Hoe Hoe Hoe – Wood You Believe It?

Howard Road E17
Howard Road, Walthamstow

The council surprised many of us last week with an early festive present.

It announced it would proceed with construction for the Hoe Wood villagisation scheme largely as per the consultation. But due to local opposition and the development of the Forest Road Mini-Holland scheme, no changes would be made to The Drive, Rectory Road, Howard Road, Hurst Road and Falmer Road. And the council would reconsult in summer 2016. (click here for the Hoe St & Wood St update).

So its unfortunate that a small minority of residents with cars choose to challenge the scheme because they did not want to add a few extra seconds to their journeys. 50% of households in the Hoe St Ward do not have access to a car, and its a reasonable assumption that the majority of them would like calmer streets, and that few car free households responded to the consultation.

However the council’ s decision is in fact pretty good news for Mini Holland supporters because

  1. it shows that that the Council listened, which is a frequently heard complaint of mini-Holland detractors. Whilst we suspect many of those both in favour and against the proposals will not be happy with this decision, it does demonstrate that the council doesn’t always ignore local opinion by steamrollering schemes through regardless.
  2. the proposals consulted on were already a substantial compromise, and there were concerns that several rat runs remained which could result in an increase in motor traffic, thus making it very unattractive for cycling and walking. As TfL have demonstrated in Kingston, if schemes are watered down too far funding may be withdrawn. So this delay opens the door to the proposals being improved to make them more attractive to local people and better deliver safer streets.
  3. Many who did not respond will have assumed it was a done deal and was going in anyway, or were not too bothered either way. So next time round we’ll hopefully get a more representative turnout thus delivering a majority in favour of better streets.

Of course the risk is that at the next consultation the car dependent minority against the scheme will again lobby with alarmist & inaccurate propaganda to force a no vote, and will leave the council having no choice but to divert the funds to another residential area where locals do want calmer streets.

Just north of Forest Road is one obvious candidate – many residents there have been asking when Mini Holland can be extended to give them relief from through traffic. The likely consequence will be unfortunate – an increase in rat running through the streets between Howard Road and The Drive – which will be in few residents’ interests.

Paris COP21: How can we deliver?

Almost 200 nations have just agreed to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than two degrees centigrade – but how are we going to achieve this?

We know we need to slash carbon emissions, but measures like national (and international) caps and taxes only go so far. What we need is ambitious action at a local level. So, what might this look like in terms of our daily lives?

Road transport accounts for nearly a quarter of the UK’s CO2 emissions, so one key measure has to be a reduction in the use of fossil fuelled vehicles. And tighter urban planning controls are also needed to create communities through mixed land use, offering a better combination of transport options and reducing the need to travel.

It sounds ambitious, but here in Waltham Forest, we are half way through a three year programme which aims to achieve just that. What is truly revolutionary about Mini Holland is that it is tackling relentless trends in urban areas that both national and local governments have seemingly been unable to reverse: congestion, air pollution, traffic danger and obesity related disease … not to mention CO2 emissions.

Mini Holland is about introducing measures that will make car use a little less convenient, and our streets safer and more attractive for alternative means of travel.

One benefiGrove Road shopst of the resulting increase in localised travel patterns is that residents spend more in the local economy. But it’s also an opportunity to rebuild communities devastated by uncontrolled car use, reducing the need for parents to escort children to tightly managed activities and offering instead the possibility of developing their confidence, resilience and social skills through more unstructured outdoor experiences.

Transforming how we perceive and use our streets means facing up to unpopular truths. Many of us in the western world must make big changes in how we live, so we tread more lightly on our over-stressed planet. And in Waltham Forest we are taking a big step in the right direction.