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Not an idiot, or an engineer

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Councillor Deirdre Alden has responded to criticism of her comments about cyclists, saying that she is “not an idiot”, Cycling Weekly reported.

[“Birmingham councillor answers critics after claiming cycling is ‘discriminatory’”, Chris Marshall-Bell, September 12, 2014]

[…] “These grants have to be spent by a certain time of else the money is rebuked. Therefore decisions are rushed and rushed decisions are not always the right decisions.

“We are in a Cabinet system and therefore I do not make the decisions. I am not an engineer also. But why is the Equality Impact System not be taking into account?”

Is it true that cyclists are predominately young white men, and if so, is that a reason for not backing the cycle mode?

Average distance cycled, Great Britain, 2011

In urban environments, the non-user benefits of cycling can be large (as Amsterdam and Cambridge demonstrate). Bicycles outperform motorised public transport in terms of roadspace utilisation, noise, greenhouse gases, and air quality.

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Written by beleben

September 13, 2014 at 12:46 pm

World class severance, part two

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Part one

HS2 Curzon soundbites: Waheed Nazir, director of planning and regeneration at Birmingham city council with ITV at Eastside City Park

HS2 Curzon soundbites: Birmingham city council’s Waheed Nazir with ITV at Eastside City Park

Joe Holyoak has contributed an article to the Birmingham Post (6 Mar 2014) about the launch of Birmingham city council’s unrealistic Curzon “masterplan B” at Millennium Point, noting that the history of the high speed scheme has been marked by a failure by HS2 [Ltd] to “collaborate helpfully” with the council.

[‘One step forward, two steps back with city’s masterplan B’, Joe Holyoak, 6 Mar 2014]

[At the launch] Sir Albert Bore and three others made brief unillustrated speeches, high in rhetoric (including that old Mike Whitby favourite “world-class city”), and that was it. No questions, no discussion. […]

One fact unmentioned was that this is the second masterplan that the council has produced for the area in only three years. Why is the 2011 Eastside Masterplan now superseded? […]

In the new masterplan, Digbeth now makes up about three quarters of the area, and Eastside and the city centre only about one quarter. […]

Apart from the new Metro route, there are two changes. […] A new pedestrian route is proposed, connecting Station Square, between HS2 and Moor Street Station, to Bordesley Street in Digbeth.

[…] New Canal Street is now to be open only to public transport (Metro and Sprint buses), taxis, pedestrians and cyclists, cutting off Digbeth to vehicles even more than before.

Written by beleben

March 9, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Refuse to follow the Daily Mail agenda

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On 22 November 2012 the Birmingham Post reported that wheelie bins would be coming to the streets of Birmingham, after the council secured a £29 million handout from the Government.

The wheelie bins will replace black bags for the vast majority of the 400,000 households in the city from next April following a successful bid to the Government’s £250 million weekly collection fund.

As well as guaranteeing the retention of weekly collections the council bosses believe that three wheelies for each house will help boost the city’s woeful 31 per cent recycling rates.

Residents will also benefit from a rewards scheme for recycling, based on a Nectar points system piloted in Erdington and Bournville last year and see 100,000 households with fortnightly recycling collections go weekly.

City bins chief councillor James McKay (Lab, Harborne) said: “I am thrilled that the Government has recognised the strength of our bid, and wants to work with us to bring transformational change to our waste collection services.
[…]
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said the grants would guarantee weekly collections for millions of householders.

He said: “Every Englishman has a basic right to have their household rubbish taken away each and every week – it is the most visible council service people get.

“Yet under the previous administration weekly bin collections halved while their Council Tax bills doubled.

“Over six million families will breathe a sigh of relief tonight because we have put a stop to the fetid fortnightly rot and saved many weekly collections from extinction, all while increasing recycling rates by hundreds of thousands of tonnes to boot.”

The £29 million grant to Birmingham is the highest grant to any local authority and will pay for the bins, which cost about £15 each, and a new fleet of trucks to replace ageing dust carts.

The three bins will be one for general waste, one for recycling such as bottles, cans and paper, and one for garden waste. Most other West Midlands councils already use wheelie bins.

All councils given grants must guarantee weekly residual waste collection for five years.

Solihull has been awarded almost £3 million to enable it to combine a number of separate recycling bins in one collection.

The Birmingham City Council news website statement, ‘Wheeled bins – your questions answered‘ provided few answers. In its accompanying video, councillor McKay said that the council is ‘consulting’ around a 3-bin model — a bin for residual (black bag) waste, a bin for recyclables, and a bin for garden waste.

