The city’s first liveable neighbourhood pilot was given the go-ahead last June, following a request by local community group Hanover Action.
The group took its proposal to the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee.
The main purpose of the scheme will be to stop outside traffic from cutting through our residential streets – and I’m working with residents to decide what this will actually look like.
It’s understandable that this issue has been raised. Last year a heavy goods vehicle caused extensive damage to a property on the corner of Southover Street.
A resident who lives further down the street recently told me van drivers have mounted the kerb, swung round the corner and hit her corner property several times. Understandably, she feels unsafe and wants something to be done.
Hanover Action saw a need to address a number of ongoing problems in the area. Hanover’s narrow streets, built in the 1860s, were not designed with traffic or parking in mind.
Residents often complain about the increasing volume and speed of traffic. While the 20-mph speed limit in the area is welcome, it is not always adhered to.
At the same time, narrow pavements mean those in mobility scooters and wheelchairs, blind or visually impaired residents and parents with buggies and small children often struggle to navigate safely. Social distancing can be impossible.
Towards the end of the first lockdown, I carried out a survey among the residents of the ward I represent, Hanover and Elm Grove.
Many said that they enjoyed the quieter streets that the reduction in traffic brought about. Others said that they’d bonded more with neighbours and other local people.
Introducing measures to stop drivers rat-running through our streets will help us to hold on to this new-found connectedness and tranquillity while enjoying more vibrant outdoor spaces.
The liveable neighbourhood scheme must be done hand in hand with local people. Residents know their own street’s niggles and needs more than anyone.
Liveable Hanover has created a web page where people can learn more and add ideas about what the scheme should include. We’ve written about it on our community website too.
Hanover Action’s Ian McIntyre has put posters up all over the area, outlining the scheme’s aims and inviting people to get involved.
We’ve invited people to events through social media, including the Liveable Hanover webinar I hosted last December, at which Clyde Loakes, from Waltham Forest Council, outlined how much the “mini-Holland” schemes there had improved the area and residents’ health.
Here in Hanover, we’ve recruited street contacts who have distributed leaflets and created WhatsApp groups to discuss their visions of a more liveable neighbourhood.
Many have taken part in the My Dream Street project, creating posters and displaying them in their windows.
Children from St Luke’s, Elm Grove and Carlton Hill schools have joined in too and an exhibition of their posters will take place at the Jubilee Library in September.
We want to put the wellbeing of the most vulnerable at the heart of our plans and create public space that considers the needs of all who live and work in the area.
One of the greatest payoffs of designing outdoor space with disabled and elderly people in mind is that everyone benefits, as an inclusive public realm promotes physical activity and health, through wider, safer pavements, public seating and more green spaces. And children gain the freedom to play outside and walk to school independently.
Meanwhile, the city must recover from covid by reshaping our communities to be more equitable to all, which means working to improve air quality to reduce people’s susceptibility to the worst effects of respiratory viruses and conditions.
The pilot will use “modal filters” such as large planters and bollards to reduce vehicle access and create strategic point closures.
This, along with the creation of more one-way systems, should discourage drivers from cutting through the area.
The safer and more pleasant environment that will come from less through-traffic will hopefully encourage drivers in good health who live within the scheme to swap shorter car trips to journeys on foot or by bike. Crucially, residents will still be able to drive and park.
The pilot will also be designed to ensure access to delivery, waste collection and emergency service vehicles.
Emergency vehicle response times should stay despite the need to navigate filters, as they make up time through the reduction in traffic.
But this will be closely monitored – and special filters that only allow only emergency vehicle access can be put in place, if needed.
Streets will be fully accessible to cargo bikes, which in London are being used increasingly to courier goods as they are often quicker than van deliveries.
We want to encourage companies to use cleaner delivery methods like this, which will further cut the level of motorised traffic in residential areas.
Hanover sorely lacks trees and green space, so these are also high on the liveable neighbourhood wish list. We hope to reclaim unused areas to create pocket parks using sustainable drainage techniques to channel rainfall into designated areas, thus allowing greenery to flourish.
Such spaces will give people opportunities to enjoy a quiet moment or chat to a neighbour, increasingly seen as important to mental health.
Parklets will be considered in the scheme too, roadside spaces with seating, planters and greenery. They give residents without a garden the opportunity to enjoy fresh air and can provide resting points for those with limited mobility.
Commercial parklets can provide pubs and cafes with permanent outdoor seating off the pavement. The Liveable Hanover group set up a pop-up parklet last September to give people a taste of what more social space in the area might be like.
The scope of the pilot was extended into the Tarner area, following discussions with transport planners about how to best deliver a workable scheme.
The council will soon be appointing consultants to look at how the scheme might best be delivered and Liveable Hanover will be dropping a leaflet through all letterboxes within the pilot area in May and June to give everyone the opportunity to learn more and share their views.
We hope to organise face-to-face events too, when covid restrictions end. All of this preliminary engagement will feed into a more formal council consultation, set to take place in late summer, and work could start by the end of the year.
As it’s a pilot scheme, filters will initially be temporary, as we need to make sure we get the scheme right. The changes will be monitored and tweaked if necessary and residents will be asked which changes they’d like to be made permanent in a final consultation.
We’ll then be able to inform sat nav providers of the changes and they’ll finally stop advising oversized lorries to cut though our streets.
If delivered well, the liveable neighbourhood scheme will transform the area, improve the lives of all who live and work here and provide a blueprint for similar schemes across the city.
Councillor Elaine Hills represents Hanover and Elm Grove on Brighton and Hove City Council.