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

Examination of Witness (Questions 480 - 489)



  480. Do you think the Mayor has sufficient powers to encourage this joined-up living?
  (Mr Turner) The answer is I do not think so, because the Mayor has very limited planning authority powers.

Mr Brake

  481. Would you agree with the view that says that highway engineers are really only interested in building roads, that is what they are trained to do and that what is aesthetically appealing to them is a long stretch of new tarmac with nothing to get in the way of the car, such as pedestrian crossings?
  (Mr Turner) I am a civil engineer and I do not fit into that category, because I do not think the only thing that is necessary is to build new roads. I do think that some have that view but I think that the environment in which we live is becoming more attuned to, and the training environment is becoming more attuned to, sustainable development and sustainable transport, and I think that people are coming through the educational systems which recognise that building new roads is not a panacea to our transport problems.

  482. Do you think we have the people with the right skills here to develop the streetscapes that we are all familiar with on the continent? Or, more simply, do we have sufficiently skilled people to deliver the very basic schemes such as pavement works? It is appalling how many new pavements one can walk on where one can clearly see that in another couple of months' time they will be as bumpy as they were before the work was done.
  (Mr Turner) I think there is a skill shortage but that need not necessarily be that the skills are not available. There is an awful lot of work that is going on and an awful lot of pressure. I think attention to detail by my colleagues in my profession has not been one of their strong points. I think they are gradually recognising that greater attention to detail and that pedestrians are traffic—or transport users—and a viable transport mode is coming to a general understanding. Within Transport for London Street Management we have instigated a whole series of seminars to try to ensure that awareness is actually increased, and I do think work still needs to be done in that area.

  483. Do you have quality assurance schemes that regularly go out and vet the work that has been done by contractors? This is a fairly common complaint, that they come and do the work and leave rubble on site, and that the work is not checked by anyone.
  (Mr Turner) That is an issue which I am concerned about, and we are changing the nature of the way we manage our contracts as a result of the formation of TFL, at my instigation. I do think that some of my predecessor organisations did not carry out as much supervision as I would like to see.

  484. Finally, how many of these projects that your contractors have completed would you expect to be quality assured?
  (Mr Turner) Quality assurance is a bit of a generic term. I would hope that all the contracts that are carried out under TFL are to an acceptable quality, and if they are not they should be put right.

Mrs Dunwoody

  485. If you are doing a massive scheme like the Trafaglar Square scheme, presumably it is terribly important what materials are used, because you very specifically said "If we don't get Lottery money we would have to have cheaper materials". We spoke to somebody in Milan last week, who was a rather serious lady, who had the magnificent job of deciding which granites were to be used on their pedestrianisation schemes, and they deliberately plan to provide extra facilities so that it will not be put down and instantly dug up. Are you contemplating such equal schemes for the future?
  (Mr Turner) We are indeed. On the Trafalgar Square scheme we are working with Fosters to ensure that the right type of granite is chosen.


  486. English I hope.
  (Mr Turner) I readily admit I am not an expert and that is the reason why we are taking advice and working in partnership with architects—

Mr Donohoe

  487. It could even be Scottish.
  (Mr Turner)—and town planners. I would say that we do need to work in partnership and in a balance, because I can think of a scheme near here in Upper Ground, Coin Street, where work was done to the highway which was not carried out by civil engineers and the materials are of very high quality indeed. However, although they have been repaired now, they were inappropriate for the public realm; they were architectural materials for within a building or a square and they would not stand up to the rigours of life on a public highway.

Mrs Dunwoody

  488. So you are building in a protection that says "As soon as we put this down some utility is going to come along and dig it up"?
  (Mr Turner) We are trying to ensure that that does not occur in Trafalgar Square. The legislation is such, that it is difficult to do. That is why we are looking at (and one of the reasons is cost) diversions that we can undertake to prevent this—if they are not there they cannot dig it up. However, we cannot shift all the statutory undertakers out of Trafalgar Square; it is not economic.

Mr Stevenson

  489. We have listed buildings, should we have listed streets?
  (Mr Turner) To some extent you have within conservation areas, and planning legislation does give controls to the planning authority over that. It is also one of the reasons why we are having to gain planning permission outside the setting of listed buildings. You have to get planning permission for significant changes to the street environment. So to some extent it is already there but it is not there in the wider extent, which is, I suspect, what you are meaning. I can see no reason why, for some of the streets of London, you should not move in that direction, because the greater control we can have over how the streets are abused the better.

  Chairman: On that note, can I thank you very much? It has been a very helpful session.

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