[Birmingham Newsroom, 24 Dec 2012] Birmingham City Council recently won almost £30million from the Government from a scheme designed to preserve weekly collections of what is currently “black bag” waste.

The Department for Communities and Local Government told council officers that the city’s bid – based on introudcing [sic] wheeled bins for Birmingham’s households – had excelled in all areas.

In the video [above and on the Birmingham Newsroom website], Cllr James McKay, Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe and Smart city, explains some of the key points of the bid, discusses the challenges that the city’s refuse collection service faces and addresses some concerns that have been raised by citizens.

Will the Recent DCLG announcement of funding mean we will have wheeled bins in Birmingham?

Yes. This matter was debated by the city council’s Cabinet on Monday 30th July 2012 and again on the 10th December 2012. The city council has been awarded over £29 million by Central Government to introduce a wheeled bin collection service across Birmingham.

Will the Council look at the experience of Councils who have already introduced wheeled bins?

Wheeled bins are used in over 82% of all councils in England and there is a great deal of experience and knowledge about what works and what doesn’t – Birmingham will learn from this previous experience. This isn’t a unique project and all of the major cities in England already use wheeled bins.

What size bin will I receive?

It will be essential to ensure that households receive an appropriate sized container for their needs. It is recognised that some households, for example larger households, would need larger containers. The council has not determined which size containers will be used but would look at what other local authorities do and determine how best to meet the needs of residents, and the council.

How many bins will I receive?
Up to 3 bins – one for waste, one for recycling and one for green waste (if required). We will be testing how the bins will be used in selected areas of the city. Adjustments may need to be made for individual property types and roads.

I don’t think my property is suitable for a wheeled bin

We appreciate that not all properties are suitable for a wheeled bin collection service. Following the models from other councils, these include some properties that:

Have a steep slope / many steps between the house and the street where it would be difficult to move a wheeled bin up or down

Have no access or very limited access to the rear of the property, such as in some types of terraced housing

Have no ground floor access, such as flats above shops and some maisonettes.

In these circumstances, other councils make alternative arrangements such as retaining the collection system that was previously used.

What about elderly or disabled residents how will they manage?

We recognise that some residents would find it difficult or impossible to move a wheeled bin, such as a wheelchair user, and we will make alternative arrangements either through the provision of an ‘assisted’ service or again, through providing a different type of collection service that meets the households needs.

Why are we changing black sacks if it already works well?

Whilst we appreciate your view that the current black sack system works perfectly well, independent research has shown that where a wheeled bin system has been introduced, recycling rates have increased. Birmingham needs to reduce the amount of waste that we produce and to reuse and recycle more. Furthermore the current system causes litter due to bags being ripped open by rodents, other animals and birds with the contents strewn about the street.

When will the bins be introduced?

The bid to the DCLG outlined a 2 to 3 year timetable for the full procurement and roll-out of the bins. We intend to implement a pilot in spring 2013 in two wards looking at different options. The wards to be selected will be determined shortly.

Will my collection day change?

It is possible when wheeled bins are rolled-out that collection days may change, however it is not possible at this stage to give an indication of what those changes could be. All changes to days would be kept to a minimum.

Will wheeled bins result in redundancies?

No. It is anticipated the introduction will not cause job losses.

Times are tough. Couldn’t you be spending this on something more worthwhile?

The grant funding that the city council has been successful in obtaining from the DCLG is specifically awarded to enable the city to maintain weekly collections of residual waste. This funding cannot be used for other purposes.

I don’t have a Nectar card and want to support local businesses. What use is the incentive scheme going to be for me?

A participation-based incentive scheme was recently piloted with Nectar, which was successful in improving recycling levels in the pilot areas by around 9%. The proposed roll-out of an incentivisation scheme across the whole of Birmingham will be fully considered before implementation and a range of options and service providers will be considered for the full roll-out.

I live in a Conservation Area. You simply cannot impose wheeled bins on areas that have such a rich heritage. I hope that you will exempt us from these eyesores.

Each area will be looked at individually to see whether it will be suitable for wheeled bins. The improvements to waste collection are expected to improve the tidiness of the streets in Birmingham and reduce the amount of litter which is currently attributable to the existing bagged residual and box recycling collections.

Will you be conducting a survey?

We will ensure that there is community involvement and engagement and will harness views through a wide range of organisations and forums including an on-line survey for all residents and consultation through District Committees.

Can I have a composter, rather than a green waste bin? It would save you the collection cost, and help me produce compost for my garden!

This is a good idea and will be put forward and considered as part of the implementation plan.

