Lewisham Neighbourhood Meeting – Councillors Ignore Public Opposition.

Lewisham Meeting 2020-02-12

Last night (11/2/2020) there was a “Lee Green Assembly” meeting at which the main topic was the proposed Healthy Neighbourhoods scheme. It was well attended with I would guess over 100 local residents there. I tried to ask some questions but was ignored; however my points were well covered by other people.

The event was managed to avoid debate – for example by dealing with questions in threes which avoids follow-up responses. It was clear that some people supported the scheme but it was also obvious that more people opposed the scheme than supported it. Councillors present simply brushed off the objections. One speaker suggested it was appropriate that the event was held in a school because they were being treated as schoolchildren.

I will cover some of the speeches and the questions/answers in detail but this is not a verbatim report:

  1. Councillor James Rathbone (for contact info see below) opened the meeting but Councillor Octavia Holland then spoke. She said the key objective was to reduce traffic. The drivers of the policy are air quality and pedestrian safety. She apologised for people not hearing about the proposals. She mentioned there had been more than one petition on the subject (Note: one of these is still open – see https://tinyurl.com/wpbx57u – you may care to sign it). She also said that 60% of traffic in the area is not starting or stopping within it and admitted that the scheme was going to be inconvenient for some people – that is particularly so as 65% of households in the area own a car. It will need significant change in how people organise their lives.
  1. The scheme is based on the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy and there will be a consultation during the trial period. The scheme also depends on approval by Transport for London (TfL) as it might impact on bus journey times. There will also be multiple “drop-in” sessions, and it was said later that will be another “letter drop” (Comments: so why can’t they simply ask residents whether they support the proposal or not?).
  1. It is also proposed to extend the current CPZs across the area and there will be a public consultation on those proposals.
  1. Questions were then taken by Octavia and Josh Learner who is the Cycling and Walking Programme Manager at Lewisham Council.
  1. The first Question/Comment was from a police constable who said the modal filters will impact emergency response times. It will apparently require the police to get out to unlock and remove the “bollard” to gain access and replace afterwards. She said that you would be “buggered” if it was a single person call-out. The response was that it works OK in other similar schemes.
  1. Another issue raised was the increased traffic on Hall Park Lane coming off the A205 to avoid the road closures. Answer: This is being discussed with Greenwich Council who are responsible for that area – more closures might be imposed.
  1. A cyclist who lives on Burnt Ash Hill supported the scheme but raised the issue of monitoring of air pollution before and after the trial (there may be more traffic on that road, increasing air pollution). The answer was that it will be monitored.
  1. The next speaker who lives on Manor Lane near the blockages was concerned about increased traffic and difficulty getting onto the South Circular which is already a problem. Answer: this will be looked at.
  1. The next speaker complained about the consultation. Why not a simple vote on the scheme, with a letter sent to everyone? (Comment: this is a very good point).  The answer from a councillor was simply waffle at which point they were shouted down. But it was said that the scheme would not be stopped regardless of the public views [in other words, the “consultation” is a farce as the public will be ignored anyway).
  1. A resident of Burnt Ash Hill said that they were going to be poisoned but you are ignoring us, and why can’t we have proper consultation. Councillor Rathbone said that Councils often went ahead without consultation and mentioned a similar scheme in the London Borough of Bromley at Shortlands (Note: the Shortlands scheme is very different and does not involve road closures. There is no public opposition and Bromley Council is very good at doing wide public consultations when necessary).
  1. The next speaker spelled out the impact of low traffic speeds on air pollution and mentioned the negative impact of a scheme in Walthamstow. The answer given was that it will be monitored in the trial.
  1. Another person raised the possible conflict of interest of having a TfL employee on the board of Sustrans who were developing the scheme.
  1. Another speaker raised concerns about the delay to emergency services and access to the South Circular. The answer was that the emergency services had been contacted but had no objections.
  1. One speaker suggested “timed” closures instead of 24-hour coverage to stop rat running during commuting hours. Answer: it could not be done as part of the trial.
  1. A speaker asked whether there were targets for reduction of air pollution and traffic. Answer: There was none because the final design was not settled and there were “too many moving parts”. Comment: this is a major omission and makes it clear that with no targets being set the “trial” will be considered a success regardless of the facts.
  1. The next question was “had they consulted local businesses”? For example Brewers on Chiltonian Estate? Answer: businesses had been overlooked and they are looking into that. Note: the ABD sent a few letters to such businesses but we could not cover all of them and they will be very badly affected.
  1. A resident of Dallinger Road queried the closures and asked how vehicles were expected to turn around when they ran into one. Answer was that perhaps we should move the closures to the other end of those roads. Comment: I don’t see how that solves the problem.
  1. The next speaker complained about the problem of quick access to Lewisham Hospital as all the fast routes would be cut off (the speaker’s husband had often had to be taken to A&E). Answer: there will be some people who take longer to get to hospital. (Comment: delays to emergency services are already a major problem in London where they consistently fail to meet response time targets. Don’t have a heart attack in London as you are likely to die as a result! The road closures in Lewisham will make matters worse).

