Report of the Director of the Built Environment (TO FOLLOW).
The Committee considered a late, separately circulated report of the Director of the Built Environment regarding City Streets and Phase 2 of the Transportation response to support COVID-19 recovery.
Officers introduced the report and explained that work was moving at pace in response to an evolving situation. They explained that this report set out proposals for the second phase of measures to facilitate social distancing on the City’s streets, to ensure that residents, workers and visitors are safe when travelling in the City and support businesses as staff return to workplaces. These proposals built on the first Phase approved at the last meeting of this Committee, to create a network that connects rail and underground stations and key destinations within the Square Mile. The changes were to be temporary and could be adapted if required and as circumstances changed. Proposals also took into account the need to maintain access for disabled street users and those with mobility impairments. Members were informed that analysis for Phase 2 was now underway and that Officers would seek to minimise impacts to all groups with protected characteristics and the recommendations from that analysis would inform the detailed design of these proposals. Officers added that they were also continuing to liaise with the City of London Access Group on these proposals and would be gathering feedback from the public once changes had been implemented and this would allow adjustments to be made if necessary. Because of the pace required on this work, delegated authority was also sought at this stage to approve the detailed design and delivery of Phase 1. Members were reminded that these proposed interventions were in line with the longer term objectives of the Transport Strategy and that the temporary changes delivered by this programme of works would be monitored and feedback sought that would allow Officers to assess the potential and appropriateness of making any of these changes permanent in due course.
Finally, Members were informed that a funding request had been submitted to TfL for the Phase 2 works and were awaiting a decision on this. Later this week, Officers would also apply for funding from the Department for Transport’s Emergency Active Travel Fund. TfL had indicated, informally at this stage, that the funding request for Phase 1 works had been approved and all necessary Committee authorities/TfL approvals for these first phase works were also now in place. It was therefore reported that delivery of Phase 1 interventions would commence this week on Lombard Street, St Mary Axe, Coleman Street and Poultry. Changes to Cannon Street, Threadneedle Street, Old Broad Street and Leadenhall would be delivered from Monday 8 June.
Officers highlighted that the report also asked Members to agree that tables and chairs licences (which were currently suspended) are reviewed on a case by case basis before potentially reintroducing any of those. These reviews would ensure that tables and chairs did not interfere with the safe movement of pedestrians or efforts to provide sufficient space for social distancing.
A Member commented that he was very concerned to receive such a detailed report so late and sought assurances that requirements around the publication of this material had been satisfied to ensure that any decisions taken today were as robust as possible. The Town Clerk reported that the statutory requirement for Committee and Sub Committee meetings, as set out within the organisations own Standing Orders (Number 33) is that public notice of meetings must be given at least five working days before a meeting. These requirements had been relaxed with the introduction of legislation around virtual meetings, however, Officers were still striving to adhere to this wherever possible. This requirement was met for today’s meeting where an agenda was published with this particular item marked as ‘to follow’ – attempts were always made to keep late items to a minimum but it had always been acknowledged that, because of the nature of this work and the ever-changing situation, that it would have to fall into this category. The Town Clerk added that the report was published and shared with Members yesterday and highlighted that final approvals would be sought on these proposals from the Policy and Resources Committee at their meeting on 11 June, by which time it would have been in the public domain for eight clear working days. Officers were therefore satisfied that requirements had been covered in that respect. The Chair added that Members should feel free, having taken soundings on the proposals, to feed these into the approval process at Policy and Resources. He added that much of this work had initially been flagged in the first paper on this and that the direction of travel had therefore been clear from the outset. He reiterated that whilst these were urgent works, all of these proposals were being introduced on an experimental basis and would be monitored throughout alongside public consultation and following due process.
