The Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment provided the Committee with a presentation outlining that his ambition was for the borough to be the cleanest and greenest, a place where people will want to live and work.
The introduction of 20mph speed limits in zone 1 and approval for zone 2 were outlined as a success. In addition, the Cabinet Member noted the conclusion of the consultation in zones 3 to 5 with a report to be taken to a meeting of the Traffic Management Advisory Committee in May 2017.
The poor performance of Southern rail was noted and the Cabinet Member stressed that, like the Leader, he described the performance as being an economic threat to the area. Recent reports had suggested that the disruption would continue to the end of 2018, and the Cabinet Member assured the Committee that a hard hitting campaign to encourage a resolution to the dispute would continue.
The Cabinet Member noted that the street lighting replacement programme had concluded which would provide a saving of £40million over the 25 years of the contract.
The challenges outlined by the Cabinet Member included the delivery of the growth zones. There were 39 projects with a number being transport related and it was important that they were delivered for the future of the borough.
While the pressure being placed on Southern to resolve the ongoing dispute was stated to be a success, the Cabinet Member stressed that continued pressure needed to be applied. Furthermore, investment into the Brighton mainline was necessary and the Cabinet Member informed the Committee that cross party support was being provided for this project.
The Cabinet Member informed the Committee that the Cycling Strategy was being developed and would be taken to a future meeting for scrutiny. However, it was noted that there continued to be low levels of cycling in the borough and more work needed to be undertaken to encourage cycling, although it was noted that there would be further disruption in the town centre with developments which may discourage residents from cycling.
Tackling the air quality problem remained a challenge which the Cabinet Member considered to be on the scale of obesity. However, he stated he was pleased to see that the public recognised it is a problem and hoped that the new Air Quality Action Plan would address some of the issues.
A challenge which was also recognised was the parking at dropping off and picking up times at schools which the Cabinet Member was looking to resolve.
The Cabinet Member also outlined his priorities for the portfolio, including ensuring that Croydon's priorities were within the Mayor's Transport Strategy, and that the right decisions around 20mph speed limits were made.
The Cabinet Member reflected on how he had addressed the issues by providing a political leadership with a clear direction of travel that officers and Members were able to understand. The Cabinet Member further sought to be Member led and listened to all ward councillors when concerns were raised. It was acknowledged that the portfolio was highly strategic, with the growth zone projects having an influence on the borough for decades to come, however very local issues were also addressed.
Members requested an update on the level of response that had been received as part of the 20mph consultation in zones 3 -5. The Cabinet Member stated that there had been in the region of 4,000 individual responses, which was broadly in line with the expected number of responses, and work was underway to assess the number of communications which were in objection and the number in support, and the figures for each zone. The Committee were informed that the nature and volume of objections would be assessed before the report was taken to the Traffic Management Committee for consideration.
Councillor Bashford informed the Committee that she had received figures from officers of 1,200 for Area 3, 1,750 for Area 4 and 2,050 for Area 5. The Director of Streets stated that the responses were being reviewed and there were some positive responses also within the figures provided.
The effect of 20mph on pollution levels was discussed and it was suggested that an area be left at 30mph to enable the impact on pollution to be assessed. The Cabinet Member raised concerns that it would not be best way to obtain an insight into the impact of 20mph speed limits on pollution, furthermore he stated that he would like to see detailed academic evidence that there would be an effect before consideration.
The Committee acknowledged the need for transport infrastructure to be expanded in the borough and queried the Cabinet Member's position on a number of possible schemes, including the extension of the Bakerloo Line to Elmers End, the tram expansion to Sutton no longer being part of the Mayor's strategy, the Brighton mainline and the opportunities that may arise from a Clapham connection to Crossrail 2.
In response the Cabinet Member assured the Committee that the case for tram expansion was continued to be pressed and they were seeking to persuade Transport for London (TfL) of the benefit of the tram system. It was noted that tram systems outside London had been expanded, however the Croydon Tramlink had not experienced the same expansion. With regards to the Bakerloo Line, the Cabinet Member was due to attend an event the following day and would raise the possibility of the expansion into Croydon. The Brighton mainline was stated to continue to be an important strategic project for the borough which the Council would continue to lobby for.
The Cabinet Member acknowledged that the possible benefits of Clapham connection to Crossrail 2 were attractive, however noted it was important to be realistic on how many strategic projects the authority could lobby on. The tram expansion and Brighton mainline projects were the priority projects, however it would be continually reviewed.
The Cabinet Member assured the Committee that he was aware of the issues around East Croydon and work was underway to begin the process of talking to residents regarding the impact and possible mitigations that would reduce the impact. The biggest impact was identified as being the poor performance of the two junctions on Cherry Orchard Road, however there was an opportunity with the emerging development opportunity of the Brighton mainline which would redevelop the station and introduce two new platforms. If this work was to be done then works to the junctions would be undertaken at the same time. The authority was in discussions with other stakeholders to ensure necessary work was being undertaken to enable the borough to realise its growth potential.
