Last revision 2 July 2020
This is the first part of a two-part post relating to the ‘London Streetspace’ programme. The aim of ‘Setting the scene’ is to provide some context and background on a plan which will rapidly transform London’s streets to accommodate a possible ten-fold increase in cycling and five-fold increase in walking when lockdown restrictions are eased.
In the second part the focus is on Sutton Council’s response to the plan. ‘Timeline of implementation‘ will highlight the actions and measures taken across our borough, with regular updates as and when they become available.
Setting the scene – national and regional level
On 6 May, in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, the need for social distancing and the resultant reduction in public transport capacity, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Transport for London (TfL) unveiled the ‘London Streetspace’ programme.
‘Mayor’s bold new Streetspace plan will overhaul London’s streets‘ (Mayor of London, 6 May 2020)
“TfL, working with London’s boroughs will make changes – unparalleled in a city London’s size – to focus on three key areas… (1) “….rapid construction of a strategic cycling network, using temporary materials….routes aimed at reducing crowding on Underground and train lines, and on busy bus corridors” (2) “… complete transformation of local town centres to enable local journeys to be safely walked and cycled where possible….”; (3) “Reducing traffic on residential streets, creating low-traffic neighbourhoods right across London….”
‘Streetspace for London‘ (TfL, 6 May 2020)
“Our Streetspace for London plan is creating more space on streets so people can walk or cycle while social distancing. This will help ease pressure on public transport as the pandemic lockdown is lifted”.
Note: The first version of the document ‘London Streetspace Plan – interim guidance for boroughs’ (interim guidance to help London’s boroughs, local authorities and other partners plan, design and create the most effective and sustainable walking and cycling infrastructure possible), along with the seven associated appendices, and the Interim supplementary Annual Spending Submission guidance was made available on, or around, 15 May. Further updates are likely.
Guidance to help London’s boroughs, local authorities and TfL’s other partners plan, design and create the most effective and sustainable walking and cycling infrastructure possible was published as part of the London Streetspace Plan.
The guidance documentation included ‘Interim Local Implementation Plan (LIP) 2020/21 Annual Spending Submission Sunk Cost Guidance – Coronavirus‘, which noted that “Transport for London’s financial position has been severely impacted by a decline in public transport use, due to the Covid19 pandemic and the need to discourage public transport use for public health reasons…. The financial situation has meant that TfL has also had to put most of the design, development and funding projects on pause….. This pause has included pre-planned Local Implementation Plan (LIP) funded and other borough programmes…..”. There was “a need to reconsider the funding allocations to the boroughs”, but this “may result in an increase in borough funding for the first six months of this year: our original budget projected £48m of borough funding over the first half of the year and this could increase”.
Essentially, funding for the next six months was to be directed away from the LIP programme 2020/2021 schemes (for Sutton the 2020/2021 LIP schemes are detailed in ‘‘Healthy Streets’ for Sutton year two (2020-2021)‘) (noting that for schemes that had progressed since 1 April 2020, TfL would prioritise funding to meet incurred costs) and away from Discretionary Funded Schemes (including LIP Major Schemes, Liveable Neighbourhoods, Cycleway Network Development) (no news of Sutton’s Liveable Neighbourhoods bid anyway, beyond the f), and targeted towards:
- Delivery of strategic cycle routes using temporary materials
- Reallocation of road space where crowding is an issue, such as town centres, interchanges and key hubs
- Low traffic neighbourhoods on borough roads to give space and security for local walking and cycling, and an enhanced ability to maintain social distancing. This also reflects views about enhanced local quality of life from reduced motor traffic during the lock down
As far as we are concerned the fact that the the 2020/2021 LIP programme has been paused is not bad news. After all, how healthy were the schemes in the pipeline anyway (details in ‘‘Healthy Streets’ for Sutton year two (2020-2021)‘). In terms of the one Major Scheme in our borough, Beddington Lane, progress has been embarrassingly slow (and looks set to disappoint) so what’s new there? Postponement of the announcement of third round bids for the Liveable Neighbourhoods could be seen as a disappointment. However, given that there has been no news of Sutton’s Liveable Neighbourhoods bid, beyond knowing that a bid was submitted in November 2019 (see ‘Sutton Cycle Forum December 2019‘), is the deferment of an announcement a great loss when it is not known whether the bid would have been funded and robustly progressed anyway?