The Deputy Chairman thanked Officers for this very important paper and a comprehensive introduction to it. He made particular reference to comments around the need to maintain access for vulnerable and disabled street users at all times underlining the importance of this. He went on to state that he had concerns around recommendation number 10 which was in relation to tables and chairs licences and stressed that whilst the need for social distancing remained, the health and safety of members of the public returning to work should be a principal concern. On that basis, this Committee had already decided that A-Boards would not be permitted on pavements during this period of social distancing. He added that he was concerned that Officers should be left with the responsibility of adjudicating on the appropriateness of individual cases on tables and chairs an creating a ‘grey’ as opposed to a black and white/blanket policy on this. He proposed that the policy should be that, for as long as social distancing was required, no tables and chairs should be permitted on public highway. This could, of course, be reviewed as restrictions were further lifted. He added that he was also mindful that, within the Phase 3 proposals, Officers would be proposing that other street furniture and seating provided by the Corporation be introduced for the public.
Another Member, also the Chairman of the Streets and Walkways Sub Committee, thanked Officers for the detail, scope and care of this work. He commented that in the time that he had had to consult on these proposals, he had received almost entirely positive feedback on proposals to stop through traffic in particular streets such as Chancery Lane and Fleet Street. In relation to tables and chairs, he commented that agreed with the points already made by the Deputy Chairman and felt that a case by case analysis might be difficult and time consuming for Officers. He suggested that it would therefore be preferable, at this stage, to have a blanket policy banning them from public highway. He recognised that there was likely to be considerable commercial pressure from businesses on this point, particularly in the summer months, which could very quickly defeat the aim of facilitating the safe movement of people along narrow streets. Finally, he commented that he felt that the access provisions within the proposals were extremely good, thoughtful and important.
A Member spoke to agree with the points made around tables and chairs adding that he was aware of a small number of premises with tables and chairs licences which did not sit on the highway and pleading for some flexibility around these at an appropriate stage. The Member went on to echo thanks for a very impressive report but commented that, given the scale of the proposals, he was struggling to understand the overall impact. He recognised that there would, inevitably, be unintended consequences of the proposals that would need to be addressed quickly as restrictions were eased and people returned to the City. He noted that the changes would be introduced using temporary traffic orders and low-cost solutions such as traffic cones which could be adjusted rapidly where necessary. He questioned whether any desktop modelling of the impacts had been carried out, how the impacts of the changes would be monitored once they were in place and what processes would be used to make essential changes rapidly. He also asked whether, given the limited number of people that were currently projected to return to the City, the changes could be batched.
Officers reported that there had been no desktop modelling to date and that the approach was to make the changes, monitor the impact of these and make changes wherever necessary. This approach was also in line with TfL recommendations given that current modelling would be based on historic understanding of traffic flows which was not currently applicable. With that said, Members were assured that, before any decisions were potentially taken to make any of these changes permanent in due course, or to convert temporary traffic orders into experimental traffic orders, such modelling would be utilised and consultation would take place in the usual way.
In terms of impact monitoring, a monitoring strategy was in place and had been shared/discussed with Transport for London where Officers were looking to ensure that they understood the impacts on journey times for all street users – motor vehicles but also pedestrians and cyclists – with a key element of this being bus journey times, something which TfL were able to provide extensive data on from their iBus systems. Safety impacts would also be monitored, with Officers crucially needing to know quickly if any changes were having a negative impact on road safety. Officers would be working closely alongside the City of London Police to receive details of any incidents as they happen as opposed to waiting for the periodic verification of any road safety data. Traffic flows and volumes would also be monitored in specific location, particularly around the effects of road closures and diversions. Finally, Members were informed that an online portal would also be launched imminently, allowing for public engagement and feedback both immediately on things that were or were not working well, allowing for changes to be made where necessary, but also on longer-term plans and whether they would like to see any changes made permanent in due course. Air quality would also continue to be monitored as changes were implemented.
