TOWER HAMLETS COUNCIL has approved plans to make sections of Brick Lane traffic-free on certain evenings and all weekend, as part of the council’s ‘Liveable Streets’ programme.
The plans were approved at the end of May at the Council’s Cabinet meeting, following a consultation process with residents, businesses, key groups and emergency services.
The changes will see the road closed to traffic on Thursday and Friday between 5.30-11pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11am-11pm. Proposals to restrict traffic at these times to support Brick Lane businesses and make the road safer, were supported by a majority of residents, visitors and Brick Lane businesses. The restrictions will be monitored by Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras.
Detailed designs will be prepared with the first works set to start this summer in a phased manner to minimise disruption to residents and businesses.
The Council has previously said timed restrictions for motor vehicles would ensure businesses can continue to receive deliveries and collections during the day on weekdays. It says the timed closures will provide a safer environment for pedestrians during evenings and weekends and could support businesses to trade safely and make use of outside dining space.
Last year, parts of Brick Lane were temporarily pedestrianised in the summer, to provide safe spacing for walking and social distancing and outdoor seating for restaurant customers. However, during this trial, there were 24/7 road closures and roads were blocked with planters to restrict access.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “Our Liveable Streets proposals will give a boost to Brick Lane by making it a safer, greener and cleaner place. Reducing traffic at peak times will help create a safer and much more enjoyable environment for everyone.
“The changes will help our local businesses bounce back from the effects of Covid-19 restrictions by being able to use more outdoor space and attracting more shoppers and visitors. We will of course monitor the impact and continue to work with those businesses and our residents so we can ensure this jewel in the crown of our borough thrives.”
Further measures, as part of the Liveable Streets scheme, include a School Street, which restricts traffic at drop off and pick up times on Underwood Road, Buxton Street and Hunton Street. Tower Hamlets says this will improve air quality and safety for children who attend these schools.
Deal Street will become one-way southbound between Underwood Road and Woodseer Street and 10 new cycle hangers will be installed in the area.
The Liveable Streets programme aims to improve the look and feel of public spaces in neighbourhoods across the borough and make it easier, safer and more convenient to get around by foot, bike and public transport.
According to information from Tower Hamlets, Brick Lane is an area of London that attracts over 18,500 pedestrians every day. This space is also shared with over 4,000 vehicles, many of which use Brick Lane to cut through the area. Tower Hamlets says they are not visiting local businesses, schools or places of worship but are significant contributors to the already unacceptable levels of air pollution and congestion along Brick Lane.
These proposals are a key part of Tower Hamlets commitment to support Brick Lane’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and aims to attract more visitors to the area and support businesses to trade safely. In the consultation, the Councils said if the traffic management proposals for evening closures are supported, further discussion will take place with local residents and businesses as to whether these are still preferred in winter time, when the benefits of facilitating outdoor dining are much smaller.