High Court reserves judgment in challenge to road closures in Hackney

The High Court last week heard a challenge brought by a community interest group in Hackney – Horrendous Hackney Road Closures (HHRC) – to Hackney Borough Council's Emergency Transport Plan (ETP), produced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ETP, the impact of which the Council has stated will be "wide ranging and transformational", was adopted on 29 September 2020.

Dove J heard, in a one-and-a-half day hearing, that HHRC challenges the legality of the policy contained within the ETP for the creation of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) designed to close off certain areas of Hackney to through-traffic. HHRC's complaint, in summary, is that the Council have failed to adequately consider the negative, as well as the positive impacts of LTNs, and in particular the impact of displacement of traffic from LTNs onto already-congested main arteries (both those managed by the Council and those managed by Transport for London) in terms of traffic movement, air quality and equalities impacts.

While the ETP sets out the Council's overarching policy in relation to LTNs, individual LTNs themselves are introduced by Experimental Traffic Orders, a number of which are already in place in Hackney. The introduction of individual ETOs can be challenged by way of statutory review under Schedule 9 to the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, within a six-week time period. HHRC's case is that this method of challenge cannot, however, function to effectively review the strategic policy set by the Council in the ETP in relation to LTNs.

Permission had previously been refused on the papers, and again at a subsequent renewal hearing on 12 February 2021 by Kerr J, primarily on the basis that in the judge's view a suitable alternative remedy was available by way of statutory review of individual ETOs, and that HHRC had not brought its judicial review claim with sufficient promptness (although it had been brought within the three-month time limit).

On HHRC's application for permission to appeal, the Court of Appeal overturned the decision of Kerr J to refuse permission. Bean LJ decided that Grounds 1-4 concerning traffic management, equalities, consultation and air quality respectively should proceed to a substantive hearing.

Judgment is awaited.

Daniel Stedman Jones and Tom van der Klugt act for HHRC.