Thur 11th June 2020, via Zoom
Welcome and overview
Luke McCarthy (LM) welcomed the group, including informing people that the meeting was being recorded. He reminded people of the group’s objectives including that, following feedback, that the group was a support to the council rather than making decisions on their behalf. The Group is also not intended to take the place, or be the only form of consultation with residents on schemes and proposals.
Update from working groups
Kathryn Stewart (KS) updated the group on progress with developing routes:
- She thanked everyone for their input into preparing the list of proposed ideas for publishing as a map.
- That it was reassuring to see the interest and demand for improved measures across the borough that was reflected in the Council’s Cabinet Report on the updated strategy.
- Re the mapping of low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs):
- The decision was to use Stephen Colebourne’s (SC) Open Street Map platform to capture the more granular asked of design ideas for these.
- At present, SC and KS had identified that there weren’t a lot of proposals for the East of the Borough and were unsure if this reflected a lack of suitable / required locations, or if locations were benign overlooked. SC has asked people in the LTN Slack channel for feedback and input. Anyone’s views would be welcome.
Katie Meech (KM) gave an update on the communications and engagement work:
- That it was still early days
- Some good initial progress had been made on stakeholder mapping
- Sharing/testing thinking with some ‘friendly’ other groups
- In touch with the council comms team to establish how we can amplify their positive messaging
There was some discussion about how aware councillors were about what was planned. Cllr Martin Whelton (MW) stated that it was being discussed at Cabinet on Monday 15th, and Cllr Paul Kohler (PK) explained that the relevant scrutiny committee was aware of plans. Cllr Dan Holden asked that ward councillors be kept more informed about what measures were planned in their areas. PK said that his preference was for the council to act quickly to put some measures in place, and then make changes if needed. Lucy Marstrand-Taussig (LTM) reminded the council that measures could be put in as trials using temporary orders, and encouraged them to think about other potential relevant budgets (eg trees).
Vincent Leonard (VL) asked if all suggestions from both the Future Merton and SC map were included on the MTRG list. KS said that there may still be some on the SC map not yet included, and asked people to add any outstanding ideas via the form (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeX-6lTp2zanl4ay70Q4Kdc2NTJJ0kQAHGI3dWBaCwHuQlskg/viewform?usp=sf_link)
Paul McG outlined, in response to a question from Pippa Maslin (PMa), which local stakeholders had currently been consulted:
- Business Improvement Districts
- Merton Cycling Campaign
- This group
- Merton Chamber of Commerce
- Ward members
Paul McG stated, in response to a question from Pippa Maslin (PMa), that his team briefed the council’s comms team on measures planned, which were then put out to residents via social media, newsletters, press releases etc
PMc outlined, in response to a question from Paul Murray, that a bid had been made for tranche 1 of Dept for Transport (DfT) funding, as well as consideration of what should be included in bid for second tranche as well as likely several Transport for London (TfL) bids. The deadline for the latter is two weeks time, but the plan is to get most of bids in next week.
Update on progress on council plans
PMc updated the group on progress including:
- The 350 total suggestions had been reduced to ~120 potential measures, once duplicate suggestions and borough-wide ideas had been removed. Remaining measures had been prioritised based on funding criteria and TfL data on propensity to walk/cycle.
- The measures in the cabinet papers would form the basis of DfT and TfL funding bids
- That pages on council website would be updated in the coming week to reflect the above and progress with below
- Short term measures (as per appendix B of Cabinet papers):
- Ashcombe Rd bridge – complete
- Wimbledon Bridge – complete, needs enforcement
- Haydons Rd bridge – complete, but some issues with barriers being removed
- Worple Rd o/s Elys – due to be completed 15th June
- Merton High street – due to be completed 15th June
- Mitcham Fair Green – due to be completed 15th June, including some parking suspension
- Wimbledon Village – not now needed outside Tesco, and impossible due to proximity of crossing near Bailey and Sage
- Next phase currently in design:
- London Road, Mitcham
- Merton High St
- Bushey Road
- Plough Lane
- Work ongoing with comms team and others (eg Katie Halter, climate change officer)
- Ward members had been informed before measures put into their wards
- Work on LTNs would be priority of TFL funding, where there was strong propensity to walk/cycle, as well as consideration of air quality issues. These were currently also with transport planers
LTM stated that ~60% of school age children would need to get to school by other means than their normal public transport, and asked whether they propensity to walk/cycle tool differentiated between adults and children. She suggested Lower Downs Road and Kingston Road as key ones to consider for school children. She stated that London Cycle Campaign had a free infrastructure review team for looking at tricky schemes.
