16 November 2015
We are the local Green Party for two outer London boroughs, Waltham Forest and Redbridge. In 2013, Waltham Forest made a successful bid to Transport for London for a £30 million pot of money to fund an ambitious project called Mini Holland. The project’s key aim is to create, over its 3-year duration, safer and pleasanter road conditions for walking and cycling, and to discourage car use, especially for local journeys within the borough. To achieve this aim, a thoroughgoing revision of transport infrastructure needs to be put in place, with changes to the layout of roads and pathways.
The official launch on September 14th of Stage 1 – Walthamstow Village, was marked by noisy protests from a number of local residents and business owners. They expressed anxieties that the Village had, due to strategic road closures, been isolated from the rest of the community, and would suffer economically and socially as a result. In addition, there was a strong feeling that residents and businesses had not been democratically consulted about the changes. A subsequent full council meeting took place on October 22nd, with a large group of Mini Holland protesters from all walks of life gathering outside the Town Hall. More recently, a court case brought against Waltham Forest Council by local pressure group E17Streets4All resulted in a judgement against the pressure group. In the light of this, we have been asked to clarify our position on Waltham Forest Mini-Holland.
There is a mistaken belief that the Mini Holland concept was the brainchild of outgoing London Mayor Boris Johnson. In fact, Mini Holland approaches originated from a report commissioned in 2007 by Green Party London Assembly member and cyclists’ champion Jenny Jones. The report set out three schemes to follow the successful and soon-to-be-completed London Cycling Network and the Greenways: cycle hire in central London; superhighways for inner London cycling commuters; and cycling hubs in outer London. TfL made clear in their analysis that 70% of these million new cycling trips would need to come from outer London. Yet Boris dropped the outer London plans.
During her 2012 campaign as the Green Party London Mayoral candidate, Jenny stated: “The Green Party fully supports the Going Dutch campaign initiated by the London Cycling Campaign. It is essential that we redesign the road network so that cycling can once again be as normal a part of everyday life as jumping on a bus or a train.”
For many years, both Jenny Jones and Green Party London Assembly member Darren Johnson relentlessly lobbied Boris Johnson, tabling a costed budget analysis providing the funds for a Mini Holland in every borough Their proposal gained support from all three of the main parties, resulting in the £100 million Mini Holland fund which was shared equally between bid winners Waltham Forest, Enfield and Kingston.
The project has now reached the halfway mark, with 18 months left until its completion date in Spring 2017. So, what is our considered opinion on it so far?
Green Party Transport Policy underlines the importance of:
Accessible transport, irrespective of age, wealth or disability, with local needs given priority over travelling greater distances.
Transport and its infrastructure to have the minimum impact on the environment.
Transport that supports community life; excessive car use reduced and reversed.
Transport that plays a role in bringing about a more healthy population.
When a set of infrastructure changes achieves all of the above, we would wholeheartedly support it.
We therefore broadly support the changes that have been, and are due to take place. These are changes that will benefit many of the borough: 40% of the borough have no car, and many of the works - such as Copenhagen Style road crossings - will make life much safer for short walking journeys. http://www.enjoywalthamforest.co.uk/work-in-you-area/leytonstone-town-centre.
These are changes that individual residents report have made their lives better already, and that we are told the emergency services are comfortable with.
However, there are some elements of all 3 current Mini-Holland schemes in London which are slightly at odds with the wider Green Party vision for a safer and more sustainable planet:
A set of changes in just one part of a major city is not an integrated solution – this funding is only for three boroughs out of over 30. The party is working at a London level to address this – to get TFL to set strategic objectives to reduce traffic across the whole of London, with 30-40 walking/bike-friendly areas by 2020.
Re the argument that these measures are to mitigate an increase in population: the issues of London's population need to be addressed by long-term investment in the rest of the UK. However, we would say that in the short term these measures, executed correctly, would bring about a more healthy population and environment for those of us that live here now.
Accepting that The London Borough of Waltham Forest has transport infrastructure money to spend and that there is no way it can be spent anywhere else, we would suggest that the following issues be considered:
We note that the problems overwhelmingly with air pollution here are the heavy traffic on main roads and 'drift', which need even more efforts to address. We are hopeful that Mini Holland will cause a reduction in local air pollution, but to measure this effectively and to increase public support for the scheme, the council will need to comprehensively monitor pollution levels across the borough on an ongoing basis and publish the results. The current air quality monitors are not sited in the main mini-Holland project areas.
Bearing in mind the council’s ambition within the Mini Holland scheme to support the local economy, we would like to see the encouragement of Waltham Forest-based pedicab owner-operators. This move could at a stroke give pollution-free access to shops, restaurants and other businesses currently negatively affected by road closures, reduce unemployment, and make our streets pleasanter to be in…and more photogenic.
We were disappointed that consultation for initial plans at the start of the project was weak. We are glad to see that the result of the recent full council meeting was that there would be more engagement and happy to note that more recent consultations have seen above average returns.
The council’s Mini Holland bid document makes much of the issue of doing away with community severance. Severance, at its simplest, is defined as the separation of different parts of a community by a major transport artery. It might be worth considering that community severance can also occur, but on a less visible level, due to small access road closures. This can cause - and has caused, in the case of Walthamstow Village - a sense of ‘bereavement’ which needs to be properly addressed. We believe that the protests which have occurred so far are the product of community severance rather than of an anti-cycling lobby. These must be addressed with empathy, respect and creative practical solutions such as the pedicabs mentioned above.
We also note that there are objections to the scheme from some disabled people: we know anecdotally of cab journeys taking much longer for example and we would like to see evidence of equality impact assessments. We urge those affected or with concerns to get in touch.
We pledge to take an active part in the ongoing consultations - as we have been - in all areas, and to encourage others to take active part, to ensure that Mini Holland schemes across the borough work for everyone in a fully democratic manner. We would like to hear how changes are affecting you so that we can be fully informed when taking part in consultations. Please email us at email@example.com.
We are involved in a wide-ranging set of campaigns as a local party, from the use of carcinogens in wildflower meadows, to the loss of local hospital land, to Local Authority divestment from fossil fuel investment. If you would like our voice to be stronger on this or other issues we campaign on, please join our number and support our voice to grow. Thanks!