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

Memorandum by the Federation of Sussex Amenity Societies (WTC 47)


  By the nature of its constituency, which derives from market towns and villages across East and West Sussex, the Federation cannot speak from direct experience of conditions in larger towns and cities. Nevertheless the changes in attitude to walking over the past 25 years has had a universally detrimental impact upon communities throughout East and West Sussex.


  2.  We believe the contribution made by walking to Urban Renaissance, healthy living and reducing dependence on cars is fundamental and vital. We note from evidence summarised for Cm 3950 that a quarter of all journeys are now under two miles in length. Depending upon the circumstances of individuals it is not unrealistic to expect that, with appropriate encouragement, a significant proportion of such journeys could be made on foot. The essence of urban renaissance is to recreate urban settings more compactly, thereby reducing the need and the incentive to use cars and buses within them. The benefits of walking to human health are well-documented and undisputed.


  3.  The decline in walking stems from several causes. In the country the proliferation of "rat runs" in country lanes around villages and larger settlements has made use of them by pedestrians, the elderly and children especially, practically impossible. The almost total absence of footways, coupled with the steady deterioration in the maintenance of highway verges where they exist, has made many unclassified roads too hazardous for pedestrians to use at all.

  4.  Furthermore the increased probability of pedestrians being mugged, especially at night, is another powerful disincentive for many people. In towns we can only echo the comment made in Lord Rogers' Report "Towards an Urban Renaissance" at page 65: "in many parts of urban England walking is a dreadful experience".

  5.  The clutter of parked cars which corral pedestrians on pavements which are too narrow and frequently in poor repair; the hazard of crossing streets with young children; the reek of exhaust fumes when vehicles make intermittent progress on congested roads; these are but a few of the disbenefits for pedestrians which are now commonplace.

  6.  Of all obstacles which discourage walking, vehicular traffic dominates the scene in towns and villages alike. In those places where pedestrianisation is not practical a bigger investment in traffic management, by installing pelican crossings and refuges, is called for to restore confidence. However we recognise this is only a palliative.

  7.  Extension of towns on lines which were all too common before PPG3 was revised in March 2000 has resulted in substantial housing development mostly without shopping facilities, medical practices and schools within walking distance and, almost without exception, lacking reliable public transport. Families find themselves marooned without a car.

  8.  Cm 3950 at Chapter 3 (Making it Easier to Walk, Streets for People, Living Town Centres) provides prescriptions for change but, in our experience, there is little to show in practice since the document was published two and a half years ago.


  9.  One measure which is most likely to encourage walking is the pedestrianisation of town centres, coupled with better public transport facilities, to bring people close to the outer limits of them. Some of our constituent societies have worked closely with local authorities to achieve this rationalisation. So far as we know no scheme has failed, some have been an outstanding success.

  10.  At least one, in which Horsham Society was involved closely, was recognised as being so successful that it was the subject of Traffic Advisory Leaflet 2/92 published by the Department of Transport to demonstrate its advantages. In this case, of the five alternatives exposed for public debate, one which had been canvassed widely by the Society years before was recognised to be the most practical and cost effective solution.

  11.  The more extensive scheme at Chichester, covering as it does the heart of the city, is no less successful.

  12.  In both places the benefits to the community have been dramatic, because the tranquillity of the streets has been restored to the benefit of pedestrians and traders alike.

  13.  These are two limited examples only. Each place is unique, presenting its own problems and solutions, but we believe the following principles can be applied universally:

    —  to restore to town and village centres the hub of the community where vehicles have destroyed it;

    —  to restrict access by vehicles to essential servicing only;

    —  to create the maximum area from which vehicles should be proscribed completely, thereby releasing as much space as possible for activities compatible with movement by pedestrians only;

    —  to enhance the environment within the space enclosed by the outer limits with live and hard landscaping, complemented with well designed street furniture to harmonise with the built environment.


  14.  We are doubtful whether all the relevant professionals have the appropriate skills and training. Although we sense that some are shifting their ground there is still ample evidence that a culture change is necessary, especially on the part of highway engineers, some of whom remain blinkered in their attitudes.


  15.  To promote walking Government Departments have disseminated recommendations and policies already. These are on the right lines, but there is a gap between the statements of principle and practical application locally.

  16.  Funding is a problem unless undertaken with commercial development when planning gain is a feature of planning negotiations, because pedestrianisation in particular is a costly undertaking in older (18-19 century) urban centres where complex issues of re-routing drainage and services arise.

  17.  We cannot say how budgeting profiles should be modified to take account of these contingencies. Nevertheless there is no doubt that creating a pedestrianised centre in any established town or village centre necessitates major road and accommodation works to handle revised traffic flows.

  18.  If these cannot be funded by means of planning gain in the course of negotiations with the developers involved the present profile of grants for highway works may need to be reviewed.


  19.  We are doubtful about setting national targets and a National Strategy, except perhaps by recommending the application of general principles such as those summarised at paragraph 13 above. These have the merits of restoring tranquillity to areas where people congregate in greatest numbers, improving the quality of the environment and providing a direct incentive to set aside the slavish dependence upon "door to door" use of private transport.

D G Kemp
January 2001

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