Transport for London (Tfl) has announced this week that Roman Road will be entirely transformed with a £3.3million funding bid, improving traffic infrastructure and open spaces.
Plans show that the fund will be used to create wider pedestrian walkways, transform the Roman Road Car Park, put in trees along the high street, and create a one-way single lane down Roman Road to decrease congestion. There will be more cycle and public transport facilities to create a healthier high street.
The bid is part of a multi-million pound Liveable Neighbourhoods programme across London, which aims to cut air pollution and increase public transport journeys in London to 80 per cent by 2041.
The announcement from Tfl comes after five years of campaigning for high street improvements from Roman Road Trust, a local community development organisation.
‘Roman Road Trust welcomes this announcement, which is fantastic news for Roman Road’ says Holly Stout, Chair of Roman Road Trust. ‘We intend to continue to work with the Council as plans develop.
The big vision for Bow
The proposed plans will prioritise pedestrians over cars along Roman Road. Pavements will be widened allowing for new trees to be planted and space for cafe seating, something that will support Roman Road’s growing cafe scene.
Bus priority improvements will be made at St Stephens Road/Roman Road to improve the reliability of bus services and reduce the congestion experienced on St Stephens Road. St. Stephen’s Road improvements will feature continuous footways while plans for Old Ford Road include improved road safety and cycling measures.
Modal filters will reduce traffic on residential streets throughout the area, and a key aspect is to remove the potential for rat running through Coborn Road and Tredegar Road.
‘We want Tower Hamlets to become one of the most cycle and pedestrian friendly boroughs in London,’ says Councillor David Edgar, Cabinet Member for Environment. ‘New pocket parks and revamped public spaces will improve air quality and make local streets more attractive places, helping support local high streets.’
As well as helping to create a healthier high street, TfL research predicts this an improved street scene will encourage more shoppers to the high street improving footfall to Roman Road businesses and increasing sales by up to 30 per cent.
Plans of this magnitude will no doubt have a significant impact on traffic, bus routes and car use in Bow.
‘As with all such ideas there is a judicious balance needed between allowing people to travel legitimately in the area, and making changes which significantly improve the local environment, for example by altering the ‘road hierarchy’ reducing unhelpful behaviour such as ‘rat-running’, says Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs.
‘We have seen examples in Waltham Forest and other boroughs, and the improved environment from a well-designed scheme is striking. This is serious money, and the Councillors and I are ambitious for this to work and help to transform the area.’
‘Unlike what has been done in Waltham Forest, this scheme will face a tougher challenge because of the scale of through traffic, and the poorer environmental and air quality,’ says Biggs.
Biggs goes on to reassure that plans are still subject to public consultation. ‘There will be detailed consultation, and I want the community to be involved in the design where we can,’ says Biggs.
Plans for one-way Roman Road
The proposed plans will see Roman Road turned into a one-way street, discouraging vehicles from using Roman Road as a rat run to the A12.
Increased congestion along Roman Road, St Stephen’s Road and Tredegar Road since the Cycle Superhighway removed the right turn from Burdett Road into Bow Road, is one of the biggest concerns for local residents, according to Roman Road Bow Neighbourhood Forum.
Over the past three years the Roman Road Bow Neighbourhood Forum has worked to develop a neighbourhood plan for Bow. Neighbourhood Plan are part of new legislation that allows local people to develop planning policies for their neighbourhood.
Roman Road Bow Neighbourhood Forum was formed in 2016 and has sought to engage with individuals, groups and local businesses in the local community in order to create policies that respond to people in the Roman Road area of Bow.
‘Heavy commuter traffic along local roads to and from the A12 leading to congestion and air pollution, and poor routes for pedestrians and cyclists through the area have been highlighted as major concerns,’ according to local resident and Forum committee member Mike Mitchell.
A concern to locals is that a one-way road might present issues with business deliveries and bus routes like the beloved number 8 bus.
A one-way Roman Road may lay the foundations for a change in access to the A12, an idea that has been mooted by the Council in recent years as a way to stop Roman Road from being used as rat-run to the A12. It is unclear whether this is part of the longer term plans for the area.
‘The Tfl project is very welcome, as Bow has seen very little infrastructure investment in recent years, and it provides an opportunity to make some long-term improvements to the area.’ says Mitchell. ‘We need to guard against this funding leading to divisions and conflict that can dilute the effectiveness of this much needed investment.’
Val Whitehead, Bow West Councillor, has added, ‘We will be working with Tfl to ensure the changes will help reliability on our bus routes as this will be a concern to many residents.’
The removal of the Car Park
The plans will see the removal of the Roman Road Car Park to create an ‘open space’. The car park currently offers 24 parking bays on the junction of St Stephen’s Road and Roman Road, and charges £3.75 per hour.
Newly installed CEO of Roman Road Trust Janita Han, welcomes the replacement of the car park with an outdoor space, ‘Roman Road Trust has identified the car park as a key space at the heart of the high street that we believe could be better used to support the high street and local community.’
Roman Road Trust has been working with the community to demonstrate the potential use of the car park. Over the last five years it has held a series of events in the car park including Roman Road Festival, Christmas Fair, the weekly Yard Market, and community events including Queens Birthday Tea.
As part of their bid for Good Growth funding, Roman Road Trust conducted a Shopping and Transport survey in partnership with Queen Mary University that showed that most of the 200 respondents said they arrived to the high street arrived by foot, bike or public transport.
In 2014 Roman Road Trust partnered with Cass School of Architecture to build a mini-civic hub, a temporary structure called Roman Road Common Room on Ford Road adjacent to the car park. The Common Room has since been used to test ideas for a more permanent civic hub, perhaps on the open space that may now replace the car park?
‘Alongside other local community groups we hope to work with the council to develop a great community space on the car park, which considers the Common Room and the outdoor space as a cohesive whole.’ says Han.
Consultation and development
Though £3.3 million sounds like a considerable investment, London costs can quickly diminish such a fund, especially with a project as ambitious as this one. There is also the risk that a ‘top down’ approach doesn’t respond to the needs of the grassroots.
‘The bigger dream is to envision together a neighbourhood that we aspire to, and that we all want to live in’ says Han. ‘With enough funding and grassroots work with the locals it will be a successful revamp.’
To help the Tfl project meet the needs of the community, Roman Road Trust is developing Roman Road Neighbourhood Green Common Vision, an umbrella project that will pull together different local community groups’ agendas.
Community groups already engaging with the emerging Green Common Vision include Friends of Meath Gardens, Tower Hamlets Wheelers, Friends of Mile End Park, Friends of Victoria Park, Plastic-Free Roman Road, Roman Road Trust, and the Neighbourhood Forum.
Each community group presents an opportunity to integrate grassroots projects into Bow’s Liveable Neighbourhood plans, and to generate additional match funding.
How to have your say
We are lucky to live in a neighbourhood with a strong grassroots contingency and there are several ways you can get involved.
You can help shape micro-local planning policies by joining the Roman Road Bow Neighbourhood Forum. They will be holding a workshop about the neighbourhood plan for Bow at its Annual General Meeting 2-4.30 pm on Saturday 27th April at St Paul’s Church in St. Stephen’s Road.
If you are interested in seeding, leading or supporting green projects to help improve the built environment around Roman Road, become a Friend of Roman Road Trust and keep up-to-date with their Roman Road Neighbourhood Green Common Vision.
Roman Road LDN, your local news and culture magazine, will be following developments closely, so watch this space and subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed.
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