With regard to the phasing of the works, Officers reported that the delivery of these could be batched and rolled out in accordance with people returning to the City. However, the challenge here was preparedness and not operating reactively once people had already returned and having to retrospectively implement any changes. In most cases this would mean rolling out changes as quickly as possible and as quickly as funding allowed for and then adjusting as necessary. This approach had the added benefit of allowing changes to be implemented whilst the City streets were still relatively quiet in terms of traffic volume.
The Chair added that it was clear that all street users were going to be affected by these proposals but the City Corporation were fortunate that they had had some practice with these kinds of interventions on an experimental basis around Beech Street and Bank Junction, unlike many other authorities. He emphasised the importance of publicising and publicly consulting on these works to allow for their continuous monitoring and stressed the importance of the online portal in that respect to ensure that those with access needs, those whose trade depended on this, those dependent on deliveries, commuters, residents and all others were able to feed into the process.
A Member, also Chairman of the Port Health and Environmental Services Committee, commented that he was particularly pleased to hear Officers talk of monitoring the impact of these changes on air quality. He added that one of the key challenges ahead was around maintaining the improvements in air quality and reported that, statistically, there were more people dying from poor air quality in the UK than there had been from COVID-19. The Member went on to comment on tables and chairs stating that he agreed that a blanket policy on not reintroducing these at this stage should be in place but that this should remain under close monitoring/review. He commented that he thought it would be helpful, at this stage, to set clear risk assessment parameters within which we would introduce tables and chairs again. Clearly there would be a commercial need for these from some businesses but it was vital that they were introduced safely and appropriately and once the numbers returning to the Square Mile were clearer.
The Member also questioned the communications/engagement around these proposals and sought further confirmation on how this was to work effectively, particularly around how feedback would be gathered. He also commented on costs/funding, noting that it was hoped that in excess of £1 million would ideally be funded by TfL. However, he questioned what head room TfL had within the streetscape budget to fund all relevant applications and, should this not prove possible, what other funding streams would be explored. Finally, the Member noted that 20% of the £1 million was attributable to staff costs and questioned whether this referred to those already employed by the City Corporation and therefore included on the organisation’s payroll or whether these would be additional staff brought in to manage this work.
Officers responded by highlighting that a communications strategy was in place for these works and that messaging would be pushed out both in terms of the overall proposed changes but also how people could feedback on these. All available channels would be used to push this messaging, working with colleagues in CPAT and in Investment and Growth but also with Residents Associations and the like. Members were informed that strategies to generate and promote consultation/engagement had been finely honed during recent projects such as Bank Junction and the Transport Strategy and that Officers were therefore confident that they could reach appropriate audiences. Officers commented that the changes were already relatively high profile in terms of press coverage and that they would be very obvious to street users – information as to how to provide feedback would also be advertised on-street. Members were informed that the online portal would essentially be a map-based engagement tool which would allow users to click on areas where changes had been delivered and comment directly on those. This was a user-friendly option and likely to be an engagement tool used pan-London.
With regard to costs and funding, Officers recognised that Members were right to be cautious as to whether the full amount would be secured from third party sources and reported that they were already looking at what central funding sources could be used if necessary alongside the Chamberlain. The first preference would be to utilise TfL funding and some money would also come directly from the Department for Transport but other sources identified were On-Street Parking Reserves or the COVID-19 Contingency Fund. It was reported that TfL had a total of £45 million to distribute for these works across London which was a reasonable amount although it was recognised that there may be many boroughs bidding for these funds and also that these would also need to cover some sunk costs on the Local Implementation Plan. Part of the reason that no confirmation had yet been received on the Phase 2 works request was that TfL were keen to get a better understanding of proposed works of this type across London before distributing funding for any later phases.
With regard to staff costs, Members were informed that these related to staff who were already working at the City Corporation – staff in the Major Projects Team, Public Realm and in the Network Performance and Highways teams operated on a fee recovery basis.
The Chair commented that, from his perspective, at London Councils level, there seemed to be a slight difference in terms of how external funding was being allocated and assessed compared with TfL. There appeared to be more procedure and process attached to funding coming from the Department for Transport.
