Report of the Director of the Built Environment.
The 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 advised the Committee that the Streets & Walkways Sub-Committee had considered the report and had recommended that Strategic Option 2 be taken forward.
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. A report would be brought back to Committee in April. The Director of the Built Environment added that the feeling amongst Members of the Streets & Walkways Sub-Committee was that option 2 should not preclude option 1, and that option 1 should continue to be the long-term aspiration for the junction. Pedestrian comfort levels could be improved at present, with significant growth expected over the next few years.
Members then debated the recommendations of the report. A Member advised the Committee that they agreed with the recommended approach, but that feedback suggested travelling westward in a taxi was currently problematic. The Member asked if strategic option 2 could accommodate a specific taxi route. The Chairman responded that he believed this could be arranged under option 2 if it was the will of Members.
A Member said that there was only one option if the junction were to be properly transformed and that was for full pedestrianisation via option 1. The Chairman responded that this remained his ambition, but that the approach to implementing this had to account for the upcoming upgrades to Bank station, which could not be facilitated if option 1 was selected because of the timescales. A pragmatic approach would be in two stages, by proceeding with option 2 before implementing option 1 later.
A Member added that they agreed that option 1 should be the target, but that this was an opportunity to make a real difference and set an example by proceeding towards option 1 straight away.
A Member said that any changes were likely to have an impact beyond Bank junction. The biggest increases in numbers would come from Liverpool Street and this would push traffic elsewhere. The Member suggested that the feasibility study should include consideration of the impact of changes to Bank junction away from the junction.
Another Member said that they agreed with the target of strategic option 1, and would oppose priority for small vehicles. The Member queried whether the political challenge to option 1, deemed to be ‘High’ would come from aside from taxis.
A Member responded that they had also had feedback about difficulties travelling westward. Option 1 even seemed to exclude buses, which would not serve anyone. The Member would endorse including a study on the impact of change further afield, and suggested that the Committee keep its options open at this early stage.
A Member added that he favoured option 2, and that option 1 should not be an obsessive focus. The wider impact should be taken into account. The debate at later stages should allow people to argue for the inclusion of taxis, and the Committee should not predetermine or exclude any form of vehicle at this stage.
A Member suggested starting with the design for strategic option 1 and working backwards towards a solution that also had the pragmatism of option 2. When surveys had been undertaken originally, they had suggested that there would be little impact elsewhere, and impact on nearby areas would not necessarily be because of changes to Bank junction. It was important to ensure resilience so that traffic could be directed back through the junction in an emergency. Members would also need to be clear on the area defined by Bank junction, and to what extent, for example, Cheapside and Queen Victoria Street were considered part of the junction. The Bank on Safety experiment had been a success and this project could go even further, so the Corporation should continue to be bold.
The Chairman said that his ambition was for option 1, but something needed to be in place for the upgrades to Bank station and he felt that the best initial option was option 2. However, the Committee could put on record that option 1 was their ultimate target. The Chairman added that the wider implications of changes to the junction should be taken into account as part of the scheme.
The Director of the Built Environment responded that the report was focussed on Bank, but that officers would go through any plans with TfL and ensure they were fully audited. Members were assured that the wider implications of changes to the junction would be taken into account. The extension of the arms to the junction would be accounted for as the project progressed and would be considered as part of the Gateway process. Changing the parameters by allowing a mixture of traffic would likely mean changes to the scheme., but traffic restrictions would be brought back for consideration at a later stage. With regards to political challenge, there had also been challenges from TfL on bus journey times.
The Chairman moved that Members moved to a vote on the recommendations, with an amendment to point 4 to reflect the Committee’s ultimate aspiration of achieving option 1. This was then put to the vote amongst Members who voted in favour of the recommendations, with the above amendment.
RESOLVED – That the Planning and Transportation Committee: