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


Memorandum by the Greater Manchester Pedestrians' Association (WTC 103)

WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES

  1.  The GMPA exists to campaign for a better deal for those on foot throughout the Greater Manchester region. We consider walking is the primary mode of transport and towns and cities where walking is positively encouraged and promoted are generally healthy and attractive places to live and work. Although much of our work is naturally concerned with road safety aspects and the danger, noise and pollution pedestrians face from vehicular traffic, there is another important aspect of our work: "The consideration of planning matters and Rights of Way Orders" as they affect pedestrians.

2.  PLANNING (UDP)

  Local authorities have given increasing importance to the consideration of pedestrian movement over the last few years when drawing up either their District or Unitary Development Plans and the Association has had some input during the consultation/statutory stages of these plans. GMPA's experience and success in this direction means that we shall continue to monitor future stages of these plans and also give attention to more detailed Planning Applications where we consider that these may impinge on the requirements and rights of pedestrians. On occasions, this will involve pro-active work since we may be able to suggest at an early stage the provision of safe and desirable new routes for the benefit of those on foot. Examples may range from rural routes to the convenient and direct urban ways free from hazards and environmental degradation of vehicular traffic. However, when monitoring particular applications, the Association may have no alternative but to react to a given situation—often from private developers—and in such circumstances, the Association will have no hesitation in challenging those applications which may compromise the rights of pedestrians.

3.  PLANNING (FOOTPATHS AND HIGHWAYS)

  Public rights of way come in many forms, from simple rural footpaths, bridleways and green lanes, to handy short-cut urban footpaths leading to bus stops, shops, schools and other utilitarian destinations. And, of course, simple streets and roads can be vital for pedestrians even if the carriageway portion is superseded by new road layout systems. All such public highways are necessary for those who walk whether for leisure, health or out of necessity. Therefore, the GMPA takes particular interest whenever local authorities issue notices of intended closure or diversion of "public highways". These are usually advertised in the local press and the process of closure, if objections are lodged and sustained, can either be on application to the magistrates court or by a public inquiry ordered by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

4.  CONTENTIOUS APPLICATIONS

  The Association's "Footpath and Environment/Planning" section now has some years experience of lodging objections and of appearing in the courts and at public inquiries. We have had some notable successes and satisfactions in the face of unsympathetic local authorities, private developers and landowners who can be apathetic, negative and obstructive when it comes to providing for the rights and needs of those on foot within their scheme.

  We are concerned however, that despite time and effort given to long and costly UDP inquiries, local authorities pay lip service to their own UDP policies. Moreover, Circular 2/93 (ie clearly stating that footpaths should not be put onto estate roads) and PPG 13 are often ignored. Many local cases can be cited here where pedestrians have lost out and now bear the brunt of walking far greater distances to shops, post offices, bus stops, etc and/or alongside dangerous, polluted and noisy main roads.

5.  RELEVANT PROFESSIONALS/GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS, THEIR AGENCIES, HIGHWAYS AGENCY AND LOCAL AUTHORITIES

  In relation to the above paragraphs, we are yet to be convinced that "the professionals" have the appropriate skills and training to bring about change in developing seamless or strategic walking routes—their ideas are simply far too removed and rooted in a "concrete and tyres" mentality of the 60's!

  Similarly, Government Departments including the Highways Agency (ie the pedestrian element v traffic must get through at all costs—(the White City, Trafford/Salford border area fiasco)) must be included here as well as local authorities (three examples quoted from many)—

    (a)  Modwen Road, Salford—The stopping up of this vital short length of road which gave access to the new Metrolink Station "Exchange Quays"—closure opposed by the GMPA but lost in the Magistrates Court.

    (b)  Bus Station, Oldham—Recent proposals to stop up the two pedestrian routes through Oldham Bus Station which gives direct access to the proposed Oldham Metrolink Station (ie part of £500m "big bang" expansion). GMPA objection lodged.

    (c)  Regarding Local Transport Plans and Government insistence on "early" and "effective participation" the GMPA and other groups were not brought into discussions/Draft LTP stage until April 2000—almost a "fait accompli" and this despite earlier requests to be consulted.

6.  FOOTPATH CLOSURES AND CRIME

  One concern for the future is the implementation of certain aspects of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act which relates to the closure of footpaths for reasons of crime. Almost all of these paths have a use and a need, particularly in urban areas. Many are useful short-cuts leading to bus stops, shops, post office, schools etc, whilst some are historic, (ie boundary paths), others may give access to a canal towpath. Whilst amendments may sometimes be negotiable in certain circumstances, the GMPA believe that outright closure is not an option and the Government should recognise this in their plans to encourage walking and healthy initiatives. We believe there should be a moratorium on all footpath closures and when streets/roads are considered redundant their usefulness as a footpath route should always be considered.

7.  NATIONAL STRATEGY/NATIONAL TARGETS

  We believe that national targets should be set and a national strategy should be published (we were disappointed when this was withdrawn from the DETR document "Encouraging Walking: Advice to local authorities"). Linked to the local Health Improvement Programme the collation of data research will prove useful to both Government Departments and local authorities as it will give a more strategic picture for developing/encouraging more people to walk and open up new routes.

  8.  The Association would be willing to provide further information or appear personally before the Select Committee to answer any questions.

Gloria Gaffney
Footpath and Environment Officer

January 2001


 
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