BY OWEN SHEPPARD
Local Democracy Correspondent
A street in Fulham that was closed to calm traffic has become a political “battleground” in the wake of a huge neighbourhood row.
Harwood Terrace, with its rows of Victorian homes, has been labelled Fulham’s last “rat run”, and until recently was visited by 400 vehicles per hour.
But on October 21, Hammersmith and Fulham council took the controversial decision to close 90 metres of the road for six months, as a trial run to monitor the effect on local traffic.
People who live in the street appear broadly in favour. They say the closure will end the many collisions and road rage incidents that have unfolded on their doorsteps for years.
By contrast, residents in surrounding roads are now campaigning for the trial to be abandoned.
They say a majority of people opposed the scheme when a consultation was held in February, and point to increased congestion in New King’s Road.
Rob McGibbon, a freelance writer, said: “The council just plonked down these concrete blocks and it’s caused complete chaos.
Imperial Road gets choked up and it follows on to Bagleys Lane. Every council would like to be able to cut off rat runs, but this has not been thought through properly.”
The 54-year-old added: “We want the council to reverse this totally. There’s more congestion and more pollution from idling engines. It’s ridiculous.”
Mr McGibbon contacted Chelsea and Fulham’s Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, Greg Hands, who on November 8 wrote on his campaign website saying the trial should be scrapped.
Mr Hands wrote: “I am already concerned that this will lead to further deterioration of the road network in Fulham, which is already under serious pressure due to the closure of Hammersmith Bridge.
“Will the council consider reducing the closure period or abandoning the proposal altogether?”
The council said the change was intended to make life “more bearable” for residents in Harwood Terrace, and it would monitor the situation.
On the opposing side of the fence, Harwood Terrace resident Charlie Cooper said: “I’ve lived here 14 years, and I’ve been knocked off my bike here and in New King’s Road.
“This road was very dangerous because it’s small, there’s little room so it becomes a game of chicken.”
The 38-year-old founder of an online bike shop said: “People here support the trial, and with a trial you need to give it time to see how people’s behaviour changes.”
Other Harwood Terrace residents also accused Mr Hands of taking sides with the majority in the midst of an election, while “refusing” to meet them.
Mr Hands has tweeted six times criticising the closure of Harwood Terrace, including with a photo of himself standing in the road.
Another neighbour, Alexandra Jarvis, said: “This has completely blown up.
“Greg spotted an opportunity to make this about him and the council.
Very simply, there’s only 100 people that live here, whereas there’s hundreds more in other streets who are against the closure.
“You can see why he’s doing this. It’s been very upsetting and quite devastating that our own MP wouldn’t come and meet us.”
Mr Cooper added: “Greg Hands was at the end of our road and he didn’t talk to anyone of us, or knock on our doors.”
Property surveyor Charles Walker, 54, led the calls for Harwood Terrace to be closed, and praised Labour councillor Wesley Harcourt for making it happen.
“About 15 months ago I contacted Wesley to talk about this. There was a consultation in February and there was 100 per cent support in this road.
Now it’s become a political battleground. But Greg Hands won’t answer any of our emails.”
A Hammersmith and Fulham council spokeswoman said: “Residents in Harwood Terrace asked us for help. They were fed-up with their small street being used as a rat run, with almost 400 cars an hour speeding past.
“In addition, a number of local cyclists have been knocked down where Edith Row and Waterford Road join King’s Road.
“This is unacceptable. Our new trial scheme aims to make life more bearable for local residents and cyclists.
We will continue to monitor the results and make a final decision on the scheme in the future.”
Mr Hands did not comment by the time we went to press.