Recent Public Consultations
In our February newsletter, we alerted readers to several public consultations that were taking place in WC1.
Proposed walking and cycling improvements – Farringdon Area
BRAG was only alerted to this particular consultation through word of mouth i.e. a resident who had read a post in 'Nextdoor', the neighbourhood social networking service; and from our links with Holborn Voice, which provides a conduit for information and debate for Holborn residents and businesses.
The closure of Frederick Street to motor traffic from Kings Cross Road was one of those proposals within this consultation. But Frederick Street is not in Farringdon – it’s in King's Cross. And the people who live nearby, in the neighbouring streets of Swinton, Acton, Wicklow, Britannia - who might in fact have something useful to say - were excluded from the very narrowly identified, 'consultation area'.
A street plan was attached to the leaflet. It had misspellings - Fredrick not Frederick, Calthrope not Calthorpe - and the plan showed the route of Cycle Superhighway 6 accessing Frederick Street, when the proposed CS6 route will use Ampton Street.
BRAG complained about these errors to Camden Council, both officers and councillors, and a letter was written to the CNJ highlighting the issue.
As a result, the plan on the website was amended (though not the spelling mistakes) and a corrected paper version was sent to the residents who had been excluded from the first consultation, and live in the neighbouring streets of Wicklow Street, Britannia Street, Acton Street and Swinton Street, plus Swinton Place, St Chad’s Place, Field Street and Leeke Street. The consultation deadline was also extended to Friday 23 March 2018.
The editor of Holborn Voice made a formal complaint to Camden regarding the consultation process in the ‘Farringdon’ area, which in fact lies in Islington. Sue Vincent, ward councillor for Holborn & Covent Garden agreed that residents could be confused as “Farringdon is indeed across the great divide and the interventions are certainly in our ward and Kings Cross.”
We were subsequently informed by Louise McBride, Camden’s senior transport planner, that the reason it was called the Farringdon area was, “because it is part of the Farringdon ‘area based scheme’ as mentioned in Camden’s Transport Strategy and associated annual spending plan for 2017/18…..In addition, Farringdon is recognised as a distinct area that falls within Camden in the current London Plan: it refers to ‘the Farringdon/Smithfield area as an Area for Intensification (for growth), and which covers three boroughs - Islington, the City of London and Camden (page 375). Similarly, Camden’s approved Local Plan, in citing the London Plan’s reference and requirement for Intensification Areas, also refers to the Farringdon/Smithfield area, which covers parts of Islington, the City of London and the south east of Camden’s Central London area around Hatton Garden and the Mount Pleasant site.”
Holborn Voice has pointed out to Councillors that this response “raises a more worrying issue that the council has been technical rather than mindful about effective engagement. The name is a barrier to engagement with residents and their views.”
A local resident and professional statistician wrote to Louise McBride with the pertinent comment that by amending the inaccurate layout plan, Camden has essentially organised two consultations, the first based on false information. “So, we question how officers will be able to properly analyse the results?”
This view was endorsed by Cllr Vincent who noted the further errors in the consultation leaflet – “particularly the wrong street being named - as I couldn’t begin to think how officers would analyse the consultations given the misinformation contained within.”
The consultation has created a great deal of confusion for residents in both Kings Cross and Holborn wards. The lack of care by officers also gives the impression that consultations are merely window-dressing for decisions that have already been made.
Review of CA-D Parking
The Council asked residents in the CA-D parking zone if they wanted the restricted hours for resident bays to be extended to 24 hours (except Sundays), rather than just day time as now (8.30-18.30 in the week and 8.30-13.30 on Saturdays).
BRAG attended a Council meeting about this matter in December 2018 and have spoken to people who live in different parts of the zone. It seems that different areas may have different requirements, and the Council has said they would be able to create ‘subzones’ with different rules.
The size of the parking zone currently allows for the ease of social visits for those people who live in the east of the CA-zone and have friends in the west and south. This is especially important for the wellbeing of less mobile residents. To reduce the size of the parking zone would make it much harder for these residents to visit friends, support local shops (a benefit for the local economy) and could result in older people, in particular, feeling trapped in their homes if their friends within the neighbourhood are further away, but no longer within the same parking zone. Elderly residents are more likely to want to visit friends during the day, rather than at night, when they could park on a yellow line. So, this flexibility of parking for residents in this area south of the Euston Road is very important.
BRAG’s view is that No Change is the best solution.
BRAG also feels that it is essential the restriction times for yellow lines stay the same as they are at the moment. The single yellow lines allow visitor parking in the evening and weekends, as well as space for residents who can't find an available resident bay close by. The Council say this is not currently being considered but we are wary of creeping restrictions that may impact on residents day to day quality of life.
This consultation focused on proposals to change road widths and junctions in the Holborn area.
BRAG suggested that removing a traffic lane in High Holborn to increase the pavement is likely to increase the standing time of traffic using the junction. This will increase the pollution caused by idling engines and will not improve the environment for walkers or cyclists. We note the entrance to Holborn underground station is cluttered with kiosks and other physical obstacles. These obstruct the footway and impede pedestrian circulation. Surely these should be removed first?
The closing of Bloomsbury square at the south side will have a major impact on the junction of great Russell Street and Southampton Row. Without nearby alternatives traffic would have to go a considerable distance before being able to turn left. There will be additional pollution for this extra journey time, and the alternative routes are likely to be the main roads where in fact the pedestrian footfall is greater than Bloomsbury Square, and therefore more harm will occur to more people by the proposal.
It was pointed out by a resident of Southampton Row (and yes, people live there too!) that with no left turn from Vernon Place into Southampton Row and no right turn from High Holborn, “I'm never going to be able to get home unless I am travelling from the north or south!”
A lack of traffic flow increases the pollution caused by idling engines in stop-start journeys. BRAG feels that insufficient consideration has been given to the overall access in and around the local neighbourhood. Plans have been approved to change traffic patterns in Tottenham Court and Gower Street; the future direction of Torrington Place and Tavistock Place is still undecided; Oxford Street may be closed to vehicles (and bikes). Now the Holborn gyratory is to be removed.
All these schemes impinge on each other and yet road closures and diversions are considered in a piecemeal fashion without a detailed plan and wider consultation.