Jewish groups have described trial street closures in the London Borough of Hackney as “a recipe for chaos” and called for a public meeting with the mayor, Philip Glanville — likely to take place in e next weeks.
The new road closures affect around 30 roads in Stamford Hill during school hours, and have caused uproar within the strictly Orthodox community.
Last week members of the local Jewish Community Council (JCC), held a meeting with Hackney Council’s Andy Cunningham, to complain that there had been no prior consultation about the closures.
Councillor Jon Burke, Hackney Council cabinet member for Energy, Waste, Transport and Public Realm, said: “Our measures to rebuild a greener Hackney are aimed at creating quieter, safer neighbourhoods for everyone, and supporting people to walk and cycle as public transport capacity remains low”.
He said that the current measures were directed at “School Streets”, and the closures, on roads at the beginning and end of the school day, were intended “to help children walk and cycle to school and promote social distancing”.
Mr Burke said meetings had already been held with the JCC and Stamford Hill group Interlink. “Officers will be continuing discussions with them to follow up and try to resolve a number of issues that were raised”, he said.
Residents would be able to have their say on measures as they were implemented, Councillor Burke said, “which will then be taken into account before a decision is made on whether or not to make them permanent. This is in line with guidance from the Department fro Transport issued in May. This guidance is intended to prevent a car-led recovery from the covid crisis through a range of measures that encourage short journeys to be switched to walking and cycling, prioritising space on roads for journeys that cannot be switched.”
Hackney Council say the policy is a trial set of closures scheduled to run for 18 months, and the council will take feedback throughout the process.
A JCC statement says the policy is “bad for local traffic and will increase pollution on side streets”, and claims that unnamed traffic experts have described it as “a recipe for disaster”. The council says that the idea is to stop increased traffic near schools at drop-off and pick-up times, in order to minimise crowds during the pandemic.
Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl has also urged reconsideration of Hackney’s plans. She said that though she was sympathetic to some of the aims of the scheme, “such as creating safer streets for local schoolchildren and improving the air quality of the local area”, she believed there would be more likely “negative impacts on equality for older and disabled residents, access for Hatzola emergency vehicles, school transport for local residents and access to places of worship for elderly and disabled members of the community, among other issues”.
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