Street signs: part I

The streets of Wanstead around Christchurch Green. ©2017 GoogleThe streets of Wanstead around Christchurch Green. ©2017 Google

The streets of Wanstead and across Redbridge need more attention, says Steve Wilks and Scott Wilding as they take a look at the findings of the Redbridge Streets Commission in the first of two articles.

The Redbridge Streets Commission was set up in February this year, consisting of a panel of five non-party political commissioners. They were tasked to produce an independent report, which was published over the summer.

Focus groups were asked about their views on the streets in Redbridge. While it is welcome that the council listens and engages with its residents, there were a number of shortcomings with the way this commission carried out its findings, and a close examination of the metrics paints a different perspective of the issues at hand.

Why was there not a public invitation for people to apply and be part of the commission? Focus groups were set up, but why weren't local community groups automatically invited to attend? Wanstead has numerous groups, such as the Wanstead Society and various residents' associations, who would be well informed to make a contribution to issues concerning streets.

In terms of the data gathering, meetings were arranged and bookable online. However, the meetings were often held at inconvenient times, such as 4.30pm on a weekday when a lot of people are at work. The council needs to understand that such meetings need to happen in the evening or at the weekend if they want to see democracy in action.

It is important to note the report's timing, which was initiated before the implementation of the paid-for garden waste scheme in April. Perhaps if the inquiry was run again there would be different feedback now.

Looking at the report's statistics on street cleaning and litter removal, it shows that almost 50% of respondents think the council does a poor job of cleaning our streets. This is clearly unacceptable. Even taking a look at anecdotal evidence, when you look around Wanstead, you see litter bins overflowing. Looking at the cleanliness of the neighbourhood metric, some 44.2% stated it is poor, while 55.8% rated it satisfactory or good, but the categories were not specific enough to identify what really is satisfactory.

One interesting statistic is the community spirit and cohesion metric, which shows 42% think it is poor. Again, this is too high and is perhaps the result of changes in local democracy and decision-making with the abolition of the area committees. Residents are disillusioned and disaffected and this is manifesting in these findings. The council should always remember it is residents who elect and entrust them with their powers. All decision-making should have a nod to the wishes of their electorate.

To read the Redbridge Streets Commission report, visit wavidi.co/streets. The council's next local forum will take place at Wanstead House on 24 October from 6.30pm – visit wavidi.co/forum


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