Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Living Streets King's Cross Local Group meeting 7 October (Updated 30 December)

At last night's Living Streets King's Cross Local Group meeting, Tobias Newland and I caught up with Caroline Russell (chair of Islington Local Group). Caroline is researching, for Living Streets UK, how London local groups work and what motivates them - provided the following insights:

Living Streets UK has four main aims our local group relate to:
1. to be a local voice for living streets (where people want to live work and shop / play)
2. to form a community for change (towards living streets)
3. to make walking a natural choice
4. to be a national voice for living streets (where people want to live work and shop / play)
(although - interestingly - they were presented in the reverse order by Living Streets UK)
Three understandable main concerns of the organisation are: Income, Influence and Impact

The capacity of central London Local Authorities' highways departments (like LB Camden and LB Islington where we are) in the area of walking and cycling is often very limited. In many boroughs, walking and cycling is not embedded or culturally integrated in 'highways' or may even be at odds.
Could local groups like ours be more effectively consulted?
My first concern is that according to the new NPPF National Planning Policy Framework we are supposed to be moving "from consultation to collaboration" - genuinely working together rather than being 'consulted' to tick LA boxes. Also under the Localism Act 2011, planning is supposed to be moving towards 'neighbourhood planning' and working more locally - in ways which highways departments and Transport for London have not yet grasped.
Caroline suggested from her experience that junction review process at TfL had often ignored pedestrian traffic in junction assessments, even though walking represented as much as half the use of junctions. The TfL junction review also apparently did not seem to involve TfL Urban Realm staff who produce the "Valuing the Urban Realm Toolkit" - but was predominantly (motor) traffic-engineering based.

Notable Living Streets national campaigns currently coming up on the agenda include
"walk to work" and
"time to cross"

Our concern is that "walk to work" is largely workplace-motivated and in our current structure, our local group even in this very mixed-use transport interchange neighbourhood is still highly residentially based rather than workplace based. Would we be able to work with the University, Local Authority staff, Railway and Transport staff, etc.?
The "time to cross" campaign is pressing for increased time in pedestrian crossing cycles at signal-controlled junctions, based on reducing the average pedestrian speed. The rationale is that the ageing population is slower. However, in King's Cross we feel much broader change is needed to the layout of the public realm on the town square station squares and on reconfiguring the motor traffic gyratory system to make the area more accessible and walkable. 
Tuesday 8 October 2013


Update 30 December 2013
update on the King's Cross One-Way / Gyratory System

in the hands of LB Islington...

and Islington Cyclists' Plan...

October 2013
Given somewhat of a stalemate at the moment on the Neighbourhood Plan in King's Cross, and reading about others' experiences on the (closed) Linked-In Group Neighbourhood Planning - I thought this little article about the CLG's (Government's Department for Communities and Local Government) meeting on 'Neighbourhood Planning and Research' is worth sharing:

Marie-Claude Gervais 
Founder and Director at FORUM Research
Marie-Claude GervaisHi all,

Thanks for the contributions. Jackie, I am glad that what I said resonated with your experience.

Since this conversation was about the CLG meeting on "NP and research", I thought it would be good to share some feedback. Unfortunately I left soon mid-afternoon, so can only comment on the early part of the day. A few "take-outs" from me (James can give a fuller picture):


To be clear: this was only about academic research, rather than commercial, academic, policy and research to support FORUMS in their work.

As a former LSE academic, I was reasonably sympathetic. However, it may have been more productive to have a broader focus. So much research is needed to support the process - and at a fast pace - that it seems unwise to narrow the remit to academia. Academic contributions are invaluable for their objectivity and depth, but they do not help much to support good implementation in the short to medium term.

Essentially, the purposes of the meeting were for CLG to know what kind of research academics are currently doing on NP, to share with them research that CLG is currently doing, and to identify evidence gaps and try to fill them - in the context of CLG not funding any research.


The main research questions addressed, as far as I could see, are to do with:

a) the intended aims of localism and decentralisation, and how positive/negative, genuinely innovative, democratic or empowering this is;

b) how NP is actually being delivered: detailed case study analyses of NPs at different stages in their implementation and with different profiles. This seeks to answer questions such as: who gets involved / who is left out, what are the barriers/ how they can be overcome, what capacity of required and who has it or not, what is the impact of NP on the culture of LPAs, what type and amount of support LPAs provide to NFs, etc.

c) whether current implementation meets the intended aims of the policy.


It is early days. However, the findings of Dr Andrew Wallace and Paul Watt (Lincoln University) from studies in London confirm what I expected:

- geographical clustering in central / North London
- uneven capacity - with severe lack in some places
- uneven response to NP from local authorities
- dominance of middle class professionals in Forums
- aspiration to adopt a "responsible" response to planning
- contestation of neighbourhood boundaries
- preoccupation with neighbourhood "quality" and "aesthetics"
- relatively little focus on "structural" matters: welfare, equality, employment provisions...
- uncertainty / skepticism about policy efficacy and impact

They conclude (and I concur) that "marginal" populations need to be better integrated in the NP process, that most FORUMS are unwilling or unable to engage with welfare questions (e.g. housing, services, employment, transport, access to health), that there is a need to improve relationships between LPAs and Forums, and that the perspectives of relevant "outsiders" to a particular plan should be sought.


Another recurrent theme was the lack of capacity in relation to certain issues (e.g. consultation, welfare, structural matters, equality, etc) and the need to bring in outside expertise. There is plenty of expertise available strictly on planning matters, but little on other issues. Most forum participants think in terms of their personal experience - what they like or dislike - but very few have the social policy knowledge necessary to think about the underlying factors that help create better neighbourhoods for all.

I believe that summary does justice to the discussions I attended. James, take it away for the overview of the late afternoon session!


Principal Lecturer at University of Gloucestershire
A very full report from Marie-Claude!

My additions = brief & not hugely positive:

I felt that we tended to dance around the practicalities! But it was a start....

Hence I very much support 1 of the participant's (David Farnsworth's) point re “important principle as well as something that will strengthen" any research funding bid, if we make "a direct connection with practice and co-production with community practitioners and activists.”

I think there were/are all sorts of factors pulling in different directions viz....DCLG (apparently no ££ but policy drivers), academics hunting for scare ££ for academic (journal articles) - & not necessarily practically useful - research! Communities & their helpers (Localisty etc)...just wanting to know what works, what not, how to improve!

ABOVE + my opinions & other LinkedIn members who were there may wish to comment/elaborate/dissent......