There is a proposal to introduce additional traffic orders near Westdene Primary School. Some residents are concerned about it and the consultation process. Here is a letter from Michael Whitty and the minutes of the February WWAT Meeting which discussed the matter (along with other local issues) meeting. Local residents have also organised an online survey. Scroll down to find this too.
Dear BHCC Scrutiny Committee,
I write to lodge a complaint on behalf of the Withdean and Westdene Local Action Team (WWLAT) and also the Westdene School Streets Residents Group (WSSRG)that our local Ward (Withdean) Councillors have failed to consult or liaise with the local community effectively or on a regular basis. That their objectives are not the objectives of the local community, that the introduction of the Hackney schools street scheme is not appropriate for the Westdene school and local area where the impact will be more disruption, further pollution and congestion in adjacent thoroughfares. The view at present is that there is no democratic relationship in existence simply a dictatorship by our local councillors.
For your information, I attach the minutes of our recent LAT meeting where the frustrations and disappointment in our three councillors is expressed. There has been a lack of democracy and leadership and total absence of discussion/liaison on important aspects of community life in this neighbourhood by the three councillors. They instigated a school streets campaign to mirror that introduced in Hackney London with little opportunity for the Ward residents to comment or join in discussion despite numerous requests. There has been an experimental traffic order placed on Mill Road, another thoroughfare in this Ward where once again there has been no consultation with the local community.
The community has much to offer in suggestions and solutions to the traffic problems under consideration but have not been given the opportunity to do so. Despite inviting all three councillors and the council school streets team to attend both groups declined with reasons like there is no one available and we have to attend the council budget meeting.
Every effort has been made to discuss these matters further but council schools team cancelled on the day of a proposed zoom meeting.This proved to be enormously disruptive to the community representatives who were also attending, one of whom was abroad at the time and had to cancel certain arrangements to accommodate the meeting only to find at the eleventh hour it was cancelled.
The behaviour of these Councillors is an indictment on the BHCC and the Community tax payers who pay the costs of running the council and Ward Councillor's salaries, concessions and personally issued technological equipment. We ask that the proposed traffic order on the Westdene school area and on Mill Road are suspended until the local community have an opportunity to meaningfully discuss and consider the full implications of the proposals to facilitate contribution; ownership and support of the local community to any scheme which improves and enhances the environment we live in.
We also ask that the Ward Councillors be instructed that at least one of them will attend the Withdean and Westdene Local Action Team meetings, a body commissioned by the BHCC for the liaison and betterment of community relationships within the City.
Michael Whitty Chair Westdene and Withdean Local Action Team
Withdean & Westdene Local Action Team (LAT)
24th February 2022
- Welcome, Apologies. Chair welcomed everyone and reported the following apologies: Three Withdean Ward councillors who stated they had to attend the budget meeting. MW reported that our three councillors have made a complaint to legal department into chairs question in relation to non attendance by all 3 councillors at the LAT meeting. BHCC Community Safety team. BHCC School streets team stated there was no one available.
- Approval of Previous Minutes dated 17th June 2019 - Ageed (See Web site WWW.wwlat/wordpress.com )
- Matters Arising Previous Minutes – No matters arising.
- Crime Report (circulated via email & post) Find link here: www.crimerate.,co.uk/east-sussex/brighton-and-hove and: www.consultation.lgbc.uk/have-your-say/29490
- Agenda Items (Agenda items must be forwarded 7 days before the meeting.
5.i. Westdene School Streets Traffic Order. WSSRG
Summary from Westdene School Streets Residents group to the LAT:
- WSSRG is a group of over 30 local residents (to westdene primary school) who met in October with many more supporting WSSRG.
- We fully support the aims and objectives of school streets which are to reduce pollution and congestion, and improve safety and active travel to school.
- The westdene school streets proposal is flawed for a number of reasons incl. not meeting the aims and objectives of school streets, it is not based on the principles of school streets and does not understand impact.
- The council claims it is engaging and consulting but we have repeatedly raised concerns about this process. The proposal was inaccurate, confusing, inaccessible, and there has been complete and repeated lack of transparency around decision making.
- The proposal and consultation has a pre determined outcome and the ETS has already agreed this proposal, without understanding it’s impact and before any consultation. This feels a false consultation/process as a result.
- We are told changes will be imposed under an experimental traffic order. An experimental traffic order is the same type of order the old shoreham cycle lane was imposed under- also without adequate analysis or data. It is very difficult (and costly) to make changes once it’s imposed.
- We think there is a complete lack of insight into the local infrastructure, school traffic situation, and that a city centre solution is being blindly imposed on a suburban school that has pupils attending from across the city and the county, has no public transport- so people have to drive, and this proposal will make the situation a lot worse.
- The level of concern is evident by the number of residents raising concern, the number of suggestions to amend the current proposal.
- We want the council to follow an objective and transparent process before proposing any changes and impact. Engage properly with all stakeholders and then consult properly.
