Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220
WEDNESDAY 7 FEBRUARY 2001
220. Is not this balance between the capacity
problems for traffic and capacity problems for pedestrians and
ease for pedestrians heavily loaded in favour of the traffic?
In other words it is the pedestrians that are treated like cattle
and so on. Would you accept that as professionals?
(Mr Errington) Traditionally that has been the case.
Certainly we have been trying to reverse that in Birmingham and
our transport strategy that we now pursue is trying to re-adjust
221. Does it make economic sense because information
that we have suggests that a single carriageway straight-across
pelican crossing costs £15,000-£20,000, staggered £25,000-£30,000,
almost double the price. One last question to Birmingham in particular:
you entered into a consultation exercise about your budget and
so on with independent consultants. I was fascinated to see that
nine per cent of your responses suggested you spend more of your
budget on walking and you finished up in your draft with one per
cent. What was the value of that consultation in those circumstances?
(Mr Taylor) I think that is a question you should
ask our politicians rather than the officers. That is a bit of
a cop-out answer, I am afraid.
222. Presumably as Group Leader, Local Planning,
Planning Department, you are involved in this consultation. It
seems quite an innovative thing to do. Surprisingly, out of 20,000
responses you have had nine per cent of people were specifically
for walking, which must have surprised you a bit, I guess, and
the draft budget was less than one per cent. What was the value
of that consultation if it was ignored?
(Mr Taylor) It does not surprise me that people like
the notion of people walking because we have been successful in
terms particularly of the city centre where the benefits of improving
the walking are manifest. In some of the suburban areas and the
less vital areas of the city there has been less emphasis and
people will look at the city centre and say, "Can I have
a piece of that please?", so it does not surprise me at all.
The actual allocation of the budget is a political imperative
which may be a disappointing fact and you may think that the consultation
process may appear a sham but nevertheless it is a political fact
223. Particularly in the opening remarks a great
deal of emphasis was placed on the inner city of Birmingham. What
about the connection between the suburban areas and the inner
city, and in particular the comments Mr Clark made about walking
to school? There are probably some areas where it is not appropriate
for children to walk to school.
(Mr Clark) That gives me an opportunity to pick up
on a point that Mr Olner made earlier about improving commercial
viability. You were looking for evidence of where commercial viability
depends on improved pedestrianisation. There are also plenty of
examples where the reverse happens and there is a suburban example
I can give from my own borough in Redbridge, which is Gants Hill.
Redbridge is a typical suburban area with a number of town centres,
most of which have managed to regenerate and flourish and get
investment into. The one exception is Gants Hill which is failing
dismally. There has recently been a Rowntree Trust piece of research
on sustainable suburbs which took Gants Hill as its case study.
It is at the intersection of the A12, the A123 and the A1400,
a roundabout with guard railing all round it which prevents any
at-level crossing of the road and there are subways which are
extremely inconvenient to use and the whole centre has declined
into almost nothing. That is an example where in a suburban area
walking conditions are very important to the livability of that
area. I can give another example from my own borough in Ilford
where we have done some surveys. Again Ilford is a suburban shopping
centre. We have done surveys over a number of years of the changes
in people's habits for getting to the town centre. Over a period
of ten years from 1984 to 1995 the proportion of people coming
by bus stayed static, the percentage of people coming in by car
went up by 13 per cent, the percentage of people walking went
down by 17 per cent. That is not inevitable. I would not say that
those people who use Ilford have actually benefited from that
change in terms of access, except as we were mentioning earlier
in the day about convenience. The economy has not changed but
potentially we could take action to try and reverse that and I
think the environment of Ilford would benefit if we were to do
so. That is an example of what you can do in suburban areas.
224. Can I put a direct question to Birmingham?
Is it a lack of funding which is the main barrier for people living
outside the immediate city area? If that is the case, has that
been addressed by the local transport plan?
(Mr Errington) The point we were trying to make was
that the city centre we have funded from other non transport budgets
in the past. Certainly our local transport plan has provided us
with opportunities in that we have budget lines for safe routes
to stations, safe routes to schools, footway improvement, the
whole range of measures. It is very welcome now that those budget
lines are increasing and we are able to develop them. We have
clear policies to carry out work in the suburbs. In the past it
was a problem. I would say things are looking better now but they
are never perfect, are they?
225. Do you believe that the money for walking
schemes should be ring-fenced and do you believe that the Department
of the Environment should insist on that?
(Mr Errington) I am not personally in favour of close
ring-fencing because one of the messages we have tried to get
across in a lot of the work we do is that it is a combination
of a lot of policy issues which need to come together to be successful.
I cite again the example of the improvement of bus routes but
also spending money on doing pedestrian links. If money had been
ring-fenced just for bus improvements, for example, I probably
would not have been able to spend the money on getting rid of
subways and putting in pedestrian links. Ring-fencing does have
its value but again you have to be careful. It does actually restrict
your ability to combine and use budgets in an innovative way to
deliver this package of measures that individual local centres
may need, but they are obviously going to vary quite significantly.
(Mr Geffen) There are three points there. One is as
you say the linkage of a walking scheme or a safe route to school
scheme or a travel plan scheme. It is useful to have that flexibility.
What would be more useful would be clearly defined objectives
rather than clearly defined sums of money. If you define a sum
of money there is a danger that local authorities will produce
large schemes in order to spend their way through a very pre-defined
budget. It is more useful to have a clearly defined objective.
