london fields cycleway

Vicious cycle: plans to run a cycleway through London Fields proved divisive. Photograph: Pascale Hughes

Divisive plans to close the roads around London Fields to through-traffic look set to be abandoned by Hackney Council following huge opposition from residents.

Ivor Benjamin, a resident who fought against the road closures, said: “This was an unnecessary battle.

“The council would not have needed to spend thousands of council taxpayers’ pounds on this had it properly consulted the neighbourhood.”

Council transport chiefs had planned to trial three-months of road closures from January this year.

They proposed to block off 13 roads to through-traffic to create a cycling ‘quietway’ through London Fields and down Middleton Road.

However a row broke out amongst local residents, amidst claims that blocking the roads would force traffic and pollution to pile up elsewhere.

Some were furious that the council had decided to trial the scheme without running a consultation first.

Others argued the changes would encourage cycling and benefit the whole neighbourhood.

Hackney Council eventually bowed to pressure, scrapping the live trial in December and replacing it with a full consultation. The results of the consultation were analysed by an independent research company and have now been published.

The council is now looking to dump its road closure plans and instead simply narrow Middleton Road on an “experimental basis”.

london-fields-traffic filtering option one

Backpedalling: the council called off the traffic scheme trial after receiving widespread criticism. Image: Hackney Council

The council’s consultation proposed a range of options to deal with levels of through-traffic in the London Fields area.

It was designed to distinguish between responses from residents living within the catchment area and those from elsewhere.

Option 1, which included the 13 road closures, was the scheme the council sought to trial in January.

Of all responders, 48 per cent supported Option 1 and 49 per cent said they did not.

However the report revealed a huge level of opposition to the proposed closures from “residents who would be most affected by the scheme”.

Only 30 per cent of respondents who live locally supported Option 1, while 67 per cent did not.

Option 1 was more popular among people from outside the catchment area, with 79 per cent supporting the road closures, and 20 per cent saying they did not.

Based on the findings of the report, council officers will recommend that the council shelve plans to close the 13 roads to through-traffic (Option 1).

They will instead come out in favour of narrowing Middleton Road, which would prevent larger vehicles from using it (Option 4).

This option was the second-most favoured overall, with 36 per cent support. However it received high support from residents living within the catchment area, with 47 per cent supporting it and 34 per cent saying they did not.

“Significantly more responses from within the catchment area support Option 4 rather than oppose it,” the report found.

‘Perverse’ decision

Brenda Puech of Fume Free Streets, a group which supported the road closures, said: “A decision to go for Option 4 would be a perverse one by the council given that Option 1 had the highest level of overall support (48 per cent) compared to only 36 per cent for Option 4.

“Option 4 will not deal with motor traffic levels, speeds and pollution, and will do little to make the neighbourhood better for cycling and walking.

“We note that 83 per cent of all respondents were Hackney residents and a further 5 per cent Hackney businesses or workers – but whose views did not seem to count if they did not actually live in the area.”

Cllr Feryal Demirci, the council’s cabinet member for neighbourhoods and sustainability, said: “We have had a full and informed conversation about traffic management in the London Fields area with local residents as well as people from across Hackney.

“We have listened to and answered questions from residents throughout the discussion.

“Residents have told us the option that they would prefer that we test out, so I will be taking a report to cabinet recommending that this option is taken forward.”

Hackney Council’s cabinet will discuss the report on 18 July and decide which option to trial.

You can find the London Fields Quietway report here.

This article was amended at 6:22pm on Tuesday 31 May and at 11:07 on Wednesday 1 June. It previously stated that Option 1 was the “most popular choice overall”. Option 1 was supported by 48 per cent of respondents, a higher percentage of support than that for the other options. However, of all respondents 49 per cent said they did not support it. It also previously stated that the report had recommended that the council shelve the Option 1 road closure plans. However, it is Hackney Council officers who will make that recommendation to the cabinet, based on the report’s findings.

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