I've been sent your email that you sent to a number of Walthamstow Cllrs raising concerns and observations about the initial plans for the Gyratory, timings of works and links to other developments in the Town Centre. I've been asked to respond. So please find below a response to each of your points.
1. This has been discussed for years so surely you have a plan which should have been implemented years ago.
The Council has always had aspirations to improve the transport connections and layout in Walthamstow town centre, but a project of this scale requires significant funding. This funding has not been available until recently so we have not been in a position to develop a scheme until now. As part of the Waltham Forest Mini-Holland bid to TfL, it was proposed to make improvements to the gyratory to infill the gap between the two bridges and reconfigure the road layout, to make it simpler and safer for all road users. As a result of the success of our bid, funding for this is now available and initial designs have been developed which will be consulted on early next year.
However in the meantime working with TfL we have secured the required track closures etc so that we can progress with the work on and around the bridges; in some respects these are enabling works. As well as improving the layout of the gyratory, we want to plant more trees and plants, improve the bus station with better positioned bus stops, and provide new pedestrian crossings and more cycle spaces – all of these will form part of the plans that will be taken to public consultation in early 2017.
2. Tinkering with the bus station and providing a loading bay outside Tesco’s is fine but how do you know if this will fit in with the final scheme? Surely you need to agree the final scheme before works start.
Independently of the above, Transport for London (TfL) have funded a different scheme to widen the bus station exit (widening to allow two buses to exit at the same time). This not only provides benefits to bus passengers and bus journey times but also includes providing a loading/taxi bay outside Tesco which helps free up the road by allowing vehicles to load on this section of Selborne Road and not blocking it. As these changes are funded separately we are going ahead with these improvements already but they will be incorporated into our designs for consultation on the final scheme.
3. This is a very important junction and any tinkering with it will, as is admitted in the article, create disruption. This needs to be considered in conjunction with the Mini Holland plans for Lea Bridge Road as any congestion here will impact on Lea Bridge Road and equally delays on Lea Bridge Road impact on Markhouse Road which block Selbourne Road and grid lock the whole area. Having just come back from Bath where one road is closed for works I have seen what grid lock really means – all traffic is virtually stationery.
All roadworks across Waltham Forest and our neighbouring boroughs are closely coordinated together with TfL to minimise the impact on vehicle movement and bus routes. Our highways team are fully involved in both the Lea Bridge Road Mini-Holland scheme as you mentioned, and the gyratory works so have a good overview of likely disruption across the two schemes, rather than them being delivered in isolation as separate projects.
The works are also supported by our communications plan which includes; a range of signage at the heart of the works but also on key approach roads so drivers are forewarned, face to face meetings with businesses and letters, on-street banners, articles in Waltham Forest News, website information, Tweets, attendance at Community Ward forums, briefings with Councillors and information through TfL channels such as Oyster card holders, website (traffic status updates), taxi and freight communications.
As with works of any nature, we know there is always an element of disruption and that this is not ideal for anyone, but it is unfortunately necessary in the short term to create a better junction. We are trying to make sure as many people as possible – whether they are a resident or a visitor – are aware in advance so they can make informed choices about the way they travel through this part of the borough while the work is taking place.
4. Any scheme needs to take in to account the extra traffic and pedestrians created by the very large developments at South Grove, Buxton Road and the 27 storey tower block and expansion of the Mall. These developments will have a significant effect on traffic levels as they are so large.
Our proposals are being developed in conjunction with all existing, future and potential developments in mind and in particular the existing and future increases in pedestrian movements around the area. We are also conscious of the congestion on our roads so are working closely with developers to introduce sustainable transport strategies and deliver car free developments, which is a London wide move to better manage the road network in a developing and growing city.
5. The current pedestrian crossing route to the station is very dangerous and pedestrians need to be separated from the traffic by a tunnel or bridge.
We recognise that pedestrian safety near the station is an issue, which is one of the reasons we want to improve the layout of the gyratory. Our initial studies have also highlighted the need for improved crossing points around the junction, not just to help existing pedestrian numbers, but also to cope with greater demand in the future. We are already looking at the ‘desire lines’ – the quickest routes pedestrians tend to take when they are navigating between the station, bus stops and other areas, so we can ensure these are factored into the plans to be consulted on in the new year.
6. The bus station needs to be redesigned with fewer routes entering the bus station. Currently congestion is caused by all the bus routes going via the bus station even if they are just passing up or down Selbourne Road.
We also recognise your points about congestion in and around the bus station and the fact that a number of routes go into the station and then back out again. We are working closely with TfL buses, London Underground and London Overground to revise the bus termination points to address this issue which may in the future mean some can stop along Hoe Street instead of having to go into the station, turning round and coming out again. Again any changes will be part of our plans that we will consult on in the new year.
7. Cycle routes should be directed away from the gyratory system as there is not enough room for buses and normal traffic. Reducing capacity by putting in cycle lanes will help no one.
We need to plan for the provision of cycling and walking facilities in our designs for the area as an increasing number of people are cycling and this is something we are keen to encourage. It is important that we support the potential car free developments happening as well as linking together our walking and cycling schemes such as Walthamstow Village, TfL Quietway 2 and Forest Road. Our initial studies show that the provision of cycle routes through the area can still be accommodated whilst providing considerable improvements to bus services and bus journey times and without impacting the road network capacity.
8. The development of the shopping centre and the 27 storey tower block should not go ahead as this will just bring even more people into an area that is already at capacity.
At present a planning application for this development has not been submitted so the Council cannot fully review any impact. However as outlined above it is anticipated that any residential development in this area would be car free so this should not have an adverse impact on car levels in the area.
I hope this helps clarify at least?
Please let me know if you have any further issues.
Yesterday, Friday 20th, a group of 12 of us went to the Town Hall and handed in our petition to Debra Marlow of the Democratic Services Department. James Cracknell of the Waltham Forest Echo was present and took pictures, so we'll almost certainly have an item about our campaign in the November edition.
We had just over 2,000 signatures at that point (2,015 to be precise) and Ms Marlow greeted us warmly and suggested that we could speak for three minutes at a meeting of the Planning Scrutiny Committee on the same evening, which we did.
However, John Williams, the Democratic Services Officer, pointed out to us at the meeting that that was not really the most relevant Committee for the points that I had raised and I should book a slot to speak at the meeting of the Planning Committee itself on Tuesday 8th November at 7.00 pm. He said that he would arrange for me to do this, and If any of you would like to come along to that meeting as far as I know you just need to let them know in advance as the room they meet in is relatively small. If you just want to know what I said I can let you hear a recording that we made of my little speech just for the record, but I need to upload it to the Internet and provide a link, which I won't have time to do tonight. Overall I'm encouraged at the way things are going, and would like to thank everybody who came to see the petition handed in, everyone who helped us to collect signatures, and (most of all really) everyone who signed the petition!
More to come.
All best wishes,