Memorandum by Sandwell Health Authority
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
I am concerned that walking may still not attract
the resources it deserves at local level because of the inertia
of the local authority system.
As part of the West Midlands Local Transport
Plan process, each of the seven districts devised their own methods
of public consultation. Only Birmingham and Coventry used questionnaires
that invited members of the public to apportion the overall transport
budget among the various areas of expenditure.
Birmingham employed independent consultants
to devise their questionnaire. The 2,000 respondents thought that
an average of nine per cent of the budget should be spent on schemes
specifically to encourage walking (as opposed to safety schemes,
highway maintenance or five other categories). The proposed level
of spend on walking in the Provisional LTP was less than one per
cent. However the Council Officers' report to committee on the
consultation failed to highlight the contradictions with the Provisional
LTP. It was only when environmental and health lobbyists brought
the contradiction to the attention of key Councillors that the
proposed levels of expenditure were substantially changed.
The categories used in Coventry were slightly
different from those used in Birmingham, but again levels of support
for walking (and cycling) were much higher than in previously
proposed budgets. In the other districts no similar quantification
of support was made, with the result that Council Officers were
more easily able to justify continuing the status quo. The whole
LTP process was characterised by much greater consultation about
wording than about numbers, the real measure of financial priorities.
I am convinced that if a similar exercise were
undertaken nationwide, the majority of the UK population would
be surprised at how little funding is allocated specifically to
walking, and that they would support a transfer of resources from
the areas of expenditure which most transport planners and engineers
seem to find more "glamorous".
I suggest that Council transport planners and
engineers should not conduct and report on such public opinion
surveys about transport expenditure. Independent consultants should
be commissioned to conduct the survey and report on the results.
Alternatively it may be an appropriate role for Council Local
Agenda 21 teams, who have a greater interest in maximising public
participation and less interest in ensuring that the results endorse
their existing plans.
Walking & Cycling for Health Development