Select Committee on Environmental Audit Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Living Streets


    —  To meet CO2 targets, there must be a shift away from cars to other forms of transport, including walking

    —  The Department for Transport has done some good work in promoting walking, including the sustainable travel towns project

    —  However, a greater emphasis on walking is needed in the second round of local transport plans

    —  The transport innovation fund's promotion of road pricing projects should be part of an overall package of policies to reduce CO2 and not merely result in displacement of traffic

    —  Any reduction in traffic resulting from road pricing should be used to reallocate road space and make streets more friendly to pedestrians so that the gains can be embedded in long-term behavioural change

    —  Assessment of projects to be funded from the transport innovation fund should give weight to non-monetarised elements like environmental and social costs alongside the monetarised cost-benefit analysis

    —  A 20 mph limit for residential streets should be introduced to cut emissions and make it safer for people to walk

    —  The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister should use planning policy to reduce car dependency by facilitating developments that encourage walking

    —  HM Treasury should recognise the importance of reducing CO2 emissions within the comprehensive spending review and Government should consider how walking as an alternative to car use can be encouraged within the revised climate change programme due to be published in 2006


  1.1  Living Streets is a national charity which campaigns for better streets and public spaces for people on foot.

  1.2  The history of Living Streets demonstrates the strength of our agenda. We were formed in 1929, as the Pedestrians Association. We have grown rapidly in the last few years and our work is supported by a network of 46 branches and affiliated groups, 40 local authority members and a growing number of corporate members.

  1.3  As well as working to influence others, we also carry out a range of practical work to implement our vision. This includes facilitating Community Street Audits (which engage with the people using streets to identify improvements) and providing training and consultancy to practitioners who design and manage our streets.


  2.1  This response from Living Streets focusses on the contribution of walking alternatives to car use as part of measures to reduce carbon emissions from transport. Although the inquiry's call for submissions focusses on the role of the Department for Transport, we have also addressed the role of Government more widely in this agenda—particularly the Office for the Deputy Prime Minister's work on sustainable communities and how this is translated in planning policy and local authority practice.

  2.2  The response draws on our experience of working on sustainable transport policy and through our work with other transport organisations.

  2.3  The recommendations in the submission concentrate on central government's role but much of what can be done to encourage walking is the responsibility of local authorities.


  3.1  Whilst technological advances (for instance through lower emissions from vehicles using hybrid technology and the use of alternative fuels) can contribute significant reductions in carbon emissions, they will not in themselves enable the UK to achieve its targets to reduce CO2 emissions. A modal shift to other forms of transport, including walking, is needed to complement technological change if targets are to be met.

  3.2  The VIBAT study[33] by the Bartlett School of Planning at University College London set out to explore ways to reduce CO2 emissions by 60% by 2030. It concluded that technological change on its own, even with a very strong push on efficient vehicles and alternative fuels, could not provide the necessary reductions in carbon emissions because of the additional car-based travel to be expected in the future.

  3.3  Walking can contribute to the modal shift required provided certain policies are put in place. Since the end of the 1980s, the average amount of time spent travelling by car increased by 7% whilst the amount of time spent walking decreased by 20% to 67 hours in 2004. People are also less willing to consider walking for short distances compared to driving by car. In 2000 the proportion of people agreeing they could just as easily walk or cycle as take the car for short journeys was 41% compared with 37% in 2002.[34]

  3.4  To tackle this decline in walking, Living Streets argues for policy makers, planners and highways engineers to work together to create an environment in which walking is more pleasant, less obstructed by vehicle traffic and poor street design and where jobs and services are in walking distance of people homes. Achieving behavioural change requires joint working across Government Departments and between different departments of local authorities working in partnership with other public agencies and the community.

  3.5  Joint working across and between central and local government should aim to produce:

    —  improved road safety—including lower speed limits and roadspace reallocation to give greater space and priority to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport;

    —  a better connected and more legible pedestrian network in which people can walk to jobs and services and in which signage and information allows pedestrians to find their way around;

    —  better personalised information for people so that they can make informed decisions about how they can travel to their destination. This is particularly important as people often overestimate walking times and underestimate car journey times. A study from Darlington found that people underestimate the time for trips with motorised private modes by a quarter and massively overestimate the time by other modes of transport.[35]

    —  better planning and development of new building and location of local jobs and services so that people are able to walk.

