Examination of Witnesses (Questions 560
WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2001
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
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.
562. What is the reason for the delay in publishing
(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
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.
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
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.
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.