Memorandum by the Federation of Sussex
Amenity Societies (WTC 47)
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
By the nature of its constituency, which derives
from market towns and villages across East and West Sussex, the
Federation cannot speak from direct experience of conditions in
larger towns and cities. Nevertheless the changes in attitude
to walking over the past 25 years has had a universally detrimental
impact upon communities throughout East and West Sussex.
2. We believe the contribution made by
walking to Urban Renaissance, healthy living and reducing dependence
on cars is fundamental and vital. We note from evidence summarised
for Cm 3950 that a quarter of all journeys are now under two miles
in length. Depending upon the circumstances of individuals it
is not unrealistic to expect that, with appropriate encouragement,
a significant proportion of such journeys could be made on foot.
The essence of urban renaissance is to recreate urban settings
more compactly, thereby reducing the need and the incentive to
use cars and buses within them. The benefits of walking to human
health are well-documented and undisputed.
3. The decline in walking stems from several
causes. In the country the proliferation of "rat runs"
in country lanes around villages and larger settlements has made
use of them by pedestrians, the elderly and children especially,
practically impossible. The almost total absence of footways,
coupled with the steady deterioration in the maintenance of highway
verges where they exist, has made many unclassified roads too
hazardous for pedestrians to use at all.
4. Furthermore the increased probability
of pedestrians being mugged, especially at night, is another powerful
disincentive for many people. In towns we can only echo the comment
made in Lord Rogers' Report "Towards an Urban Renaissance"
at page 65: "in many parts of urban England walking is a
5. The clutter of parked cars which corral
pedestrians on pavements which are too narrow and frequently in
poor repair; the hazard of crossing streets with young children;
the reek of exhaust fumes when vehicles make intermittent progress
on congested roads; these are but a few of the disbenefits for
pedestrians which are now commonplace.
6. Of all obstacles which discourage walking,
vehicular traffic dominates the scene in towns and villages alike.
In those places where pedestrianisation is not practical a bigger
investment in traffic management, by installing pelican crossings
and refuges, is called for to restore confidence. However we recognise
this is only a palliative.
7. Extension of towns on lines which were
all too common before PPG3 was revised in March 2000 has resulted
in substantial housing development mostly without shopping facilities,
medical practices and schools within walking distance and, almost
without exception, lacking reliable public transport. Families
find themselves marooned without a car.
8. Cm 3950 at Chapter 3 (Making it Easier
to Walk, Streets for People, Living Town Centres) provides prescriptions
for change but, in our experience, there is little to show in
practice since the document was published two and a half years
9. One measure which is most likely to encourage
walking is the pedestrianisation of town centres, coupled with
better public transport facilities, to bring people close to the
outer limits of them. Some of our constituent societies have worked
closely with local authorities to achieve this rationalisation.
So far as we know no scheme has failed, some have been an outstanding
10. At least one, in which Horsham Society
was involved closely, was recognised as being so successful that
it was the subject of Traffic Advisory Leaflet 2/92 published
by the Department of Transport to demonstrate its advantages.
In this case, of the five alternatives exposed for public debate,
one which had been canvassed widely by the Society years before
was recognised to be the most practical and cost effective solution.
11. The more extensive scheme at Chichester,
covering as it does the heart of the city, is no less successful.
12. In both places the benefits to the community
have been dramatic, because the tranquillity of the streets has
been restored to the benefit of pedestrians and traders alike.
13. These are two limited examples only.
Each place is unique, presenting its own problems and solutions,
but we believe the following principles can be applied universally:
to restore to town and village centres
the hub of the community where vehicles have destroyed it;
to restrict access by vehicles to
essential servicing only;
to create the maximum area from which
vehicles should be proscribed completely, thereby releasing as
much space as possible for activities compatible with movement
by pedestrians only;
to enhance the environment within
the space enclosed by the outer limits with live and hard landscaping,
complemented with well designed street furniture to harmonise
with the built environment.
14. We are doubtful whether all the relevant
professionals have the appropriate skills and training. Although
we sense that some are shifting their ground there is still ample
evidence that a culture change is necessary, especially on the
part of highway engineers, some of whom remain blinkered in their
15. To promote walking Government Departments
have disseminated recommendations and policies already. These
are on the right lines, but there is a gap between the statements
of principle and practical application locally.
16. Funding is a problem unless undertaken
with commercial development when planning gain is a feature of
planning negotiations, because pedestrianisation in particular
is a costly undertaking in older (18-19 century) urban centres
where complex issues of re-routing drainage and services arise.
17. We cannot say how budgeting profiles
should be modified to take account of these contingencies. Nevertheless
there is no doubt that creating a pedestrianised centre in any
established town or village centre necessitates major road and
accommodation works to handle revised traffic flows.
18. If these cannot be funded by means of
planning gain in the course of negotiations with the developers
involved the present profile of grants for highway works may need
to be reviewed.
19. We are doubtful about setting national
targets and a National Strategy, except perhaps by recommending
the application of general principles such as those summarised
at paragraph 13 above. These have the merits of restoring tranquillity
to areas where people congregate in greatest numbers, improving
the quality of the environment and providing a direct incentive
to set aside the slavish dependence upon "door to door"
use of private transport.
D G Kemp