Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 540 - 559)



  540. Would you accept that part of the problem is that a lot of people, a lot of us, have built life-styles on particular forms of transport and it is the lifestyles that determines it, you referred to people having to have their cars to get to work. Let us take a practical example, people who go for a weekly shop to the supermarket, for picking the food you do not need a car but to get it home you do. I am interested in the extent to which the two bits of Department could link together on this. For example, why could the Government not say in relation to new supermarket developments—I am not talking about out of town—"You can have it, provided you offer to every shopper a home delivery service, which means they can walk to and from it, pick their food, go home and then the food would be delivered later and they would not have to take their car". Is that not an example of the kind of way in which if the Department links together we can address people's lifestyle needs, which can then give them a greater choice about the mode of transport they pick for a particular activity?
  (Ms Hughes) I agree with you about that. I do not think at the moment in law we can require supermarkets to offer a home delivery service, it does not fall within what would be material planning consideration. There are other means by which we can prevent that. I agree, in terms of the general point you are making. I am very concerned about promoting walking from a whole variety of points of view, in terms of protecting and enhancing our town centres and in terms of helping the process of regeneration of disadvantaged communities, in particular walking is a key issue, and the extent to which through transport policies and urban and regeneration policies and planning policies we can integrate and create a fit that is going in that direction. That is very important. Many of the things we are trying to do in terms of developing town centres and city centres depend on creating a kind of policy environment in which walking is going to be the first choice and, therefore, walking itself is of fundamental importance to getting the most out of the kind of policies that we are trying to help local authorities to pursue. There is a kind of reciprocal relationship really. We also need to encourage walking to actually get the maximum in terms of regeneration and sustainability of our towns and cities.

  541. I recognise we could not do that under the current planning regulations, but planning regulations develop over time to meet, broadly, social objectives. There is a clear fit between planning and transport here. Do you think that as a practical example is one that we might need to consider in the future in certain circumstances in order to try and do something about the issue which is the subject of this inquiry.
  (Ms Hughes) We are trying do that and we are willing to look at any other additional measures or any other additional means by which we can support what we are trying to do across planning urban policy regeneration and transport. I think there is a real reciprocal relationship here. Walking is a good thing and we want our policy to promote it. If we can get people walking more we are going to get more out of those policies, more benefit to people in towns and cities than we would otherwise.

  542. And yet would you not accept that if it is about giving people the choice which allows them to pick a different mode of transport, we have to make sure that we offer choice rather than just encouragement?
  (Ms Hughes) We do. We have to offer not only choice but in order to make walking the choice we have to pay attention to the kind of factors that deter people from walking at the moment; street paving and the quality of pavements, the sense with which people feel a degree of safety and security, the attractiveness of the environment, the ease with which they as pedestrians can move about that environment. I am quite encouraged in some of our cities where we are seeing the development of a great deal of practised wisdom about how to do that better. I know Manchester very well and Leeds too, but in the smaller towns we are also seeing that and we do need to promote it. There are signs that it is not just about transport and transport money, there is a whole raft of environmental streetscape issues at that level that we need to pay attention to because that will encourage—

  Chairman: I am getting rather conscious that if we are going to complete all the issues we want to raise we need slightly shorter answers. Anne McIntosh?

Miss McIntosh

  543. In its staggered pedestrian crossing memo the Department said this: "A straight crossing, even with a central refuge, is legally a single crossing. A staggered crossing is two separate crossings." Why, Minister, do we need two separate crossings when one will do? And why do we have guard rails to the extent we have in this country when nobody else in the world seems to have them and how much do they cost when they appear to be the biggest barrier to pedestrians? As to safety of pedestrians, I will be very honest with you, Chairman, I tend to walk round them or over them rather than waiting where I should do.
  (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Do not let me catch you at it!

Mrs Dunwoody

  544. Stand outside the House of Commons and watch every Member of Parliament cross diagonally to avoid the staggered crossing between here and Millbank.
  (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) We can all join together in my campaign to get Ministers to belt up in the back of their official cars.


  545. We would prefer to see Ministers walking!
  (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) If I can say, Chairman, you can see some instances where it does seem sensible given the traffic flow (and you mentioned Whitehall, where you can see very large groups of people and a very wide street) to stop at the middle, regroup, and wait for the next change of lights as we do at present. On the other hand, I think obviously the evidence in this area is pointing people more towards the straight crossing rather than the broken, staggered crossing. I think that is the way that we are beginning to work, moving again from the pelican-style crossings to the puffin-style crossings as well.

  546. Could you explain what a puffin crossing is?
  (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) A puffin crossing is a pedestrian, user-friendly, intelligent, light-controlled crossing, if you wish to get into the acronym. It is a different phasing of the lights. There is no flashing amber signal on a puffin crossing and the green man phase for pedestrians, after which the traffic lights remain at red while the pedestrians complete their crossing, is being detected by a sensor, so it is a more sophisticated form.

