Public consultation took place between 15th May and 25th June following a period of ‘pre-engagement’ with key local stakeholders including local Ward Councillors and Residents Associations.
The consultation received a massive amount of feedback, over 1400 responses following promotion via local leaflet drop, in-person and online Q&A sessions, lamp column wraps along the route and social media & e-newsletter engagement. How much of the feedback has actually been from the most affected group - the local residents - is not yet known.
But the local response would have no doubt been higher had the area of leaflet dropping not been cut to 50 metres back on streets from the proposed cycleway route. The last time this area was consulted for a cycle lane it went 100 metres back and considering how badly the mews areas off George Street will be affected by this, it is surprising that not all the homes there were leafleted.
Also, it is always difficult to ensure leafleting in large residential blocks is effective and gets to the right people. There are many such blocks around George Street, and those in them will all lose access to parking and loading/unloading. But how many of the residents there will even now be aware of these proposals?
Further, George Street is regularly used for bus diversions from Oxford Street whenever it is closed for some reason or other. Indeed there will soon be extensive closures and diversions during the forthcoming Oxford Street work which will no doubt last for at least a couple of years. The introduction of segregated lanes at this particular point then could turn out to be unfortunate in its timing.
The street itself also appears to be subject to near-constant road works - utility works and bus diversions. These two factors will make the narrowing of lanes problematic, leading one to ask - is this really worth it?
All things considered, the disruption appears disproportionate to the need. Other cycle routes are available nearby - and other options have been proposed. We can only hope that the council's claims that they will act in the interest of residents will be honoured - but will it?
There certainly is some local concern that if TfL wants this, and is prepared to fund it, then it will go ahead anyway. It might, for instance, be justified on overall response numbers alone. This is worrying as it is expected that many responses will have been received from members of lobby groups with an ideological agenda and they could drown out the voices of those who live in the area and who will be most affected by the scheme.
Worries on this score were not alleviated by the cabinet member in charge of this, Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg, recently telling a full council meeting that “we will give equal weight to all representations from wherever they have come.”
On being asked if priority will be given to the views of local residents- he said WCC did not indicate they would be giving preference to any particular respondent. They will be “giving weight to all residents, workers and businesses who have made their views known... to the issues that have been raised by residents.” He went on to say that issues raised by residents will be treated “very carefully indeed” and concerns will be given “very high/strong consideration.” He however refused to say that they would be given priority.
At the last consultation on a cycle lane in George Street the residents’ views were given priority- which is why it didn’t happen.
The Marylebone Association
6 Wimpole Street