- We ask again, that the council and councillors to respond to the following Statement (this has been systematically ignored since first being shared with them in early November).
- Westdene community supports initiatives that genuinely improve active travel to the school and improves congestion, pollution, and safety in the surrounding area, including local streets and immediately outside the school gates. This requires:
- Objective and transparent planning and decision making which leads to a proposal that:
- Has been properly analysed- transparent, objective, data is key as per Hackney School Streets Toolkit.
- Has had proper stakeholder (community) involvement and responds, in full, to the community concerns raised in this document.
- Illustrates understanding of local infrastructure.
- Demonstrates anticipated impact (traffic on surrounding roads, parking) and mitigation against traffic/parking displacement and associated risk.
- Demonstrates a clear link between this school streets proposal and how it meets the school streets objectives.
- Shows a range of alternatives/options have been considered and the full rationale for final proposal and why it’s the best option.
- Understand the timeline and cost, and how that cost will be met.
- And, following this accurate, accessible, consultation of all relevant stakeholders.
- We will be presenting a deputation at the ETS committee on 15th March and would welcome support for that deputation.
- There is confusion over whether this proposal has been pre approved or not. School streets say it has been pre approved at the ETS last September (2021) which is why they were not interested in further discussions about options; Cllr Jamie Lloyd says the proposal will be scrapped if enough community opposition; Cllr Steve Davis is confident there will be a positive result and it will go ahead. Social media comms by councillors also suggest it is a pre-determined solution.
- If the ETS committee in September 2021 approved the proposal before the consultation completed in Nov 2021- was it legal? Experimental traffic order seems to be being used as an excuse.
- One attendee wants it minuted that they felt the consultation was ok- their opinion was heard, they just clicked on the link.
- Whatever the status of the proposal or consultation, consensus in group and WSSRG that Westdene school streets proposal does not address Westdene infrastructure and the material was confusing and that aside also inaccessible to significant numbers of the affected community.
- One way system was disingenuous as not part of the original proposal
- Impact still not considered - at the councillors ‘walk-about’ someone spoke about impact on blue badge holders living on Mill Rise and having to change their work hours just to be able to park close to their home due to staff parking. Nothing in the school streets proposal addresses parking issues or impact on local community/road safety.
- Residents on Fairview said they are already noticing increased school parking, and estate agents have said they would never show a house during school drop off/pick up in Westdene due to the issues.
- Recognition it is only gaps due to driveways is keeping traffic moving and roads open throughout Westdene during school time.
- Hackney is not obvious comparator to Westdene- Borough of Hackney has 48 schools in the area with a far more concentrated local school population, public transport etc. Westdene does not - with children attending the school from across the city and county and many parents (and staff) have to drive/park.
- Chair shared data produced by government reports showing more children being injured in London Boroughs since their School Streets was imposed.
- There are a number of community ideas about how school streets could be used to genuinely meet its aim and objectives and support the community and children accessing the school. incl. Gyratory completely around the school anti clockwise, children can be dropped off onto Green, but lack of response to these from School Streets and councillors.
- Other suggestions for consideration are; school bus collect & drop, turning circle in end of school playing fields, staggered start times with a breakfast club, supervised drop off point at end of green, supervised drop and walk system.
Further issues with Westdene school streets including councillor representation:
- LAT was not involved/consulted over this proposal and has escalated this issue through safety in the community.
- Many of us support the politics of our councillors but feel very let down by their approach.
- It’s been very difficult to communicate with our councillors and request that is minuted.
- The limited communication received from councillors has not been helpful, and has not answered the questions repeatedly raised with them.
- Some councillor communication comes across as they have been given a mandate, rather than a remit to represent the community.
- Approach seems to be divide and rule- individual emails. So like the idea of a collective (and transparent) response to bring the community views together.
- School streets cost c £25,000 (BHCC website) this is a significant cost and getting it wrong will cost more to correct after implementation.
- BHCC haven’t been able provide a school traffic report or any data to support proposal.
- WSSRG and LAT members to work together to come up with some suggestions/alternatives to present to the council.
- Continue to raise concerns about this issue within the council.
- Raise awareness through media incl. ‘the POST’.
- Deputation to Environment, Transport and Sustainability committee on 15th March.
- Request to the LAT/community members for help with coordinating this effort.
- Complaint to Overview and Scrutiny committee about lack of representation by Councillors.
5.ii. Accounts. Treasurer The WWLAT has in the past raised funds to finance lawyers in dealing with the Braybon land development and in later years donated £1000 to the Barn and purchased a computer for the Westdene school. Further funds are held for significant issues where the community is under threat or in desperate need of resources.
5.iii. Mill Road.
Future possible use as a permanent park and ride. Concerned this will probably negatively affect premium events like those on Madeira drive- will affect Brighton and Hove Albion matches on match days; affect emergency use for A27; and will affect residents living on the road.
