Report of the Executive Director, Environment.
The Committee considered a report of the Executive Director Environment relative to the Traffic Order Review.
Officers reminded the Committee that they had agreed a three-stage approach to this review in May 2022. This report provided an update on the outcome of the first stage which had involved the compilation of a comprehensive index of all of the traffic orders currently in place on the City’s streets. The report also sought approval for the methodology of the second stage of the review and contained some suggestions as to some orders to be excluded from further review.
A Member questioned the different documents that were to be used to define the scoring system such as the Transport Strategy, the Climate Action Strategy and the Road Danger Plan. He stated that the Committee and indeed the wider Court were very familiar with these documents, however, amongst the documents was one which was not so well defined to date – Destination City. He therefore expressed his concerns as to using this to help define the scoring system for the traffic order reviews when it was still largely unknown as a Policy document. Officers responded by stating that the ranking system was something which had not yet been finalised with the consultants working on the review. Further discussions on this would take place should Members agree the methodology set out within this report and would include how best to represent Destination City within this work.
Another Member spoke on site visits stating that she was very conscious that there were currently a number of pedestrian areas with markings on the road showing a white man and that these were confusing for cyclists and other road users as they were situated in what would ordinarily be the cycle lane. She added that she had personally witnessed a number of incidents here and questioned whether there was an awareness of these kinds of issues amongst Officers. She went on to ask whether the sites concerned would be visited and, if not, how this would be understood as part of a desktop exercise. Secondly, the Member questioned whether it was possible to have more information as to costs associated with this review and the suggestion that more may be needed. Finally, the Member questioned stakeholder engagement and noted that the report referred to focus groups of business leaders, disabled people and other people with protected characteristics. She sought clarification as to why business leaders were included here and not residents and workers who would only be contributing to a sentiment survey. She also questioned what ‘business leaders’ meant and how many would be involved. Officers responded to state that schemes where temporary arrangements were still in place since the COVID-19 measures had been introduced were not intended to form part of this review as they were experimental traffic orders with their own review processes currently underway. It was highlighted that a report had been submitted to the last meeting of the Streets and Walkways Sub-Committee highlighting these schemes. The original intention had been to remove these pedestrian areas demarcated with lines and to build these out by way of temporary pavement widening although this had proven to be more expensive than originally anticipated. Officers were now therefore seeking to move as quickly as possible to seek approval for permanent schemes in these locations. Public consultation would be undertaken on these in the coming months and, if recommendations were approved, would result in the permanent build out of pavements in these areas to address the various safety concerns raised. It was reported that the use of different colour paint had been looked at as a temporary measure in these areas but that this had not been taken forward for a variety of reasons. Officers reported that they had learned a lot through this process and would not seek to replicate these arrangements (which had been introduced in response to a very particular and fast moving situation) going forward.
With regard to funding, Officers stated that most of this to date had been attributed to data collection with some funding also committed to the next stage of the review. There was a reasonably healthy balance left should the next stage require more detailed consultancy support. The third stage of the review was not yet funded. The current budget accounted for the review process only. If the review were to identify changes required on-street outside of existing projects or programmes then further funding may need to be sought for this. In terms of the focus groups, Officers reported that the number of focus groups that could be arranged and recruited to within the time and the budget available had been limited. Debate around traffic movements often revealed that business leaders and disabled persons often had views on these and it was felt helpful to better understand their needs. It was reported that the focus groups involved between 12-20 people. With regard to business leaders, these would include senior representatives of various businesses in terms of size and the areas covered. Officers went on to state that it was felt that the sentiment survey would provide a good and far-reaching view from residents and workers and would replicate previous surveys undertaken. It was reported that the intention was to work closely with Ward Members in the next stage of this work to seek to better understand local issues.
A Member commented that the review was currently silent in terms of member involvement. He suggested that Members should be involved in terms of approving the final list of key objectives against which the measures would be judged. He added that there may also be a need to rank these objectives. It was suggested that the Streets and Walkways Sub-Committee might be best placed to undertake this work. Officers underlined that this may prove difficult in terms of the time frames set by the Court for this work. It was suggested that additional meetings of the Sub-Committee could be called to accommodate this.
A Member commented on the sheer volume of work involved here and questioned whether it was worthwhile drawing this to the attention of the Court and suggesting that either the review be broken down into different areas of the City or requesting additional time to undertake this. Officers stated that additional time to undertake the review would be extremely helpful and suggested that they might work alongside the Chairman and Deputy Chairman to request this within the forthcoming Court report. In terms of how the review might usefully be broken down, Officers suggested that the might logical way to do this might be to go through the first elements of the second stage and to finalise the methodology and scoring system around this before then undertaking a first sift of the orders which would then rationalise the list.
