Cycling UK takes council to court over “unlawful” decision to keep rat-run open
Cycling UK takes council to court over “unlawful” decision to keep rat-run open
- Cycling UK takes Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council to court after its refusal to reconsider decision to keep Keyhole Bridge open to motor vehicles
- The charity says council decision unlawful, as failed to comply with statutory guidance issued to highway authorities
- Locals welcome the move to challenge unpopular council decision to keep Keyhole Bridge open as rat-run
National charity Cycling UK has issued court proceedings against Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council after it refused to reconsider its controversial decision to keep the Keyhole Bridge underpass in Poole open to motorised traffic.
The narrow single-lane road under Keyhole Bridge in Poole Park is a notorious rat-run and was closed to motor vehicles under an experimental traffic restriction order (ETRO) in 2020 to provide safer walking and cycling facilities during the pandemic. Local residents benefited greatly from quieter streets and were dismayed when it was later re-opened to motor traffic.
Local resident Paul Bradley, who regularly cycles through Keyhole Bridge with his young son on the back of his bike, said:
“With Keyhole Bridge closed, our community and our streets felt like a safer place, and children were able to cycle or walk to school. The decision to keep it open was ridiculous when people living in the area were so overwhelmingly against it, and all the evidence supported public opinion. I’m glad it’s now being challenged, it’s just a shame it has to go this far to give people what they want and need.”
This is the second judicial review the council has faced over Keyhole Bridge, with the first, brought by local campaigners the Keyhole Bridge Group, ruling there were errors in the consultation process and ordering the council to carry out a second consultation.
In the latest judicial review, Cycling UK argues that the council has failed to have appropriate regard for statutory guidance issued to highway authorities, like BCP, under the Network Management Act 2004.
The council has ignored the guidance all councils are required to follow, despite having already lost one judicial review on Keyhole Bridge, costing it a great deal of time, money and credibility
Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at Cycling UK
BCP Council made the decision to keep the rat-run open on 14 December 2022, despite a second public consultation showing the majority of local residents supported the permanent closure of the underpass and an expert report demonstrating the huge long-term positive financial benefits of closing Keyhole Bridge to motor traffic.
Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at Cycling UK, said:
“Cycling UK gave BCP Council the chance to avoid an expensive court case, but it has failed to answer the questions we and local residents have raised, and hasn’t been able to explain or show how it took account of the statutory guidance.
“The council has ignored the guidance all councils are required to follow, despite having already lost one judicial review on Keyhole Bridge, costing it a great deal of time, money and credibility.”
BCP Council’s decision to reopen the bridge in March 2021 was based on its assessment that the closure would create delays of around three minutes at peak times, resulting in an economic cost of £220,000 per year.
That assessment, however, is based on assumptions from a short-term closure of another part of the park in 2016. A report commissioned by the Keyhole Bridge Group and authored by independent experts KMC Transport Planning in April concluded that the decision to reopen was based on flawed analysis which ignored the health benefits of cycling and walking in its own economic assessment.
The revised economic analysis by KMC demonstrated a positive financial impact of £8.5m (£425,000 per year) over a 20-year period from closing the bridge to motor traffic.
“As this research shows, creating more opportunities for people to cycle and walk can and will pay dividends for the local economy,” continued Mr Dollimore. “The only thing stopping this from happening are councils which persist in dwelling in the past, rely on sentiment rather than evidence in how they make their decisions, and appear determined to ignore government guidance.”
Leigh Day solicitor Rowan Smith said:
“Statutory guidance says that schemes such as the closure of Keyhole Bridge to motor vehicles should be retained unless there is substantial evidence to the contrary. However the council decision documents show that BCP Council has misunderstood this point.
“Cycling UK will argue that the statutory guidance was unlawfully interpreted when councillors made their decision. We are confident that the court will agree and allow Cycling UK’s claim for judicial review.”
Cycling UK’s Cyclists’ Defence Fund supports significant legal cases involving cyclists and cycling, especially those which might set an important precedent. The charity is now looking to raise further funding to support its legal challenge against BCP.
The Cyclists’ Defence Fund relies entirely on donations. To support its work, donate at: www.cyclinguk.org/cdf.
For more information, please contact the national Cycling UK press office www.cyclinguk.org/contact/press-and-media. If you would like to speak to a member of the press office during working hours (0900-1700) please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Out of hours, call 07584 271 300
- Cycling UK, the UK’s cycling charity, imagines a world where the streets are free of congestion and the air is clean to breathe, where parents encourage their children to cycle to school and everyone shares the exhilaration of being in the saddle. For more than 140 years, we’ve been making our streets safer, opening up new traffic free routes and inspiring more people to cycle more often. www.cyclinguk.org
- Cycling UK’s Cyclists’ Defence Fund supports significant legal cases involving cyclists and cycling, especially those which might set an important precedent. The charity welcomes local groups to get in touch regarding cases in their area that warrant legal backing and where decisions may end up having national significance. More info: https://www.cyclinguk.org/campaign/cyclists-defence-fund
- The report by KMC Transport Planning showed the decision to reopen Keyhole Bridge was based on flawed analysis: https://www.cyclinguk.org/press-release/council-ignored-own-policies-reopening-keyhole-bridge-traffic
- Transport Technical Report authored by KMC Transport Planning, commissioned by the Keyhole Bridge Group: https://democracy.bcpcouncil.gov.uk/documents/s38103/Appendix%206%20Economic%20Assessment%20by%20KMC%20on%20Behalf%20of%20Keyhole%20Bridge%20Group.pdf
- August 2020: closure of Keyhole Bridge was implemented. BCP Council announced a consultation period would run until 21 February 2021.
- January 2021: consultation ends a month early.
- March 2021: underpass reopened to traffic, despite original consultation showing 60% of those responding in favour of prioritising Whitecliff Road at Keyhole Bridge for cycling and walking and keeping close to motor traffic.
- November 2021: second consultation period was ordered after BCP Council lost a judicial review, brought by Keyhole Bridge Group and supported by Cycling UK’s Cyclists’ Defence Fund, on the grounds that there were errors in the consultation process, and it was a breach of procedural legitimate expectation. The second consultation, ordered to remedy the unfairness of the first, showed 71% of those sending through written representations in favour of closing Keyhole Bridge permanently, as opposed to 29% who wanted it to remain open to motor traffic. In addition, 65% of those responding to a separate questionnaire were in favour of closing it.
- BCP Council voted to keep Keyhole Bridge open in a meeting held Wednesday 14 December 2022.
- Cycling UK wrote a Pre-Action Protocol (PAP) to BCP Council on 31 January 2023, demanding a full response, which the council had to provide within 14 days.