This article was first published on Medium.com on 27th January 2020 by Bow resident Tom Ling and our entire editorial team were so impressed by it that we asked Tom for permission to publish it on LW.
And of course our entire editorial team is bone idle so saves us some work….
But seriously this is a very good overview of the problems LW keeps on hearing about Tower Hamlets Council’s Liveable Streets scheme which is being delivered by Project Centre Limited for £15m of your cash.
There are 17 different Liveable Streets areas across the borough and a common thread is that residents views are being ignored – which is no surprise as Tower Hamlets Council seems to pay lip-service to the whole notion of consultation whatever the project.
Tom also questions if Project Centre have an interest in the programme going ahead regardless of the views of local residents so they get paid their £15m? Is there is a conflict of interest here?
Additionally the parent company behind Project Centre are in the business of debt collection from things like, bus gates, so is there not a bit of an issue
Other issues are surfacing about how the Liveable Streets scheme is being delivered and we will keep you informed as to what is going on.
Take it away Tom!
Liveable Streets Bow: Questions, but no answers
Since my earlier article on the Liveable Streets scheme in Bow being implemented by Tower Hamlets Council, I’ve attended one of the “co-design” workshops that the Liveable Streets team organised to gather feedback from residents on the proposals for Bow. The one I attended was on Tuesday 28 November 2019 at Olga Primary School.
Participants in the workshop were divided into groups of about eight each. There was an introductory presentation by the Liveable Streets team, including some data on why traffic reduction in Tower Hamlets is desirable (air pollution measures, footfall patterns, etc.). Then each group discussed three main options for traffic measures in Bow, and were given the opportunity to propose other ideas as well. Of course participants brought many different perspectives to the workshop — there were residents on ‘rat run’ roads, cyclists, residents who require vehicles for daily travel, and so on. The Liveable Streets team stressed that the workshop was not a consultation, and there would be further engagement with residents in the future once the team have a single plan for the changes they would like to implement.
While I remain open-minded about the potential for Liveable Streets to make improvements in Bow, the fact that the team continues to ignore the questions I have asked about the scheme via email means that for now, I cannot see myself supporting the scheme in any form.
I’m not persuaded by the data and arguments given so far that bus gates are a reasonable solution to the problems the Liveable Streets team wants to address. I’m also concerned that financial incentives in place for Project Centre, and the fact that the parent company behind Project Centre are in the business of debt collection, mean that a solution involving bus gates (which will generate revenue by fining drivers who break the rules) will end up being implemented regardless of residents’ views, as has happened already in Wapping.
The questions I have asked, and which I suggest readers might want to include in their own enquiries to the team, are listed here:
Questions for the Liveable Streets team
1. How does Project Centre get paid for their work on the Liveable Streets programme? If the payment structure is based on the successful delivery of the programme, does that mean that Project Consult have an interest in the programme going ahead regardless of the views of local residents and therefore there is a conflict of interest? If so, why has this not been declared on any information materials about the Liveable Streets programme?
2. Why was the outreach to local residents so limited? We received the first communication about the trial in the last week or so when the trial was already confirmed to go ahead. Who decided to run the trial without properly informing residents in this area?
3. Can you provide an outline of the phases in the programme for Bow? Who are the decision makers at each step and who should residents contact to express their views regarding the programme at each step?
4. Can you provide the evidence on which the decision to close specific roads to reduce traffic, reduce air pollution etc. was based?
5. Why can’t local residents be given passes/permits to pass through the closed roads (stated at the drop in session at Bow Idea Store)? This seems extremely unjust given that as local residents we have a greater stake in the design of the road system than other users. If it is possible to limit the Tredegar Road-A12 route to certain types of road traffic (i.e. buses), why is it not possible to do this for residents?
6. At the drop in session it was claimed that these changes are motivated by a desire to reduce traffic for the wealthier neighbourhoods around Tredegar Square. Is there any substance to such claims?
7. Will you be making the data from the early engagement (survey etc) conducted with residents in April/May 2019 available to the public?
8. Given that residents living on Tredegar Road and certain other streets will be disproportionately inconvenienced by the proposed changes, why did you not step up engagement with these residents in order to ensure maximum buy-in before running any trials?
9. At the drop in session a number of alternative suggestions were proposed e.g. changing the traffic light system at the Bow A12 roundabout. Were these considered by the project team?
Additional questions relating to the co-design workshops
10. If I remember correctly, all three initial proposals for road layout changes involve the use of bus gates. Why have other traffic deterrence measures, such as chicanes, speed humps, mechanical bollards and ‘No Access’ signs, not been considered before resorting to proposing bus gates?
11. Bus gates would generate revenue for Tower Hamlets Council and some proportion of the fines might require the use of debt collection services, which are provided by Project Centre’s ultimate parent company Marston Holdings. Does any conflict of interest arise from this and if so, why has no conflict of interest been declared?
12. Nottinghamshire Council is consulting residents of Nuthall on allowing exemptions for local residents to travel through the Nuthall bus gate. Why can’t a similar system be implemented so that residents who need to drive through the bus gate are not penalised?
13. Do you have a system in place to measure the outcomes or success/failure of changes to the road layout? What will you measure?
Please reach out to me or post in the comments if you manage to get answers to these questions from the Liveable Streets team or Project Centre!
About the author
I am a data analyst living in the Bow area of East London. I also provide contract research, analysis and copyediting/proofreading services through my company, Capalytic.