I will cite a case study from cycling policy when the former Greater
London Council had a large cycling budget and it could not spend
its way through it simply because they had not got enough people
with which to spend their way through the budget. This is the
final point, that if we were to set large budgets for walking
straightaway we would have this skills shortage for spending our
way through it. I think that is a point that needs rectifying,
but if it were to be done straightaway it would cause a problem.
226. Do you think we have gone far enough when
we design new housing estates so that those using the bus routes
are consulted to make sure particularly that the bus routes are
not so circuitous that the pedestrians are put off using them?
Perhaps I could link to that the question of the new bus station
at Snow Hill. Are you satisfied that that and the re-opened railway
station in Birmingham are having sufficient regard to the personal
security and perception of personal security and safety for pedestrians
(Mr Tilly) If I could answer your question on housing
estates, managing vehicular access, 40 per cent of a typical new
housing estate is dedicated towards the car. People come out of
their front door and they want to get a Sunday paper and a bottle
of milk and they drive to their corner shop when it would be much
better for their health and for the environment if they walked.
Local shops are very important. That has to be balanced with public
open space. You can buy your bag of vegetables every day at the
local shop rather than a weekly trip to the local superstore.
227. They would like that, would they not? They
would love that. They could go shopping every day. Come on; get
(Mr Tilly) People would enjoy local shops selling
fresh produce. That is a cultural change. That is not unachievable.
Health professionals are telling us to eat fresh fruit and fresh
vegetables. Schools are particularly important, safe routes to
school. Ask a lot of parents, "Why do you drive your children
to school?". They will reply, "I need to". Children
do not any longer go necessarily to their nearest school. City
centre parking strategies: what is the availability and price
of car parking when you arrive? Also on our local housing estates
public participation, planning for real exercises, so you get
228. The question I actually asked was whether
you are designing housing estates so that people can actually
get to the bus easily if they want to take the bus and then for
example they are given priority traffic routes in the town.
(Mr Clark) This is about penetration, is it not, with
buses and housing estates as well. There are two aspects to that.
One is that the conventional bus is a very large vehicle and to
get that satisfactorily round you would have to have a very large
229. No. I think with privatisation you got
very small buses.
(Mr Clark) Exactly so. That is the point I was about
230. They do not exist any more.
(Mr Clark) The hopper buses and the small minibuses
are much easier to get into housing estates and certainly that
is what planning authorities are doing. In my own authority we
have done a section 106 agreement to pump prime a service right
into the heart of the housing estate. The other aspect is to do
with densities. If you have high density housing you have a lot
of people close to a point and that is very viable for bus links.
Then all the other conventional things about directness of route,
well lit and secure and so on, are the sorts of things that you
need to do to get people to use the bus.
231. Snow Hill?
(Mr Taylor) I am reassured that the proposed developments
of the new coach station at Snow Hill will be fully integrated
with the heavy and light rail station at Snow Hill. Equally, from
the point of view of personal safety, that development has been
planned in a holistic manner with enhanced street lighting, CCTV
cameras and indeed, as we speak, a subway that provides access
across Great Charles Street is being infilled this very week.
It is a package of measures which are being put in place in addition
to the new facility.
232. The Government offered guidelines for the
PPG 13 which is dealing with planning and transport. Why do planners
always plan for more commercial traffic, car parking or parking
in town centres than the PPG recommends?
(Mr Clark) We do not. My own authority has recently
changed its car parking standards to be quite restrictive in the
new provision and a number of other London boroughs have already
done that. There are a number of factors why some local authorities
are not as quick to respond. There is within the planning system
an inertia in revising plans. It takes time for development plans
to get changed and the law requires us to deal with applications
in accordance with the development plan unless there are good
reasons not to. They may have an out of date development plan
which is still in force and that may be one reason. It will take
up to five years to get a development plan replaced. There are
other aspects of this. There is concern that the restrictive car
parking standards which may occur would have practical difficulties
unless you also have a controlled parking zone on the street in
the areas where there is restricted parking. Restricted planning
standards would apply. There is concern about that. There is obviously
some pressure from developers who know that their development
is going to be competing with other existing developments which
have been built to a different standard and there is concern about
that which we have to address. There is also the point that my
colleague was making earlier: the fear of competition between
local authority areas, the fear that if one local authority adopts
a standard which is restrictive
233. Do you think the Government should be more
firm on these issues?
(Mr Clark) That is one of the things that we are pressing
for and we think the Government should be firm on these issues.
I would say also that PPG 13 in the drafts that I have seen has
been successively watered down. The RPG for London was very restrictive
in its car parking standards. PPG 13 standards will in my view
be only restrictive at the very peak hours. It will not be restrictive
at all for the majority of conditions.
(Mr Geffen) May I make two points on this very quickly?
There was a very interesting review of this covering the south
eastern region which the Department of Transport commissioned
from consultants on parking standards in the south east. It went
through making these points and it identified that even where
standards were being set they were often not being followed. The
standards were out of line with the guidance and the implementation
of standards was out of line with the standards. It is well worth
following that one up.
234. What you are saying really is that there
was a lot more car parking than was necessary and a lot less encouragement
(Mr Geffen) Yes. One of the other points that it makes
is that even where restraint based standards were set, maximum
standards rather than minimum standards, quite often the developments
then turned out to have a surplus of car parking. Even though
they were related to restrained base standards they were still
providing too much.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed for your