Temporary Road Closures in Faversham, Sheerness and Sittingbourne
The Capital Projects Manager introduced the report which was in response to the questions raised by a County Member, and provided details on what decisions had been made, by whom, and when, taking into account what factors, detailing Equality Impact Assessments, had been part of the process and what medical or public health evidence informed the decisions in relation to the town centre closures in Sittingbourne, Faversham and Sheerness. He explained that these measures had been implemented in June 2020 to support Government social distancing guidelines. The closures were extended in January 2021 for a further year, up to the maximum period of 18 months allowed for a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO). An informal consultation had been carried to gauge the appetite of local stakeholders to continue with the closures. The TTROs did not have to be used, but were in place if required.
In the debate that followed, Members raised points which included:
· Regular comments were received by Members on the road closures in Sheerness;
· considered there had been a lack of consultation;
· did not see the justification for the road closures;
· request that the JTB sees the Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) for this;
· unfortunate that Faversham Town Council were not advised of the consultation, this was a missed opportunity;
· needed to know when and who decided to extend the closures;
· more openness was need in the process;
· public health evidence was needed to back-up the justification for the closures;
· expert advice needed to be identified;
· issue with emergency services accessing the closed-off roads;
· a request was made for some modification of the hours of closure in Faversham, but this was refused by KCC;
· needed to know why KCC turned this down;
· the closures were an issue with people with disabilities and shop owners; and
· would like to see more information on any disadvantages the road closures had, not just the benefits.
The Director of Regeneration responded to questions and comments as noted below:
· The EIA was carried out internally and could be shared with the Board (post meeting note: this was emailed to the JTB on 2 March 2021);
· SBC asked KCC to extend the then emergency TRO to a temporary TRO in November 2020;
· there was no particular medical evidence for the TTRO, but since June 2020, officers had followed Government guidelines to make sure users of the high street were as safe as possible;
· emergency access had been reviewed, with those who needed to use it having a coded lock;
· revised time scales were considered by SBC but KCC did not want the times to be amended; and
· there could be more permanent TROs in the future, and following consultation all the issues would be looked into.
Members made further comments which included:
· It was important to remember that Swale was going through a major health crisis;
· a consistent and long-term approach had been sensible;
· welcomed process of looking into pedestrianisation in the future;
· this needed to be progressed as fast as possible now to find out what residents thought;
· the three town centres should be considered separately;
· we should find out what residents and businesses thought and move forward; and
· this had been a useful discussion with Members and officers.
(1) That the report be noted.