The Sub-Committee considered a decision of the Environment and Transport Portfolio Holder dated 13 October 2005, which determined that the Council would implement a congestion relief scheme in Roxeth Green Avenue, as described in Appendix D of the published officer report. Members received the notice invoking the call-in procedure, the record of the Portfolio Holder’s decision, the documentation sent to the Portfolio Holder to inform his decision, and a tabled statement from the Portfolio Holder, who was unable to attend the meeting.
The decision had been called-in on three grounds: the absence of adequate evidence on which to base a decision, the action was not proportionate to the desired outcome, and a potential human rights challenge.
The Chair asked an officer to explain how the decision was taken. The officer stated that the objective of the scheme was to reduce traffic congestion in Roxeth Green Avenue following concerns raised by members of the public through both a MORI poll and a public meeting held as part of the New Harrow Project. The design process for the project had included a local consultation exercise and the public exhibition of drawings. Following the receipt of public comments, the design process had continued with officers noting these comments. There had then been a second public consultation on the refined scheme and the additional proposals. Throughout the process it had been agreed that the scheme was necessary and no significant adverse comment had been received. The officer added that the design process was complex and the report sent to the Portfolio Holder contained only what was necessary to enable the Portfolio Holder to take an informed decision.
The Chair asked a Member representing the signatories to the call-in to explain the reasons for the call-in. In response, she stated that other traffic measures in South Harrow had increased congestion and led to increased speeds as cars accelerated on leaving them. She added that the building out of junctions would reduce the width of already narrow roads without assisting pedestrians. The scheme also included the planting of new trees, which could impinge visibility, and a new cycle lane which had the potential to be used by cars to increase speed. The Member had had input into the scheme, having been included in the second round of consultation in her capacity as a Ward Councillor, but felt that there was a lack of evidence in the report to the Portfolio Holder to support the conclusions reached as it did not address the potential negative impact on safety of some parts of the scheme.
An officer responded by stating that many of the features in the scheme were widely used and the Portfolio Holder would not have needed detailed descriptions. Engineers had decided what details were necessary for the Portfolio Holder to make an informed decision. The building out of junctions was a very common feature of traffic schemes and did not lead to the narrowing of side roads. The scheme was intended to achieve a balance in reducing vehicle speed but providing adequate parking. The Officer stated that he did not believe the report could be improved.
The Chair invited a Ward Councillor who was present to give his views on the scheme. He stated that he felt that the scheme was an effective balance between reducing congestion and avoiding dangerous increases in speed, and that adequate consideration had been given to the views of local residents. He agreed that there may be problems of traffic displacement and increased speed arising from that scheme, but there had been comments on this at an early stage and he was satisfied that consideration had been given to these issues by officers, and that they would continue to monitor them post-implementation. He concluded by stating that he did not support the call-in and felt there had been sufficient evidence on which to base a decision.
Members of the Sub-Committee asked questions on a number of issues. The degree of discretion officers would have to amend the scheme after approval by the Portfolio Holder was highlighted as a central issue. An officer explained that it was possible that minor amendments to the scheme would be made during the detailed design process but in the event of any major changes it was necessary for a new report to be submitted to the Portfolio Holder for a decision. The officer agreed that section 2.3.6a of the report may have given the Portfolio Holder the impression that further speed-reduction measures were to be added during the design process when all measures to be implemented had been included in the report.
Members of the Sub-Committee, having considered all the evidence, summarised their views about the grounds for call-in. A Member stated that a Ward Councillor had explained that residents were happy with the scheme. Another Member stated that while the report should have contained more detail, it had provided sufficient evidence on which to base a decision. Members agreed that the report did contain sufficient evidence on which to base a decision, the action was proportionate to the desired outcome and there was not a potential human rights challenge.
RESOLVED: That the grounds for the call-in be rejected and the decision be implemented.