It was mentioned in the meeting that another draft of the scheme will be proposed. The last one published was Version 11 so there will be a Version 12, or 13, 14, etc as someone suggested.

It was very clear from the comments of people at the meeting that there is widespread opposition to the scheme as proposed, particularly against the road closures. These might make air pollution slightly better for some, but a lot worse for others. Journey times will be substantially increased.

But councillors and council staff seem to want to push ahead regardless. Anyone who has had dealings with councils will know that they hate to admit mistakes and reconsider proposals or abandon them despite public opposition. That is what is happening in Lewisham.

It is also clear that Lewisham Council is pushing ahead with a “trial” of the road closures before doing a proper public consultation. This is an “arse about face” approach to put it politely. They will never to be taken out later.

I urge all residents of the Lee Green area to contact their councillors below.

Contact information:

Councillors:

James Rathbone: http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=2990

Octavia Holland: http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=2989

Jim Mallory: http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=167

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

Lewisham Neighbourhood Scheme – Will Traffic Simply Evaporate?

I visited the Council’s “public drop-in event” for the Lewisham “Healthy Neighbourhoods” scheme yesterday. It was so crowded that it was difficult to get a useful conversation with any council staff (I will be sending them some written questions instead), but I did talk to a few of the other attendees who were all opposed to the road closures and the lack of proper consultation.

Display Panel 3 2020-02-06

There were a number of maps and panels on display, including one with a headline title of “Traffic Evaporation” – see above. If you read the detail of the panel it claims only 11% of traffic disappeared from such schemes, but most of it found alternative routes. In the case of Lee Green this will mean more traffic on other minor routes, effectively displacing the problem and affecting other residents. But there will be a lot more on major roads such as the A20, A205 and A2212 thus creating long traffic queues and more air pollution not less.

One amusing answer I overheard in response to a question about emergency vehicle access was that police cars should be able to just “barge through” the barriers. That sounds exceedingly unlikely. Also some emergency vehicles may be able to get through the camera-enforced “bus gate” on Manor Park but I don’t understand how they will get through the other road closures. Delays to ambulances, fire engines and other emergency service vehicles are a major risk to life – see our recent blog post here which covers that issue: https://tinyurl.com/whzxksr . It is simply wrong for Lewisham Council to put in a scheme that introduces such delays.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Hayes Neighbourhood Scheme and Carbon Emissions in Bromley

Last week (29/1/2020) I attended a meeting of the Environment Policy Development and Scrutiny Committee of the Bromley Council. There were a couple of items worth mentioning:

A Local Neighbourhood Improvement scheme for Hayes Village was discussed and there were a large number of questions from members of the public (in fact more than could be fitted in). This scheme originally included a wide-area 20 mph zone but has been revised to reduce that to a smaller area.

In response to a question, Portfolio Holder Councillor Huntington-Thresher said that it was not a downgraded scheme but simply the best that could be provided for the money available. The proposal will have strong self-enforcing measures and a consultation will be conducted with local residents who can also engage with their local councillors. He also said it was the most cost-effective scheme but the junction at Ridgway will be reviewed. Councillors on the Committee supported the revised proposals.

Comment: Bromley Council as usual have made a wise decision not to waste money on a wide-area signed-only 20 mph which we know has no road safety benefit based on Government commissioned research. This is unlike neighbouring Lewisham Council who have 20-mph limits everywhere and speed humps also. We now have a web site covering our latest campaign against road closures in Lewisham which is yet another anti-car measure they are imposing – see:  https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/lewisham.htm

Another item discussed at the Bromley Committee was their adopted strategy to implement net zero carbon by 2029. The Council’s budget for this item is £134,000 but there was criticism from a member of the public that only Scope 1 and 2 emissions were covered, not Scope 3. The former only cover direct emissions whereas Scope 3 covers indirect emissions such as those made by suppliers or of staff travel to work both of which the council may have little control over. Even if Scope 3 was included it seems the impact on emissions in Bromley would be negligible.

In effect the Council is apparently being attacked on that item and the Hayes Village scheme by a combination of left-wing political activists and environmental campaigners. They surely do not represent the vast majority of the residents of the borough of Bromley.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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The Population Growth Problem and Trump at Davos

7.7 Billion and Growing. That was the subtitle of a BBC TV Horizon programme last night on population. Chris Packham was the presenter. He said the world’s population was 5 million 10,000 years ago but by 2050 it is forecast to be 10 billion. He showed the impact of excessive population on biodiversity and on rubbish generation with lots of other negative impacts on the environment. It is surely one of the most important things to think about at present, and will have major economic impacts if not tackled.

The big growth is coming in countries such as Brazil and Nigeria. Sao Paolo is now 5 times the size of London and it’s running out of water. So are many other major cities including London. The growth in population is being driven by better healthcare, people living longer but mainly via procreation. A stable population requires 2.1 babies per family, but it is currently 2.4. In Nigeria it’s 5!

In some countries it is lower than that. It’s 1.7 in the UK (but population is growing from immigration) and it’s 1.4 in Japan where an ageing population is creating social and economic problems.