Who is responsible for keeping the bins clean?

The experience of other local authorities who have implemented this type of collection methodology is that residents place bagged waste into the wheeled bins, and therefore there is minimal ongoing need to clean. If cleaning is required then it is the resident’s responsibility to undertake this.

Why are you not proposing to take food waste separately?

The council is currently considering the feasibility of a separate food waste collection. In the future it may also be possible to co-collect food waste with garden waste and the 3 bin proposed would support this method of collection. This is not part of the funding received as part of the DCLG bid. A separate consultation with residents would be undertaken if this option was considered further.

Few details of Councillor McKay’s scheme are available but it seems driven by the Daily Mail agenda of (giving the appearance of) maintaining weekly refuse collections (and having people who create lots of domestic rubbish subsidised by those who don’t). The scheme doesn’t seem sustainable, and after a 5 year period, it’s highly likely weekly collections would finish.

It cannot be about improving recycling rates (how would a 3-bin model provide the required separation?), improving labour productivity (there’s no manpower reduction), or the environment. Emissions from diesel refuse trucks must be one of the largest transport contributors to bad air quality in Birmingham.

Written by beleben

January 30, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Thirty pages of drivel

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Birmingham smart city vision, Nov 2012

Members of Birmingham city council’s transport, connectivity and sustainability scrutiny committee have slated the November 2012 28-page ‘Smart City statement‘. Chairwoman Victoria Quinn (Labour, Sparkbrook) said it was “more or less 30 pages of drivel”, Josh Jones (Labour, Stockland Green) called it “a vision statement without a clear vision”, and Robert Alden (Conservative, Erdington) declared that “The report talks about ending silo working but seems written by and written for those in that digital silo”.

Digital Birmingham‘s Raj Mack, one of the authors of the Vision, said that it was based on statements produced in cities like Barcelona. The cabinet member for a green, safe and smart city, James McKay (Labour, Harborne) claimed that it had been well-received by the business community.

In December 2012, the city council’s news website covered the publication of the vision statement.

http://birminghamnewsroom.com/2012/12/smart-city-vision-statement/

Smart city vision statement
[By Kris Kowalewski – December 18, 2012]

The things that need to be done to prepare Birmingham for the challenges of the future have been published in a vision statement by the Smart City Commission today (December 18).

Set up by the city council in July, the commission has been tasked with coming up with a “future proofing” strategy to ensure that Birmingham is at the forefront of technological innovation and change – ensuring sustainable economic growth, prosperity and an improved quality of life in the process.

Its work is set against a challenging context for Birmingham, which sees the city ranked as the ninth most deprived out of 354 authorities in England, with 35 per cent of children classified as living in poverty and unemployment twice the national average.

In addition to this, 18.5 per cent of people are not online, and just one quarter of residents are classed as being “highly-skilled”.

As a result, the commission, whose members are drawn from business, academia and government, have announced the following priority areas of work:

– Leadership/ownership: The Smart City roadmap must strategically be led at the highest level, but also fully embrace communities, businesses and citizens at a grass roots level to help shape and jointly-design services.

– Exploiting technologies: Birmingham needs to develop ultra-fast digital connectivity, to attract inward investment. A Smart Development Blueprint will shape this plan.

– Service transformation: Working together, sharing all available data to modernise services so issues are anticipated and prevented rather than reacted to and fixed. This will deliver more personalised and targeted services for citizens.

– New information marketplaces: Promoting an ‘Open Data’ agenda for the council and others in recognition of the fact that maximising the use of high-quality information can help improve services and develop new opportunities for entrepreneurs.

– Supporting innovation: Reviewing public procurement practices to encourage new ideas, along with the creation of an innovative development fund.

– Closing the digital divide: Affordable connectivity and improving existing skills are vital to capitalise on the opportunities the Smart City agenda offers.

– Profiling and influencing: Developing ways in which the city’s many organisations can work together to champion Birmingham as a Smart City in the areas of enterprise and social collaboration to make the city an attractive location to invest in

A series of recommendations will now be developed to cover the priority areas, forming the basis of an action plan and roadmap for the commission.

The roadmap will be published in summer 2013 and include a timeline of activities, details of linkages to the council’s Green Commission and Youth Unemployment Commission and detail of funding and investment opportunities (public and private) to support the delivery of the vision.

Cllr James McKay, Chair of the Smart City Commission, said: “The world is constantly changing, and over the last few decades the pace of technological development has been staggering, posing a major challenge for traditionally industrial cities like Birmingham.

“The world will not stand still, so we need to position ourselves to maximise the opportunities this change brings.