Another Member commented that she was under the impression that Phase 1 proposals were to be implemented fairly imminently and questioned when signage around this would be put in place and what this would look like/how visible it would be. She also questioned what period of delay there was likely to be before Phase 2 works were implemented, should they be approved today, so that the public were well aware of when to expect these. The Member went on to note that approvals given included timed closures to motor vehicles that were either 24/7 or 7am-7pm. She questioned whether or not this also included weekends given that all specific proposals under Phases 1 and 2 seemed to centre around 7am-7pm closures with no specific mention of whether these were applicable seven days per week. Finally, the Member spoke on enforcement, noting that Hackney had put planters in place to make it physically clear where only pedestrians and cyclists can enter certain roads. She questioned whether there were certain roads in the City where this same approach might be taken. She also commented that it was good to see provision for cycling training mentioned within the proposals and questioned whether there might be a cycling proficiency offer from the City Corporation moving forward, potentially as part of its education offer, if this did not already exist. The Member also questioned, where mention was made to reallocating carriageway to space for walking and cycling, this meant that there would be provisions made further into roads, in those roads closed to motor vehicles, for cyclists to dock.
With regard to timing and pace of delivery, Officers reported that they had originally hoped to begin implementing Phase 1 proposals over the weekend so that some of these were in place from Monday 1 June. However, final Committee approvals were only secured on Friday 29 May as were informal approvals of funding requests. The Phase 1 changes would therefore commence from this Thursday and would involve timed access restrictions on Lombard Street, St Mary Axe, Coleman Street and Poultry. Changes involving the reallocation of space and the installation of barriers to facilitate this would be commence the following week. These would require a longer lead-in time and multiple bus diversions which TfL needed adequate time to implement and promote. The commencement of Phase 2 works would, again, depend on securing funding. Members were informed that most of the changes should be in place by late June/early July.
On the timing of access restrictions, to date all proposals were centred around 7am-7pm, largely in recognition that almost every street in the City required some level of access for servicing and to provide flexibility for this whilst also encouraging the shift of deliveries and the like outside of these hours. What would be 24/7 were some of the other changes such as the point closure on Chancery Lane as proposed under this Phase. It was noted that there would be some physical restrictions as part of these works and Officers made the point that, in terms of monitoring and adjustment, this could go both ways with a need to possibly scale back if it was found that too many constraints had been made on traffic movement/deliveries or that, if the monitoring was to flag particular issues around the way that some streets were operating, things such as closures to through traffic may need to be made on a 24/7 basis. In terms of enforcement, Officers recognised that this would be a challenge and would take time to adequately resource. The fact that these were intended as temporary changes meant that care needed to be taken not to build up a disproportionate enforcement presence to only stand this down soon after. Again, the need for enforcement would be continually monitored alongside public feedback and could be stepped up where necessary.
Officers reported that cycle training had been offered by the city Corporation in the past and would continue to be offered under these proposals – the question at present was around the funding of this but Officers were reasonably confident that they could find ways to provide this going forward for those workers and residents in the City wanting training. In terms of cycle parking and dockless cycle bays, this would be covered in Phase 3 proposals but it was highlighted that there were significant opportunities to reallocate carriageway space to provide temporary public cycle parking and docking stations for dockless cycles.
Another Member spoke to disagree with the Deputy Chairman’s proposed approach to tables and chairs, underlining that the objective here had to be twofold – one to ensure the safe movement of people and the other to support City businesses as they reopened. For shops this would likely involve the provision of queuing space on the streets but for restaurants and other food service premises, this would involve the accommodation of tables and chairs. If plans were designed around a blanket ban on tables and chairs then, as restrictions were hopefully lifted further, there would be insufficient scope to support these businesses to reopen. The Member commented that it made more sense to him to consider these matters on a case by case basis and that, whilst he accepted that there were certainly areas within the Square Mile where streets were too narrow to ever safely accommodate tables and chairs outside, there were other areas such as Chancery Lane where it would seem sensible to allow this given that the whole street would be closed to through traffic.