This is being imposed under an experimental traffic order- and looks like it has been approved- raising further questions over transparency around BHCC processes, consultation, scrutiny, and decision making.
ACTION: Chair to seek clarification re Mill Road plans and impact on behalf of LAT and if necessary forward a complaint to the Overview and Scrutiny department of the Council. 5.iv. Pavements, weeding, local thoroughfares. Secretary Concern about lack of pavement maintenance, lack of response to requests to repair, overgrown weeds and despite suggestions to the contrary no weeding on majority of ward streets for over two years now.
Requests to look at the state of the thoroughfare outside Eldred shops has been met with claims it is private property and the council/councillors won’t get involved. However, it has absolute remit to assess and request improvements . A new dropped curb has been installed- not sure if shopkeepers or the council did this. The rest of the thoroughfare contains uneven and even loose/unstable paving slabs which are hazards, especially to less mobile people. Someone has been injured and apparently the council did respond to that and mandate repairs as a result which clearly demonstrates BHCC accept liability for the defective pavements.
Suggested that a request is made to the council to share a clear plan for weeding, repairs, ‘slab to black’, throughout the ward. Including prioritisation criteria- volume of walkers, no. of trips/falls reported etc.
What can we do to support shopkeepers (who would benefit from having a council requirement to improve) and the community with the issues at Eldred shops?
- State of pavements is a dereliction of duty by the council
- Recognition that until someone struggles with mobility the issues with the pavements may be missed by wide/able bodied community members.
- Completely inaccessible to wheelchair users or their carers
- Slab to tarmac replacement on Mill Rise was completed following a fall, (according to those doing the work on behalf of the council the money for this came from the Council’s litigation budget).
- Number of trips/falls in the community including those resulting in medical care not being reported.
- Glyphosate can be used safely in the right scenario (which pavements could be) and as outside EU not limited by its ban.
- Problem is BHCC has not provided an alternative since banning the use of glyphosate.
- Ongoing damage caused by weeds causing further instability/problems with slabbed pavements- which will be an added cost to the council in the long run.
LAT/community to encourage community members to report trips/falls/hazards- and will provide details of how to do this.
Chair to write to council to provide Ward plans for pavement maintenance, repairs and weeding incl. Eldred Avenue shops.
5.v. Amalgamation of Withdean Ward with Hove Ward proposal. Councillors Proposals to change ward boundaries out for consultation. The rationale is in part to align councillor representation according to the number of residents ( Hove Park has c 4k residents; Westdene/Withdean c 11k). This amalgamation would reduce costs for number of Councillors and provide a single Ward of some 14000 residents. All members of the Ward are encouraged to have their say on the Council consultation web site or write in to the Council. See more details and link to comment/feedback here: https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/node/29490 5.vi. Chair’s report
a). New Secretary - Chair introduced our new Secretary Katherine Sykes and both welcomed and thanked her for taking this role. This vacancy would be formally sanction by votes at the next AGM.
b). Ward Budgets - Chair wanted to ask the Ward Councillors to consider the LAT’s request for use of these funds however, as none of the Councillors were present this matter is left in abeyance. Those present considered the community should have the opportunity to influence how this is spent. Cllr Jamie Lloyd has indicated to one member of the group that he would like to have a pond and is considering where. Query raised about how the councillors need to engage and behave around ward funding and what could be perceived as pet schemes. LAT feels the community should be consulted about where funds are best spent to benefit the whole community.
ACTION: Councillors to be asked to engage with community over ward budgets and how this funding can be prioritised to best meet the needs of the community.
c). Priorities - Chair explained that the LAT normally sets priority issues and it was agreed that the following matters require attention as priority issues: i. Westdene School Streets ii. Pavements and Eldred Shops iii. Mill Road Park and Ride
- Any Other Business
i. Support for community collective over these matters - WSSRG/LAT
ii. Request that WSSRG comes under the LAT for additional resource/support – Agreed.
iii. Much discussion and annoyance highlighted that no local Councillors attended the meeting.
iv. Request re future communications re School streets: recognising the aim of WSSRG is to improve and has always been solution focused, one attendee requested any related correspondence to feel less ‘combative’. Ideal to reach a common goal which WSSRG has been trying to achieve for months. Request for any associated communications not to be political; while highlighting local councillors are not engaging/consulting, representing this community or responding to the queries repeatedly raised.
v. Braybon field- Gatton Park area- confirmed the public have right of way - but the Council cannot remove the signs put up by local residents to suggest private property/access. Members of public are allowed to access and local residents are able to put up signs.
- Next Meeting: Diaried for Thursdays 7-30 pm in Training Suite, Sportsman Pub Car Park.
26th April, 28th June, 30th August, 25th October, AGM 24th January 2023
MEETINGS VENUE CONTACT WWLAT
Withdean Training Suite Chair Tel: 07710 521214
Withdean Sports Stadium Email: firstname.lastname@example.org