“We must innovate, integrate, collaborate and pool resources, share information and work with as many partners as possible to achieve this – the Smart City Vision Statement is the first step towards grasping the opportunities on offer and breaking down silos, to ensure Birmingham has the most prosperous future possible.”

Anyone with feedback on the vision statement or ideas to develop the document is invited to contact the commission by e-mail at smartcity@birmingham.gov.uk

An online version of the Smart City Vision Statement is available here.

ENDS

Notes to editors

A definition for a Smart City

“Smart Cities use information and communication technologies and data to be more intelligent and efficient in the use of resources, resulting in cost and energy savings, improved service delivery and quality of life and reduced environmental footprint – all supporting innovation and the low carbon economy”. Boyd Cohen, Climate Strategist

Members of the Smart City Commission

The current list of Smart City Commission members is as follows:

Cllr James McKay – CHAIR
Mark Barrow – Strategic Director of Development, Birmingham City Council
Chris Parker – Managing Partner, CS Transform Limited
Des Correia – Director, Arup
Duncan Botting – Managing Director, Global Smart Transformation Limited
Enrique Sanchez – Smart Cities Lead, Ferrovial
Guenter Pecht-Seibert – Senior Vice President, SAP AG
Keith Osman – Director of Research, Birmingham City University
Mike Perry – Principal Consultant, Building Research Establishment (BRE)
Sandy Taylor – Head of Climate Change and Environment, Birmingham City Council
Richard Foggie – Director, HoIP CIC
Rick Robinson – Executive Architect, IBM
Steve George – Director, SGTI (representing Centro and UTMC – urban traffic management and control)
Dr Phil Extance – Pro-Vice Chancellor, Aston University
Raj Mack – Head of Digital Birmingham
Prof Chris Rogers – Professor of Geotechnical Engineering & Deputy Head of School of Civil Engineering, University of Birmingham
Dr Christine Braddock – Principal & Chief Executive, Birmingham Metropolitan College
Mark Bew – Chair of BIM (Building Information Modelling) Task Group, Cabinet Office
Nick Booth – Managing Director, Podnosh
Vicky Sargent – Director, Boilerhouse Media

Citizens are invited to give their opinion (between 18/12/2012 — 30/03/2013) on the vision at the condescendingly titled Birmingham be heard website. I’d be surprised if 2% of them knew that the website existed, but that doesn’t matter, because their views are unlikely to be of any interest to the council.

Birmingham Smart City: vapid outcomes

When Labour took over in May 2012, they quickly removed the Conservative / Liberal Democrat ‘Global City Local Heart’ branding from council publications, but much of the vapid phraseology in the document was originated under the previous administration.

Birmingham Smart City-What It Looks Like

Current city systems and processes are generally reactive and for historic reasons rooted in functional service delivery silos exacerbated by inflexible legacy systems and long term contracts; poor information flows prevent a shared and connected approach across the many projects and multiple organisations, which seek to work in partnership to deliver the city outcomes.

Written by beleben

January 25, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Posted in Birmingham, Built environment, Business

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Is opacity sustainable?

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On its website, Sustainability West Midlands (SWM) states that it is the sustainability adviser for the leaders of the West Midlands, and a not-for profit company that works with its members who are leading individuals and organisations in the business, public, and voluntary sectors.

Its vision “is of businesses and communities thriving in a future region that is environmentally sustainable and socially just”.

History

Establishing a public sector partnership approach 2002-4
========================================================

SWM was established as not-for-profit company limited by guarantee by a range of regional public sector bodies in 2002. Its purpose was to provide a ‘regional sustainable development roundtable’ which gave sustainability advice for the region.

SWM was chaired by the Environment Agency and employed a staff member who built the organisation into a partnership organisation consisting of a Board and twenty members representing different economic, regional and social sectors in the region, mostly from the public sector. Funding was provided from a range of public sector partners.

SWM was recognised as providing the West Midlands Regional Assembly with a partnership for sustainability, which included advice on policy issues such as housing and planning and producing the Regional Sustainable Development Framework.

Growing a private sector network and project approach 2004-8
============================================================

SWM appointed its first Chair from the private sector and employed a new part-time Director to develop the organisation. This included growing the business representation of the Board and members, and expanding the membership to around eighty. Funding was provided from a range of public and private sector sources around projects.

In 2006 SWM was recognised by the Government as an ‘independent sustainability champion body’ for the region fulfilling all the criteria of the Sustainable Development Commission, one of only two regions to do so.