Secondly, the Member commented on the potential issue of cyclist/pedestrian conflict and questioned whether Officers had considered soft segregation and, for example, lines depicting areas for pedestrians on one side and cyclists on the other which seemed to work generally.
Officers commented that it was well recognised that there would be a need for external seating going forward and was something that was being considered from a public seating point of view as opposed to privately arranged tables and chairs licences under Phase 3. Chancery Lane was an area where Officers intended to work alongside the Chancery Lane Association to see what those opportunities might be. The Phase 3 report would be brought to the next meeting of this Committee on 23 June and Officers confirmed that it was not necessarily the case that all works on Phase 2 would have to be completed before certain elements of Phase 3 could be introduced, if opportunities arose.
In terms of soft segregation, this had been actively looked at in terms of what improvements could be made in shared walking and cycling spaces such as Queen’s Street. Part of what was being created under these proposals was, however, separate and very clearly differentiated spaces for walking and cycling adjacent to one another where required. On streets where pedestrian priority and timed access restrictions were to be introduced, Officers could look to introduce markings to encourage people where to cycle but they commented that they had often found that this could cause conflict.
A Member commented that he had been able to take limited soundings on this report which had been overwhelmingly positive but he also underlined a strong plea for a very clear direction on the online portal as to how comments should be submitted and clear information around the progress of each Phase. The Member went on to comment on the map of bus diversions provided as an appendix to the original Phase 1 report to this Committee and requested that this be reissued with a key indicating the full implications and number of these. Officers reiterated that the online portal was to be launched imminently but that, in the meantime, people could email Officers directly with any comments – this would also be made clear in all communications to be issued. With regard to the map depicting bus diversions as part of Phase 1, Officers apologised that this was perhaps not as clear as it could be and explained that this had been taken from a presentation given to TfL who were, of course, much more familiar with the bus routes concerned. They undertook to update this information for the benefit of Members and the wider public.
Another Member commented that premises in Cannon Street had already endured long closures recently around gas and water works. He added that two key points that had arisen from soundings he had taken on these proposals to date had been around accessibility (wanting people to be able to access the City in a safe way as soon as possible) and around communications. In terms of accessibility, he made reference to the increase on the congestion charge to discourage travel to the City by car but also recognised that the public were likely to be fearful of using public transport. With regard to the option of cycling, it was anticipated that this would increase enormously and he therefore questioned how many additional cycle parking stations would be installed in the City and where these would be situated.
On the point of communications, the Member questioned whether Officers could have an introduction paragraph on the soon to be launched online portal explaining some of the language used in the proposals – for example, what was meant by ‘temporary’, when reviews would take place and what plans were short-term as opposed to medium-term. He recognised that plans would be pragmatic and adaptive to emerging situations but suggested that this would be helpful context to provide in so far as possible from the outset. Finally, the Member commented that he felt that tables and chairs licences should be considered on a case by case basis as set out within the recommendations so that small businesses could be encouraged to apply where streets were sufficiently wide to allow this to happen safely.
A Member added that his points were also around the temporary nature of the proposals. He noted that Officers had previously made a distinction between temporary and experimental measures but questioned what the end date for these proposals might be and what assurances could be offered around temporary meaning temporary.
Officers reiterated that temporary traffic orders were being utilised to make these changes at that these could remain in place for as long as required but were generally used for a maximum of 18 months. They added that, at present, they did not know how long these measures, primarily to facilitate social distancing of 2m apart and to support a likely increase in cyclists, would be required. Officers reported that they could clarify the maximum amount of time that they would expect these measures to be in place before they returned for further review/scrutiny and that, as further clarity was provided by central government and Public Health England around social distancing requirements, this could be communicated in due course with timescales adjusted accordingly. The temporary nature and adjustability of the measures would also be heavily emphasised.
