Council report shows majority want to retain Liveable Streets scheme in Bethnal Green.
This week Tower Hamlets Council published the results of the two Liveable Streets consultations for Old Bethnal Green Road and Weavers held in January 2023.
Liveable Streets is the name given to Tower Hamlets Council’s low-traffic neighbourhood schemes (LTN) introduced by the previous administration in 2019.
The consultations ran for three weeks, closing on 12 February, and were the second round of consultations after the original consultations on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods across the borough during the summer of 2022.
Consultation packs were delivered to 6,000 residents and businesses in the Old Bethnal Green Road and Weavers areas. Over 4,300 responses were received for both consultations and over 1,800 of these were from residents and businesses located within the scheme areas, identified using reference codes included in consultation packs.
Both consultations presented respondents with two options as well as a travel survey and scheme evaluation. The options were:
- Option 1: Remove the Liveable Streets closures and implement a series of area-wide improvements to the public realm to encourage active travel.
- Option 2: Retain the current scheme.
Emails were also sent to key stakeholders including local schools, Transport for London (TfL), the emergency services and internal Council departments.
Consultations were for two separate schemes, one in Old Bethnal Green Road and one in Weavers including Columbia Road and Arnold Circus.
Of all valid responses to the Old Bethnal Bethnal Green Road consultation, 77 per cent supported retaining the LTN schemes (option 2), and 33 per cent supported their removal (option 1). Responses from residents living in the specific consultation area, rather than the wider Tower Hamlets area, showed that 59 per cent (442 people) supported retaining the schemes (option 2), and 41 per cent supported removing them (option 1).
Of all valid responses to the Weavers consultation, 75 per cent supported retaining the LTN schemes (option 2) and 25 per cent said they should be removed (option 2). Responses from residents living in the consultation area, rather than the wider Tower Hamlets area, showed that 58 per cent (454) wanted to keep the LTNs (option 2), and 42 per cent (332) supported their removal (option 2).
Overall, the majority of residents and other respondents from Tower Hamlets were therefore in favour of retaining the Liveable Streets schemes.
Rather than voting for the two options put forward in the consultation, key stakeholders such as the public and emergency services, were asked to submit feedback on the benefits and drawbacks of specific elements of the schemes.
Broadly speaking, option 1, to remove the Liveable Streets schemes was supported by Tower Hamlets Waste Collection, Tower Hamlets Highways and UK Power Networks.
Option 2, to retain the existing traffic arrangements, was supported by the Met Police, TfL, Oaklands Secondary School and Lawdale Primary School, located in Bethnal Green.
The London Ambulance Service supported the removal of certain hard closures including the reopening of Old Bethnal Green Road, as laid out in option 1. Yet it also raised concerns about a number of one-way systems proposed under Option 1.
The Council’s Passenger Services providing transportation to education and social services supported the removal of road closures but said that the Liveable Streets scheme’s aim to keep other traffic off the road and give priority to its buses would improve journey times.
The response from Tower Hamlets Public Health Team focused on the impact of low-traffic neighbourhood interventions on active travel and air quality.
It highlighted that Tower Hamlets is exceeding the UK legal limit for NO2 and PM2.5 and is not meeting the World Health Organisation for other pollutant guidelines.
Citing studies inside and outside of the borough, the Public Health Team came to the conclusion that LTNs have typically resulted in a substantial reduction in motor traffic and air pollution, and that these types of interventions are likely to protect vulnerable residents from harm.
The London Fire Brigade voiced the importance of the Brigade getting the first engine to a fire incident in six minutes, and stated: ‘It is imperative that any works like this have minimal impact on our emergency response.’
The report also outlines data collected by the council on numerous measures relating to traffic, journey times, air quality, pedestrian and cycle counts, and road safety.
Collecting data before and after the implementation of Liveable Streets schemes was not possible for cycle and pedestrian counts but the Council stated that enough data had been recorded for a sufficient assessment, which can be found in the report.
The public consultations presented respondents with two options as laid out above. Yet the report includes a third option, Option 3, which was not included in the consultation.
According to the report, ‘This is an amended version of Option 1 which seeks to address concerns raised by key internal and external stakeholders and the public consultation.’
The differences of Option 3 are as follows:
Old Bethnal Green area:
- Keep closure on Canrobert Street
- Keep Old Bethnal Green Road one way between Pollard Row and Clarkson Street
- New camera filters on Old Bethnal Green Road junction with Temple Street to operate during peak times (with resident exemption)
- Widen footway on Old Bethnal Green Road between Mansford Street and Pollard Row
- New school street on Pollard Street
Columbia Road area:
- Keep a one-way section on Ravenscroft Street (between Ezra Street and Columbia Road)
- New camera filter on Hackney Road junction with Ropley Street to operate Monday to Saturday. Only restricts non-exempt vehicles from turning in from Hackney Road into Ropley Street
Arnold Circus area:
- Four new camera filters on Old Nichol Street and Arnold Circus junction with Calvert Avenue, Navarre Street and Hocker Street restricting night-time non-resident through traffic and associated ASB.
According to the report: ‘Through Option 3, the benefits of the scheme are retained while addressing the impacts which have been identified.
‘A strong theme emerging from the support for Option 2 was that the scheme was not perfect, and the Council should work towards improving it rather than complete removal.
‘Option 3 retains most of the low traffic benefits of the scheme without the adverse impacts that have been caused by physical closures.’
The report, including Option 3 which was not included in the consultation, will be considered at Tower Hamlets’ cabinet meeting on Wednesday 20 September where the Mayor will approve one of the three options.
If Option 3 is approved, the changes would have to be implemented through an experimental traffic order (ETO) which would open up a monitoring period in which objections to the order could be made.
The full report and accompanying documents can be found on the Agenda Frontsheet for the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday 20 September at: Democracy.towerhamlets.gov.uk.
For more pieces like this, find all of our reporting on Liveable Streets schemes across Tower Hamlets.