  3.6  The VIBAT study suggested that measures to enable and increase walking as a mode of transport could directly or indirectly contribute to significant reductions in CO2 emissions. The measures and impacts are listed below:

Policy theme
Individual measures
Reduction in
tonnes of
carbon %
contribution to overall
target of
by 2030

Liveable Cities—  higher density urban areas with local centres and decentralised services like schools and hospitals

—  upgraded public transport

—  improved urban design

—  heavy investment in walking and cycling
Soft factors—  workplace travel planning

—  school travel plans

—  personalised travel planning

—  travel awareness
Ecological driving—  slower speed limits, including implementing the Safer Streets Coalitions call for default 20 mph in residential streets

  3.7  The measures outlined above are estimated to contribute 36.4% of the 25.7 mtc reduction in CO2 needed to cut emissions by 60% by 2030.


  4.1  The Department for Transport has done some good work to promote walking. The walking and cycling action plan has been actively championed by the relevant team within the Department and with other Departments.

  4.2  The DfT's sustainable travel towns project (with Darlington, Peterborough and Worcester) should offer good models of the potential for sustainable travel policies, although the impact of policies in isolation may not be as effective as the introduction of national policies to promote sustainable travel.

  4.3  Local transport plans have also been useful. Guidance on the second wave of plans emphasised the need to include walking and cycling policies. However, the evaluation report on the first wave of LTPs[36] found that few of the local authorities studied cited walking and cycling as key achievements. The report also revealed that local authorities were spending significantly more per head on car and bus-related schemes than on walking and cycling. The Department should seek to ensure that the second round of LTPs achieves more for walking and cycling.

  4.4  Living Streets is also concerned that there may be a move towards downgrading sustainability within transport policy as productivity is stressed. Although the transport innovation fund has the priority of congestion as well as productivity, we are concerned that it does not adequately address the need to tackle emissions. Introducing road user charging, the key element of the congestion priority in the transport innovation fund guidance, does not necessarily reduce emissions if traffic is merely displaced. We have signed up to a position statement along with other organisations on the Transport Activists Roundtable (see attached annex A).

  4.5  To avoid displacement road user charging should be introduced on an area basis rather than on individual roads. Road user charging may also offer opportunities to balance road space more effectively and reallocate space to other uses such as widened pavements, cycle paths and bus lanes if traffic levels go down. The advent of the congestion charge in London and the lower traffic levels that have resulted have allowed local authorities to implement schemes to make streets more friendly to pedestrians. These include more crossing points, introduction or increased time for pedestrian phases on crossings and re-engineering of junctions to enable pedestrians to have greater priority.

  4.6  The guidance for the transport innovation fund also seems to suggest that traffic should increase to support productivity rather than a more sophisticated approach that looks at substitutes, as suggested in the Government's Foresight report on future transport infrastructure.[37] The transport innovation fund guidance does says that the assessment of potential productivity schemes will recognise the need for a sustainable balance between wider economic growth, social inclusion and environmental objectives. However the DfT puts increasing "the mobility of people or goods in a way that reduces business costs" as the first component of this assessment.[38] We are concerned that this does not give sufficient emphasis on wider social and environmental objectives and does not recognise the opportunity to explore ICT and other technologies to substitute for traffic growth.

  4.7  We are also concerned about the extent to which assessments of value for money take account of environmental concerns. The DfT's "new approach to assessment", key to the new approach to grow the transport innovation fund compared to modal shares of funding within DfT, would appear to place less emphasis on non-monetarised values, like the impact of CO2 emissions, compared to money based cost benefit ratios.

  4.8  Restricting the availability of parking can also help promote alternatives to car transport. The Department for Transport introduced a new power for local authorities to levy charges on workplace parking in the 2000 Transport Act once approval is granted by the Secretary of State for Transport. However, the DfT has said that only Nottingham City Council is liaising with it over plans for a levy on workplace charging. We are disappointed that more local authorities have not developed plans for workplace car park charging.

  4.9  Safer streets are an important element in encouraging more people to walk. The Department of Transport should support proposals for a default 20 mph limit for residential streets. This would both reduce emissions and make streets safer for people to walk.