In response to the point on cycling parking, Officers commented that details on the number of proposed additional spaces and their locations would be incorporated within the Phase 3 report although Members were informed that potentially up to 2,000 additional on-street spaces could be provided split between public cycle parking and additional dockless cycle bays. In addition to this, Officers were also aware that a number of private businesses were looking to significantly increase the amount of cycle parking that they provide.
The Member responded by requesting that a fixed date by which these proposals must return to this Committee be set. Officers responded that they were happy to set formal review dates from the outset to provide reassurance that plans were being adequately monitored and added that they fully expected to be reporting/updating on these measures to almost every future meeting of this Committee for the foreseeable future. Officers stated that the process for this could be clearly set out within the Phase 3 report.
The Chair made a further point, highlighting that when these discussions first emerged it was very clear that they were in reaction to emergency guidance from the Department for Transport and about the City Corporation, as a highways authority, enabling social distancing. On funding, TfL and the Department for Transport’s message was very much one of how medium and longer term aims could also be achieved by carrying out these works and strategies going forward. Officers commented that this was currently a very live discussion and underlined that all of the proposals being brought forward now were in line with the Transport Strategy. Whether this was exactly what would be carried out on each of the streets concerned in delivering the Strategy was not as clear. Regardless of the changes put down now, Officers remarked that this would be a catalyst for longer-term change and would help the organisation to understand what making these changes to the City’s streets means and what the impacts of that are. In terms of the steer from TfL and the Department for Transport, it was clear that works needed to focus immediately on an emergency response and creating temporary space for social distancing but it was felt that future funding rounds were likely to be linked to making this space semi-permanent on an experimental basis and moving forward from there. Ultimately, this would mean that the City Corporation would end up delivering some aspects of its Transport Strategy quicker than anticipated. It was remarked that having the Strategy in place had enabled the organisation to respond as quickly and comprehensively to the current situation as it had done so far.
Another Member spoke to emphasise that clarity and communications around the proposals were key and highlighted that much work would be not only cross Departmental but would also rely on the efforts of other authorities and fringe boroughs. She went on to refer specifically to proposals around Trinity Square and Coopers Row to remove parking bays and reduce the speed limit and highlighted that Trinity Square parking bays belonged to Tower Hamlets. She went on to comment that 5mph seemed to be the average speed limit in this location during normal peak travel times but recognised that peak times were now likely to be further spread throughout the whole day. She added that nearby Tower Hill, would be a busy station given that it also served the Tower of London.
With regard to the tables and chairs issue, the Member commented that she felt that it was key that space was identified now where external tables and chairs would be appropriate, highlighting that she had already been contacted by a number of businesses and public houses enquiring as to whether customers would be permitted to stand and drink outside of their premises adding that, without this, it would be impossible for them to reopen safely. The Member went on to mention Leadenhall Market where tables and chairs licences had been secured and highlighted how crucial these were to those businesses and their trade but also to the City’s night-time economy and hospitality industry in general. She cautioned that it adequate space was not identified for these purposes early on, the public would begin to congregate outside of premises anyway, particularly in the Summer months, as had already been seen elsewhere in the country. The Member referred to the fact that she had recently visited the riverside and was surprised to see that social distancing was not being adhered to by the majority of people. She also called for adequate bins at the riverside to help combat the high levels of litter being left by visitors here. The Member spoke on cyclists in the City, highlighting that there appeared to be no control over their behaviour at present, with many cycling on pavements and along the riverside making safe social distancing very difficult. The Member concluded by stating that it was important for Officers to identify key issues such as those she had mentioned now and to take back control of the situation.
Officers were aware that, particularly as Summer approached, there would be a desire for customers to drink and eat outside and assured the Member that this would be considered as part of the Phase 3 proposals alongside some priority locations where this might be suitable. With regard to cyclists, Officers clarified that they were receiving a number of reports about inappropriate behaviour and that they would continue to follow up on these and outline what was appropriate and legal.