Three days after the unveiling of the London Streetspace Plan the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, announced, on 9 May, a £2 billion package to create new era for cycling and walking in support of alternative ways to travel to help relieve the pressure on public transport. The first stage, worth £250 million, would be for a series of swift, emergency interventions to make cycling and walking safer. At the same time, guidance for local authorities, on managing their road networks in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, was published.
‘Transport Secretary’s statement on coronavirus (COVID-19): 9 May 2020‘ (DfT, 9 May 2020)
‘£2 billion package to create new era for cycling and walking‘ (DfT, 9 May 2020)
‘Traffic Management Act 2004: network management in response to COVID-19‘, (DfT, 9 May 2020, updated 23 May 2020)
“When the country gets back to work, we need them to carry on cycling, and to be joined by millions more. With public transport capacity reduced, the roads in our largest cities, in particular, may not be able to cope without it…… The government therefore expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians. Such changes will help embed altered behaviours and demonstrate the positive effects of active travel. I’m pleased to see that many authorities have already begun to do this, and I urge you all to consider how you can begin to make use of the tools in this guidance, to make sure you do what is necessary to ensure transport networks support recovery from the COVID-19 emergency and provide a lasting legacy of greener, safer transport”.
Reallocating road space in response to COVID-19: statutory guidance for local authorities (advice to encourage cycling and walking; enable social distancing; in response to COVID-19 issues).
On 23 May 2020 updated traffic order guidance came into force (which is to remain in force until 30 April 2021). See ‘DfT updates traffic order guidance‘ (TransportXtra, 29 June 2020): “The amendments included in the Statutory Instrument are intended to speed up the time it takes for traffic authorities to make the traffic orders that are needed to put in place measures to deal with the effects of coronavirus, including the need to encourage social distancing and promote active travel, for example, walking and cycling”.
On 28 May 2020, Rupert Furness, Deputy Director, Active and Accessible Travel, DfT, wrote to Chief Executives and London Borough Transport Officers and Transport for London to give details of the indicative allocations for the first tranche of the emergency active-travel fund announced on 9 May. The letter was publicised in ‘DfT funding for London: make it fast, make it count‘ (LCC, 29 May 2020). The letter is reproduced in full below (where bold text is our emphasis), and then a summary is provided.
Department for Transport
To Chief Executives and London Borough Transport Officers and Transport for London
28 May 2020
Emergency Active Travel Funding Indicative Allocations
On behalf of the Department of Transport, I am pleased to give details of the indicative allocations for the first tranche of the emergency active-travel fund announced on 9 May. This new funding is designed to help you use pop-up and temporary interventions to create an environment that is safe for both walking and cycling in your boroughs. Active travel allows people to get around whilst maintaining social distance and will have an essential role to play in helping us avoid overcrowding on public transport systems as we begin to open up parts of our economy. We have a window of opportunity to act now to embed walking and cycling as part of new long-term commuting habits and reap the associated health, air quality and congestion benefits.
Of the total £250 million fund, £225 million will be provided directly to local transport authorities and London boroughs, while £25 million will help support cycle repair schemes.
The £225 million allocated to combined and local authorities will be released in two phases. The first tranche of £45 million will be released as soon as possible so that work can begin at pace on closing roads to through traffic, installing segregated cycle lanes and widening pavements.
London’s indicative share of the £225m will be £25 million over the rest of the financial year, with £5 million in the first tranche. This takes into account the fact that TfL has recently had its own separate funding settlement from the Department, £55 million of which is to be spent on active travel measures on both TfL and borough roads. The indicative allocations are in addition to this £55 million and the Department expects that the measures supported by this additional £25 million will be closely coordinated with TfL’s active travel investment programme.
For the first tranche of funding, the Department has indicatively allocated a sum of £100,000 to each individual borough and the balance of £1.7m to Transport for London. This is to speed up the process of individual boroughs receiving an appropriate share of the funding, and also recognises the fact that allocating the funding by a formula based on public transport usage by those resident in each borough (as we have done for the rest of the country) would lead to some anomalies in London. It also recognises that TfL has recently had its own separate funding settlement from the Department, part of which is to be spent on active travel measures on both TfL and borough roads.
