Report of the Director of the Built Environment
The Sub-Committee considered a report of the Director of the Built Environment seeking approval to restart the All Change at Bank project, align it with the changes in the corporate project management processes and governance, incorporate the corporate plan outcomes, and seeking Members guidance on the trajectory of change desired at Bank to focus the design efforts and minimise the length of the programme. The Chairman reminded Members that the All Change at Bank project had been put on hold whilst the Bank on Safety scheme had been completed, and now officers sought authority to restart the project, and instruction from Members on how to develop the scheme.
The strategic options presented for consideration all had the possibility of allowing some traffic through the junction. The Chairman added that whilst he did not want to debate the point, the Sub-Committee should note that there was still support amongst some Members for permitting taxis to use the junction, and reported comments he had received from Members detailing the reasons for their support.
The Director of the Built Environment introduced the report and gave a short presentation setting out the project timeline to date, project objectives, each strategic option for consideration and indicative timescales for the project. The recommendation was to proceed with option 2, working towards semi-pedestrian priority with areas for place activity. This provided balance which most closely reflected the responses to consultations and previous Members debate. Guidance on how the options worked against the project objectives was set out as an appendix to the report.
Members then discussed the strategic options. Some Members felt that option 1 should be the Corporation’s ultimate aspiration for the junction, but that this may be a longer-term vision. If another option was taken, the scheme should be implemented in a way which kept option 1 open as a future possibility. A Member stressed that any scheme should retain the ability to direct traffic back through the junction in an emergency. Furthermore, any scheme needed to be aligned with the Transport Strategy as this would form the basis of evidence supporting the scheme.
In response to a query from a Member, the Director of the Built Environment advised that TfL had not yet been consulted for their views on the three strategic options, but they were happy with the Bank on Safety scheme with regards to bus journey times. However, TfL were aware of the temporary nature of the Bank on Safety scheme and had already began reducing bus traffic through the junction accordingly. The Director of the Built Environment felt that option 1 could be negotiated in the longer term, but that this was not confirmed.
A Member suggested moving towards option 1 but in two phases if necessary. It was important that TfL’s position be clarified, so that no option would be ruled out unnecessarily. The Chairman asked whether Members were in favour of deferring the decision in order to get definitive TfL comments on the strategic options, particularly option 1. The Director of the Built Environment responded that the project currently had momentum and that officers were conscious of the target end date of 2022. Delaying the decision may delay the project by up to one quarter.
A Member suggested that the Sub-Committee support option 2 with the ultimate aspiration of implementing option 1 in the future. TfL may not be able to answer questions quickly and may need to undertake their own analysis beforehand. A Member added that moving with pace on the project was important. Pedestrian footfall had increased significantly in recent years and would continue to do so with the upcoming capacity upgrades to Bank station, and therefore it would be important to have something in place in time. As there were only two routes north from London Bridge, Bishopsgate and Bank junction, TfL were unlikely to agree to reroute the buses that used Bank junction and would not be able to do so in the current timescales.
A Member argued that they supported option 3, as the key measures of success set out in the report had been achieved through the Bank on Safety scheme. As part of the Department of the Built Environment review of project prioritisation, a number of plans had been deprioritised due to cost, and on this basis, Members should take account of the significant difference in cost between options 2 and 3. Delivery was also key and option 3 would be delivered faster than the other 2 options.
A Member stressed that it was important to continue to be bold, and to have a clear vision. The work done so far on the Bank project had been bold and had influenced work elsewhere. The ideal vision was for maximum place activity but without losing resilience for the junction, and approving option 2 with the aspiration of eventually implementing option 1 was supported. However, more details on cost and cost differences between the options would be required.
A Member said that on the basis of having option 1 as the ultimate aspiration for the junction, they could support taking option 2 as the next step. However, early conversations with TfL were imperative and Members would need an up-to-date steer when the project was next reported to Committee. A Member added that they would like to see the timescales on option 2 tightened if this was the preferred option.
The Chairman emphasised the importance of political will and courage, and reminded Members that at one time, the majority of the Court of Common Council had been against the Bank on Safety scheme. The Chairman asked officers if option 2 could be implemented in time for the capacity upgrades to Bank station. The Director of the Built Environment responded that there were indications that it could be done, but it could not be promised. There was some dependence on other networks to implement the scheme. A report would be brought back to the April meeting of the Sub-Committee for further decision.
RESOLVED – That the Streets & Walkways Sub-Committee:
a) Approve for the Bank Junction Improvements Project (All Change at Bank) to be formally restarted;
b) Approve the Project Objectives in paragraph 13 continue to be relevant to align with the wording of the Corporate plan;
c) Note change to governance arrangements of the existing Project Board into a stakeholder working group, and the creation of a new internal Project Board;
d) Proceed with feasibility design of Strategic Option 2 (semi pedestrian priority with some vehicle movement) to a Gateway 4 report, on the basis that the proposed timescales for the project be tightened, and that Strategic Option 1 be retained as the Corporation’s longer-term aspiration for the junction. The next phase of work will investigate different options for highways alignment, design of public realm and vehicle mix to inform the Gateway 4 report;
e) Note the options for procurement routes to include the option of any applicable framework contract (paragraph 44 and Appendix 6); and
f) Note that Streets and Walkways will remain the nominated client Committee for future reports on this project, with escalation to Planning and Transportation Committee as required.