Plans for a car-free capital are both timely and welcome

Friday, 29th May 2020

Camden Road

The new layout, with wider pavements, in Camden Road

THERE is nothing like a crisis to allow the governing class to introduce sweeping reforms without too much public reaction.

It appears the Covid-19 crisis has inspired Transport for London to unveil its plan for a car-free capital at last.

Under the guise of the need for “social distancing” TfL said it needed to widen pavements. A widening scheme, normally, would hardly ruffle feathers.

And in the repressed lockdown atmosphere it has proved possible to controversially tackle such red routes as Camden Road in Camden Town, reducing it, as one point, from two lanes to one.

Who can doubt the capital of the future needs to be largely car free? Cyclists will probably congratulate TfL. Planners, too, will be happy.

But traffic jams are bound to pile up as a result of what may turn out to be too hasty a move by the TfL.

Scrap the levy

THE night-time levy has for many years been a big bone of contention for Camden Town’s pubs and bars.

The charge – introduced in 2014 for venues open after midnight – came on top of business rates and Business Improvement District fees.

It came at the peak of the austerity years, a time when cash-strapped councils were forced to find new ways to fund basic public services, like street cleaning and rubbish collection.

Pubs are facing a longer wait than most businesses to reopen again. Maintaining social distancing rules will mean expensive rearrangements for many establishments, which will be wondering if business will ever return to normal. Now, more than ever, they need help. It is time for the levy to be scrapped.

Mental health

WELCOME news that Michael Rosen has, after eight weeks, left the intensive care unit at the Whit­tington Hospital. His wife said he needed time to recover from the trauma of his brush with death.

The horrors of the critical care wards are already sending patients to seek help for PTSD. NHS chiefs are predicting that a “public mental health crisis” – mainly depression, anxiety and psychotic relapses – will follow easing of the lockdown.

The major challenge for the mental health service, and the NHS in general, is how to cope this surge in demand while social distancing measures apply. The cost of redesigning wards and PPE is prohibitive.

It is ushering in a “digital by default” era where only the most urgent appointments will happen in hospital, with most done online. While this may work for some, it may in the long term turn out to be a false economy, ironically leading to further isolation of the vulnerable and untreated mental health problems.

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