Impatient residents awaiting the arrival of a Mini Holland are told the scheme WILL go ahead, after concerns it had been scrapped.
The so-called “Markhouse Village” area of Waltham Forest’s Mini Holland programme was one part of a £30m, borough-wide scheme to encourage cycling and walking. The entire programme should have been completed by March 2017, but was delayed due to the size and complexity of the scheme.
Residents were told by a local councillor the scheme will progress, but the council won’t know what shape it will take until after a public consultation, due to start this financial year. A local cycling campaigner says although delays are not ideal, they are understandable given the sheer scale of the work.
A letter sent by several residents to local councillors and Transport for London said they were “overjoyed” when the borough won its £30m funding bid from Transport for London “for much needed improvements to our neighbourhoods.”
The letter asks why no progress has yet been made on the scheme, one of four “village” schemes within the bid.
It says: “Markhouse area has serious issues with air pollution and aggressive driving, and residents of Boundary Road and Queens Road have experienced significant increases in through traffic since the other three Mini-Holland villages have been implemented.”
“We are a very close and diverse community with lots of families, elderly residents and schools and are starting to feel very hard done by and worried that we won’t be getting any of the benefits of this scheme. We have been patient for nearly 3 years and with the project funding about to run out in May 2018 we are very concerned.”
“We really love the work that has been completed in other areas of Walthamstow and other parts of the borough” it says, adding residents want to see road closures to limit east-west traffic through Queens Road, Boundary Road and Bowden Road, as proposed in the original bid.
In a letter to residents Cllr Clyde Loakes, deputy leader of Waltham Forest Council, said: “I can confirm that Waltham Forest Council will start to look at the Markhouse area this financial year. The initial site investigation and concept development work will happen over the next few months.”
He pointed out the Mini Holland programme includes around 30 individual projects, some of which cover large residential areas and main roads, and have been broken down into smaller sub-schemes.
Cllr Loakes, who has championed the scheme, added: “Within the overall five year programme, projects have been scheduled to progress at different stages and paces. This reflects the work involved, co-ordination and interaction between schemes, and resource availability. There are a small number of projects that have not yet started or are in their infancy, and Markhouse Village is one of them.”
He said: “At this stage, we cannot be certain on the changes Waltham Forest Council intends to make. We will need to assess proposals against the original bid to make sure they meet TfL’s and Waltham Forest Council’s objectives.”
Under the Mini Holland banner is the Walthamstow Village scheme, which includes the closure to through traffic of Orford Road, a shopping street now hailed as a success story internationally. Initial figures from road closures in the same area suggested traffic volumes had halved overall as a result of area-wide road closures, though traffic on main roads had increased.
Paul Gasson, a member of the Waltham Forest Cycling Campaign, a local branch of the London Cycling Campaign, worked closely with Waltham Forest Council on the Mini Holland bid and the implementation of plans. He told road.cc although he understands residents’ impatience to reap the benefits witnessed elsewhere in the borough by reductions in motor traffic, delays are understandable given the sheer scale of the work.
“It is clear the sheer scale of change that has been delivered across the borough is awesome and although I would have liked it to be delivered in three years, that scale means it is pretty resource intensive, from producing detailed designs, to practical elements like the engineering and drainage.”
He said resourcing a project of this scale a “terrific” challenge.
“I think they are doing really well but realistically there is a lot going on – at the moment they are working on Markhouse Road, Lea Bridge Road and Hoe Street. How much can you dig up before the borough comes to a standstill?
“I think it’s quite a difficult balancing act.
“There are some residents understandably getting frustrated. Seeing the benefits in Walthamstow Village and Blackhorse Village, the change is staggering: the day after filtering was put in, there were people walking in the middle of the road. Residents of Markhouse are really keen for these benefits.
“TfL is under financial pressure, there’s always the worry they will say we have run out of cash; but from a borough perspective, they are determined.”