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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 560 - 571)



  560. In a local transport scheme should the government be granting money for local transport schemes where land use policies are inconsistent with those objectives? Should we have a compatibility with the land use policies, what is being built where, and local transport schemes?
  (Ms Hughes) I think the short answer is yes, but I do not have any evidence that there is that great inconsistency at all.


  561. Your department actually looks at unitary development plans and approves them. It also approves the local transport plans. How far in approving those is there a co-ordination of the two plans to make sure that the local authority has come up with a unitary development plan and a local transport plan which are integrated? One goes to the Department of the Environment and one goes to the Department of Transport.
  (Ms Hughes) That is one department. In the terms of the way we are trying to work we are trying to work in an integrated way. If you are asking me if in each UDP for each individual local authority somebody sits down with that for several days and checks that against the local transport strategy then, clearly, that would not be a feasible job for this Department to do. What we do do is through ensuring that each of those is reflecting government policy in terms of the bigger issues there is coherence in the way UDPs and transport strategy is generally being developed.

Mr Donohoe

  562. What is the reason for the delay in publishing the PPG?
  (Ms Hughes) As my learned friend will know, we have gone out again to consult on a revision on one of the original proposals in the PPG 13. We now have the results of that second tranche of consultation and we are going through those. We are at an advanced stage of analysing the results of that consultation and we do hope to be able to produce that PPG 13 as soon as possible.

  563. You cannot put a time on it?
  (Ms Hughes) I cannot at the moment. I can say that it is at an advanced stage. We are working to produce it in the very near future. I just cannot put a date on it because it is not finished.


  564. It is nothing to do with the Treasury then, it is not that they blocked the publication of it?
  (Ms Hughes) It is nothing to do with the Treasury per se, clearly we went out to consultation because there were as a result of the first consultation concerns from business about some of the standards being proposed. That is why we consulted again. We are analysing all of that again and we hope to produce our final conclusion very shortly.

  565. It is not the Treasury that is stopping it from being published, is it?
  (Ms Hughes) I do not know why my learned friend says that, I specifically said to him, "no". As a result of the first consultation we got some strong views expressed which made us feel we should consult again. We got concerns from the first consultation about the impact that some of those standards might have on the viability of business and, therefore, we decided to consult widely again on that particular issue, and we are analysing those results now.

Mr Donohoe

  566. So the Treasury has not blocked its publication?
  (Ms Hughes) The Treasury has not blocked its publication, as I have explained three or four times now. We have gone through a process. We want to try and achieve consensus from the various stakeholders involved in this and that is why we have gone to great lengths to consult in some detail.


  567. Do you think there are enough trained professionals who are looking at walking as an issue so that we do get townscapes which are attractive for walkers?
  (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I cannot answer that, Mr Chairman. I would hope that as we get the experience of the local transport plans fed back to us we will get to hear whether that is a problem or not. I think what is the case is that given the neglect of local transport for a couple of decades the Town Halls probably are under-staffed in some of these areas and therefore no doubt they will be able to take advantage of the kind of longer perspective we are offering of five years at local level and ten years at national level in terms of investment to recruit and train.

  568. Do you think our streetscapes are attractive for people who have got various handicaps or disabilities? It has been suggested to me that if you use a stick when walking it is sometimes very difficult to get round some of our towns.
  (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) No doubt that is true but we will all have noticed the progress that is being made in this area. The development of the dropped kerb seems to be very prevalent now as are these tactile paving stones, and so on, to signal up to people with disabilities where the crossings might be. Clearly we have become much more aware of those problems in the last few years and again our money should make it easier for local authorities to deal with that.

  569. Do you think there are enough places for people to sit down because certainly for some people who have mobility problems being able to pause while they are walking around a town sitting on a comfortable seat can be very useful?
  (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Again it is not something I have measured or has been put up to me as a problem to address. I am happy to look at any evidence of that.

  Chairman: I am conscious of the time, Lord Macdonald, but Mrs Dunwoody would like to fire a couple of questions at you since you are here.

Mrs Dunwoody

  570. You would not expect to escape entirely, Lord Macdonald! The Government set up the Strategic Rail Authority because it believed that the industry was in total chaos and needed to be redressed. It has now been operating for some time. Are you disappointed that they have only come up with an agenda and not a real tight plan?
  (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) No, I am encouraged by the largely positive response that the strategic agenda of the SRA got when it was launched yesterday and as I see it in the newspapers this morning and, indeed, most importantly from the Rail Passengers' Council there was a very approving response, as well as positive responses from the train operating companies and indeed from Railtrack itself. I can understand the reasons for delay. There was an extended process in which the Rail Regulator was involved with Railtrack in trying to set the access charges, but I think that now that some greater certainty is coming into the process we look forward to that strategy from the SRA being available in the autumn.

  571. There is no timetable attached to their plans, there is no clear view of how they expect to deal with the problems between Railtrack and investment and since there have been over the last year not one accident but a number of accidents, the general public may not have the same confidence in the future that you do. Can I ask you one very simple question; do you have total confidence in Sir Alastair Morton?
  (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) My confidence in Alastair Morton is, like everyone else's I think, greatly increased by the production of the agenda. It seems to me that Sir Alastair has a great deal of experience in this area. He has been thinking in very innovative ways about how to restructure the industry and that was made clear yesterday. So, yes, I have a great deal of confidence in Sir Alastair and I am glad that he has been able to bring out an agenda which is a tour d'horizon both of why we have got to where we are in the railways and where we might be going next. He has made that very clear in his phrase "don't invest too much emotion" on this agenda that he has just published because he has got a strategy coming out in the autumn.

  Chairman: On that note can I say thank you very much. We would also like to see very firmly a walking strategy as soon as possible. Thank you very much indeed.

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