While many of you welcomed some of the key achievements of the project that has made Hackbridge a much more pleasant place, there have been genuine concerns about the new road layout.
As the ‘Heart of Hackbridge’ project comes to a close, the council will be preparing a ‘Lessons Learned’ report so that future projects can be improved. This will be presented at the Council’s Housing, Economy and Business Committee in June.
As your ward councillors, we have highlighted some key issues:
Who exactly is responsible for the project?
While the funding came from the London Mayor, it was bid for and awarded to Bioregional who managed the scheme through a Heart of Hackbridge Delivery Board made up of local community representatives, the Greater London Authority (GLA) and Sutton Council.
Sutton Council is responsible for managing the funding provided, has responsibility over the roads and for carrying out Road Safety Audits on the new scheme.
This lack of clear accountability has made it difficult for residents to understand with whom to raise their concerns and who has the power to make changes. We learned that the Delivery Board made the decisions about all aspects of the scheme.
GLA’s preference for 'innovative' schemes
Whilst it is good to innovate, things do not always work out as expected. Then there is the cost of amending the parts of a scheme that don't work in practice. We will be calling for this to be factored into the funding for future schemes as the current system means that it is the council, and therefore local people, who are footing the bill for remedial work.
Designing in disability access
TfL and national road scheme design standards are not good enough. This has been a particular concern of ours when it was highlighted by a local resident and Road Safety Campaigner Tracey Collins, as well as Michael Parsons, who is a Sutton Vision campaigner.
The scheme had received the approval of the GLA and TFL, who confirmed that it would meet all current road safety and disability design standards. However various disability groups have highlighted for some time that some of those standards are not adequate. In particular 'courtesy crossings', which rely on interaction between driver and pedestrian, do not work for the visually impaired. Tom Brake MP was able to experience this for himself when Michael Parsons took him out wearing special glasses to mimic the experiences of a visually impaired person.
We want Sutton to be at the forefront of the campaign for Disability Access Standards.
This is a particularly worry for us as Liberal Democrats because we have long fought for the rights of people with disabilities. We have taken note of Michael Parson’s comments about how Hackbridge contrasts with Wallington, which Michael feels is a much more disability-friendly environment. Notably the Wallington project had a Disability Access
Assessment at the start of the project, which helped inform the design. We will be
calling for all local area projects to have an early Disability Access Assessment,
and for this to be included in the budget for a scheme, regardless of who is delivering it.
We will also be asking the council to highlight the failings of national standards for disability access and to be champions of this matter. We will be working with Tom Brake and Michael Parsons to take this issue up in Parliament.
Tom said, “My experience with Michael really brought home to me the difficulties that people with visual impairments face in their day to day life.
“I feel passionately that no one should be excluded from society and am frustrated that current road scheme standards can increase the difficulties some people face. I will be working hard to get the changes
that Disability Groups are calling for.”