Mrs Ellman

  547. Which Ministers in your Departments are involved in whether we have puffins or pelicans?
  (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Certainly our transport Ministers and Lord Whitty.

Mrs Dunwoody

  548. That comes as a considerable surprise to the Committee. Who is going to make their entire political career on puffins?
  (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) It is something that comes under Lord Whitty with his jurisdiction for roads but we are a very joined-up Government so I would not be surprised if there were not many more of us involved.

Mrs Ellman

  549. If you are a joined-up Government why do you not know which other Ministers are involved? The Minister spoke to us very recently about the importance of walking for a whole raft of reasons and you are one department. What is the point of having responsibility for a number of areas if you do not use it when you are looking in this case at walking? Which Ministers other than transport Ministers are involved in the issue of what kinds of crossings are there? If you want to encourage walking around there is great relevance to what kind of crossing you use, whether it is pleasant, let alone safe, for pedestrians to walk within cities. Who is responsible for that and monitoring the effectiveness of that?
  (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Lord Whitty.

  550. Who does he talk to?
  (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) He talks to me. He is the Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department. He is responsible for roads and for road safety, but I am involved in road safety too. I was addressing the ROSPA conference on child safety on roads in Glasgow on Monday but Lord Whitty was the Minister who took through our document on road safety which was published a year ago this month, but of course the information that we have available is available to the other Ministers involved in the planning of urban regeneration sites—

  551. What I am trying to establish is how is this dealt with at a practical level? If we move away from the grand plans and policy and 10-year plans and relate it to regenerating an individual city and making it pleasant and easy and safe for people to walk around, which Ministers, if any, are looking at the impact of what type of crossings operate in a given area and whether it is easy and pleasant and encouraging for pedestrians to walk in the given area? Which Ministers are looking at the impact?
  (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Lord Whitty generally across England. It could be the Minister for London, Keith Hill, if it is London. I would certainly be involved. Mrs Hughes would be very much involved from a regeneration point of view.

  552. Could it be explained how this is monitored, if it is monitored, at a very local level? If the Department is looking at regenerating cities and encouraging walking,, who is it who is looking at the impact of pelican crossings, puffin crossings, cattle-pens and all of that, on encouraging people to walk around in cities safely and pleasurably?
  (Ms Hughes) I think, as my honourable friend will know because she has been the leader of a very large local authority, the transport sections of local authorities themselves will be looking at this in relation to what is happening in their own individual areas. Our Department through the Highways Agency, the Civil Service and up to Ministers will be collating the experience of local authorities across the country in terms of any issues arising, but it is at the local level that both the information and also the decisions about the best solutions in any individual circumstances regarding crossings are made.

  553. What lessons have been learnt by Ministers from collating information on this? Have they changed the guidance or attempted increased guidance in some areas?
  (Ms Hughes) That is in progress at the moment, Chairman.


  554. When will it be completed?
  (Ms Hughes) It is an on-going thing in terms of the information local authorities send us through their local transport plans and how those plans are being implemented and issues arising from decisions taken, for example about one form of crossing or another, and if there were a sufficient groundswell of information about a particular issue coming forward then we would act on it.

Mrs Ellman

  555. Do the Ministers have to give permissions before certain crossings are put in place?
  (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) What we have got at the moment is guidance through local transport notes of 1/95 and 2/95 and that guidance still stands, but it is being supplemented to take account of, for instance, these puffin-like crossings.


  556. You have a choice in the Department as to whether you approve a pelican or a puffin?
  (Mr Whybrow) No, Chairman. The local authority is free to install a pelican crossing. At the moment it needs a special authorisation to install a puffin crossing. When the next edition of traffic signs regulations comes out puffins will be prescribed crossings and local authorities will be able to install them without reference to us in accordance with the regulations.

  557. When will the regulations come out?
  (Mr Whybrow) I think later this year.

Christine Butler

  558. Notwithstanding the efforts (and I recognise there are big efforts going into urban regeneration in specific targeted areas) across the broad panoply of local authority work in any town, should there not be a requirement for the local development plan to have land use so that facilities which people will use can be accessed by walking?
  (Ms Hughes) I think this is a matter for the local authorities. They consider a whole variety of issues, my learned friend will know, in developing and finalising their local plan. That is one issue that we see coming across in many of the development plans, but also in more specific local plans, particularly those that are focused on regeneration of town centres.

  559. The planning inspectors view local development plans at some stage and the public have a good input to them, or ought to have. They are given the authority's views on matters to begin with, that is where we are, so should local transport schemes be supported or withheld around policies, including parking, ie inconsistent with transport objectives? This might seem to you a little draconian, but if what is happening on the ground is inconsistent with the objectives which are required could there be something done about it, because it does not seem to be the case. If they do not get it right, they do not get it right and all of the people in the town might suffer.
  (Ms Hughes) I really do not quite understand the main point.

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