Kensington and Chelsea council fails to provide basic information on those it says opposed plan
Peter WalkerSun 30 Jun 2019 13.49 BST
One of the UK’s wealthiest councils is facing renewed pressure over its decision to block a flagship safer cycling scheme after it emerged the authority could not say what proportion of the people who wrote in expressing views on the plan actually opposed it.
Kensington and Chelsea council, which announced its veto of the plan before a formal consultation had ended, was also unable to say how it knew the people who contacted them about the scheme actually lived in the borough.
The authority had said it was blocking the scheme because an overwhelming majority of residents opposed the idea. But the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) said the lack of basic information about what people actually said made this argument “beyond flimsy”.
The council has faced vehement criticism for its decision to pull out of the process, with the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, saying it had “made a total mockery of the consultation”.
In a letter to the council’s leader, Khan wrote: “I would like to know how many more of your residents need to be maimed or killed by motor vehicles before you accept that this is a serious problem that needs solving.”
The leader, Elizabeth Campbell, replied to Khan saying she was confident residents had opposed the proposed bike route. She said about 1,000 emails and letters had been sent to the council, and 6,500 people signed a petition opposing the removal of trees as part of the scheme.
But when asked, the council was unable to tell the Guardian how many of the 1,000 people in fact supported the scheme, or whether all those who wrote in were automatically counted as opponents without checking.
A spokesman was also unable to say what proportion of those who wrote in or signed the petition lived in the area, and what, if any, efforts had been made to ensure the correspondence received was representative of wider feeling in the borough.
Transport for London (TfL), which wants to build the route, will publish the results of a formal consultation in the coming weeks that has received more than 5,000 responses.
Simon Munk, an infrastructure campaigner with the LCC, said the council’s steadfast view on supposed opinion in the borough was “bizarre”.
He said: “The idea ‘the vast majority’ of residents oppose this scheme is beyond flimsy.”
It appeared, he said, that a “noisy, but relatively small minority have been allowed to derail a vital and valuable scheme and encouraged the borough to undermine a formal consultation process”.
There was further controversy around the objections process after one person who attended a public meeting claiming to oppose the cycling plan on behalf of the family of a young woman killed on her bike in the borough was actually a distant non-blood relative and did not have any contact with, or support from, the family.
A spokesman for the council said: “We are 100% certain that our position reflects the views of local residents. We will, of course, consider the wider picture when TfL present the results later in the year.”