There is an ongoing debate on local social media on the Healthy Neighbourhood proposals. Monday's Full Council Agenda inccludes this question and answer on the scheme:
Question from Councillor Janice Long to Councillor Shama Tatler, Lead Member for Regeneration, Property and Planning:
In May 2020 the Government published statutory guidance in response to the Covid-19 pandemic stressing the urgent need to reallocate road space to facilitate safe social distancing and embolden residents to walk and cycle during and after the pandemic.
Similar schemes across London have decreased levels of air pollution and increased the life expectancy of their residents; taking inspiration from these, Brent Council is delivering on its plans to create more Healthy Neighbourhood schemes, to reduce traffic on residential streets and encourage sustainable modes of transport to address our climate change commitments.
In light of a new national lockdown, will the Lead Member for Regeneration, Property and Planning provide an update on the roll-out of the Healthy Neighbourhood’s scheme and apprise full Council of the work undertaken to facilitate feedback from residents; bolster communications; and engage local people on the future benefit of these schemes in their areas?
As members will be aware, we have implemented (5) Healthy Neighbourhoods schemes using Experimental Traffic Orders with notification letters sent to residents explaining the aims of the schemes and encouraging the community to provide their comments during the trial period as well as informing that the schemes would be evaluated after six months of implementation. This was necessary to meet TfL and DfT requirements to deliver these schemes quickly and a similar approach has been taken by many other London boroughs.
This is a significant variation of the usual process used by the Council for highway improvement schemes, and unfortunately, while it has always been our intention to engage with the local community, this resulted in some misconceptions that schemes would be made permanent without taking fully into consideration their views. Due to the number of objections that we were receiving, and as we were awaiting guidance from TfL on access for the emergency services, schemes were paused in September.
Further to the Extraordinary meeting of the Full Council on 16th October to discuss Healthy Neighbourhood schemes, we have focussed on improving communications and engagement with our communities and a collaborative approach.
A community engagement plan has been drafted which sets out our approach to providing information and regular updates to residents and stakeholders, and listening to their feedback.
The plan includes;
Web pages – We have reviewed and will bolster information on the Brent Council website; www.brent.gov.uk/activetravel which will be used as a hub for providing up to date information to residents and stakeholder groups. This will be regularly refreshed with new meeting dates, monitoring data and materials.
Resident updates - In addition to the formal consultations, hosted on Brent’s consultation hub, residents in affected areas will also receive information letters / questionnaires 2, 4, and 6 months after the new measures go in, as well as on their introduction. A Cabinet Member covering letter will also be provided explaining the reasons for the introduction of these schemes, how they support the strategic objectives to respond to climate change, improve air quality and public health. This will allow us to track whether and how resident’s views change as the trial progresses, as these schemes often take time to become fully effective (as travel habits adapt).
We will also hold monthly meetings with ward councillors and residents for each area where a scheme has been implemented, throughout the six-month trial period. This shall include socially distanced walkabouts where needed to discuss the scheme operation and suggested improvements. We are also looking at the option of procuring community engagement specialists to support these sessions and to ensure they are useful for residents.
Information leaflets - We have produced an information leaflet to be included in the documents sent to residents, which provides further information on the aim of these schemes, how they are beneficial and information on traffic congestion and emergency service access to address concerns.
Improved signage - We will improve signage around the closures, including advanced warnings of the closures on approach to the road to reduce the amount of traffic driving up to the barriers and turning, as well as temporary explainer signs to explain the new measures and signposting people to the consultation using a QR code and green ‘active travel welcome here’ signs on planters.
Officers have recently received feedback from the London Ambulance Service and made amendments to remove lockable bollard closures to two of the schemes:
(i) PM 26 - Dollis Hill Area; Oxgate Gardens, concerns raised as route used by ambulances travelling to Health Centre – The closures to be implemented without lockable bollards only plastic barriers to be used, CCTV at a later date.
(ii) PM 32 - South of Princes Avenue Area; Berkley Road and Brampton Road Kingsbury, concerns raised about potential traffic on Kingsbury Road. The closures to be implemented without lockable bollards, when CCTV cameras can be installed.
Officers continue to liaise regularly with the London Ambulance Service, with fortnightly meetings arranged as well as the MPS and Fire Services during the experimental period.
The Healthy Neighbourhoods programme will now resume in two phases:
(i) For the 5 Healthy Neighbourhoods schemes that have already been implemented, but are not fully operational, we are aiming to send out residents update letters and information leaflets the week commencing the 16th November with additional bollards and signs installed the week commencing the 23rd November.
(ii) For the remaining Healthy Neighbourhoods schemes, notification letters and information leaflets are planned for the week commencing the 23rd November with implementation the week commencing 4th December.
It is therefore envisaged that all schemes will be fully operational by Mid- December.