Missed the recent Liveable Street workshops? These sell-out events got everyone talking about the best way to address rat-running and reduce air pollution, writes Mike Mitchell from the Roman Road Bow Neighbourhood Forum.
Following an online survey gathering local opinions, around 80 people attended the first of several fully booked workshops on the Liveable Streets scheme.
Following the road closure trial on Tredegar Road being suspended due to protests earlier this year, the Council together with Project Centre, the consultants appointed by the Council to lead the project, organised a series of workshops to address local concerns.
Bow is one of the 17 areas across the borough to be included in the Liveable Streets scheme, which is set to take place over four years in four separate stages.
Currently, Bow is in phase one of the programme. According to Project Centre, the suggestions raised during the workshop will be used to refine the options discussed. Firm proposals will then be consulted on during the first half of 2020, followed by implementation later in the year.
Overall, the workshops provided a significant opportunity for local people to address issues that impact our quality of life, and are extremely relevant to our climate change emergency.
During the start of the workshop, findings of the survey and traffic studies were presented. Attendees learnt that approximately 49% of Bow traffic between 6am and 8pm on weekdays is rat-running, the equivalent of over 13,000 non-resident vehicle journeys a day.
Additionally, air quality at the junction between Fairfield Road and Tredegar Road is consistently above the maximum National Air Quality target. The junction between Tredegar Road and Coborn Road also experiences unhealthy levels of air pollution.
Participants were then given maps with several options for reducing cut-through journeys, and improving walking, cycling, and bus services. This led to animated discussions around our tables, demonstrating a keenness to engage with the issues.
There was a small, vocal minority who were resistant to change, but the majority expressed support for action to address rat-running, suggesting a variety of ways to achieve this.
In the second half of the session, participants were asked to consider means such as re-designing junctions, landscaping, and tree planting to make it easier and safer to get around by foot, bike and public transport. A wealth of ideas were suggested, perhaps the most idealistic being a congestion charge for non-residents driving through Bow.
Involving people through co-designing proposals draws on local knowledge of our neighbourhood. It values our contributions, not just those of professional consultants, politicians and Council officers.
However, there are limits to the influence local people have in the process. Project Centre and the Council will need to work hard at communicating information, and ensuring participation is as wide and meaningful as possible in the future.
The Roman Road Bow Neighbourhood Forum has been working since 2016 to develop a Neighbourhood Plan for Bow, a hyper local planning document that aims to reflect the priorities of those who live, work, and study here, and through planning policy, shape developments in Bow up to 2031.
The Neighbourhood Plan provides an opportunity to build on and develop the Liveable Streets initiative. Volunteer members of the Forum are currently working on the first draft, which the Forum will publish in the first half of 2020. It will then be subject to consultation, followed by independent examination, before being put to you, the people of Bow in a public referendum.
If a majority support the Neighbourhood Plan, it will become part of the statutory planning framework, sitting under the new local plan for the whole borough.
Liveable Streets is a short-term programme which has the potential to encourage changes in our behaviour, so that we walk, cycle, and make greater use of public transport, and fewer journeys by car.
How significant these changes will be depends, to some extent, on our future active involvement in the process.
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