Examination of Witnesses (Questions 620
WEDNESDAY 25 APRIL 2001
620. There is not an awful lot of action in
this, when do we get to see the action?
(Mr Blackwell) My authority, Medway Council, has just
reorganised the whole structure to recognise the importance of
the street scene and brought all of the professionals involved
in that into one division so that they do talk together, work
together and so that the end product will be better for all.
621. Is that demonstrating any real change at
(Mr Whitby) I equally point out that there are good
examples. The first thing to recognise is the improvement of street
space is not something which is done as a big scheme, it is more
likely to be done on an incremental basis. I can take you to parts
of Wandsworth where the street space has changed considerably
from the point of view of the local community, where 20 mile an
hour zones have been installed and safe crossings have been made
so that children and adults can communicate satisfactory through
that space and it is no longer a way from one place to another
for vehicle traffic. These are not things that necessarily stand
out as visually great examples but in comparison from what they
were to what they are today they are considerably better.
622. One of the difficulties, is it not, of
that is that you then over-standardise and every town comes out
looking almost the same.
(Mr Sellers) If you use the planning for real exercise
it will involve the public and various stakeholders involved in
the area with the professionals advising and guiding and then
you can end up with a bespoke solution to that.
623. How do you employ the public? Through what
forums do you employ the public, through the councillors, through
community councils or directly with those who are most effected?
(Mr Sellers) A whole range of consultation. It can
be through direct contact with the public, through exhibitions,
through planning for real exercise, where the public get in for
a weekend to design the space themselves with the professionals
guiding and helping them. There is a whole range of different
methods now being used by local authorities.
(Mr Whitby) We also have another initiative called
Place Checks, which is to stimulate local groups of people to
go out and check their places and to look at them and report back
on how they measure. That is an initiative which is to be launched
later this year.
624. How are you measuring that?
(Mr Whitby) How is a good place measured against a
bad place? There are a number of measures you can apply.
(Mr Sellers) We are developing a serious number of
benchmarks as part of the best value process.
625. Give us a couple of benchmarks?
(Mr Sellers) For example, the number of times the
streets has been cleaned, that can be quantified.
(Mr Whitby) The time it takes to cross the road.
(Mr Sellers) The quality of the pavement. For instance
the condition of the pavement. Can people trip over or not? Is
it a good clean surface that people can walk along without any
(Mr Whitby) The amount of posts standing in the pavement,
the number of bollards, the quality of the bollards in terms of
their repair. There is a whole series of small measures which
all add up to a total report as to the quality of the space. One
of simplest pieces of information is to measure how long it takes
to cross a road. You can define neighbourhoods by the boundaries
which are created by traffic which prevents people from communicating.
626. Does anybody judge the amount of rubbish
that dogs create in the streets?
(Mr Whitby) Absolutely, that is another measure.
627. It is a measure. How important is it?
(Mr Whitby) It is one of a number.
628. Do you think the professionals' training
is the right type of training to be able to apply this new science?
(Mr Whitby) We need to do a lot, and we are working
on doing a lot, to improve the training of all professionals involved
in urban design.
629. Do you think it is sufficient for the changes
that are being proposed?
(Mr Whitby) No, but we are working to make it sufficient.
There is an initiative with DETR and with CABE addressing just
630. What time scales are we talking about?
(Mr Whitby) I think we are talking of a time scale
of the order of five years to see the establishment of centres
of excellence for learning urban design skills.
631. Are you saying that it will take about
10 years to see this remarkable transformation of our towns, towards
the idea of walking against the car?
(Mr Whitby) No, I am saying in terms of delivering
it across the spectrum, in terms of having an impact we would
like it to happen, it will take time. It is not going to happen
tomorrow but it will happen incrementally and over a period of
time we will get to the point you are looking for.
632. Mr Whitby, in your evidence that you submit
to the Committee you refer to cross-reference documents and you
also refer to revisiting legislation, the Highways Act 1980, but
there is no reference in here to the Government's Ten Year Plan,
published last year, and also to the Local Transport Plans. Is
there a reason why your organisation has not referred to the Government's
Ten Year Plan or to the Local Transport Plan?
(Mr Whitby) In terms of the Local Transport Plan they
are coming in at the same time.
633. They were in last year.
(Mr Blackwell) We welcome the Local Transport Plan
and the Ten Year Plan, it gives the whole country a much better
634. Is there any reason why you did not refer
to it in these submissions? We have a situation where Professor
Goodwin in his research says that the Government's Ten Year Plan
paid too much attention to big schemes and too little to small
ones. This is evidence presented by professional people but your
organisation does not touch it, is there a reason for that?
(Mr Whitby) I would argue that it is an omission,
but I would also support Professor Goodwin's point of view.
635. When we invite you here we like to hear
your observations on issues and I thought there was nothing more
current than the Government's Ten Year Plan. If more money is
to be spent on schemes to promote walking what should the priorities
be? You do not address these kind of matters.
(Mr Sellers) We do refer to the Transport Plan in
relation to our Community Development Plans in the main document.
(Mr Sellers) In the main document.
637. This is the evidence that you submitted
for us to consider and question you on. I am making the point
that little attention has been paid to the Ten Year Plan in this
document, or none at all. I wonder why. It is something that the
Government is building on, it is something that local government
is building on. We all have to build on it because it is the policy
and we welcome your observations on this question as to why we
are spending too much money on doing things and not enough on
value for walking.
(Mr Whitby) Perhaps we could come back on those issues.
638. How far is there a responsibility on the
motor car manufacturers to try and produce a pedestrian-friendly
(Mr Whitby) I think it is very difficult to produce
a pedestrian-friendly vehicle. There are things such as soft fronts
to cars and air bags for pedestrians. I think the level of pedestrian
deaths and accidents such that there could be some quite serious
arguments about how strategically useful they would be, particularly
bearing in mind the speed of some vehicles, I think designing
our way out of the problem and trying to find a technical fix
is not necessarily the answer, although anything that can make
a vehicle better is good. I am particularly excited by the developments
in the manufacturing of motorcars from the point of view of making
them quieter and developing them with lower emissions. There is
a corollary to that, that they are less aggressive in the sense
that the new vehicles have lower accelerations and I believe that
the vehicles that we will see in our towns and cities are going
to become more benign in comparison to the ones that are there
now. I think we are going to move towards a position of a better
balance between the vehicle and the pedestrian. I think at the
same time we need to work hard to encourage the adoption of work
place charging and other such devices which deter the use of vehicles
in our city centres themselves.
639. Do you not think that pedestrian air bags
might actually encourage some drivers to drive even more recklessly
on the grounds that if they do hit somebody an air bag will say
save the day for the pedestrian.
(Mr Whitby) It might even encourage the pedestrian
conversely. It is worth saying that more men suffer from pedestrian
accidents than women, and I believe that is because they believe
they are stronger.
Mrs Dunwoody: They think they are invincible.
2 P. 23, Designing Streets for People. Back