Memorandum by the Greater Manchester Pedestrians'
Association (WTC 103)
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
1. The GMPA exists to campaign for a better
deal for those on foot throughout the Greater Manchester region.
We consider walking is the primary mode of transport and towns
and cities where walking is positively encouraged and promoted
are generally healthy and attractive places to live and work.
Although much of our work is naturally concerned with road safety
aspects and the danger, noise and pollution pedestrians face from
vehicular traffic, there is another important aspect of our work:
"The consideration of planning matters and Rights of Way
Orders" as they affect pedestrians.
2. PLANNING (UDP)
Local authorities have given increasing importance
to the consideration of pedestrian movement over the last few
years when drawing up either their District or Unitary Development
Plans and the Association has had some input during the consultation/statutory
stages of these plans. GMPA's experience and success in this direction
means that we shall continue to monitor future stages of these
plans and also give attention to more detailed Planning Applications
where we consider that these may impinge on the requirements and
rights of pedestrians. On occasions, this will involve pro-active
work since we may be able to suggest at an early stage the provision
of safe and desirable new routes for the benefit of those on foot.
Examples may range from rural routes to the convenient and direct
urban ways free from hazards and environmental degradation of
vehicular traffic. However, when monitoring particular applications,
the Association may have no alternative but to react to a given
situationoften from private developersand in such
circumstances, the Association will have no hesitation in challenging
those applications which may compromise the rights of pedestrians.
3. PLANNING (FOOTPATHS
Public rights of way come in many forms, from
simple rural footpaths, bridleways and green lanes, to handy short-cut
urban footpaths leading to bus stops, shops, schools and other
utilitarian destinations. And, of course, simple streets and roads
can be vital for pedestrians even if the carriageway portion is
superseded by new road layout systems. All such public highways
are necessary for those who walk whether for leisure, health or
out of necessity. Therefore, the GMPA takes particular interest
whenever local authorities issue notices of intended closure or
diversion of "public highways". These are usually advertised
in the local press and the process of closure, if objections are
lodged and sustained, can either be on application to the magistrates
court or by a public inquiry ordered by the Secretary of State
for the Environment, Transport and the Regions.
The Association's "Footpath and Environment/Planning"
section now has some years experience of lodging objections and
of appearing in the courts and at public inquiries. We have had
some notable successes and satisfactions in the face of unsympathetic
local authorities, private developers and landowners who can be
apathetic, negative and obstructive when it comes to providing
for the rights and needs of those on foot within their scheme.
We are concerned however, that despite time
and effort given to long and costly UDP inquiries, local authorities
pay lip service to their own UDP policies. Moreover, Circular
2/93 (ie clearly stating that footpaths should not be put onto
estate roads) and PPG 13 are often ignored. Many local cases can
be cited here where pedestrians have lost out and now bear the
brunt of walking far greater distances to shops, post offices,
bus stops, etc and/or alongside dangerous, polluted and noisy
5. RELEVANT PROFESSIONALS/GOVERNMENT
In relation to the above paragraphs, we are
yet to be convinced that "the professionals" have the
appropriate skills and training to bring about change in developing
seamless or strategic walking routestheir ideas are simply
far too removed and rooted in a "concrete and tyres"
mentality of the 60's!
Similarly, Government Departments including
the Highways Agency (ie the pedestrian element v traffic must
get through at all costs(the White City, Trafford/Salford
border area fiasco)) must be included here as well as local authorities
(three examples quoted from many)
(a) Modwen Road, SalfordThe stopping
up of this vital short length of road which gave access to the
new Metrolink Station "Exchange Quays"closure
opposed by the GMPA but lost in the Magistrates Court.
(b) Bus Station, OldhamRecent proposals
to stop up the two pedestrian routes through Oldham Bus Station
which gives direct access to the proposed Oldham Metrolink Station
(ie part of £500m "big bang" expansion). GMPA objection
(c) Regarding Local Transport Plans and Government
insistence on "early" and "effective participation"
the GMPA and other groups were not brought into discussions/Draft
LTP stage until April 2000almost a "fait accompli"
and this despite earlier requests to be consulted.
6. FOOTPATH CLOSURES
One concern for the future is the implementation
of certain aspects of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act which
relates to the closure of footpaths for reasons of crime. Almost
all of these paths have a use and a need, particularly in urban
areas. Many are useful short-cuts leading to bus stops, shops,
post office, schools etc, whilst some are historic, (ie boundary
paths), others may give access to a canal towpath. Whilst amendments
may sometimes be negotiable in certain circumstances, the GMPA
believe that outright closure is not an option and the Government
should recognise this in their plans to encourage walking and
healthy initiatives. We believe there should be a moratorium on
all footpath closures and when streets/roads are considered redundant
their usefulness as a footpath route should always be considered.
7. NATIONAL STRATEGY/NATIONAL
We believe that national targets should be set
and a national strategy should be published (we were disappointed
when this was withdrawn from the DETR document "Encouraging
Walking: Advice to local authorities"). Linked to the local
Health Improvement Programme the collation of data research will
prove useful to both Government Departments and local authorities
as it will give a more strategic picture for developing/encouraging
more people to walk and open up new routes.
8. The Association would be willing to provide
further information or appear personally before the Select Committee
to answer any questions.
Footpath and Environment Officer