PMc stated that he was engaged with the schools’ road safety teams, and that schools don’t yet know what they need. Priority was to get measures in place for majority of pupils going back in Sept.
PMc stated in response to a question from KS that applications would be submitted for all 10 LTNs outlined in the cabinet papers, but potentially not all as one bid, and had not yet made plans for if funding was not secured for all areas but that other funding was available. KS encouraged the council to stick to their guns and seize this opportunity.
Review of proposals in Cabinet papers
LM summarised some of the comments received from the group:
- Very positive tone and ambition at start
- Some of the language and proposed measures then feels quite a lot weaker.
- That the council has a unique opportunity to shift the dial on modal share away from cars, and needs to seize the initiative
PMc outlined that rough timescales were:
- Emergency: next few months
- Recovery: in time for schools restarting in September, but some more complex schemes might be 6+ months
Mehmood Nashqabandi stated:
- That he needed to see more detail before fully understanding implications of some plans
- That he was concerned about some measures being retrograde – eg requiring people to cross road for one way pavements at Durnsford Bridge
- Converting bridges to a single lane, with signal controls as required to enable traffic to pass in both directions, would allow significant more space/flexibility for pedestrians and cyclists
- Concerns about cycle lanes making it challenging for (eg) those needing disabled access
PMc stated that Durnsford Bridge was not in current version of plans, and that there were challenges with road layout etc
PMc also stated that there might be a need to be realistic and strategic about what schemes were prioritised, given expected funding levels of ~£1.5m from DfT and TfL.
KS was concerned at the 6 month timeframe, highlighting that schools return fully in 3 months and that if DfT funding is received a scheme must start within 4 weeks of the money being received and be complete within 8 weeks of starting. So the Council should be working to ensure that schemes are ready to implement as soon as the cash is received. (Assuming the Council is successful.)
LTM suggested that point closures (eg bus gates) were significantly cheaper than some proposed initiatives, and were best implemented when traffic levels were lower
PMc stated that TfL won’t support initiatives which change bus routes, increase their journey times or require changes to signals. Also that risk of displacing traffic to main roads
LTM agreed that some traffic would be displaced, but evidence was also that some evaporates.
Cllr David Dean said he had responses from ~100 residents following a recent newsletter, with most supporting more space for walking. Most were concerned that there was enough space for social distancing at bus stops, around phone boxes etc
Jim Wagner (JW) said that it was important to retain an overview of what was required, to think constructively and work in an agile way to develop/implement schemes as needed
Nicola Davenport outlined that she was a school governor, and that it was important to think beyond just having routes to school – was also about (eg) availability of bikes
VL asked why initiative needed to come from school and that some (eg Hillcross) were not aware of proposals and had some concerns (eg whether teachers would be required to patrol school streets)
PMc said that Cabinet paper suggested potential schools, based on which schools had expressed interest and where there was a particular need identified by traffic team
MW stated that it was improtrant to think of the wider health interests of children and air quality issues, and that the commitment is to put in place 20 school streets, and that this would required buy in from these schools
There was some discussion about Raynes Park schools not being included in current proposals, with former Bushey First School and the school providing specialist support for autistic pupils highlighted. PMc stated that there were issues in Raynes Park with main roads.
KM expressed further concern that the onus was on schools to request provision
KS raised the issue of on-pavement parking on Kingston Road with these causing challenges for both pedestrians and people using mobility scooters or pushing prams, and asked why proposals to remove on-street parking had been removed from the updated transport plan. Paul McG explained that the original proposal to remove on-street parking had been to enable segregated cycling lanes,, however the road was not wide enough to have these and two-way traffic because of the amount of space that the water-filled barriers would take up. There were suggestions (via chat especially) that alternatives such as ‘wands’ be used.
VL asked whether there would need to be consultation around LTNs, and PMc responded that there had not yet been any formal consultation. If a scheme is meeting the Council’s strategic objectives such as improving air quality, low traffic neighbourhoods and school streets, then it can decide to proceed with a scheme even if it receives opposition.
PMc clarified, in response to a question from JW, that Dorset Road is a ‘local distributor’ road
LM closed the meeting by highlighting some comments made in the chat about ensuring accessibility for all residents, about the potential for micro-scooters, the opportunities provided by the expected £50 voucher for repairing bikes, and reiterating that councillors and officers engaging with this group was not a replacement for formal consultation. He also thanked everyone for attending and for their input between sessions.