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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 720 - 734)



  720. Would the LGA have a view that park and ride schemes would best not be built on green belt sites?
  (Cllr Wicks) That is a difficult one. From a practical point of view, I am not sure that the LGA has ever discussed this or come to a view on it, but the fact that park and ride sites that are a reasonable distance from a town or a city are very hard to find means that local authorities may end up with what may be not what they would be first looking out for. They would be first looking out for brown field sites. You would have a list of priorities. Having drawn a blank on all those, they may be left with those that would not have come top of the list but are the only ones available. One has to have respect for the fact that at the moment the situation is that if you want to put a park and ride site on a green belt area you should put that in your local plan so that this is all looked at, discussed, inquired into and objected to and everybody has a chance to talk about it at that stage, long in advance of any proposal to have a park and ride site in the green belt. Similarly, areas in a flood plane. Since presumably such areas could be cleared in times of potential flood, although they would not be a best option, they might be the only option that you are left with. It is a practical question.


  721. I should not get too far drawn into the problems of the outskirts of York.
  (Cllr Dolezal) It seems a reasonable way of getting a number of cars off the road, does it not? In answer, what do you want to do as a consequence of the park and ride? If it is to reduce congestion in the centre of town to make it a better place to walk, you have to look at the benefits of doing that in a systematic way.

Miss McIntosh

  722. Would it be helpful to have national targets to encourage walking? Who would be the best to set them?
  (Cllr Wicks) If there are to be targets, they would be best set in relation to readily identifiable groups like increasing the percentage of children walking to school. These are targets which are easily understood by people. They are measures which are easily identifiable that you can take and they can be monitored credibly.
  (Mr Cannon) The crucial issue, if there were to be a national target, is that it would need to be measurable. There are considerable difficulties in measuring walking. I would agree with the previous comment that maybe it would be more useful to have targets geared at more specific circumstances, such as children walking to school or employees walking to work, where a company travel plan has been adopted.
  (Mr Christie) You can give targets for things which are measurable, like physical features or indeed accident reduction, but you have to be careful that, for example, the latter one, accident reduction, does not make walking more difficult by discouraging people from walking so that they do not get run over because they are not walking. It would have to be a sensitive issue.

Mr O'Brien

  723. Do you think the people you serve in communities want to see more money out of transport spending devoted to facilitating walking?
  (Mr Cannon) I can only speak from my own experience in Derbyshire where we undertook considerable public consultation as part of our local transport plan. There was a very clear message from that, that people were looking for low cost, relatively local improvements and particularly measures which improved access to facilities, including measures to improve walking.

  724. Was that included in the local transport plan last year?
  (Mr Cannon) We built that into our local transport plan.

  725. What percentage are you thinking of including in the plan for walking?
  (Mr Cannon) My recollection is that, of the capital spend for the current financial year, we are looking at something in excess of, I believe, 25 per cent of our maintenance expenditure devoted to maintenance of footways and a figure of about 15 per cent of measures within the integrated transport block devoted to improvement of footways. I should add that a number of measures that we are proposing, including measures such as traffic calming, will be of considerable benefit to pedestrians as well. It is rather difficult to isolate the element of the capital spend that is entirely devoted to pedestrians.

  726. What is the feedback to the LGA on the local transport plans and the inclusion of spending money on improving walking? Has there been any feedback?
  (Mr Christie) A lot of people claim to have invented the local transport planning concept, but it goes back in a way to the package approach to transport spending in the West Midlands a few years ago where it was recognised that the old TSG approach was concentrating a lot on putting in major road schemes and, when you have these major road schemes, you put in for some more. The other things are not perhaps given the weight they deserve. The local transport plan involving consensus building and partnerships and taking environment, development and all the wider issues into account should lead to a more logical approach to how transport fits into the environment. If that is the case, things which have hitherto perhaps not been given the weight they deserve, like walking, would come higher up the agenda. I think the DETR, in looking at local transport plan submissions, recognises that some more environmental aspects of transport provision are being given weight around the country. It is not perfect yet, but I think there is a general recognition.
  (Cllr Dolezal) In London specifically on walking, not on maintenance issues, of about 110 million spend, two per cent goes on walking specifically. Nine per cent goes on cycling and 16 per cent goes on improving public transport. Again, I think it has a number of parallel benefits.