In 2008 SWM was recognised by Advantage West Midlands as a strategic body for regional support and is designated as the strategic lead for overseeing and reporting on the regions progress around sustainability good practice under the ‘sustainable living’ objective and activities within the Regional Economic Strategy.

Becoming a catalyst for change – 2009 to date
=============================================

SWM appoints its first full time Executive Director and after consultation with stakeholders refines its offer as a strategic sustainability adviser for the leaders of the region, with a new vision, products and services. SWM moves into its new offices and meeting room facilities, hosted by RegenWM, at Millennium Point, Birmingham.

The Board and a growing membership are now from the private, public and third sector. Funding is from the public sector to provide core services and build the support required to help the region. Other funding is from the public and private sector for projects. Interventions are increasingly strategically targeted for maximum long-term impact. Closer collaborative working is being established with other key partners.

However, very little information is available on the governance, policy and effectiveness of SWM, or the advice it has given to private and public sector bodies.

Written by beleben

January 25, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Silber lining

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Birmingham's Corporation Street rooted up for Centro's Midland Metro tramway, 2012

On the Chamberlain Files, Paul Dale reported the 8 November defeat of a Birmingham man’s bid to get buses back into the city’s central shopping area.

Campaigner Robin Clarke was seeking a judicial review into the Transport Secretary’s decision to approve a £75 million city centre extension of the Midland Metro tram system, arguing that there were “extreme deficiencies” in public consultation about the impact the scheme would have.

He told the High Court in Birmingham of widespread anger over the re-routing of buses to accommodate the Metro extension from Snow Hill to New Street Station.

Buses can no longer travel along Corporation Street, Upper Bull Street and Stevenson Street. Passengers must use special “interchanges” a five minute walk away at Snow Hill/Colmore Row, Paradise Circus/Broad Street, New Street Gateway, Markets, Moor Street/Carrs Lane and Bull Street/Priory Queensway.

Mr Clarke claimed the new arrangements were introduced by bus companies, the Passenger Transport Authority Centro, and Birmingham City Council without any proper attempt to inform passengers or ask for their opinion.
[…]
Centro, the city council and the Department for Transport were involved in an “internal stitch-up” and had used improper procedures, he added. When challenged about what would happen to the buses Centro had used “persistent misinformation”, Mr Clarke claimed.

Mr Justice Silber rejected the application for a judicial review, stating that it had been lodged outside of the three-month time limit, and in any event, none of the arguments put forward by Mr Clarke could be substantiated.

The Department for Transport, Centro and the city council had behaved correctly throughout and there had been “no error in public law”.

No doubt the legal team hired by the Department for Transport and Centro would have pointed out the ‘serious implications’ of granting Mr Clarke’s application. Bus stops have already been broken up, streets dug up, a £9 million viaduct built, and £41 million of new trams ordered from Spain. So the outcome of the legal case is not very surprising. All the same, it’s clear that Centro

  • undertook a bare minimum of ‘consultation’
  • made little attempt to engage the public
  • and provided no information on alternative visions for future travel in the city centre.

The 2011 consultation did not include changes ascribed by Centro to the Midland Metro extension, because they “were approved through the Transport and Works Act Order process” (more than a decade earlier, for a different tram scheme extending to Five Ways, and involving a different set of bus changes).

It’s not even clear where the ‘three-month time limit’ ended. On 2 February 2012, using the freedom of information site Whatdotheyknow, Mr Clarke asked Centro to provide details of consultation carried out on the city centre bus stop closures and Metro extension.

Centro did not respond until 29 February. At that time, it provided copies of the ‘Birmingham City Centre Interchange public engagement consultation (bus stops) and Birmingham City Centre Extension consultation report (Metro).

Text from the main section of the 32-page bus stops report, dated 21 July 2011, is reproduced below. There were five appendices (with some virtually illegible text).

Purpose of Report
1. To provide a briefing on the extent and outcomes of the informal brieifing [sic] and consultation process with regard to the proposed TrafFic Regulation Orders for the Birmingham City Centre Interchange.

Background
2. In order to undertake the highway modifications necessary to put in place the infrastructure for the Birmingham City Centre Interchange (BCCI) project a number of Traffic Regualtion [sic] Orders (TROs) are required. These are summarised in Appendix A.

3. A process of informal Consultation has been undertaken with the public, councillors and key stakeholders in order to understand any issues and to ensure that the design relating to the proposed TROs minimises impact wherever possible whilst delivering the benefits of the scheme.

4. The next stage of the process is a formal 3 week consultation process where any outstanding objections can be raised. Through the extensive informal consultation it is expected that there will be very few of these.

