Examination of Witnesses (Questions 280
WEDNESDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2001
280. What about the development of pedestrianisation
which, although expensive, is recommended by the Urban Task Force?
Do you believe that there should be more money for that kind of
(Miss Andreae) The notion of pedestrianising city
centres is now broadly understood, and one can think of many cases.
For example, the centre of Nottingham now has beacon council status.
The concept of getting rid of things like underpasses and so on
to make the environment more attractive for walkers, so that they
can get into city centres more easily, is well understood. I do
not know that pedestrianisation schemes need necessarily be that
expensive. They may be developed incrementally over a period of
time, but it is a question of attitude of mind and people understanding
that walking is fundamental to the way that cities work.
281. Capital allowances for local transport
plans do not emphasise walking. Do you believe that there should
have been greater emphasis on walking in those plans?
(Mr Robinson) It would be very helpful if there was
some dedicated funding. There is a huge range of other interventions
in our towns and cities where major expenditure takes place, particularly
on housing regeneration where there are funds from other areas,
for example under the Estates Renewal Challenge Fund or the Single
Regeneration Budget. In that way people have the opportunity to
progress pedestrian schemes or environmental improvements which
benefit pedestrians. They may feel nervous about doing it because
they believe that the mainstream funds are probably intended for
another purpose. If they can access some funding which is specifically
for this kind of interest to add to other funding then there will
be better schemes.
282. Miss Andreae referred to small projects
which improve the local environment, for example dealing with
underpasses and providing better lighting. Is this the best way
to achieve primacy in walking?
(Miss Andreae) It is a beginning. Planning is very
often regarded as the art of the possible. By achieving small-scale
improvements there is a gradual incremental improvement of an
area. One must look at these things over a period of years, cumulatively.
The New Opportunities Fund provides a wonderful means by which
to take forward the notion of petits projects. One also
ends up with communities which are able to take ownership of particular
ideas, instead of some large-scale projects being imposed upon
them of which they do not feel a part. If one can involve communities
in generating ideas for small-scale improvements an incremental
process can be developed.
283. Therefore, do you suggest that more resources
should be available for walking and that the community should
have a greater say in the provision of walking?
(Mr Robinson) Yes. Often petits projects can
act as exemplars. In the long run we want to ensure that all projects
in the urban setting, whether they are environment, housing or
commercial property-driven, have an opportunity to improve the
environment in which people walk, and to get that across we need
some exemplar schemes. The advantage of petits projects
is that we shall have more schemes with the potential to link
that initiative with a particular community.
284. Can primacy for walking be achieved in
an urban setting in the event that more space is not created?
Is it possible that what you argue for can be achieved?
(Miss Andreae) I do not think that it is necessarily
about space. One looks at the spaces between buildings. It is
not just a matter of large open spaces. Large open spaces can
be wonderful in towns and cities, but equally they can be very
bleak experiences. It is all about creating networks, routes,
desire lines and permeability within towns and cities. In the
context of developing routes through towns and cities there needs
to be an understanding of the hierarchy of routes. One has primary
and also secondary routes which can very often be back streets,
alleyways and so on. I am sure that in London people are very
familiar with mewses which are attractive to walk through as well
as the major streets. Exactly the same network exists in all the
towns and cities in this country. The problem that so often arises
is that when a new building comes along its major facade is to
the principal street but the back alleys are very often regarded
as the place where the dustbins are put or the service yard is
located. Therefore, the network of secondary routes becomes overlooked
and their character destroyed. I believe that in terms of creating
nice environments within a city centre as a whole we need to think
about the hierarchy of routes in the overall urban context.
285. What about pedestrianisation and the restraining
of traffic from streets?
(Mr Robinson) One of the great problems about pedestrianisation
in central urban areas is traffic noise. Even in areas like Oxford
Street, the noise of the diesel engines in buses makes walking
a very unpleasant experience. Consideration must be given at the
same time not only to the physical but the aural environment and
pollution. Pedestrianisation is one way to deal with some of those
issues. There are examples where pedestrianisation has not necessarily
been the optimum solution because in more marginal locations shops,
for example, need passing traffic to survive. It is important
not to see pedestrianisation as a panacea to be applied everywhere.
