Tuesday 19 June 2007

H&F Council Hopes to Remove Traffic Calming From Residential Streets

Hammersmith and Fulham’s Council Administration admitted that it had been surprised by the strength of public feeling after saying it wanted to remove traffic calming and 20mph Homes Zones from the borough's residential streets. Many local residents directly emailed Conservative Administration's councillors to object to their plans following a campaign to save the Home Zones led by my fellow ward councillors and I. Now, Cllr. Nicholas Botterill (Con), the Cabinet Member for the Environment, seems to have backtracked on his policy stating at a recent council meeting that “if people wanted to keep it in some areas then we'd look at that favourably”.

The Tory Administration first raised fears that traffic calming would be removed when a letter titled Making Life Easier for Local Motorists was sent to Hammersmith residents from the H&F Conservative Party on the 9th March 2005. It stated that "Driving through Brackenbury Village has become an ordeal”. Then, having won the 2006 local elections; Cllr. Botterill confirmed that the new Administration would seek to the Home Zone's remove traffic calming at the full Council Meeting in September 2006. The Council then began to review the issue and papers were considered at the meeting of the Cleaner & Greener Scrutiny Committee on 13th June 2007. You can view the papers here.

The scrutiny meeting was chaired by Cllr. Eugenie White (Con). Sadly, the level of scrutiny did not seem adequate for a body setting public policy on such an important issue. With Cllr. Botterill telling the committee that he had two cars. One is a 4X4, which he said “travels over the speed cushions with ease” and the other is a VW Polo which Cllr. Botterill explained “regularly had the plastic on the bottom of the car scraped against local speed cushions”. This brought about several other anecdotal stories of damage experienced or witnessed to cars by traffic calming from Conservative committee members. The Tory councillors did not scrutinise any of the considerable evidence that traffic calming cuts traffic numbers driving through a residential area, slows vehicle speeds and reduces accident rates. The committee agreed with the policy outlined in the report. This means that it is Council policy to remove traffic calming when possible and will stop placing any more traffic calming onto the borough’s roads. However, they still have the residents to face and I'm sure that will cause them to back down each time they encounter resistance.

The 20mph Grove Home Zone was introduced in 1999 after my fellow ward councillors and I campaigned to cut the numbers of children killed or seriously injured through road accidents. We set up a residents' working party that included representatives from the NSPCC, the Brackenbury Residents Association and the Police along with many interested local residents. This culminated in a area referendum with over 75% of the 624 people who took part voting in favour of introducing a new 20mph Home Zone.

The Grove Home Zone was the largest and one of the first to be introduced in London. Home Zones have now been proven to cut traffic flows into residential areas by an average of 27%. The Grove Home Zone has cut speeds by 12% and Hammersmith and Fulham's child accident rates have been reduced by 72% between 1998 and 2005. Speed cushions were fundamental to that success. It would be ideological madness for H&F Conservatives to remove our Home Zones. So, we have put the Tories on notice that if they again try to do this we will run a high profile campaign that will expose the dangerous stupidity of their plans and galvanise public support against them. I think we have scared them off for now.

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