The Director of the Built Environment to be heard.
The Chairman advised that following discussion at the previous meeting and at Court of Common Council he had requested an update on engagement in respect of the Bank Junction Improvements project ahead of the full public consultation. The Sub Committee noted the engagement plan documents which had been circulated separately. The Director of the Built Environment gave the Sub Committee an update on the engagement plan up to the next Gateway, scheduled for February 2021, which would include the public consultation plan. Officers had asked stakeholders and business about their concerns around technical matters such as servicing, also taking into account knowledge gained from previous work such as the Bank on Safety scheme.
The Chairman stressed the importance of providing sufficient representation for the principal stakeholders around Bank Junction. In response to a question from a Member, the Director of the Built Environment advised that officers had met with Licensed Taxi Driver groups and had outlined proposals for the junction, and were undertaking technical work on the viability of taxis being able to use the ‘open’ arms of the junction under the scheme.
A Member expressed their concerns about the engagement plan, on the basis that the list of engagements did not reflect the significance of the project, given its location and the number of users of the junction. The Member added that it was unclear who had been contacted within the listed organisations, and advised of instances where chief officers had not been aware of any consultation taking place. The Member added that the project would also affect Wards and roads in the vicinity of the junction and therefore full and thorough consultation with the correct contacts was vital, given that there was growing discontent about road closures in the City. The Member offered to provide a list of further stakeholders and direct contacts to add to the list of engagements.
The Director of the Built Environment advised that stakeholders immediate to the junction had been prioritised as they were the most directly impacted, with stakeholders further from the junction and interest groups to follow, and the bulk of consultation would be undertaken during the public consultation phase. The current focus was on identifying working problems and premises operations to inform the design phase. The Chairman asked officers to provide the named contacts for stakeholders in the engagement plan for Members, adding that individual organisations should also be communicating internally where it was necessary.
Members commented that there was significant pressure to get communications right, particularly for major projects, and suggested elements of the processes around consultations be reviewed. A Member advised, as an example, that traditional methods such as letter drops may not be as effective today as they once were. Members needed assurance for themselves and constituent stakeholders on the quality of consultations, both in terms of engagement and feedback received.
The Chairman added that effective project management included engagement on changes and suggested that officers specifically contact Ward Members and Aldermen, to confirm their views on the engagement plan, and seeking contributions to further discussions. The Chairman requested that this be added to the actions list with an update to be provided at the next meeting.
The Deputy Chairman suggested that the Sub Committee look at the framework in place around consultations for future projects, as this was within the locus of the Sub Committee. The Sub Committee could assess how effective various methods were and try to identify best practice, which would provide lessons learned to take forward. The Chairman added that the full public consultations had a statutory framework in place, but prior engagement, although different, was equally important. Members felt that considering a framework for informal consultations was a good idea and any gaps in the current process should be rectified.
The Director of the Built Environment assured the Sub Committee that consultations were taken seriously at all stages, and recent consultations undertaken had been popular, receiving a high level of responses. However, there was still work to be done, and Members were thanked for their suggestions which would be taken away.
The Chairman thanked officers for the update and work done so far, and asked that suggestions be taken forward ahead of the next meeting.