four-week-long consultation period (11 July to 7 August) under the banner of “Save Our Safer Streets”. We door-knocked and flyered the whole consultation area in Bethnal Green to spread the word. We collected personal stories from a wide range of local people who want to keep the new street layouts on the Heartbg.uk website; we challenged the council in the only available public forum, the Health & Wellbeing Board. We also issued (an as-yet unanswered) open letter to the Mayor, setting out our reasonable requests for more evidence and a better approach, which has been signed by more than 900 people.

In Bow, a petition with 713 signatures was presented to the meeting of full council in July, calling on the council to reinstate the traffic filter that it had unilaterally removed in that area. And in Wapping, more than 1,200 people have signed a petition opposing the removal of the Wapping bus gate.

What are we doing now?

1. We are petitioning the Council to STOP, LISTEN and IMPROVE our streets rather than proceed with their rushed plan to reopen the roads to traffic. The petition was submitted by Simon Ramsay, Head Teacher of Oaklands School on Old Bethnal Green Road, and has received over 1,000 signatures from people who live, work or study in Tower Hamlets in less than two weeks. We need to get 2,000 in a month so that the mayor knows before the decision-making meeting on 28 September just how many people want to keep our safer streets. As it’s an official petition on the council website, 2000 signatures will also force the council to have a 30-minute debate at their meeting on 5 October.

2. We are also starting the proceedings which could turn into a judicial review and this is where our fundraising ask comes from. We do not want a day at the High Court and we do not seek a confrontation with the council. We want the council to listen to residents, read our petition (above) and consider our demands to work with the whole community to find solutions that work for us all. However, the new administration has given many indications – (its manifesto, the rushed proposals, the flawed consultation) – that it intends to “reopen the roads” regardless.

Our main aim is still to engage the mayor, cabinet and councillors, but we are very worried that they will continue to rush these changes through whatever local residents want. In case that happens we are preparing to legally challenge the process the council is using to decide the fate of our streets. We believe that the council has breached statutory guidance, undertaken an unlawful consultation and has failed to consult on alternatives, giving us three potential grounds for challenge. 

In the event that we are left with any unused funds they will be redistributed as per CrowdJustice terms and conditions.

Thank you for considering our cause,

Save Our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets Coalition

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Update 4

Save Our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets Coalition

Oct. 17, 2022

Campaign secures delay to decision but we're still awaiting detail on next steps

We at Save Our Safer Streets have been campaigning hard to stop Tower Hamlets Council from “reopening the roads”. Most recently, our petition asking the council to slow down and listen to community voices, experts, and data reached a record-breaking 3094 signatures. This success triggered a debate at a council meeting where our petitioners presented the case for keeping and improving the new street layouts. However, we are still waiting for more information from the council about its ongoing decision process. We don’t yet know their plans, but we do know that their timetable leading up to a decision has slowed down.

When the council does make a decision, our legal team will be ready to respond. If we are advised that a judicial review is the right next step, we will need to keep crowd-funding to meet the increased legal costs, and we’ll be relying on your support. We’ve been blown away by how the community has come together to get us this far, so we know we can count on you.

We will share further details as soon as we know more. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about what the campaign has been up to recently, check out our website and follow us on social media. You can find us on Twitter at @SaveOldBGR and on Instagram at  @sossbethnalgreen.

Thank you again for your continued support and generosity.


Save Our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets

Update 3

Save Our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets Coalition

Sept. 29, 2022

Response to Mayor Rahman’s statement about the future of Liveable Streets

First, we want to thank you for your continued support and interest in this campaign. Thanks to over 200 donors, we have raised £17,000 in just under a month. 

We also wanted to let you know that yesterday, on 28 September, Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman made a statement about the future of Liveable Streets. We were pleased to hear some positive new information, such as a commitment to ‘grasp all the issues affecting our residents on both sides of the debate’. However, we were disappointed to hear him repeat many unproven claims about the impacts of the new street layouts. It’s frustrating that he didn’t share the results of the recent consultation either, six weeks after it finished, or give any detail about the ongoing timetable.

Our petition, signed by over 3,000 locals, asked him to take the time to listen. He says that he will, and we hope this means he will truly take all views on board. 

On 5 October, we will present our petition before a council debate. We will be asking the council to publish evidence about the impact of street layout changes and release the results of the consultation. We are calling on them to allow time for a thorough process that looks at any specific issues that need to be addressed, with specific solutions, before reaching any decision.

You can read our statement in full on our website.

We will update this page again when we know about the next steps in our legal challenge, in light of what the council does next.


Save Our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets Coalition

Update 2

Save Our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets Coalition

Sept. 15, 2022

We’ve hit £15k, but we can’t stop there!

We are blown away by the support our community has shown us in the past two weeks, and we want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has donated so far. 

It is a huge relief to have met our initial target in such a short time as it means that our preliminary legal costs are covered as well as the claimant’s personal exposure to Tower Hamlets Council and court costs. 

However, we can’t give up just yet! Your donations are still needed to cover our ongoing costs to prepare our claim for Judicial Review. We will know more details about our push on to £35,000 later this month when the council makes its decision on “reopening the roads”.

Check back here for updates on the campaign as we proceed, and don’t forget to keep sharing the word on social media - you can find us on Twitter at @SaveOldBGR and Instagram at @sossbethnalgreen.

Thank you, and let's keep going!


Save Our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets Coalition

Update 1

Save Our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets Coalition

Sept. 5, 2022

Save Our Safer Streets crowdfunder smashes 10k on first day!

This is such an encouraging step forward for community, safety, active travel and the environment. 


We've had a fantastic start, but we need to keep pushing. Tower Hamlets Council will make a decision on 28 September and already have "reopening the roads" in their plans for October.


Massive thanks to all who have already helped us reach almost £11k. That's 70% of our initial target secured by the end of the first day our CrowdJustice appeal went public. This shows how strongly people feel about our safer, healthier, friendlier streets and the need for due process when deciding their future. 


Now we need to keep working towards £15k and beyond. We still hope a legal process won't be needed and that Tower Hamlets Council will talk to us about possible improvements to the street layouts instead of bulldozing them. But if they won't, our legal challenge will be ready. 


We don't want to see such vital steps towards tackling the climate crisis rolled back, and we want other boroughs to see that local communities will fight for this progress. If, like us, you care about tackling pollution in our cities, keeping our streets safe for children and older people, and due process in local government, please help us to spread the word.

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