Highways England have included four LTC Consultation webinars as part of this latest Design Consultation. These are a new way of HE/LTC presenting info about the consultation changes to us, and supposed to be another way for us to get answers to our questions, since the usual consultation events cannot be held due to COVID-19.
To attend the webinars you have to pre-register via an online form which is available by clicking here
The first of the webinars took place on Monday 20th July from 7pm and covered the refinements for the section of the route south of the river (Kent).
Since TCAG admin team were attending the LTC Task Force meeting on Monday evening they were unable to attend the first webinar. However, a second one was held on Tuesday 21st July from 7pm that covers the proposed route to the north of the river (Thurrock and Essex). So what can we tell you about our experience of registering and attending this webinar?
To register you will need to complete the online registration form. Your name and email address are compulsory fields, but postcode and question sections are optional. If you don’t submit your question at this stage there is still a chance to submit questions during the webinar.
Once you have registered to attend whichever webinar you choose to register for you will receive a confirmation email. When we received that confirmation we were surprised to see that “There will be a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter signing all public webinars and a live captioning service will be provided.” Of course we appreciate and fully support these services for the Deaf community, but we are very disappointed that this fact has not been publicised and promoted, or that you don’t discover this fact until after you register. Oh and that there is no opportunity for the Deaf community to be able to ask questions using BSL via the interpreter. They mentioned numerous occasions to everyone about emailing or phoning but there was no mention of SignLive.
The confirmation email also gives you the chance to check system requirements before the webinar begins by simply clicking a link, which in our case said everything was good and to click through to attend at the webinar start time. However, when we did click through, luckily about 10 minutes before the webinar was due to start, we then discovered that to enter the webinar we had to download and install either software or an app! For anyone who may not be tech savvy or confident online this could easily put them off. For example I had to let my mum know it was ok to do the software download, as she would have been worried about that without someone to ask, and probably wouldn’t have proceeded at all without some reassurance from me!
After doing all of that we were finally in! At the start of the webinar the HE/LTC team introduce themselves, including the BSL interpreters. It is then explained that they are going to provide an introduction to the consultation changes and explain how to get more info and take part, and that there will be a Question and Answer section towards the end. At all stages from registration through to the actual webinar they state that they will only be answering questions during the webinar that relate to the refinements announced in the current consultation. That said at the webinar we attended they did answer some questions that were not about the new refinements, guess it depends on what the question is and whether the team members manning the webinar know the answers! They also will not answer questions on individual property queries to ensure privacy to property owners.
After telling you how to submit questions during the webinar, by typing them in a chat window that only HE staff can view, an introduction video is shown about the LTC, and then the live presenters take back over and go through some of the changes along the section of the route that the webinar is covering. It’s really just going through the main points pages from the consultation guide. For many points they just refer to the fact you can read the consultation guide or visit the online exhibition for more details and that you can call or email to ask questions!
After that is done they have a three minute break before starting the question and answer section. They will choose some of the questions submitted, read them out and then one of the team gives an answer, or tells you what they can and advises if you need more detail you will need to phone or email!
In the webinar that we attended for north of the river for example a question was asked about what exactly the gas pipeline compound on Stanford Rd would be, what it would look like etc. The info provided as an answer was just what you can read in the consultation guide and it was then suggested if you want more info than that you would need to phone or email in!
We find it questionable to say the least that since these webinars are really the closest thing we have to a consultation event that we would normally have been able to attend, where you can actually real time interact with one of the team and be able to be visually shown things too, that these webinars are extremely limited in our opinion.
We have been told that the webinars are limited to 1000 attendees at each of the four webinars. This means that basically by the time they go through the intro, video, presentation there really isn’t much time for Q&As and certainly there would never be time to answer questions from 1000 people if everyone wanted to ask something.
If you type your questions into the chat box as you are watching the presentation, ie as you go along, firstly you can miss the bit of the presentation that is happening while you type, and secondly if your question is not asked and you haven’t also written down your questions that the presentation creates for you the questions you type are lost when they disconnect the webinar at the end, no time to copy and paste what you have typed. Oh and despite the fact that you have to register using an email address to access the webinar, (and you can only use the link for you to attend, not share it with anyone else) they will not then automatically send answers to your questions that don’t get answered in the webinar. No you are told at the end of the webinar that if your questions have not been asked/answered during the webinar you will need to submit them via email or phone in!
Can I attend or watch the webinar again?
HE/LTC have now started sharing the link to the first webinar on social media so you can watch again. We are not aware of the link being available on the website, we have only seen it on social media (so if you’re not on social media you miss out). Again if you click the link to watch the webinar you will be asked to register your name and email address again simply to view the archive of the webinar! (Tip: we discovered you can put Anon in the name sections and use a made up email such as firstname.lastname@example.org for the email to watch again!!)
So far they have only released the link for the first webinar that covered south of the river – https://register.gotowebinar.com/recording/5662601839667553550
We will share other links as and when they are released if we see the posts on social media! We have also asked to be emailed the links so hopefully we will get those and we can share here!
UPDATE: HE are now sharing the recordings of the webinars on their YouTube channel
Mon July 20th – Kent refinements webinar – watch again
Tues July 21st – Thurrock and Essex refinements webinar – watch again
Weds 29th July – Thurrock and Essex refinements webinar watch again
Thurs 30th July – Kent refinements webinar – watch again
TCAGs opinion in short
Sadly other than the fact that they have got a BSL interpreter and they are captioning the webinars (even if they are not promoting that fact!), we were not very impressed in general by the webinar, and found the interface of the webinar a bit clunky and un-user friendly. We have had a slightly mixed response from others who have attended. Someone from the Deaf community said it was quite helpful but they were disappointed it had not been publicised as they only found out that option was happening because TCAG had alerted them! The majority of people we have spoken to were, like us, not that impressed sadly. We are also aware that there some issues where by the language used needs to be in more plain English instead of industry jargon. Plus we think it will also depend greatly on whether you are lucky enough to actually get answers to your questions, or if you just end up having to still email or phone in after spending at least an hour in the webinar.