286. Is it not the case that pedestrianisation
means that the centres of some towns have been depopulated because
people cannot park their cars close to their property? Therefore,
properties remain empty and the whole fabric disappears so that
one ends up with almost a ghost town centre?
(Miss Andreae) I am not sure that pedestrianisation
is the cause. There are lots of complex issues as to why town
centres, particularly smaller towns, have economic problems. I
do not believe that pedestrianisation is at the root of that problem.
Pedestrianisation can enhance an area if it is carried out well.
If one looks at many of the city centres around the country which
have now reduced numbers of cars in the centre one sees real improvements.
We singled out Birmingham with all its ring roads and so on as
a city which in the 1960s was very much predicated on the use
of the car. The creation of the new public spaces in Birmingham
has done an enormous amount to change the way that people use
that city. As we say in the report, a person can walk from New
Street station to Brindleyplace, which is a very attractive experience.
That is true of a number of other places. One can compare Leeds
now with what it was like 15 years ago. I also mentioned the centre
of Nottingham. If one compares them with towns like Portsmouth,
the latter is still very difficult to walk around. Derby is another
example. That city has been damaged by its inner ring road. It
was once one of the great Georgian cities of Britain which was
destroyed by the inner ring road, which is very difficult to cross.
It is all about creating routes and being able to make people
feel comfortable about walking from one place to another; that
287. You have outlined some of the things which
are good. Can you be more specific and give evidence about exactly
what has transformed these cities?
(Miss Andreae) Essentially, it is due to planners
and others taking a holistic approach as to how the city centre
is to be used. Up until relatively recently there was emphasis
on the use of the car. It was all so important. The influence
that road engineers had on the layout of towns had primacy, but
now there is a shift away from that. Those cities that never completely
succumbed to the car did not suffer such damage. We singled out
places like Oxford, Cambridge and York. Oxford never ended up
with an inner ring road, for whatever reason. Although it has
an outer ring road, the centre is well preserved, which is one
reason why it has survived and been the economic success that
it is. Shops want to locate in towns like Oxford and Cambridge.
288. Do you believe that it is possible to give
primacy to walkers without almost becoming anti-car? Because it
would be government policy the latter would be perceived as being
anti-car, which would be a difficulty. A considerable number of
small, local journeys are made by car. If you remove them and
do not give any access to a mode of transport you also have a
(Miss Andreae) If you restrict all access that is
possible. It is a matter of achieving a balance. Obviously, people
need to be able to use cars. The way that people do their household
shopping and use out-of-town shopping centres is changing. All
kinds of economic factors affect the use of the car. There seems
to be a good deal of evidence to suggest it is important to create
a vibrant town or city centre and to make the environment attractive
to pedestrians. There is a good deal of evidence to suggest that
that is the way that towns will succeed. For example, the introduction
of a farmers market to a small town brings in people. Open-air
markets are very much pedestrian-type activities which bring life
to a town and encourage economic prosperity.
289. You referred to getting rid of the noise
and fumes of buses in Oxford Street. Does that mean you want to
remove the buses from Oxford Street or quieter buses?
(Mr Robinson) I should like quieter buses.
290. If one has quieter buses do they not knock
over pedestrians because they are not heard? It was suggested
that one of the problems about introducing trams into Croydon
was that people did not hear them approaching.
(Mr Robinson) "Quieter" and "silent"
may not be quite the same thing. What is interesting about our
towns and cities at the moment is that they are naturally repopulating.
To me, that is fascinating. I do not believe that it is being
driven by any particular government policy. People's perceptions
about living in cities and larger towns have changed. Therefore,
in London the residential population of the city centre has increased.
One sees the same thing happening in Manchester, even in Birmingham.
That phenomenon reverses a trend which has gone on over the past
50 years, or for most of the time when the motorcar has expanded
enormously to become a feature of our lives. The new residential
population in our towns and cities will want a degree of management
of vehicular traffic generally and, broadly speaking, will be
more in favour of an environment which gives greater emphasis
to pedestrians. I entirely agree with my colleague: it is a matter
of balance. We do not want to suggest that walking is an anti-car
291. It has been alleged by the Pedestrians
Association and others that the decline in walking has its origins
in political and institutional failures. What is your view?
