The Town Hall has come under fire after residents were “shouted down” by a councillor at a meeting about controversial road closure plans on Monday night.
The council says the proposals, which include two options for road closures, will ease traffic and encourage walking and cycling.
A map of the consultation area includes a section of Shacklewell ward.
But residents from Shacklewell, some of whom received paper invites to the forum, claim they were “censored” by chair Cllr Susan Fajana-Thomas after being asked where they live.
A council spokesperson told the Citizen that the forum was for people who live in Stoke Newington and Clissold, and said Shacklewell councillors have “offered to meet with residents separately if they have any concerns”.
The council did not comment on the behaviour of Cllr Fajana-Thomas, which was described by one attendee as “upsetting” and left many “speechless”.
One Shacklewell resident, who did not wish to be named but was involved in opposing the Wordsworth Road closures made permanent by the council last year, said of the forum: “The whole thing was shambolic. Two people from Shacklewell who support the council’s plans were allowed to speak.
“One of them was instrumental in getting the Wordsworth closures through, and was sitting at the front at the forum.
“It felt like there was an element of coordination, and the fact that other Shacklewell residents were shut down smacks of censorship.”
William Harris, who also lives in Shacklewell, said: “People wanted to ask valid questions about the impact these plans will have on Princess May primary school and the Crossway.
“There have also been reports that crime has increased on roads that have been closed to cars, so that’s another concern.
“But showing people a map that covers their area and then not letting them talk – that’s incredibly disappointing.”
Harris said the council’s plan “will just push the traffic troubles caused by the original Wordsworth Road closures into another area”.
He urged Town Hall bosses to look at other options such as segregated cycle lanes and “calming measures that do not use a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.
He also suggested they clamp down on households with two or more cars.
Another resident, who wishes to remain anonymous and is opposing both options, added: “The conduct of the meeting chair, Cllr Fajana-Thomas, left many attendees speechless.
“This chaos prevented the council from facing proper scrutiny of a consultation that lacks legitimacy and road closures with minimal benefits.”
Jenna Fansa of local network StokeyParents, who also attended the forum, said: “Here was a real opportunity for the council to engage with its community in a sincere and democratic way – it was upsetting to say the least to see residents denied the right to speak, given the council officers in the room could so easily have answered their questions.”
A Hackney Council spokesperson said: “The ward forum was an opportunity for the residents of Stoke Newington and Clissold wards to engage with their elected members.
“Shacklewell councillors opted for a member to be available at the end of the meeting and they have offered to meet with residents separately if they have any concerns that they would like their ward councillors to raise about the options.
“Throughout the consultation we have been answering questions and updating the FAQs on the website – if any residents have questions that were not addressed at the ward forum they should email firstname.lastname@example.org.”
They added that officers from the council’s Streetscene and Pollution teams met teachers and parents at William Patten School this week to go through the proposals in more detail.
Town Hall transport chief Cllr Feryal Demirci has defended the traffic plans, saying: “The council is committed to making Hackney’s roads safer for everyone living, working and visiting the borough.
“We want to reclaim Hackney’s streets from motor traffic congestion and transform them into the most attractive and liveable neighbourhoods in London.”
She added: “Over the past ten years we have overseen a significant reduction in car ownership in the borough, made sure all new developments are car free, implemented emissions based charging for parking permits and brought in a diesel surcharge to discourage residents from owning the most polluting vehicles.
“We have called for the ultra low emission zone to be extended and would support a total ban on diesel vehicles.
“We have to enable more walking and cycling and reduce local emissions – removing through traffic from residential streets is a tried and tested way of doing that, so we’ve closed over 100 roads to through traffic in Hackney with the support of local residents.”
The Walford Road area consultation closes on 26 January.
To find out more about the plans, and to have your say, please visit the council’s website here