The amounts are only indicative. To receive any money under this or future tranches, boroughs and TfL will need to satisfy the Department that there are swift and meaningful plans in place to reallocate road space to cyclists and pedestrians, including on strategic corridors.
The quickest and cheapest way of achieving this will normally be point closures. These can be of certain main roads (with exceptions for buses, access and for disabled people, and with other main roads kept free for through motor traffic); or of parallel side streets, if sufficiently direct to provide alternatives to the main road. Point closures can also be used to create low-traffic filtered neighbourhoods.
Pop-up segregated cycle lanes will also be funded, but are likely to be more difficult to implement quickly. As the guidance states, they must use full or light segregation. We will also fund the swift implementation, using temporary materials, of existing cycle plans that involve the meaningful reallocation of road space.
We expect all these measures to be delivered quickly using temporary materials, such as barriers and planters. Elaborate, costly materials will not be funded at this stage. Anything that does not meaningfully alter the status quo on the road will not be funded.
As the guidance makes clear, 20mph zones can form part of a package of measures, but will not be sufficient on their own.
If work has not started within four weeks of receiving your allocation under this tranche of funding, or has not been completed within eight weeks of starting, the Department will reserve the right to claw the funding back by adjusting downwards a future grant payment to your authority. This is also likely to have a material impact on your ability to secure any funding in tranche 2.
To allow changes to be put in place more quickly, a temporary process for new emergency traffic orders was announced on 23 May halving the time needed for approval.
The second tranche of £180m will be released later in the summer to enable authorities to install further, more permanent measures to cement cycling and walking habits.
In order to access a share of this funding, we will require the completion of an online proforma to allow us to assess your plans on how the money will be spent. The proforma is intended to be as simple and light-touch as possible and should not be onerous for you to complete. The proforma for tranche one should be completed as soon as possible and no later than Friday 5 June. It can be found online here: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/ActiveTravelFund/. We will write to you again shortly with instructions on how to access the second tranche of funding, together with a new proforma.
We will make the payments via a grant under section 31 of the Local Government Act 2003 together with a formal grant determination letter as soon as possible after you have submitted the proforma. In the event that any borough does not wish to receive a share of the funding or does not submit proposals which meet the Department’s expectations, we will reserve the right to decrease indicative allocations and reallocate the funding elsewhere. If you have any questions on any aspect of this funding, please email: email address supplied
Deputy Director, Active and Accessible Travel
Summary of funding for London:
£25 million of new Emergency Active Travel Funding is available this financial year (2020-2021) for London, of which £5 million will be in a first tranche.
Also note (as outlined in the letter) that TfL has recently received a separate funding settlement from the DfT which included £55 million for active travel measures on both TfL and borough roads. So, taken together with the new Emergency Active Travel Funding of £25 million outlined here, the total funding available across London for active travel during the current financial year is £80m.
The £5 million of new Emergency Active Travel Funding available in the first tranche will (indicatively) be spilt £100,000 for each of the 33 local authorities (total £3.3 million), subject to the local authorities making a bid and this bid being approved, with the balance of £1.7 million going to TfL.
To receive first tranche funding, local authorities have until 5 June (at the latest) to submit details of their plans to the DfT for assessment. The DfT reserve the right to decrease indicative allocations, and reallocate the funding elsewhere, either if any local authority does not wish to receive a share of the funding, or if the proposals submitted do not meet the Department’s expectations. Furthermore, if work has not started within four weeks of receiving the allocation under this tranche of funding (which could be early July), or has not been completed within eight weeks of starting (which could be early to mid August), the DfT will reserve the right to claw the funding back by adjusting downwards a future grant payment to the authority/authorities concerned.
The second tranche of £20 million for London will be released later in the summer to enable authorities to install further, more permanent measures to cement cycling and walking habits. The amount individual authorities receive in this second phase will, to a certain degree, be dependent on their aspirations, and actions, during the first phase.
For the aspirations and actions in Sutton, see ‘Streetspace for Sutton: The timeline of implementation’.