The FT ran an editorial on the 14th of January suggesting population in Europe needed to be boosted but it received a good rebuke in a letter published today from Lord Hodgson. He said “Global warming comes about as a result of human activity, and the more humans the more activity.  This is before counting the additional costs of the destruction of the natural world and the depletion of the world’s resources. In these circumstances suggesting there is a need for more people seems irresponsible”.

I completely agree with Lord Hodgson and the concerns of Chris Packham. The latter is a patron of a campaigning charity to restrain the growth in population called Population Matters (see  https://populationmatters.org/ ). Making a donation or becoming a member might assist.

For a slightly different view in Davos President Trump made a speech decrying the alarmist climate views and saying “This is a time for optimism, to reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse”. He was followed by a 17-year old with limited education who said just that and got more coverage in some of the media. I believe Trump and moderate environmental writers like Matt Ridley who suggest we can handle rises in world temperature and that the future is still rosy. But we surely do need to tackle the problem of a growing world population.

Too much population has a direct impact on air pollution and traffic congestion in London and the rest of the UK. More people means more vehicles – not just cars and buses but for delivery of goods.

Chris Packham reported how population reduction was done somewhat too aggressively in India and China but there are other ways to do it via education and financial incentives. Just ensuring enough economic growth in poorer countries will reduce population growth to the minimum. Let’s get on with it!

Roger Lawson

(Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London  ).

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More Air Pollution Scaremongering from the British Heart Foundation

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) have issued a press release which claims that heart attack and stroke deaths related to air pollution could exceed 160,000 by 2030. The charity says air pollution presents a major public health emergency which the Government must urgently address.

What is the basis for this claim? It relies on an “estimate” of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution and on research they have funded. One of those research studies looked at how nanoparticles of gold were absorbed into the blood after inhalation and were retained for some time. They claim this is analogous to PM2.5 particulates in vehicle emissions. But they don’t prove any link to actual heart disease or deaths. Other studies of the impact of small particulates have failed to show any impact on health or life expectancy.

The BHF is a typical large charity that raised £138 million last year. Only 72% of the money raised was actually spent on medical research or other charitable activities. The rest was spent on fund raising. It is a very professionally run organisation with a well-designed web site. The CEO got paid £211,105 in 2108-19.

They are effectively using such scare-mongering to raise funds for the charity by running a “toxic air campaign” if you look at their web site. In other words, they have a direct financial incentive to promote this idea and exaggerate the impact of air pollution on health. They have jumped on the bandwagon of all the air pollution scaremongers.

Vehicles will no doubt get the blame for these scares, but in reality air pollution from vehicles has negligible impact on people’s health or life expectancy. See https://www.abd.org.uk/air-quality-vehicles-truth/ for the evidence.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Are You Suffering from London Throat?

An article in the Daily Telegraph today (9/1/2020) suggests that if you have a constant foggy feeling with repeated coughs and colds then you are suffering from a hitherto unknown disease called “London Throat”. The suggestion is that this condition arises from breathing in polluted air and very specifically inhaling brake dust that damages the immune system, thus preventing the cells called macrophages from clearing away bacteria.

The research on which this claim was based was carried out by Dr Liza Selley and published in the journal Metallomics. Apparently the concentration of tiny metal particles in brake dust is three times higher on roads with speed humps due to the repeated braking they induce.

Comment: If there is such a cause then those who live, work and travel in London are much more likely to have suffered from exposure to particulates on the London Underground where levels of dust pollution are very high and are known to have high concentrations of metal particles.

However, the removal of speed humps which the Telegraph article suggested as a solution, and has also been recommended by NICE to cut pollution, would certainly be a good idea. The ABD has consistently opposed speed humps on the grounds that they generate more air pollution but also for many other reasons. See this web page for a full analysis of how damaging and effective they are:  https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/speed-humps.htm

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Delivery Consolidation in the City and New Traffic Signs Manual

There were a couple of interesting items for readers in a recent edition of Local Transport Today.

Firstly the problem of emissions from delivery vehicles (HGVs and LGVs) in the City of London is being tackled by plans for “consolidation centres”. That would mean fewer individual trips by motorised vehicles with the last mile being covered by cargo bikes or even on foot. The City of London Corporation has identified three possible locations for “last mile logistic hubs” – the London Wall car park, the Barbican Trading Estate and Middlesex Street car park.  I am not even sure what they mean by the Barbican Trading Estate although there are some large car parks in the Barbican Centre. However most of those are accessed via Beech Street which will be a zero emission road soon.

As regards the London Wall car park, I am familiar with that as I use it occasionally but it gets full up already at certain times so removing space for other purposes does not seem a good idea. It is one of the few car parks in the centre of the City and the entrances and exits are not at street level so surely it is far from ideal for heavy cargo bikes.

A new Chapter 6 of the Traffic Signs Manual used by road traffic engineers to help design roads has been issued. Chapter 6 covers junction design and pedestrian signals as well and replaces several “Traffic Advisory Leaflets” issued by the Department for Transport (DfT). It is particularly of interest in respect of the timings of pedestrian crossings and their location. Chapter 6 is only 200 pages – and you thought designing roads was simple.

See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/traffic-signs-manual for all of the Traffic Signs Manual chapters.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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