In response to further questions, Officers reiterated that in terms of experimental traffic orders, the only ones currently in place were those that had been introduced in relation to COVID measures and that recommendations on these would be taken to the Streets and Walkways Sub-Committee early in the new year with review mechanisms built into this. For this reason, it was suggested that these were not included within this review. It was reported that Bank Junction also had a separate review process which was being undertaken by the Streets and Walkways Sub-Committee.
A Member spoke out against the suggestion of excluding TMOs which enable the creation of traffic free public spaces, such as Aldgate Square, Walbrook and Southampton Buildings from the review. Officers stated that this was a matter for Members to determine as they saw fit.
A Member congratulated Officers on the work undertaken to date. They went on to discuss the matter of process. He referred to the Publica report on Bank Junction and questioned whether it might be sensible to go back to Publica post-pandemic and ascertain whether there were any aspects of their recommendations that they might like to rethink. He also questioned whether there might be any tensions between a technical review of traffic movements at Bank and the sort of vision that many Members, particularly the Policy Chair, clearly now had around a post-pandemic City and reintroducing vitality. The Chairman stated that it was important to differentiate this piece of work and the Bank Junction work. Officers clarified that the Bank Junction review was about the nature and timing of the traffic restrictions in place here on the arms that would remain open after All Change at Bank had been delivered. The All Change at Bank project would include the creation of significant amounts of new public ream outside of the Royal Exchange and Mansion House and was still proceeding as agreed.
Another Member recalled that this had originally come to Court as a Motion around traffic flow, particularly taxis, at Bank Junction and that the traffic order review had been offered as a peace offering. They noted that they had cautioned at the time that this would be a mammoth task in terms of timing and resources, they had also underlined that it was important to determine from the outset what this review was setting out to achieve and to also look at this in terms of ‘future City’. The Chairman went on to acknowledge the stresses that the two Court motions had placed upon existing resources within the Environment Department in terms of both manpower and budget. He therefore underlined his support for returning to the Court and looking at how this might be better handled. He cautioned that he was, however, sceptical about widening the scope of this review even further until the current piece of work and existing traffic orders were better understood. Officers stated that they were always keen to look to the future and that this was underpinned in both the Transport and Climate Action Strategies as well as the City Plan which were both key in terms of what these orders would be reviewed against.
A Member questioned whether, if the Motion put to Court had come through proper/alternative channels such as the Streets and Walkways Sub-Committee and this Committee, it might have come with a better idea of budget and greater detail attached to it. The Member underlined that her concerns were that a project costing this much should be done thoroughly but that this was clearly not possible within the timeframes stipulated by the Court. They asked Officers to comment on what they felt was the best way to spend this amount in order to make a safe, climate conscious, future looking City. Officers commented to state that the process undertaken had been relatively efficient in terms of how the budget had been allocated. The desktop exercise to be undertaken next to narrow down the reviews to those that would benefit from a more detailed study should also be relatively quick and cost efficient once the scoring matrix had been defined and agreed. They also highlighted that, whilst this budget had been made available because of this review requested by the Court, the data and evidence being collected through the traffic surveys and other engagement exercises would be extremely useful going forwards in terms of understanding the post-pandemic City and would also help inform the Transport Strategy review. The work undertaken to date in terms of gathering together the information on all of the existing traffic orders into one document had also proven to be a very worthwhile exercise. Finally, Officers stated that they would not necessarily require all of the budget that had been allocated to this but that, at present, it was not clear as to what additional funds would be needed for the more detailed reviews.
A Member surmised that the general feeling here appeared to be that if this exercise was to be done it ought to be done properly and that Officers should therefore be supported in terms of requesting more time to undertake this work. This would allow for more effective management of resources and also for more Member involvement in and scrutiny of the process.
A Member moved that it be delegated to Officers in consultation with the Chairman and Deputy Chairman to put a motion to the October Court of Common Council meeting seeking an extension to the timeframe set for this piece of work to be completed and explaining the reasons for this. The Chairman clarified that whilst he was supportive of this, he felt it important that the work already underway continued and was not paused whilst the outcome of this ask of the Court was determined. Members discussed the motion and it was decided that this Committee should present an update report to the October meeting of the Court of Common Council setting out what it had done in response to the Motion and, within the recommendations attached to this, request that there be an extension of time to enable Officers to comply with their initial instruction and explain the reasons for this.
RESOLVED – That Members:
• Note the outcome of the Stage 1 TMO review.
• Agree the Stage 2 TMO review methodology, detailed in paragraphs 11 to 15 and in Appendix 2.
• Agree the categories of TMOs to be excluded from the review process, detailed in paragraph 14 and in Appendix 2.
• Note the high number of traffic orders and associated measures that need to be reviewed and agree to extend the deadline for completing the traffic order review to March 2023.