A Member, also the Deputy Chair of the Licensing Committee, commented that the provision of space for drinking outside licensed premises was being actively discussed with the City of London Police and Licensing Officers. He reported that there had recently been an incident in the City where a licenced premises had set up an outside bar with a lot of people accumulating causing the City of London Police to intervene and close down the operation. He went on to report that a letter would be issued by the Chairman of Licensing later today setting out that, the interpretation of the Police and Licensing Officers was that, even for premises who currently had the ability to sell alcohol to be consumed on tables and chairs outside of the premises, the COVID regulations did not allow for this to happen and that they could not sell drinks to be consumed on the premises at all at present, even if that were to be in a garden or outside area. This raised the question as to whether people were able to buy drinks and then walk out onto the street and consume them which had never been illegal unless it was stipulated for certain premises that they were not able to make sales not in unsealed containers. The problem at present was that, if people were to purchase drinks and consume them on-street, they were very likely to break social distancing rules. The City of London Police were therefore advising that any premises operating under these rules, would also need to have staff in high visibility clothing ensuring that there was no accumulation of people breaking social distancing rules. The Police would have the ability to ask premises to cease sales if particular issues arose. The letter would also recognise that this was a fast moving situation and that legislation may change in future weeks.
Another Member commented that he also felt very strongly on the tables and chairs licensing position, and was of the view that these would be a very important factor in terms of existing City businesses being able to operate again in the near future. He added that the recommendation as it stood on this point seemed perfectly reasonable.
A Member asked Officers if they could consider starting work now on clarifying what criteria they would use in order to make critical decisions for these very different kinds of businesses/locations and questioned how this would be shared publicly with all stakeholders.
The Deputy Chairman commented that it was very important that the City Corporation was not seen to bring forward an anti SME/small business proposal or something that could be interpreted as such. On reflection he therefore suggested that recommendation 10 might be amended by adding some principles that Officers could consider when reaching decisions on a case by case basis. He suggested five points as follows – to recognise the need to nurture our small businesses – a positive and supportive statement of the kinds of businesses discussed today, to put safety first which was a statutory duty and would also encourage a return to work and therefore the wider economic recovery, no privitisation of public space, to give regard to space required to queues outside premises and, finally, to give regard to any new or existing public seating nearby.
Another Member commended the Deputy Chairman’s proposals and spoke of the importance of keeping SMEs front and centre of this messaging given that they generally tended to have the smaller leases and would therefore probably benefit most from the ability to use outdoor space in appropriate locations. The Member went on to comment on e-scooters which seemed to be an oversight in this report. He recognised that the Department for Transport were to start a trial around this and expressed some concern that the City Corporation’s current policy here reflected the position pre-COVID. Whilst he agreed with that policy at the time and not to permit e-scooters on the highways, he felt that this should now be revisited in recognition of the fact that the City’s streetscape and road users were likely to change dramatically going forward and made a plea for the City Corporation to form part of the wider debate, signposted as the ‘Green Restart of Local Transport’ and to come forward as active participants. He sought the views of Officers on this point.
Officers commented that whilst e-scooters were not covered within this report, a separate report on this matter would be brought to the next meeting of this Committee. He added that there was no formal policy on them at present, but reported that they were not currently legally permitted for use on the public highway. The report to the next Committee would ask Members to decide on whether or not the City Corporation should be actively participating in the Department for Transport’s trials and to take an overall view as to whether they felt that e-scooters ought to have a role in the transport mix in the City of London to inform views on any subsequent responses to any legal reviews. Officers added that the dockless cycle byelaw was a dockless vehicles byelaw and was therefore ready to respond to e-scooter hire if necessary going forward.
