Council bosses were asked to “listen to residents” about the divisive emergency transport measures brought in across Lewisham at an overview and scrutiny business panel committee meeting on Tuesday (July 21).  

London boroughs were recently allocated funding after bidding for cash from Transport for London’s Streetspace programme, a pot dedicated to councils so they can carry out emergency transport measures to make it easier to social distance, walk, and cycle in the wake of Covid-19.   

Measures include widening pavements, creating cycle lanes, and introducing low traffic neighbourhoods and school streets by cutting some roads off from traffic. 

Lewisham was awarded £347,294, just under 12 per cent of the £2.9 million it applied for.   

The borough could still unlock another £132,365 allocated to it by TfL, but it is dependent on how the schemes pan out.  

Councils are also bidding for more funding from the Department for Transport from its £250 million active travel fund announced in May.  

Many in Lewisham support the changes.

But some of the measures, specifically modal filters used to block off roads to through-traffic, have been divisive.  

The 13 modal filters in Lee Green have displaced traffic to neighbouring areas, with residents reporting surges in traffic and gridlocked roads for hours during the day.  

At the scrutiny meeting, during a discussion around an update from council bosses on the council’s Covid-19 response, Lewisham Central ward Councillor Patrick Codd said he hoped the council would be listening to residents. 

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Overview and scrutiny business panel

He said he was pleased to see the “many references in the report acknowledging the need to collaborate and work with communities” and to “engage and work with residents”.  

Raising the Covid-19 driven traffic calming measures, which was not mentioned in the report “due to timing” the chief executive said, Cllr Codd said “they’re really important to improve the area”, but that “because they’ve been introduced quite quickly, without the usual time to prepare thoroughly before they were input, I think it’s more incumbent than ever that we are going to be listening to the residents who we say we’re going to be listening to”.  

“I know we’ve got a method of feeding back on a Commonplace page […] but I’m imploring senior management at the council to make sure the staff who are managing this project are properly resourced to do proper project management, that we are identifying the issues that arise, that we have a risk register in place, mitigations that we’re ready to go with, and that we’re identifying and learning lessons as we go along.  

“Residents are acutely interested in this, and you’ll get all sorts of different opinions, but I feel that all of them should be listened to with respect and all of them should feel like they’re able to influence the development of the programme,” he said.  

We know there have been some implementation issues that we need to learn from, and the mayor has a meeting this week with some of the community groups to hear their concerns

The emergency transport measures were also raised by Cllr Liam Curran, who suggested putting a link to council’s website on the modal filters so residents can look up why they have been put there, instead of having “no explanation”.  

Chief executive Kim Wright said the council had recently appointed a new head of programme management and was putting in place a “system which will give us better rigour, grip, oversight, and consistency”. 

“There are clearly some lessons to be learned from what has been a very well-intentioned, positive approach to reducing some of the congestion and improving air quality. 

“We know there have been some implementation issues that we need to learn from, and the mayor has a meeting this week with some of the community groups to hear their concerns.  

“We are looking urgently on what we can do quickly to respond to some of those issues,” she said. 

She said the council should “do more than just put the website link” on the barriers. 

“There’s a good message and a good story to tell about why we’re doing what we’re doing, [there] needs to be broader communication on the road closure signs,” she said.