The Panel received and considered an update report presented by the Head of Highways and Transport (Head of H&T) about changes to the Lewisham and Lee Green Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN), and the overarching measures to support safer walking and cycling in response to the COVID 19 pandemic. The Panel asked questions about applications of the measures, and noted responses by officers.
1. Cycling Incentives
In response to questions raised, the Head of H&T advised the Panel that the Council could not deliver its highways and transport programme in the current financial year as it had intended because funding stipulations issued by the Government required councils to focus on delivering measures in response to the pandemic. In spite of that, the Council remained supportive of active and sustainable modes of transport, and was implementing a bicycle-loan scheme to support key workers.
The Panel was further advised that following recent negotiations between Transport for London (TfL) and the Department for Transport, the Government announced that additional funds could be available to London councils. The Head of H&T stated that the extra funds could present an opportunity for the Council to re-prioritise its earlier commitments to deliver a balanced highways and transport programme, including further incentives to support cycling initiatives in Lewisham in addition to the loan scheme.
2. Air Quality & Traffic: Monitoring Implementation
In light of a concern, the Head of H&T informed the Panel that the Council was undertaking traffic counts, and had installed air quality monitors at specific locations across the wider LTN system. Furthermore, the Council was utilising Global Positioning System (GPS) data and other highways performance reliable information provided by TfL to monitor and compare its performance with other London councils. The Panel noted that officers were also engaging with residents on matters relating to the Council’s climate change initiatives.
The Head of H&T stated that key success to monitoring was to gauge how the measures were improving living conditions for residents. Therefore, although preliminary evidence suggested that air quality in areas where the measures had been implemented was not getting significantly worse, the Council would continue to monitor more closely, with a view to undertake an impact assessment to inform proposals in the final decision report.
3. Community Engagement & Monitoring
The Panel noted arrangements to support current initiatives relating to low traffic neighbourhoods, pop-up cycling facilities, school streets programmes, and the creation of additional pedestrianised public spaces for people to move about in conveniently. The Panel expressed a concern that residents’ living arrangements were significantly distorted because of inadequate notice prior to implementing the measures in their neighbourhoods.
Speaking in his capacity as Cabinet Member for Democracy, Refugees and Accountability, Councillor Kevin Bonavia stated that the Government required that councils should spend the money in a very short space of time in the middle of a pandemic, in spite of earlier concerns that it could impact adversely on community engagement timeline. Councillor Bonavia stated that the Government would be informed of the lessons, however, the Panel should be assured that the Council would continue to consult and provide adequate notice on issues that impact residents’ lives.
The statement by Councillor Bonavia was echoed by the Head of H&T who confirmed to the Panel that the Government’s funding requirements provided an unrealistic timeframe for councils to implement the highways and traffic measures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Notwithstanding that, the Council had been using the common-place approach as a tool for initial engagement with residents, with a view to collate feedback about the effects of its transport and highway schemes on living conditions, and as a means to monitor the impact. It was stated that the Council was also utilising digital media and ward councillors’ network channels to collate feedback about implementation of the measures, and was considering widening its communication channels through the citizens’ spaces it had created.
4. Demographics/Socio-Economic factors
In light of a concern, the Head of H&T gave an assurance to the Panel that the areas selected for implementing the measures were not based on socio-economic factors. However, it was normal for opinions to be divided on such matters. Notwithstanding that, officers had to balance the integrity of the measures and the benefits of delivering them. In view of that, the Council recognised that some people would want to use their cars, and was sending out messages to discourage short journeys in order to free the road network for essential and emergency travels. Thus, it was unlikely that residents who were using vehicles to earn their living would be disadvantaged as a result of the measures.
The Panel was further advised by the Head of H&T that the traffic and air monitors currently installed across the borough were not targeted at areas deemed as poor neighbourhoods. It was stated that the monitors would be relocated to other locations, with a view to collate wider range of data to gauge how the measures were affecting travel patterns and traffic movements in Lewisham, including information on whether there had been an increase in cycling up-take. However, traffic counts data would not provide details on cycling usage in terms of age, race, gender, disability and social economic class, but could form part of the Council’s monitoring programme when undertaking an active route survey.
5. Prioritisation & the next steps
The Panel received confirmation from the Head of H&T that one of the aims of the highway and transport measures was that those walking and cycling should do so safely, whilst maintaining social distancing. Thus, prioritisation of the LTN was linked to the work the Council was undertaking as part of its assessment of the impact of its Heathy Neighbourhood initiatives. Thus, a summary from the assessment of the various traffic and highways schemes that had been developed, and the impact on prioritisation against the various criteria set, would be published when completed.
The Head of H&T advised the Panel that the Council’s resources allocated for the traffic and highways work was focused in making the LTN a success, and to undertake an assessment to gauge the benefits of implementation on residents’ lives. Work to complete monitoring to inform the next steps was underway. Successes as a result of the LTN filter monitors would be replicated in other local neighbourhoods. The pedestrian space that were implemented as part of the social-distancing scheme would be reviewed from time to time to determine whether they were still relevant. The Council would likely return to implementing Healthier Neighbourhood Scheme rather than focusing on individual streets.
The Head of H&T stated that in addition to comments by Members about socio-economic assessment, officers would take into account views about transparency and prioritisation as part of the common place scheme. The Transport Policy and Development Manager confirmed that a spreadsheet with criteria measures would be developed to report on progress undertaken in relation to the school streets scheme.
The Panel also noted clarification from the Head of H&T that as part of the pandemic, and the need to formulate the Council’s transport response, there were a number of projects already underway as part of the Deptford Park Neighbourhood Scheme, and Sangley Road. That funding got withdrawn. Thus, the Council was unable to complete the full process, and instead of a traffic notice, it undertook an experimental traffic order to complete the process. In terms of common place analysis, the Panel noted that comments received from residents varied, however, the Council would be undertaking a more detailed analysis for future reporting in relation to the Deptford Park Neighbourhood Scheme.
In regard to report about repeated vandalism on Kitto Road, the Head of H&T advised the Panel that it was likely that appropriate measures would be implemented as part of the Council’s citizens’ space initiative, subject to further funding
RESOLVED that the report be noted.