Report of the Director of the Built Environment
The Sub Committee considered a report of the Director of the Built Environment concerning the Bank Junction Improvements Project. The Director of the Built Environment introduced the report, drew Members’ attention to the key points and outlined the proposals.
The Sub Committee then proceeded to discuss the proposals. Members raised the possibility of delay to the TfL Bank Station upgrade project and queried whether there had been any indication from TfL on reopening the Waterloo & City line, which would be material for the usage of the junction. Members expressed some disappointment at the binary nature of decisions on the consultation and sought assurances on the format and reach of the consultation, given many users of the junction were not currently in the area.
The Director of the Built Environment advised that the proposed options in the consultation were limited by the complexity and scale of the project and the constraint of the current timescale. The Sub Committee noted that the Bank Station upgrade project, as well as TfL’s Bishopsgate scheme, were currently uncertain factors. Reaching people as part of the consultation would be a challenge, but there were lessons from the successful Climate Action Strategy and Return to Work Task Force consultations to draw on. The Director of the Built Environment advised that the project process so far had included working through many possible options and narrowing them down along the Gateway process based on practical and other considerations. The methodology for this was available to view and would be explained in the consultation.
In response to a question from a Member, the Director of the Built Environment outlined the planned westbound diversion for the 521 bus route, and explained that event guests at Mansion House would leave via the existing left-turn only down Queen Victoria Street. The Sub Committee endorsed the suggestion of a Member to ask TfL to use their channels for communicating the consultation. This would amplify and extend the reach of the consultation and provide a more diverse range of responses.
Members queried whether the 2022 timeline should be reconsidered if it was constraining, given the possibility of delays arising from TfL matters, and the anticipated gradual return of traffic. A Member posited that if Members were content to accept later delivery, this would present the opportunity to consult on more options. The Director of the Built Environment responded that progress to this point had been on a systematic basis, and that whilst with more time there could have been an earlier consultation on multiple options, now that work to this stage had been completed, there was risk attached to returning to an earlier stage. The Deputy Chairman, in the Chair, commented that there was no guarantee that the project would run to existing timeline or cost, as it was not unusual for projects to face unforeseen challenges, and as pausing the project would cause significant slippage this should be considered as a last resort.
The Director of the Built Environment advised that there was a more natural break point for the project in July, as there would be more complete information on the matters relating to TfL, and the results of the public consultation. In response to a question from a Member, the Director of the Built Environment advised that there were easier schemes to implement, but which would not have as much benefit, and that taking everything into consideration, the option proposed was the best available.
Members asked whether it was worth deferring or extending the consultation period, and what would be considered a satisfactory level of response. In response, the Director of the Built Environment advised that there had been 2,600 responses to the Climate Action Strategy consultation in Q1 2021, and 1,200 responses to the Return to Work Task Force consultation in the first week, by comparison. The Director of the Built Environment added that six weeks was longest available consultation period within the existing timeline, and that there would be the option to consider pausing the project or extending consultation in July, if it was felt that the response rate was insufficient.
The Deputy Chairman, in the Chair, summarising the discussion, proposed that the Sub Committee consider the recommendations, on the basis that there would be a more natural break point at next the stage of the project in July if any aspects needed to be reconsidered, and this was agreed.
RESOLVED – That the Streets & Walkways Sub Committee:
1) Approve the detail and programme set out within this report to go out to public consultation, including:
a) Agree to maintain the current restriction timings and mix of traffic of Monday to Friday 7am to 7pm on the ‘open arms’ to bus and cycle only as the base assumption for the consultation
b) That Queen Victoria Street between Bucklersbury and Bank Junction is closed to all Motor Vehicles in an eastbound direction 24/7
c) That Threadneedle Street is closed to Motor Vehicles between the junction and Bartholomew Lane in both directions 24/7
d) That Princes Street is open to buses and cycles only in a northbound direction 24/7
e) That Princes Street southbound is also intended to be the route for traffic to access Cornhill for servicing, as well as bus and cycles.
f) Seeking views on potentially extending the restrictions times
g) Seeking views regarding the traffic mix during the hours of restriction
h) Seeking feedback on the various public realm enhancement proposals outlined in paragraphs 39 to 50;
2) Approve the following details to maintain pace of the programme;
a) Agree that for the reasons set out in this report the proposed traffic model submission for TfL traffic management approvals, has the ‘open’ arms of Cornhill westbound, King William/Lombard Street and Poultry operating as Buses and cycles only Monday to Friday 7am to 7pm.
b) Note that Members will be asked to approve the design, timings and mix of traffic following the public consultation, and should they consider it appropriate to seek amendments to the timing and vehicle mix assumptions (in 1a), these can still be considered prior to the scheme becoming operational at the end of 2022.
3) Agree to delegate the final approval of the consultation material and consultation survey to the Director of the Built Environment in consultation with the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Streets and Walkways Sub-Committee;
4) Agree that the project can go to Projects Sub Committee in June ahead of the Streets and Walkways Committee in July if necessary, given the programme constraints;
5) Agree that if necessary, delegated authority is given to the Town Clerk in consultation with the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of both Streets and Walkways and Projects Sub Committee, to consider the outcome of the public consultation to take minor design decisions, and/or agree changes to process or programme that require earlier approval ahead of the next available committee date in July; and
6) That a Costed Risk Provision of £95,000 is approved to be retained (to be drawn down via delegation to Chief Officer).