5. The TROs related to the Midland Metro extension whilst linked will not be formally consulted upon as these were approved through the Transport and Works Act Order process.

Public Consultation
6. Exhibitions have taken place at the following prominent locations:
* Birmingham Markets – Saturday 26 March [2011]
* Moor Street Station — Tuesday 29 March
* Snow Hill Station — Thursday 31 March
* Victoria Square — Friday 1 April
* Birmingham Markets — Saturday 2 April
* New Street Station — Tuesday 5 April
* Victoria Square — Wednesday 6 April
* Birmingham Markets — Friday 8 April
* Moor street — Monday 23 May
* Moor Street — Tuesday 24 May

7. The information displayed at the exhibition stand featured the Connected City brand and outlined the aims of the project and affected areas of the city, including the Metro route, the removal of traffic from Corporation Street and the city centre interchange bus works.

8. The exhibitions have been staffed by members of the Centro and BCC teams as well as representatives of the consultants undertaking design and development work.

9. Over 800 people visited the exhibitions to ask questions directly related to the project. In addition large numbers of other visitors asked questions related to other public transport related issues.

10. There were many positive comments about the proposals, especially the Metro route and changes to New Street Station. Positive comments were also received with regard to making Corporation Street into a more pedestrianised environment.

11. The main focus for negative comments was the removal of buses from Corporation Street and disabled access. Removal of buses from Corporation Street is a requirement of the TWA order for the Metro extension and is not included in the BCCI TROs.

12. Liaison with a number of disabled groups about the plans has taken pace as well as with the Birmingham City Council Access Committee. These groups were also invited to the exhibitions of the 23rd and 24th May.

13. 82 comment forms were received as a result of the exhibitions, An analysis of these comments is provided in Appendix B.

14. The comments have been responded to through the development of a set of Frequently Asked Questions and associated responses, These have been posted on the Connected City website. Whilst not all people submitting comments provided contact details, where this was the case they have been sent the latest Frequently Asked Questions/Responses by email. These Frequently Asked Questions and Responses are provided in Appendix C.

15. As a result of the large number of exhibitions and meetings there has been very little specific correspondence. Specific correspondence issued is provided in Appendix E.

Councillors
16. A report on the proposals for the BCCI was provided to ITA members at their meeting of 7 February 2011.

17. All Birmingham Councillors have been sent the relevant leaflets relating to the TROs and invited to discuss the proposals with the project team.

18. This has been done twice in order to provide a reminder of the content of the scheme.

19. No direct responses have been received to these invitations, however a number of councillors have attended other events including Councillors, Hartley, Rice and Bore.

20. Members of the ITA City Centre Steering Group were invited to a briefing in Centro House. This was attended by Councillors Huxtable and Hunt. A further meeting of the City Centre Steering Group was held on 21 July 2011 attended by Councillors Alden, Evans, Hartley, Hunt, Huxtable, Kane and Ward. This meeting included a presentation on the proposals for the Birmingham City Centre Interchange and associated SAPS. In addition Councillors were offered the opportunity to view the scheme drawings and other material relating to the scheme.

21. To provide a final chance to provide informal comments and issues an invite was provided to councillors to attend drop in briefings in Centro House during July. These were attended by Councillors Bore and Hartley. The queries raised by Councillor Hartley have been responded to by email. A further meeting was held to brief Councillors Lines and Jackson.

Other Stakeholders
22. An extensive programme of briefings and presentations has been set up over the period from January 2011 to date. These are listed in Appendix D.

23. To date all specific queries have been responded to. Centro has committed to providing ongoing briefings for a number of these organisations.

24. Bus operators have received a number of briefings both collectively and on an individual basis. The majority of services impacted by the TROs are operated by National Express and numerous discussions have taken place including with the Group Chief Executive and Managing Director UK Bus. National Express have been provided with a series of presentations of the modelling work undertaken by Birmingham City Council. In addition the improvements to the highway network proposed in order to facilitate better bus reliability and reduced journey times have been discussed at a senior level with National Express staff.

25. As a result of these discussions the focus of debate with National Express has now moved on to the process for minimising any disruption during the construction phase and the method of notifying passengers of future change s to their stops and services, A letter has been sent to National Express setting out the position with regard to the TROs and confirming the likely timescales to completion of the process.

26. Numerous discussions have taken place with retailers and the Business Improvement Districts, comments have tended to focus on the Metro extension rather than the BCCI TROs. Following the agreement of a materials palatte [sic] with BCC officers, Centro will now progress further discussions with the various BIDs and retailer groups with regard to issues such as public realm enhancement.