Setting the scene – our local campaign
In some ways, we were ahead of the curve.
On 9 April, just over two weeks after the lockdown had commenced, I wrote to my ward councillors (Sutton West) to ask that the council gave serious consideration to closing York Road (between Salisbury Avenue / Grove Road and Mulgrave Road) to motor vehicles during this period of coronavirus. The main citied reason for this being the extremely narrow footways on the section of road in the proximity of the railway bridge and the difficulty this could cause in terms of social distancing.
Published on 20 April, our post ‘London local authorities, Covid-19, and social distancing‘, was an attempt to access the level of concern and importance given by all thirty-three local authorities across London in relation to easing the stress that can be experienced in the public realm during the COVID-19 crisis at a point in time (16-19 April) around a month after the lockdown had been established. Quite simply, was there any evidence, through the official Twitter feeds of the 32 London boroughs and the City of London, that London’s authorities where reaching out to residents at that time by asking questions such as: “What can we do [as the highways authority] to help you maintain social distancing when you are making essential journeys or taking exercise?”.
Although the original intention was to have completed the review after three or four days, the review has been continued as it usefully provides an opportunity to compare the different responses by the boroughs. It helps set the context for Sutton’s response (which has clearly been slower than some, but not as slow as others).
On or around 26 April, many Get Sutton Cycling supporters took advantage of the Cycling UK campaign portal ‘Ask your council for cycle space during lockdown‘ to send a message to Sutton Council Leader Ruth Dombey (the full text of the message is provided in the Appendix to our post ‘April 2020 in review‘). This action clearly made an impact, because two days later, on 28 April, Cllr. Manuel Abellan (Chair, Environment and Neighbourhood Committee) wrote to us to ask for our views on specific actions that we would like Sutton Council to adopt, including the locations for such measures. (The full text of Cllr. Abellan’s reply is also provided in our post ‘April 2020 in review‘).
To help deliver on Cllr. Abellan’s request, and also to enable everyone to provide input, the following day (29 April) we published ‘Help us list Streets for Social Distancing in Sutton‘ with a link to a form ‘Sutton Streets for Social Distancing‘. At the same time we prepared a map ‘Streets for Social Distancing Map‘ on which to plot the information.
On 14 May, a week after the unveiling of the ‘London Streetspace’ programme and with no further clear evidence that Sutton was outwardly progressing to take action, we launched, in partnership with Sutton Living Streets the petition ‘Covid-19: Make safe space to socially distance on Sutton streets‘ to endeavour to move things on. By midday on 19 May the petition had received 286 endorsements.
On 20 May, Cllr. Abellan (who had taken on the role of Deputy Leader of the Council with special responsibility for Climate Change and Sustainable Transport on 18 May), thanked everyone for sharing their ideas, let everyone know that these were being considered and that the council was putting the finishing touches to the first set of measures and that these should be announced very soon.
Message from Cllr. Abellan (20 May 2020) [1/3] [2/3] [3/3]
“Thank you to all the @cyclinginsutton members & others who have shared their #LondonStreetspace ideas with us. We are considering all of these as part of ambitious new plans to make walking & cycling easier and safer by providing more space for residents to keep fit & healthy during lockdown.
The new measures are part of the Council’s response to the #Covid19UK situation & will help ensure social distancing when travelling around the borough as well as reduce rat-running and improve local air quality.
@SuttonCouncil approach will be based on the healthy streets agenda & the concept of low-traffic neighbourhoods. We are putting the finishing touches on the first set of measures that should be announced very soon”.
More news was to follow on 22 May. And that is where the second part of this post, ‘Timeline of implementation‘, picks up the story.
v1: 26.05.2020; v1.1 26.05.2020 (links to part two added); v1.2 30.05.2020 (DfT letter, 28 May 2020, added); v1.3 04.06.2020 (summary of DfT letter); v1.4 26.06.2020 (more detail added to TfL’s funding position and the redirection of borough LIP funding allocations away from 2020/2021 schemes and towards a series of new rapid delivery interventions on London’s streets, delivering temporary layout changes to support social distancing requirements under the London Streetspace Plan); v.1.5: 02.07.2020 (reference to updated DfT traffic order guidance 23 May 2020.