Back in October 2021, the BID responded to Birmingham City Council’s People for Places consultation on the LTN. Our response contained 17 comments and 30 recommendations which we were disappointed not to see accounted for when the project team issued an update in March this year.
We subsequently sent a letter to the Leader of the Council, Councillor Ian Ward, and both of these documents were shared with our businesses and posted on our website.
Since then, we have had a further meeting with the project team and have gained a better understanding of how the project is progressing. In a word, it’s progressing slowly, but we can provide a little more information at this stage.
Because of internal council procedures, we are still several months away from seeing any tangible changes to the highways infrastructure in Kings Heath and we know that there will be further public engagement before final decisions are made. We will, of course, keep everyone posted as we ourselves are updated on timescales.
In terms of the specific points that we had raised:
We suggested that the scheme could be introduced gradually and were told that the consequences of displacing vehicles by doing this would make the introduction of the scheme more difficult.
We suggested that implementing one-way systems in the same (clockwise or anti-clockwise) direction would be helpful but were told that not doing this would reduce the potential for rat-runs.
We asked for additional traffic calming measures and were told that the 20mph speed limits would be enforced and that speed issues would be monitored, and future changes would be considered.
We asked for a support with a marketing campaign to encourage consumers back to Kings Heath and have been promised support from the Council’s press office.
We asked about the possibility of opening up modal filters when roadworks were taking place and while the council were reluctant on this point, they said that it was something that could be considered, depending on the works involved. They also gave us assurances that works would be scheduled to minimise disruptions to traffic.
We requested a review of traffic enforcement as a consequence of the LTN implementations and were assured that this formed a part of the implementation plan.
We asked that technological and future innovations formed a part of the scheme to reduce bottlenecks and bring in other measures to improve air quality and were told that this was a part of the plan, and that National Express and Transport for West Midlands would work with us and BCC on these elements of the plan.
We asked for right turns and adjusted traffic light phases in certain parts of the scheme and were told that these were being looked at and that some were likely to be introduced.
We asked what could be done to reduce the amount of HGV traffic passing through the high street and were told that it was already reducing due to the CAZ in the city centre and that, as Satnav routes get updated, it would reduce further.
We raised concerns on some specific elements of the scheme that would undoubtedly have an impact on the businesses just off the high street and were assured that, as further engagement takes place prior to any installations, these businesses would be included in those conversations, as would the BID.
We asked for better signage to the existing car parks and standardisation of charging and it was agreed that this was something that the BID and BCC should look at together in the coming months.
We asked what was being done to improve public transport and to incentivise employees, visitors and residents to use their cars less and were told that the forthcoming Local Transport Plan would take these things into account and that the cross-city bus route would also lead to further public transport improvements. Since meeting with the Council, we have already seen the introduction of the Voi Scooter scheme through Kings Heath and the council-operated bike hire scheme will arrive here soon as well.
We also have a great independent bike shop, Bike Pro, who are retailers for a number of national bike to work schemes – go and see them to find out how they work and how to get your business or employees signed up to it!
Finally, we discussed with the project team the on-going issue of the “Covid Barriers” along the high street. This isn’t a part of the LTN project but clearly runs in parallel to it. Since we met with the project team, the consultation for this piece of work has concluded and we understand that the outcomes of that project will be made known in the next few weeks and that, whatever comes next, those barriers should be gone by the end of the summer.
In conclusion, the whole project is taking much longer than any of us would like. We appreciate that, whatever business’ individual views are on the scheme, the uncertainty over what’s to come does nothing to improve business confidence at a time when we should be feeling the full benefits of post-Covid recovery.
Since meeting with the Places for People project team, we have had two further meetings with members of that team, have written a further two letters to Councillor Ward, have responded to the “Covid Barrier” consultation and have brought the scheme up at our regular meetings with our local councillors.
When anything tangible progresses, we will, of course, make sure that you know about it.