(Miss Andreae) It has something to do with it. If
one has a choice between using a car and going on foot one first
thinks where one is going. What does one need? But it has a great
deal to do with whether the environment through one is to walk
is attractive and safe. It is really an attitude of mind. A good
deal has been written about the need for walking and the concept
of walking officers, national strategies and so on. However, is
that not perhaps ghettoising the issue? Road engineers, planners
and local councillors need to understand that walking can be a
very pleasant experience and must be central to their thinking.
It is not a matter of hiving it off into little policy initiatives;
the concept of walking should be absolutely fundamental.
292. In what way should government departments
other than the DETR help to promote walking?
(Miss Andreae) Since CABE came into being every government
department has a Design Champion.
The remit is not simply to improve the concept of design in the
public sector in terms of buildings; it encompasses the wider
concept of urban design. We should like it to include the concept
of the spaces between buildings and how buildings address the
street and relate to their neighbours. I am sure that CABE would
be happy to do what it can to get that message through to departments.
(Mr Robinson) If almost any government
department reflects on the lives and circumstances of members
of society with whom they are concerned it will recognise that
there is a "walking" issue there. If one takes education,
how do children get to school? How do students get around university
campuses? Most of the clients of the DSS are probably without
cars. How do they get around? If one thinks about it from that
point of view, that is a dimension to be considered at many levels
of government. How can an improvement in the environment for those
who walk benefit them?
293. Is there any evidence that any government
departments are doing anything about it?
(Mr Robinson) I cannot quote any, but that does not
mean that they are not doing so.
294. Should walking be planned and provided
for by all departments as a mode of travel or mainly as a way
of promoting urban renaissance?
(Miss Andreae) It is probably a combination of the
two. It just needs to be part of the thinking behind the development
of whatever scheme is coming forward. When the CABE carries out
Design Reviewmany schemes in both the public and private
sector come to usone of the questions that we ask is: how
is the pedestrian to get through the proposed scheme and get from
one side to the other in an intelligible way? We always press
for public access through schemes, but the thinking needs to be
done right at the very beginning of the planning.
295. How important is the publication of PPG
13? Do you believe that the delay in publication is due to squabbling
(Mr Robinson) I am not in a position to answer that.
296. Is there a need for it to be published
(Mr Robinson) I am sure that that would be beneficial.
297. You said in answer to an earlier question
that an improvement in the street infrastructure to make it easier
for people to walk would be relatively inexpensive. Why do you
believe that those who are responsible for it are not doing enough?
(Miss Andreae) I do not believe that it is in the
forefront of their minds. There are mechanisms, whether it be
section 106 agreements or whatever, whereby planners can encourage
developers to think about issues such as spaces between buildings.
However, there is no requirement to think about these things,
so it is not central to people's thinking at the present time.
Very often a new scheme comes forward and what is considered is
the boundary of the building, not the spaces in between; that
is perceived as someone else's responsibility.
298. Do you say that planners and highway engineers
in local authorities see this as a priority? Presumably not. If
not, why not? Is it due to lack of guidance or encouragement?
(Mr Robinson) I do not believe that they see it as
a priority. Although it is not particularly expensive it is probably
quite complicated. If one thinks for a minute about a junction
in a town or city all the paraphernalia that is to be found therelamp
posts, street signs, telephone kiosks and the boxes which contain
the electronics to control the traffic lightsis owned by
different departments, or even private companies. If one wants
to carry out an environmental improvement scheme at that junction
one must consult all of them, and the cost of moving even a telephone
kiosk must be borne by someone. We do not have a situation in
which any one organisation has easy control over the public realm.
299. If one planned a major road scheme, in
many ways it would be a much more complex challenge. People get
their teeth into it and it gets carried through. I am not entirely
sure that complexity is the cause. We manage to do it for much
bigger things. Is it about attitude, approach and awareness?
(Miss Andreae) It is very much to do with awareness.
Lack of understanding of the issues is one of the problems. There
needs to be an injection of skills. At a professional level, CABE
has set up a Design Skills Working Group to be chaired by our
chairman, Sir Stuart Lipton. That looks very much at the notion
of professional education in the area of urban design. There is
a shortage of skills.
1 Note by witness: Namely Ministers whose role it is
to ensure that major capital projects sponsored by their Departments
embody high quality design and represent value for money. Back