High Court judgment means Camden is likely illegally discriminating against the elderly and disabled in Bloomsbury. But Camden have ignored the ruling, and now further legal action is being pursued against them.
UTAG (United Trade Action Group) acting on behalf of London Cabbies have begun legal proceedings against Camden Council, for failing to revoke changes made in the West End Project that were recently ruled illegal by the High Court, partly due to discrimination against the elderly and disabled.
The pre-action protocol letter, seen by SB, warns traffic chief Adam Harrison of the legitimate expectation that Black Cabs should be treated as public transport rather than general traffic on Tottenham Court Road, following a high profile ruling made against TfL. Cabbies are currently excluded from usual access to bus lanes along the road, in an attempt to reduce traffic and pollution.
Mrs Justice Lang recently ruled that decisions made by TfL and London Boroughs to exclude London Cabbies as a mode of normal ‘traffic’ rather than public transport were irrational, and illegally discriminated against the elderly and disabled.
While the West End Project was not directly implicated in the ruling, the precedent set by that court case gives rise to a ‘legitimate expectation’ that similar changes made by the West End Project are also illegal and discriminatory, and therefore should be reversed immediately.
It means that Cllr Harrison is likely in breach of the Public Sectors Equalities Duty and is expected by law to address those problems as soon as practicable.
Cllr Harrison has until Thursday 18th March to respond.
Why Does This Matter?
Many of Bloomsbury’s communities celebrated changes made by Camden Council to reduce traffic and increase walking and cycling as modes of transport. But the changes proved to be highly divisive, with many branding the changes undemocratic and discriminatory.
One of the main points of contention is that those who rely on motor vehicles as their only form of transport are finding journeys incredibly lengthy or even impossible to make. These include those who are disabled, elderly, and visually impaired.
London Cabbies are the only safe mode of public transport for those who do rely on motor vehicles to get around. Despite being legally regarded as a form of public transport, Camden and TfL recently broke with precedent and policy by deciding to treat taxis as normal traffic, excluding them from the rights usually granted to public transport, including driving in bus lanes.
It meant that those with mobility problems or other health conditions were unable to make hospital appointments or carry out other essential activities, and those that could had their own carbon footprint increased substantially by longer journey times.
But the High Court ruled that the decision to exclude cabbies from public transport was irrational and illegally discriminated against the elderly and disabled, and that London Cabbies are indeed to be treated as a form of public transport.
It means that Camden’s changes have discriminated against the disabled living in Bloomsbury and steps must be taken to address that discrimination as soon as possible.
SB Opinion: ‘Inclusive’ Just a Buzzword in Camden
Wider allegations of illegal and discriminatory changes against Camden Council have been made over the years, particularly relating to traffic, housing, and planning matters.
Whether or not communities support the changes made by the West End Project, almost all agree that some form of action must be taken to hold Camden accountable to the rule of law.
That people who have lived in Bloomsbury for decades should suddenly be restricted in their daily activities due to their age, disabilities or health conditions is completely unacceptable, and every effort should have been taken to address those problems immediately.
That Camden has refused to address these issues when the High Court found they were illegally discriminating against the elderly and disabled proves their complete lack of regard for protected groups throughout Bloomsbury and Camden.
If Camden is to continue to claim a reputation as a progressive and all-inclusive borough it needs to crack down on its systemic problems of discrimination. ‘Inclusivity’ means nothing when in practice those who are ‘included’ in decision-making and changes are picked and chosen out of a hat.
Angela Clarkson of the United Trade Action Group said:
“We are extremely disappointed Camden did not reconsider their continued exclusion of taxis using the full length of Tottenham Court Road. This exclusion forces our passengers down side streets and to take extended routes which now require us to cross Tottenham Court Road more than once.
“We wrote to Adam Harrison on 26 February and had hoped going forward there would be a genuine commitment to engage and honour both the policy and legal status of licensed taxis and their legitimate expectations without having to resort to further costly litigation.
“In view of the Streetspace judgement handed down by Mrs Justice Lang DBE we invited Adam Harrison to rectify Camden’s exemption so licensed taxis (hackney carriages) are permitted to travel through Tottenham Court Road where Camden have now permitted buses but continue to restrict licensed taxis.
“In the course of her long and careful judgment Mrs Justice Lang has vindicated all the concerns raised by the taxi trade, both on their own account and on account of the disabled, the elderly and all other people prejudiced by restrictions on taxis throughout the capital. The taxi trade secured a seminal judgment which should have guided the approach to be taken by local authorities to all future road schemes both in London and elsewhere in the country.
“Camden did not respond to our first letter and appear to have totally disregarded Mrs Justice Lang’s findings. This is not acceptable and surprising considering the original support for the inclusion of taxis by resident groups and the vital importance of this arterial route to University College Hospital and 5 mainline stations. We therefore issued a Pre-Action Protocol letter and Camden have until 18 March 2021 to reply.“
A Camden Council spokesperson said:
“The Council has received a pre-action protocol letter in relation to the recent traffic changes on Tottenham Court Road and nearby streets.
“The letter is receiving consideration. The Council cannot comment further as this matter is subject to legal process.”