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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 572 - 579)




  572. Can I welcome you to the final session of the Committee's inquiry into Walking in Towns and Cities and ask you to identify yourselves.

  (Mr Whitby) I am Mark Whitby, Senior Vice President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, I will be president next year. I am also Chairman of the Urban Design Alliance, that being a collection of institutions, the RIBA, the ICE, the RTPI, the Landscape Institution, the RICS, the Civic Trust and a group called the Urban Design Group.

Mrs Dunwoody

  573. What about the dustmen?
  (Mr Whitby) We are all professionals.
  (Mr Blackwell) I am Ray Blackwell, a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Institution of Highways Transportation and a local government officer of 30 years standing.
  (Mr Sellers) I am Barry Sellers, I am an Urban Designer, a Chartered Town Planner. I am a member of the Urban Design Group and a chartered member of the Royal Town Planning Institute. I am currently working for the London Borough of Wandsworth.


  574. Do you want to say anything by way of introduction or are you happy to go straight to questions?
  (Mr Whitby) We are happy to go straight to questions.

  Chairman: If you disagree with each other please let us know. If you agree then one answer will be more than adequate. Thank you very much.

Mr Benn

  575. Good morning, could you tell us what you think the main obstacles are to implementing the recommendations of your Report, Designing Streets for People? Where are the blockages?
  (Mr Whitby) The main recommendations of Designing Streets for People were that we managed, coordinated and streamlined bureaucracy. We managed the knowledge around Designing Streets for People. We looked at community governance, the funding, the skills and expertise that are necessary to deliver it and the legislation that surrounds it. Each one of those is a blockage. If I took the first one, there is going to be, as we develop a desire from amongst people, from amongst the community for Redesigning the Streets for People, a possible shortage of skills, and we are addressing that. There is a question about funding, although it is worth saying that funds are available for the designing of streets and the management of streets, but it is a matter of the appropriate use of those funds and directing those towards the benefit for people as opposed to the benefit for traffic. There is legislation which is constricting the better design of streets and places. We recognise that there are definite problems in terms of recognising who has ownership of street space from the point of view of management of street space. Who do people go to when they want to think about replanning the space that they communally own together?

  576. Who should have ownership or control, in your view?
  (Mr Whitby) We believe that the local authorities should have ownership, but they need to identify single points of ownership within the local authority very much in the form that a station master is identified as having ownership of the railway station, an independent.

  Mr Olner: That was a long time ago.

  Mrs Dunwoody: That is a very unfortunate comparison, if I may say so.

  Mr Donohoe: Choose something else?

Mrs Dunwoody

  577. Almost anything else.
  (Mr Whitby) I think the stations themselves are probably better than they have been for a while.

  578. I think you should move on rather rapidly, you are getting into difficult waters here.

Mr Benn

  579. Let me assist by asking another question, looking at the street environment and the street scene as it is currently what would you say were the disincentives that it creates for people to walk more than they do currently? Somebody might argue, it may be aesthetically not so pleasing, a badly designed street as compared to a well designed street, but I am not entirely clear exactly how that prevents people from walking.
  (Mr Whitby) We could argue that a badly designed street is a less enjoyable space to be and therefore is something they are less likely to use, hence the less they use it the less they are likely to use it because less people are round and the more alone they are and the more subject they are to attrition in that sense. Much more fundamental is that streets have progressively been, over the last 30 or possibly 50 years, possibly longer, designed for traffic and the pedestrians have been marginalised incrementally year-on-year to a point where pedestrian use on streets has been declining remarkably since car ownership has become more universal.

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