Officers went on to comment on the principles proposed by the Deputy Chairman. The Comptroller and City Solicitor commented that if these were to specify SMEs there would need to be an evidence base and a justification as to why this approach was being taken. It was noted that this would be difficult although not impossible to establish. Other Officers added that they had always said that these proposals were aimed, in part, at supporting businesses in their recovery, including leisure, retail and food premises. They suggested that more detailed considerations and wider opportunities around public seating could be covered within the Phase 3 proposals coming to the next meeting of this Committee.
A Member commented that she felt that stipulating one size of business over another could lead to future legal challenge and reiterated how crucial it therefore was to identify outdoor space now for all businesses and to support the City’s thriving economy of which these businesses were a crucial part before this space was identified for other purposes. Officers assured Members that this work was already underway and would be reported on for the next meeting.
A Member commented further on the importance of communication and engagement around the proposals, stressing that as elected Councillors, all Members had their own network of electors and stakeholders. He therefore asked that the messaging be shared with all Members prior to its wider release to the public. Officers reported that a first batch of FAQs had now been prepared and would be shared with Members and made available on the public webpages. The next round of communications for Members and wider was also now being worked on now that the Phase 2 proposals were in the public domain. This would also update on progress of Phase 1 works.
In light of advice from the Comptroller and City Solicitor and further debate, the Deputy Chairman stated that he would like to amend the first of the principles that he had suggested in relation to recommendation 10 so that this was centred around the need to recognise the need to nurture a thriving economy in our City. He therefore formally moved the following motion:
MOTION – That the following five principles be attached to recommendation ten to help advise the decisions taken by Officers on a case by case basis:
· To put safety first;
· No privitisation of public space;
· Having regard to space required to queue outside premises; and
· Having regard to new or existing public seating nearby
The Motion was seconded by Oliver Sells, Chairman of the Streets and Walkways Sub Committee, formally put and unanimously supported by the Committee.
Officers commented that the principles would be a useful steer for them.
The Chair concluded the debate by thanking Officers for the amount of work that had gone into these proposals under great pressure and in challenging times.
RESOLVED – That, subject to the scheme receiving TMAN approval from TfL, Members of the Planning and Transportation Committee:
1. Approve a sum of £1,048,744 as the design and implementation budget for the Phase 1 and 2 proposals noting that £154K of this budget is already spent to date.
2. Note that the total estimated cost of the whole Covid-19 Transportation project has yet to be determined given the scope of later phases and changes to Tier 2 and 3 streets are not defined.
3. Note Transport for London have indicated that funding approved of Phase 1, £116,500.
4. Note that we are eligible for a Department for Transport (DfT) grant of £100K which will be applied for immediately.
5. Note that a bid for the balance of the Phase 2 works is currently with TfL for consideration.
6. Note that for Phase 3 proposals a bid may be made to the COVID-19 Contingency Fund or for other central funds for additional measures to support businesses such as seating, greening and activation, as well as additional social distancing measures. External funding from TfL and central Government will be sought for eligible measures.
7. Agree the scope and type of proposed interventions for Phase 2 (section 7, paragraph 2).
8. Note the risks set out in the Risk Register (Appendix 2).
9. Agree to delegate approval for design, for making of Orders and Notices and related procedures and for implementation and operation to the Director of the Built Environment in consultation with the Chair and Deputy Chairman of Planning & Transportation Committee and the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Streets & Walkways Sub Committee; subject to receipt of external funding from TfL and DfT.
10. Agree that while social distancing requirements are in place Table and Chair licenses should be reviewed on a case by case basis by officers before being reinstated and that any decisions should be informed by the five principles set out by the Planning & Transportation Committee (to recognise the need to nurture a thriving economy in our City, to put safety first, no privitisation of public space, having regard to space required to queue outside premises and having regard to new or existing public seating nearby).
11. Delegate authority to the Director of the Built Environment, in consultation with the Chamberlain, to make any adjustments between elements of the approved budget, provided the total approved budget of £1,048,744 is not exceeded.