27. In order to ensure that all retailers and residents within the impacted area were aware of the proposals a leaflet drop was done to all homes and businesses within the Birmingham City Centre Interchange area. Wherever possible the leaflets were delivered by a member of the project team so that questions could be raised and responded to.

Charges to the TRO Proposals
28. As a result of the informal consultation process set out about the following changes have been made to the proposals;

29. Cycling — there has been discussion with cycling groups and officers responsible for cycling throughout the process as a result the cyle [sic] access routes through the city core area have been modified from the original proposals.

30. National Express — the bus routes that enable the BCCI proposlas [sic] to work have bean developed jointly between BCC, Centro and National Express. Through this process National Express has fed in proposals throughout the process with regard to the infrastructure investment and traffic regulation proposals. The BCCI project provides approximately £14 million investment aimed at bus improvements, National Express have on the basis of their operational knowledge proposed a series of refinements to the proposals.

Those now included in the proposals include:
• Holloway Circus — improved capacity through widening the roundabout
• Bus Turning loop at St Martin’s Queensway /Moor Street
• Allowing buses to turn right into Carr’s Lane from Moor Street Queensway
• Allowing buses to turn right from Priory Queensway into Moor Street Queensway
• Two buses outside the Square Peg
• Albert Street available to buses until redevelopment
• Reverse Hill Street and provide a link road to Holliday Street
• Priory Queensway and Old Square stops to be retained

31. A number of other issues have been raised and have been incorporated into the TRO proposals as set out below:

On-Street Facilities
• Revised measurement method for facilities — now includes tapers.
• Corporation Street — New loading bay north of Old Square.
• Stephenson Street — Revised loading bay.
• Waterloo Street — Revised disabled bay.
• Steelhouse Lane — New on-street pay and display.
• Moor Street Queensway — Revised loading bay including limited waiting (drop off).
• Moor Street — Revised taxi rank /new limited waiting area (drop off).
• Bull Street — New loading bay.
• Upper Dean Street — New drop off /pick up facility.

Prohibitions
• James Watt Queensway — 20mph speed limit retained.
• Revised extent of bus lanes.
• Revised allowable traffic in bus lanes.
• Stephenson Street /Stephenson Place — revised allowable traffic.
• Corporation Street — Contra-flow cycle lane,
• Bull Street – Contra-flow cycle lane.
• Temple Row — Two way traffic.
• Bartholomew Row — One way.
• Jennens Road — Bus lane revoked.
• The Priory Queensway (east of Old Square) — Allowable traffic modification.

The following are extracts from Appendix E, ‘Correspondence with Regard to TRO Proposals’.

A communication plan which will include the formal consultation process as well as additional information and engagement is currently being developed by Centro and its partners. This is likely to include briefings, exhibitions, websites aid media We will ensure that there are plentiful opportunities far passengers to provide feedback on the developing design work. In fact; we recently began the process with several focus groups in the city centre to help us develop the design for new bus shelters, As well as inviting bus users and nan-users to input their thoughts on the design, we also included representatives from the city centre management, business, resident and disabled groups. Philip Davis from Passenger Focus was invited to this process, although understand that he did not attend. We will continue to include Passenger Focus in all future briefings and look forward to their continued involvement in our projects.
[…]

Feedback
There has been some feedback from parties, though the response to invites to the TRO exhibitions was disappointing. Only 20 people on day 1 and 15 on day 2. Feedback from the retailers for the poor response ranged from apathy through to that they trusted the Retail BID to be there [sic] point of contact to communicate any issues that they had.

[…]
There were a lot of positive comments about the proposed improvements to the City Centre, especially the extension to the Metro and the development of New Street Station. Many people believed that the improvements would give Birmingham and particularly the City Centre a much better image. Positive comments were also made regarding the removal of buses from Corporation Street to make it more pedestrian friendly and provide a more pedestrian feel to the city as a whole. Enhanced wayfinding and signage was seen as important to the success of the projects. There was a general feel that it was ‘about time’ that the extension was happening, with many
people having read about previous attempts, The introduction of new rolling stock was seen as a positive, giving the tram a more modern appearance.

Centro’s 2011 consultation did not explain which bus stops would be moved where, what the new bus stops would be like, or how the ‘loop bus’ between interchanges would work (at the time of writing, there appears to be no such service). From Paul Dale’s article for the Birmingham Post dated 11 November 2011, it appears that Centro were still stitching up the routeing of buses with National Express long after their public consultation had finished.