The Cabinet Member noted that with the emerging development of East Croydon station that the entrances and exits to the station would move. Any changes to the pedestrian bridge would need to be calculated as being temporary only until the redevelopment was being undertaken.
In response to questions the Cabinet Member acknowledged more work could be done to increase the use of electric cars, however the approach that had been taken had been to work on a pan-London basis to ensure that users would experience the benefit across the capital by working with London Councils.
Updated on playstreets and car clubs were requested by the Committee and the Cabinet Member assured Members that updates would be provided within the next Cabinet Member bulletin for the Council meeting in April 2017.
The Director of Streets informed the Committee that a second interim report of the fatal tram accident had been released by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) which had included some new information. It was stressed that it was important the conclusions were not prejudged, however the Committee were assured that all the organisations involved were working closely to ensure an accident like that did not happen again. Any additional funding required to improve the safety of the network would be expected to be provided by TfL and the tram operator.
The Cabinet Member reiterated the importance of waiting for the final report from the RAIB before assessing the possible impact on future tram expansions, however confirmed that the tram network continued to be an important part of the transport infrastructure of the borough. That, notwithstanding the terrible accident that occurred on 9 November 2016, the tram had a relatively safe history.
The issue of the safety of bridges was raised due to the closures of the bridges on Blackhorse Lane due to the dangerous state of disrepair. The Director of Streets informed the Committee that the bridge that had failed was owned by TfL, however the council owned bridge had only a short life expectancy. The Committee were assured that all bridges were inspected.
Rowland Gordon, Service Manager, informed the Committee that there were a number of bridges in the borough which were approaching the end of their life expectancy. General inspections were undertaken every two years and principle inspections every six years, and if any issues are identified then further inspections were undertaken and work would be undertaken with all stakeholders to address the concerns. The Service Manager stated that a number of bridges had been taken over with the introduction of the trams, however two bridges had been missed and therefore inspections had not been undertaken by either Network Rail or Tramlink. The Director of Streets assured the Committee that safety inspections were undertaken and works were planned for a number on bridge, including Woodhouse Lane, Foxley Hill and the St James Road area.
The Chair informed the Committee that a tweet had been received regarding the pressure of the bridge closures on Blackhorse Lane on local businesses and queried how residents and businesses were being kept informed of progress. The Service Manager informed Members that a noticeboard had been put in place in the area, and another would be installed and additional information would be displayed on these boards. Information had also been circulated to Members and more would be provided, if required.
In response to Member questions the Service Manager acknowledged the repairs had taken a long time as additional surveys were required to ensure that when the contract was let it would be a design and build contract, so as to lower the costs. It was intended that the contract would go out to tender in June 2017 and TfL would project manage as they had more in house experience, however the council would look to undertake works on both bridges at the same time.
The Service Manager informed the Committee that they did not anticipate additional works to the bridge at Old Lodge Lane, however it was a Network Rail bridge and officers would inform councillors if more works were required. It was noted that it had taken a number of weeks for the signs notifying would be taking place to be removed and Members requested that sign removal be included in future.
Members queried whether they would be an expansion of car clubs in the borough as it was stated that the ability for residents to use the facilities would facilitate decreasing the number of vehicles in the borough. The Cabinet Member confirmed that an update on car clubs would be included in the Cabinet Member bulletin, including increasing the number of on-street bays, however they were looking at planning consents to encourage increased uptake.
The Cabinet Member, in response to Member questions, stated that he interpreted the environmental aspect of his portfolio to be focussed primarily on tackling air quality. Most aspects of the portfolio crossed over with other Cabinet Member portfolios and the Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment often spoke with colleagues, including Councillor Butler (Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration and Planning) regarding the impact of boilers on air quality and volume of high emission boilers in the council's housing stock. The Cabinet Member assured the Committee that there was a high level of collaborative working.
Concerns were raised regarding infrastructure spending and the backlog of road and pavement repairs and the Cabinet Member stated that he was confident that there was a sensible approach in regards to inspection and Members, and residents, also raised concerns which were reviewed. The Director of Streets informed the Committee that an asset management approach had been adopted, which had led to move to a planned and preventative approach with condition surveys being undertaken. A backlog of repairs was still in evidence, however the Director of Streets stated that significant inroads had been made to decrease the volume but that it would take a number of years to recover the full backlog.
The Committee noted that under the Council's budget Community Ward Funds were to increase, however expressed concerns that it had been difficult to assess the costs of possible improvements to areas. The Cabinet Member informed the Committee that he had requested the Directors of Streets and Safety to compile a list of possible works and the associated costs to assist Members. The associated challenge was that new assets, such as street trees, had an associated maintenance expenditure, however the Cabinet Member stated he did not foresee it as being an insurmountable challenge. It was acknowledged that often there were often solutions, such as working with community and requesting they water community gardens.
The Committee came to the following conclusions:
Thanked the Cabinet Member for his presentation and update.
Note the report;
Recommend to the Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment that consideration be given to how best to improve communication with the public on future bridge repairs; and
Request that the next Cabinet Member bulletin for the Council meeting in April 2017 include updates on car clubs and playstreets.