  727. In the evidence submitted by the LGA to this Committee, you do place emphasis on the contribution to walking and you also say that the local transport authority have submitted their first full local transport plan since 2000 and they are going to say that the Association shows that many will obtain the opportunity to set out comprehensive strategies to promote walking as part of the integrated policy. This is what you are saying to us. I am asking if there is any follow-up to that by the Local Government Association?
  (Mr Christie) I suspect—and I do not know because I have not seen them—that lots of them who have a specific interest in a particular aspect of local transport plans have been looking through them all to see if they have their interests taken account of adequately. It is not just walking but freight transport, disabled access and so on.

  728. We are doing a study on walking and we want to know what the response to the LGA has been to this question from local authorities.
  (Mr Christie) The local transport plans are an integrated plan and to concentrate just on walking would be to undermine the—

  729. Your evidence says that you promote it and you are saying that is not strictly correct. I think we ought to have some report from the LGA as to what is happening in member authorities on this question of promoting walking in their areas.
  (Cllr Dolezal) There is evidence, certainly within London through the Mayor and his ITP and local authorities. Croydon, Camden, Southwark and Bromley have all had walking as a distinct feature of their local implementation plans. It is over and above the general maintenance of footways and creating a neat and tidy place; it is about creating an environment to encourage walking and to make it pleasant for people to be in.

Mr Benn

  730. You mentioned a little earlier the need to have the right skills at local level amongst engineers and so on. Do you think within local government that there are sufficient people with the skills to give walking the priority that you have been asking for in your evidence today?
  (Cllr Dolezal) I can only speak on London's perspective in as much as I chair the Recruitment and Retention Working Group that is looking at this very issue. There are a number of key workers, quite predictably, police, teachers, nurses. One of the areas where we do have a real issue is people at the right stage of their career in London, who are able to develop and deliver on these plans. In some instances, it is almost not to be taken that seriously but after 20 years of experience of reducing budgets it is pretty rare to find someone who has vast experience of spending money and also having people with the right calibre and the right range of skills, certainly ones where you are looking at people who are able to integrate the planning, the traffic management and the engineering skills to deliver on the environment. What I am gratified to see is that there is an increasing number of people who begin to appreciate the holistic approach, the integrated approach, to looking at some of these issues. You can get parallel benefits, not only in terms of a better environment which creates a sense of wellbeing but it encourages walking, which encourages health, which reduces crime, and people are beginning to appreciate that. Also, within the developers, within the market place, the people who actually construct, build and finance initiatives in central London.


  731. Could you give me one or two examples of where good practice has actually happened as opposed to people talking about it? Can you tell us which is the best local authority for encouraging children to walk to school?
  (Cllr Dolezal) I think they would all claim that.

  732. You are not doing anything to measure performance? There are all these Best Value and Beacon status things. Are you, as an LGA, doing anything to look for good practice in this sort of area?
  (Mr Christie) There is a School Travel Advisory Group which there are local government people on, which is looking specifically at targeting best practice. They have published guidance. One of the things that has happened in recent years is that there has been more inclusive working between the DETR, local government and outside bodies in producing things jointly.

  733. I understand about the ideas of joint working. Is there any actual evidence that it actually makes a difference?
  (Mr Cannon) If I could give one small example from Derbyshire, we adopted a number of years ago a pedestrian strategy which formed a basis for developing our local transport plan. That has enabled us also to take forward a number of individual initiatives in the local transport plan. A particular example I am thinking of is where we have adjusted the timings on pelican crossings to make them more pedestrian friendly. That has effectively reduced the delay to pedestrians.

  734. Have you evidence that more people actually walk on those streets as a result?
  (Mr Cannon) The impact on numbers of people using that particular facility is fairly inconclusive. What we have observed is that more people are now inclined to use the crossing facility rather than crossing more randomly across the street. There is an improvement in safety. It is difficult to show how one small measure like that can have an impact. It is the accumulation of a number of different measures that are likely to bear fruit over time.

  Chairman: We had better leave it at that but if the LGA can think of one or two examples of good practice where there is demonstrable evidence we would like to have that sent to us.

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