The High Court has in SM (A Child) & Anor v London Borough of Hackney  EWHC 3294 (Admin) dismissed a statutory appeal, brought by two children with disabilities, which challenged the validity of two experimental traffic orders made by Hackney.
The effect of the orders was to introduce a "low traffic neighbourhood" and a "school street" in the vicinity of the children's school. The measures, introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, were intended to improve safety by reducing rat-running on residential streets, reduce air pollution and support healthier travel and improved accessibility.
The children, whose disabilities were such that they needed to be taken to school by car, complained that they were adversely affected by the measures by reason of increased car journey times to and from their school, which meant that they become anxious, restless, difficult and challenging in various ways. The children challenged the validity of the Orders on the basis that Hackney failed to discharge the public sector equality duty pursuant to s.149 of the Equality Act 2010, failed to consult and that the orders were in breach of article 8 or article 14 (read with article 8) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Mr Justice Kerr dismissed the claim. He found that:
(a) Hackney had adequately performed its s.149 duty despite having not, at the initial stage of the experiment, drilled down to consider the specific impact on a particular sub-cohort of disabled children who could be adversely affected by increased journey times. The judge stated that "[t]he impact on those with protected characteristics including disability was considered carefully and there was to be ongoing monitoring and assessment."
(b) Hackney had properly discharged its consultation obligations; and
(c) So far as the Article 8/Article 14 challenge was concerned, although there was some interference with the rights concerned, the orders themselves were justified, having regard to the fact that the measures affected indirectly a small sub-group of disabled children suffering from a particular kind of disability and were introduced on an experimental basis, subject to ongoing monitoring and review and there was an objection process and a right of challenge. Furthermore, they were consistent with national and regional guidance and carried public interest benefits through improvements in safety and air pollution.
Kelvin Rutledge QC and Jack Parker acted on behalf of Hackney LB, instructed by Jo Sterakides