Inquiry into York bridge charges ‘to launch’

Lendal BridgeLendal Bridge
Lendal Bridge
AN INQUIRY into the way the controversial closure of York’s Lendal Bridge to cars was handled by the city’s council could be launched next week.

The move follows the recent shift in political power on the city which means the ruling Labour group is now outnumbered by opposition councillors who have also taken the chairmanships of most council committees.

The economic and city development scrutiny committee, now chaired by Liberal Democrat councillor Andrew Waller, will next week consider launching a new inquiry into the Lendal Bridge controversy.

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The council’s Labour leader, James Alexander, has called for a cross-party commission to look at ways of cutting congestion in the city.

York Council closed Lendal Bridge to private vehicles during the day on a trial basis and imposed fines on drivers who ignored the restrictions.

But the trial was brought to an end and drivers offered a refund after the legality of the restrictions was challenged.

Coun Waller, a former council leader who returned to the authority last month after winning a by-election in the Westfield ward, said: “I understand from members of the committee that previous attempts to have scrutiny were blocked.

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“Now the composition of the council has changed we can have a review of that and I am hoping that the committee will vote to enable that scrutiny to take place.

“I think any business that has had such a spectacular failure would have a review of the steps that were taken and the lessons that need to be learned for the future so that it isn’t repeated.”

A report which will be considered by the economic and city development scrutiny committee next week shows the council has so far received 7,783 applications for refunds and paid out £162,000.

Mr Alexander said: “I have previously said if scrutiny wishes to look at how the trial was carried out, then they are perfectly entitled to do so, but scrutiny previously rejected this. I have proposed an independently chaired cross- party congestion commission to look at this and other alternatives to deal with York’s traffic.

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“This has been delayed due to lack of support from Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to engage. They argue they wish to be involved in decision making, but when you do involve them they don’t want to take any responsibility.

“The closure was previously in Liberal Democrat travel plans and had been called for by the Conservatives before the last local elections.”