  5.1  The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (and in its earlier guises as DETR and DTLR) has recognised that land use planning has an important role to play in promoting more sustainable transport and reducing CO2 emissions.

  5.2  Planning Policy Guidance Note 13 (from 2001) set out how land use planning could play a role in an integrated transport strategy. It pointed out that the location, scale, density, design and mix of land uses of development could "help to reduce the need to travel, reduce the length of journeys and make it safer and easier for people to access jobs, shopping, leisure facilities and services by public transport, walking, and cycling".[39]

  5.3  Planning Policy Statement 6[40] was consistent with this, stressing how new developments like shops and offices should be within walking distance or accessible by public transport.

  5.4  However, we are concerned that the draft Planning Policy Statement 3 on housing (currently out for consultation) marks a move away from this. Planning Policy Guidance Note 3 (which PPS3 will replace when it is approved) said that planning authorities should:

    —  "place the needs of people before ease of traffic movement in designing the layout of residential developments;

    —  seek to reduce car dependence by facilitating more walking and cycling, by improving linkages by public transport between housing, jobs, local services and local amenity, and by planning for mixed use".

  5.5  The new draft PPS3 is much less clear. Transport is only discussed in relation to:

    —  the need to take account of local transport strategies,

    —  the focus for rural housing being focussed in market towns and other centres which are well served by public transport,

    —  the level of housing density being informed by the location and level of public transport accessibility.

  5.6  Draft PPS3 seems to be responding to the push for meeting new homes targets, as is also reflected in the Barker Review of Housing Supply, and away from planning's contribution to environmental goals.

  5.7  Draft PPS3 also marks a departure in terms of policy towards car parking. PPG3 talked about the Government expecting significantly lower parking standards in the future.[41] Draft PPS3 on the other hand says that local planning authorities should develop parking policies which have regard to "expected car ownership for planning housing in different locations, the efficient use of land and the importance of promoting good design".[42] Draft PPS3 should be redrafted to be consistent with earlier guidance and the expectation of lower parking standards.

  5.8  Living Streets supports the move from community strategies to sustainable community strategies and the official definition of sustainable communities. Local strategic partnerships should also consider how different agencies can work together and pool resources to promote and develop alternatives to car use in their development of sustainable community strategies.


  6.1  Other Departments have a role to play in tackling CO2 emissions from transport. The Treasury should recognise in the comprehensive spending review that the long-term challenges for the UK include climate change alongside productivity and international competitiveness. The Eddington study on the long-term impact of transport decisions on the UK's productivity, stability and growth should be looked at alongside the need to create a more sustainable planning and transport system.

  6.2  DEFRA also has a role with its stewardship of the UK Climate Change Programme, agreed in 2000. Although policies to support walking as an alternative to car use are mentioned, we would like to see the revised Climate Change Programme give a greater emphasis to this when it is published in 2006.

  6.3  Other service delivery Departments will also have a role to play in promoting walking as an alternative. Departments could do more to encourage walking for their staff and in local centres (eg job centres, hospitals, schools, etc). A good example of this is the Department for Education and Skills' work with the DfT to promote walking to school.

33   Visioning and Backcasting for UK Transport Policy (Bartlett School of Planning, University College London and Halcrow Group Ltd. Department for Transport-Horizons Research Programme, 2004-05). see Back

34   Transport Trends 2005 edition (DfT, 2006). Figures compare 1989-91 with 2004. Back

35   Darlington: Sustainable Travel Demonstration Town Travel Behaviour Research Baseline Survey 2004 (Socialdata and Sustrans for Darlington Borough Council, 2005). Back

36   Long Term Process and Impact Evaluation of the Local Transport Plan Policy (WS Atkins for Department of Transport, 2005). Back

37   Intelligent Infrastructure Futures: The Scenarios-Towards 2055 (Office of Science and Technology, 2006). Back

38   Transport Innovation Fund: Guidance (DfT, January 2006), para 3.10. Back

39   Planning Policy Guidance Note 13: Transport (DETR, 2001). Back

40   Planning Policy Statement 6: Planning for Town Centres (ODPM, 2005). Back

41   PPG3 (DETR, 2000) para 11. Back

42   Draft PPS3 (ODPM, 2005) para 20. Back

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