Planning parking and clean air

Dr. Xand with children campaigning for Clean Air on Kings Heath High Street

Juyoung Lee, our intern at The Active Wellbeing Society from Seoul Korea, is studying Social Policy at The University of Birmingham. She joined a meeting at Fletchers Bar near Kings Heath’s High Street on Friday 5th April discussing Clean Air. The meeting was hosted by Kings Heath Business Improvement District (BID) Chair, Brett Rehling.

Local people have campaigned for Cleaner Air and changes to Kings Heath High Street for many years. Following the death of Hope Fennel after a truck hit her on the High Street in 2011, the campaign for change has intensified. Since 2011 there has been a series of research, surveys and projects led by Kings Heath Residents Forum, Birmingham City Council, Sustrans, the University of Birmingham, local schools, Atkins consultancy and many others. Juyoung writes about the meeting:

‘When I entered the entrance, I saw cute and plump bird with was wandering in the yard. Whenever I saw that bird in my yard, I was always curious about its name. Marcus told me that it was Robin. I think it’s great that there are many different birds here, although sometimes I wake up at dawn with the sound of birds.

That meeting seemed a kind of governance, and people from various organizations such as Birmingham City Council Transport and Planning departments, Sustrans West Midlands, Kings Heath CIC, Kings Heath Clean Air Network, Kings Heath Residents Forum, Kings Heath BID, Spacemakers and including The Active Wellbeing Society attended the meeting. They started to discuss freely about Clean Air and the closure of Parking bays in their own perspective and on behalf of their organization. Matters such as the purpose of project, current and potential project period and possible objections were dealt with.

The main agenda of the meeting was short, mid and long term action plan on a proposal to close 17 parking bays on Kings Heath High Street, Clean Air projects for Kings Heath in general and particularly around schools. Six month closure of side parking requires detailed planning and consultation which had already been completed. After six months of closure, the ETRO application to close parking bays could be expanded by the City Council according to public opinion and measurement of health improvements. A previous Parking Bay closure as part of ‘DIY Streets Kings Heath’ was tried before several times for one day between 2013 and 2015, and it was reported that residents liked it. Marcus explained that Kings Heath High Street was regarded as having the poorest air quality in Birmingham for many years.

One of the most impressive things to me was that there was no formal format like name plates, or paper meeting materials although it was about public policy. Everyone brought their own materials and attendees had a look at them in turns in case they need to. They seemed to know each other well, and after an informal discussion for an hour, they went back to their own work places with actions. When it comes to public policy, I was used to formal meeting so it was new experience to me. People can effectively share opinions in a short time without being ostentatiousness. Also, governance between the public and the private sector can be interactive in an easy, relaxed way.

I was wondering about the positioning of third sector in the U.K. My colleague who had a work experience in one of boroughs in London told me that third sector was involved in public policy in considerable ways there. I will learn more about this while I’m here. The other impressive thing was the meeting seemed at a design stage of policy, the very first moment of making policy. It was discussed who would be responsible for and manage aspects of the project. Early involvement of all partners involved in the initial phase may reduce errors in the project process.’

Dr. Xand ‘Fighting for Air’
on Kings Heath High Street in 2018

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