Although the Corporation Street changes have been welcomed by Retail Birmingham chairman Jonathan Cheetham, local press and television coverage would suggest that many traders are not happy. Retail Birmingham is a so-called ‘business improvement district’ that takes in the Mailbox and Bullring (whose large retailers are potential beneficiaries from disruption in Corporation Street).

While there were too many buses using Corporation Street, their total exclusion (and blocking off of stops in other streets) was a mistake. The £129 million extension of Midland Metro to Stephenson Street is low productivity investment which could not improve air quality in the city centre. It could improve hyperlocal air quality in Corporation Street itself, but the hydrocarbons and NOx are just being transferred to the new bus stops, many of which are far more congested than the old ones.

Written by beleben

November 11, 2012 at 3:56 pm

HS2 and visual amenity

with 2 comments

The effects of high speed rail on visual amenity are difficult to monetise, and vary by location. For example, though the designers of HS1 had feet of clay, one could argue that their efforts did not damage visual amenity in places like Thurrock. The environment there was already so damaged, that the addition of HS1 could not make it any worse.

HS1 in Thurrock (from BBC tv's 'Made in Britain', part two)

With HS2, the situation is very different, yet in HS2 Ltd’s documentation, the visual dimension is generally side-stepped. However, visuality of one urban aspect of the HS2 project was mentioned in Atkins’ Euston Station Benefits January 2011 Technical Note.

HS2 Ltd visualisation of a rebuilt Euston station

HS2 Ltd’s proposals involve creating a bigger Euston, with floorspace increased by about 80%, but as usual, there is a noticeable lack of detail.

Due to a lack of definitive information regarding the usage of the available space in Euston station should HS2 be implemented, the estimation of benefits associated with other major rail station schemes has been examined.

Atkins has been able to collate information for two schemes for which detailed estimation of station improvement benefits has been undertaken: Nottingham Hub and Birmingham Gateway. Both these schemes relate to major long distance rail stations with business cases for major development that have been subject to DfT scrutiny. Both business cases were prepared adopting a 2002 price base and discount year.

Nottingham Hub is a proposal to redevelop what is an old station in Nottingham city centre. There is to be the creation of an open pedestrianised space in front of the station, improved concourse areas to improve passenger flow, improved travel information, the provision of a multi-storey, 1,000 space car park, and an improvement to safety and security measures around the station.
The aim is to create an attractive rail gateway to the East Midlands.

Birmingham Gateway is a proposal to radically overhaul the existing Birmingham New Street station. Passengers at Birmingham New Street, the largest interchange station outside of London, currently endure congestion and a poor travelling experience, with forecasts suggesting that passenger demand is set to increase. The proposals will improve the built form of the station; increase concourse area, which will alleviate passenger congestion and provide an opportunity for commercial development; improve links to the local transport network, forming a true „gateway‟; and improve access to the station by increasing the number of exits/entrances.

Of the two proposals, Birmingham Gateway is most similar to Euston, given the size of the station, the increase in concourse size, the increased exits/entrances to the station, the improvement of links to the local transport network, and in visual amenity.
[…]
the majority of benefits in the Birmingham proposal come from time benefits, gained by improving passenger flow by increasing concourse area and layout, as well as improving interchange with the local transport network, and access to the city centre. The majority of benefits in the Nottingham proposal come from station facilities such as improved travel information, and a number of improved security measures.

At this conceptual stage it is difficult to predict the breakdown of benefits that may occur at Euston. The design is more similar to Birmingham in its nature, however, the Nottingham proposal does show that additional benefits may be accrued by extra facilities improvements.

An added benefit that hasn’t been included above is „visual amenity‟. Estimates for the Birmingham [Gateway] project put the worth of this at approximately £80m PV (2002 prices). Scaling this by demand would put the figure at around £60m PV (2002 prices) or £90m PV (2009 prices) for Euston.

The suggestion is that the Euston rebuild would have a positive visual impact, but given the official visualisations, I’m sure many people would demur. How the values are arrived at, is not explained. But if the visual effects of HS2 on ~4 km2 of Camden are as large as +£90 million (2009), what is the reckoning for the 200 km of line beyond Euston?

In essence, primary visual disamenity from HS2 is not accurately represented in the Economic Case, because the effect on rural (and urban) vista is not captured. Also uncaptured are the effects of secondary visual disamenity, from development sprawl at sites such as Bickenhill. According to the Railnews blog, Douglas Oakervee, chairman of HS2 Ltd, said

“There can be no provision in the Hybrid Bill for land beyond the requirements of HS2 — yet there are huge surrounding development opportunities.”

Written by beleben

October 17, 2012 at 11:28 am