'Stop scheme to erect traffic barriers' call to Tower Hamlets Council

Protesters in Roman Road signing a petition

Protesters in Roman Road in the summer signing a petition against the council's street barrier scheme - Credit: Mike Brooke

The controversial programme of street closures under way across the East End is being challenged at Tower Hamlets Council tonight (Jan 20) as “racist discrimination” that’s dividing communities. 

Barriers have been erected during the lockdown aimed at banishing traffic permanently from parts of Shoreditch around Arnold Circus, from Bethnal Green by Columbia Road flower market and from Bow around Roman Road Market.   

how Tower Hamlets Council envisages the Roman Road 

No cars... how Tower Hamlets Council envisages the Roman Road - Credit: LBTH

The £15million scheme sparked huge protests last summer and in 2019. Now campaigners want the work stopped and an independent inquiry into the allegations of discrimination. 

It comes to a head at the council meeting with a scathing report accusing consultants of discriminating against ethnic families and car owners in favour of a cycling lobby pressing for street closures. 

Cllr Puru Miah's report claims Liveable Streets consultation discriminates against poor families

Cllr Puru Miah's report claims Liveable Streets consultation discriminates against poor families - Credit: LBTH (inset) and Mike Brooke

The report is tabled by Labour’s Cllr Puru Miah who says he has been swamped with complaints from his Mile End constituency backed by an online petition with more than 2,200 signatures. 

“The consultation was a violation of civil rights,” Cllr Miah told the East London Advertiser. “My report finds households with legally-protected characteristics of race, faith, disability and economic inequalities were discriminated against, that consultants broke their contract and the council breached its public sector equalities duty.” 

The allegations are also set out  in the petition on the council’s website . The petition calls for a stop to the scheme.  

The council aims to improve the look and feel of public spaces, making it “easier, safer and more convenient” to get around by foot, bike and public transport.  

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But critics say the scheme is soaking up public funds when the town hall is locked in austerity with cuts to front-line services, like special needs education which has brought protests by hundreds of parents in a separate spat with the council. 

The scheme aims to reduce the 33,000 daily vehicle journeys in neighbourhoods, many of them through traffic, but the mayor recognises that “not everyone will agree with all the options”. Those disagreeing include families around historic Arnold Circus where protesters halted the bulldozers that turned up in October, even before public consultations had ended. 

Petitioners to stop the barriers... a handful of signatures for the scheme on the left while on the right overwhelming...

Petitioners to stop the barriers... Linda Wilkinson (left) holds a handful of signatures for the scheme while campaigner Carol Budd holds up overwhelming votes against - Credit: Mike Brooke

One of the founder members of Bethnal Green's Streets for All campaign is Amnesty International UK’s former head Linda Wilkinson, who launched a Facebook page with 4,000 followers against the Liveable Streets programme and also organised her own neighbourhood petition that overwhelmingly railed against the barriers.