Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360
WEDNESDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2001
360. What are the key ways to establish convenience
(Mr Webster) One that is not particularly novel but
is vitally important is the elimination of subways and bridges
over major roads. In that respect Birmingham was the pioneer.
One needs surface level crossings and not be scared by the fact
that the road is an inner ring road with four lanes with a large
volume of traffic. One must say that people must wait in their
cars and give way to pedestrians who are moving, say, towards
the city centre itself. As to convenient routes, if a local authority
has a hit list of connections that it would ideally like to make
and perhaps enshrines them in its local plan; when development
opportunities present themselves it has backing to ask a developer
to create a route within its land holding. I was a planning officer
over a year ago and attempted to do that in the centre of Cambridge
where there was an opportunity to create a route which would have
made pedestrian journeys in the city centre much shorter, but
because we did not have that in the local plan it was just something
that had been in the back of planning officers' minds for a while
and, sadly, I was not in a position to insist upon it. The developer
built its large extension and the route was sterilised, probably
for all eternity.
361. Should developers be required to provide
walking routes as part of a planning permission?
(Mr Bacon) It depends on the context of the local
plan. If one requires a developer to do something one must show
that it relates to his or her development. One cannot make a requirement
that something is done unless it is part and parcel of the development;
otherwise, the developer can appeal. Unless one can show that
link the developer is not required to enter into an agreement.
362. Should the planning law be changed?
(Mr Bacon) There is always a balance between the public
interest and private development. The sort of money that you are
talking about could be fairly small, but nowadays there are lots
of requirements on developershousing, social housing, road
infrastructure and so on. Clearly, one must look at the whole
burden on the scheme; otherwise, it may not be economic. Mr Webster
referred to convenient routes. In many towns routes exist but
they are just not linked up. Many members of the public do not
use those routes because they are not properly maintained or lit,
and they are rather unattractive with dog mess and what have you.
If local authorities had the money to designate proper networks
which were publicised people would know that they were available.
If they were properly maintained and looked after people would
wish to use them. There are some alleyways which people do not
believe are public rights of way because they look so scruffy
or dirty or intimidating. Those could be brought back into use
without very much public money being spent on weed-clearing, removal
of dog mess and graffiti and perhaps the provision of adequate
lighting. Perhaps we should first build on what we have and see
where we get, rather than insist that the development industry
does something outside a local plan.
363. There are no powers at the moment to insist
on adequate lighting on rights of way?
(Mr Bacon) That is a shame. People will not use those
kinds of routes without feeling safe.
364. Do you suggest a statutory power?
(Mr Bacon) Existing routes can be used. I feel sure
that they are not being used because they are not properly maintained
and lit. Whether or not we need a statutory power to do that I
do not know. It may be just a question of funding and so on. I
am not in a position to answer that with any authority. I leave
it to you perhaps to ask others who may know better than I do.
365. Do you believe that local authorities have
addressed that issue and have not been able to succeed because
of lack of funding or powers?
(Mr Bacon) I am sure of it. Their funding must first
go into the safety of the footways and highways; they have a legal
obligation to make them safe. By the time they have done all that
frankly there is not much money left over for footpaths, partly
because they are not used much by the general public. The highway
authority tends to allocate money to those highways and footpaths
which are most used. Obviously, if they are most used they will
get the maximum benefit from that per pedestrian or car. There
are routes which are not used at all because they are unattractive
and so do not attract funds. Therefore, it is self-perpetuating.
If we can find the funds to do that we may get more people to
use them which will perpetuate funding for them.
366. It is alleged that you want to get rid
of telephone boxes on pavements. Are there not far more obstructions
on pavements than just telephone boxes?
(Mr Bacon) I shall ask Mr Webster to deal with that
in detail. In general, that may sound a very small issue but in
the view of the trust all these small matterswe can give
several examplesclutter up the footway. There is a creeping
process of this kind in the public domain which gets in the way
of pedestrians. It also clutters up the appearance of the street
367. People who streak past in cars will not
have their eye offended by those who need to use public telephone
(Mr Bacon) Some advertisements are developing in such
a way that they may distract drivers from their driving.
368. It is a matter of des hauts and des
bas, is it not? What you are really saying is that you do
not like the look of them, that if they are necessary that is
unfortunate for some people, because they are not members of the
Civic Trust anyway?
(Mr Webster) Perhaps I may explain our stance on telephone
boxes. We have been leading a campaign about full-face advertisements
which appear on the side of telephone boxes, primarily on British
Telecom boxes. Our concern is partly to do with visual clutter
but is concerned with walking specifically. If you create a concealed
space either within or behind a box that space is no longer visible,
because the advertisements are not transparent. Psychological
research proves that if there is such space people populate them
in their minds with demons; they think that perhaps someone can
be lurking there. We believe that that is perhaps a deterrent
to people walking around our towns in comfort.
369. I have never heard a telephone box referred
to as a demon?
(Mr Webster) I did not say that, with respect.
370. You do not accept the argument, based on
the balance of interest, that to remove something that is essential
does not contribute to the general good of mankind, even if the
removal makes a place much more visually attractive?
(Mr Webster) We have been misquoted on this point.
We definitely have not saidthis has not come across in
media coveragethat we want telephone boxes to be removed.
Where there is, say, a box in an isolated location, that is an
essential public service, which we recognise. However, where there
are five boxes in a row which are rarely used because of the proliferation
of mobile phones there is a risk that they will simply become
371. How often does that happen, and where?
(Mr Webster) It is happening.
372. Forgive me. You have just enunciated a
specific policy. How many examples are you aware of where there
are five telephone boxes in a row?
(Mr Webster) I can provide you with photographic evidence.
There is one in the centre of Newcastle.
373. That is one.
(Mr Webster) I also know the centre of Cambridge.
There is an example in Lion Yard shopping centre.
374. That is another one.
(Mr Webster) I do not have time to go out with a notebook
to record all the instances.
375. Mr Webster, you are enunciating a specific
policy which will affect people who do not have mobile phones.
If it is true that 60 per cent of the population have mobile phones
it also means that 40 per centprobably the poorest proportiondo
not have mobile phones.
(Mr Webster) And they should be
able to use telephone boxes.
376. They require public telephones which work
and, almost by definition, will be in telephone boxes?
(Mr Webster) I agree.
377. If the Civic Trust believes that they are
unsightly it must provide a series of good examples where it can
be demonstrated that there are so many telephone boxes that there
is no justification for the existing arrangements?
(Mr Bacon) That is a fair point.
378. I do not want to take this too far. I am
a little concerned that there is a huge amount of pavement clutter
and you have picked on telephone boxes which appear to be some
of the more useful bits of pavement clutter rather than quite
a lot of other things?
(Mr Bacon) Mr Webster's point is that if there are
redundant telephone boxes which are not usedI agree that
we must show that that is the situationfor BT to use them
for advertisements as has happened recently is not something of
which we approve.
379. I find advertisements on bus shelters offensive
but I do not suggest that they are removed. I also find offensive
advertisements on the piers of large airports so that it appears
that Heathrow is now owned by a bank. I can give you a list of
offensive advertisements on practically every building. This seems
to be the only one on which someone has not projected an advertisement.
There must be a degree of commonsense in this.
(Mr Bacon) I agree. You and the trust are in agreement
that perhaps we have gone over the balance. Your comments suggest
that it has gone too far, and that is what the trust says.
Chairman: We must leave it at that. Thank you