Friday, September 27, 2013

Update - Library Repairs

Floors, shelves and books protected and scaffolding up inside
This morning, I attended the first of the regular meetings about the progress of repair work to the library. The roof covering is being replaced, along with all the skylights. Fortunately, we've managed to get the price down so that we're able to do the whole roof (the previous plans only envisaged two thirds of it being done, with a chunk over the staff areas being left to rot, even though water damage is apparent).

You won't see a lot from the front - the parapet at the top is far higher than you think at about 3m. Work is underway scaffolding the building and the internals have all been protected and wrapped properly. There are a few asbestos tests planned in for the start of next week - ones that couldn't be done until work is ready to start, owing to the destructive nature. The outcome isn't expected to cause any major delays, as they are most likely to only require a shift in working practice rather than outright removal.

Final designs of the roof lights are still to be agreed with the conservation officer, but the lead time on the replacement units is such that this isn't going to cause a delay. Similarly, we're just finalising the type of glass to go into the roof elements of the rooflights - it will probably be a self-cleaning, heat reflecting glass - while the side panels will be clear glass.

Up on the roof - four different types of roof lights in this space
The contractors are aware of the war memorial to the front of the building and there will be no need to restrict access. They have also been reminded of the need to show particular respect around any services held on Monday 11 November.

Currently, we're still on budget and on course to complete site works by the 13 December. After that, there will be some delay while the library staff get themselves back into their home, but hopefully no more than a week.

As always, keep an eye on the blog for the next update - probably in about a fortnight.

Birmingham to cut speed limits on 9 out of 10 roads

Friday's marathon session of the Transport, Connectivity and Sustainability Overview and Scrutiny Committee saw the launch of the strategy that will help to make Birmingham's roads that bit safer. Over the next seven years, we'll be changing speed limits on 90% of the city's roads to 20mph. I'm delighted to see this - I've supported this for years and spoke in favour of the change last year.

During the three years from 2010 to 2012, the city saw 7349 road traffic collisions, which caused slight injuries to 9377 people, serious injuries to 1204 and claimed 79 lives. While that is better than 2000-02, the drop from 12497 collisions is perhaps more closely related to a drop in traffic volumes. Any economic recovery may actually see an increase in injuries. Bear in mind that the number of non-injury collisions - and probably many causing minor injuries - is not known with any degree of reliability.

A quarter of all casualties are pedestrians or cyclists - and over 40% of child casualties are on two wheels or two legs.

Almost half of all collisions occur in just ten wards in Birmingham - Nechells, Ladywood, Sparkbrook, Edgbaston, Aston, South Yardley, Washwood Heath, Tyburn, Bordesley Green and Moseley and Kings Heath. Similarly, almost half of all pedestrian collisions occur in only a quarter of the wards: Ladywood, Nechells, Sparkbrook, Washwood Heath, Aston, Bordesley Green, Soho, Lozells & East Handsworth, Moseley and Kings Heath and Tyburn - in order.

There is clear evidence that accidents are concentrated in areas of deprivation and in local centres and that we are need to focus on collisions involving child pedestrians, particularly those in the 10-14 age group who are transitioning to secondary school. It is also worth noting that young men aged between 20 and 29 are disproportionately represented in the numbers of dead or seriously injured.

Travelling at 20mph rather than 30mph almost halves total stopping distance and massively reduces the risk of pedestrian fatality. A 1mph reduction in speed at 30mph produces a 3% reduction in collisions, while a 1mph reduction in speed at 20mph will cut collisions by 7%. 20mph zones, which include traffic calming measures, typically see a 44-60% drop in collisions, for which there is a good body of evidence. The evidence is still developing for the sign-only limits, but Portsmouth saw crashes drop by 8%, Warrington by 25% and the Trescott Estate in Birmingham saw a fall of 80%. Following objections from the emergency services, traffic calming has generally fallen out of fashion unless there are specific local reasons.

Quite apart from the human cost of these injuries and losses, everything has a value, calculated by the DfT. A fatal accident has a cost of something of the order of £1.8m and others are similarly accounted. That would suggest that collisions in Birmingham over those three years 2010-12 cost around £625m. If we can reduce accidents only by Warrington's 8%, that would produce savings in excess of £50m - quite aside from the cost in terms of injury or human life. That's not a bad return for about £7m of spending.

The proposal is that about 90% of the city's road network would be limited to 20mph. Obviously, this will cover residential streets, but it will also include major roads with primary shopping frontages - like the Warwick Road through Acocks Green or the A435 High Street in Kings Heath, entrances to schools, leisure facilities, parks, health centres, hospitals and public transport hubs. Roll out will take about seven years and £7 million to complete - cost limitations prevent it being any faster and we are likely to prioritise those areas where the risk is greatest. There will also be areas where putting in limits makes sense if other work is being carried out - an example here is around the centre of Acocks Green. As the 20mph limit is put into effect on the Warwick Road as part of the LSTF proposals, as it makes sense to put limits into effect on the side roads so that drivers don't leave the main road 20mph limit and return to 30mph on the side streets. It wouldn't be difficult to create a contiguous area out of those roads. New developments are also likely to have the limits imposed from the start and there may also be opportunities with Amey on the highways capital improvement programme.

This is supposed to be self-enforcing - it is suitable for roads where typical speeds are around 24mph - but the limits will be legally enforceable and the police will carry out their usual work as they do currently.

Overall, this will help to make our city a better place to live and will encourage people to use the appropriate form of transport - particularly walking or cycling for local journeys. That has tremendous implications for carbon reduction and the general health of the city.

There will be a consultation exercise starting over the next month or so and - as always - I'd encourage you to have your say.

Planning Applications to the 21st September 2013

Only a single application this week.

2013/06910/PA - 1 Laurel Gardens, Acocks Green, B27 6TS
Erection of single storey side extension

You can find the details by inputting the reference number into the Council online database here

If you have any comments, you can submit them online - feel free to pass your comments on to me.