Examination of Witness (Questions 380
WEDNESDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2001
380. I welcome you to the committee. Perhaps
you would introduce yourself for the record.
(Mr Deegan) My name is John Deegan, Director of Planning,
Transport and Economic Strategy with Warwickshire County Council.
I am here in my capacity as chairman of the Strategic Planning
and Regeneration Committee of the CSS, formerly known as the County
Surveyors' Society. The CSS has been in existence since 1885.
Historically, it was the professional body for county surveyors
in England, Scotland and Wales. With the merging of engineering
and planning departments with other functions in the 1980s and
1990s its remit has broadened. It now regards itself as the voice
of the directors of planning, transport, waste and the environment
in the UK. Our members cover over 50 per cent of the population,
over 80 per cent of the area and 75 per cent of the road network
in the country.
381. For the record, I know Mr Deegan in his
capacity at Warwickshire County Council because my constituency
is Nuneaton. Mr Deegan, your memorandum seems to imply that walking
should not be increased or encouraged in case the number of casualties
increases. Is that because the CSS is made up mainly of senior
(Mr Deegan) If our memorandum has given the impression
that we do not want to improve the quantity and quality of walking
I can only apologise. That was not intended. Can you point me
to the reference in the document?
382. I cannot point you to the exact reference
but, looking through it, it appears to imply that more people
walking perhaps will encourage more casualties?
(Mr Deegan) That certainly was not the intention.
It is the intention of the memorandum to tell the committee that
we must be realistic about the scope for walking. While walking
continues to be the most important mode of transport for short
journeys under one mile, and has proved over the years consistently
to account for over 80 per cent of such journeys, it must be recognised
that over that distance there are much more limited opportunities
to encourage walking.
383. Does the Society agree with the Urban White
Paper and the Rogers Task Force that to make it easier to walk
is essential for urban renaissance?
(Mr Deegan) I believe that is right. The key issue
is that as average journey lengths have increased over the past
10 to 20 years inevitably fewer journeys are made by walking.
The key reason that journey lengths have increased is to do with
the concentration of facilities through economies of scale and
the removal of small-scale local facilities in both town and country.
As a result, walking has tended to decline. The conclusion to
be drawn from that is that if one wants to look sensibly at the
role of walking in urban regeneration initiatives in parallel
one needs to encourage the repopulation of town and city centres
with people who over the years have tended to migrate to suburban
and rural areas, and also increase the diversity of facilities
that are available locally. If that is done there are opportunities
for people to reach the facilities that they need through walking,
and it is our job to ensure that the quality and quantity of routes
available to them is improved.
384. We have heard from various witnesses today
that perhaps walking and pedestrian activity is far from the mind
of the highway engineer. What instructions and advice do you give
members of your Society that the role of the pedestrian should
be taken into account to a greater extent?
(Mr Deegan) I believe that the statement that engineers
do not give priority to walking activities is incorrect. There
was a significant problem, particularly in the mid-1990s, over
funding of any capital works associated with highways. For example,
in 1996-97 and 1997-98 no capital allocations were made through
the old TPP system to local highway authorities for any minor
works, other than for accident reduction schemes in specified
locations known as "package areas". That meant that
local authorities had very little cash to invest except in highway
maintenance. Obviously, that has caused significant problems in
trying to deliver at a reasonable pace the implementation of the
White Paper on integrated transport published in 1998. Clearly,
that situation has now changed. The fact of the matter is that
we have been resource-constrained for several years and are now
in a transitional period. In my view, local highway authority
engineers have been in the forefront of developing new initiatives
and implementing aspects of the Government's integrated transport
385. Do you believe that local authorities will
pay sufficient attention to walking if there is no national strategy
(Mr Deegan) Local highway authorities clearly are
now expected to produce a local transport plan which will be monitored
in future on an annual basis. The very strong steer that comes
from DETR is towards the implementation of integrated transport
initiatives which embrace walking, cycling, public transport and
also other modes. I believe that over the next two or three years
there will be substantial implementation of those policies now
that the resources are available to do it.
386. You are quite happy that the Government
are providing sufficient resources to be able to achieve those
(Mr Deegan) The resources for the forthcoming year
can only be described as generous.
387. You say that the resources are generous,
but the fact is that about 10 years ago government changed its
policy towards things like out-of-town shopping centres. You say
in you evidence to the committee that there are examples of developments
constructed in the past, some in the past 10 years, which have
been designed primarily for vehicular access and which do not
provide good facilities for pedestrians. Given that, why is it
that the professionals, represented by the CSS which is in the
forefront of changing the perspective in this area, seem to be
swayed more by the general culture which places great emphasis
on car travel than the need substantially to change the design
of new developments?
(Mr Deegan) A lot of the developments which have occurred
in recent years are perhaps hangovers from a previous view of
the balance of in-town and out-of-town developments. I suppose
that it is only with the production of PPG 3 and its sequential
tests two or three years ago that we have moved very significantly
to block out-of-town developments. One can think of, for example,
the new regional shopping development in Kent, Blue Water, which
opened in about 1999 but was clearly a hangover from a planning
commitment of some years before. There is a time lag in these
matters. Having recognised that, I believe that we are now taking
forward an integrated strategy which promotes urban renaissance
and the protection of the countryside.
388. But for 10 years politicians at the top,
including the former Secretary of State Mr Gummer who was perhaps
most closely associated with the change in policy, have been sending
out a different signal. You as local engineers claim that you
are the ones who have been able to implement all of this, yet
you have still been influenced by what you call the general culture
which places great emphasis on car travel. All the evidence that
we have received indicates that bodies like yours which represent
the professionals believe that their members have sufficient skills
to encourage walking?
(Mr Deegan) I do not suggest that my Society or other
professional organisations are the only people who have the skills
to deliver walking. Clearly, that is untrue and it would be arrogant
for any such society to say so. There is a big issue about continuing
training for local authority staff, other professional staff and
the public at large, as we say in our memorandum. If one looks
at the capability to deliver integrated transport solutions one
needs to look at things like the TPP and, more recently, the local
transport plan settlements agreed by DETR. I have not brought
the national statistics with me, but I have looked back 10 years
at my own authority's capital allocation. The allocation in 1998-99
for capital works covering all highways and transport measures
was some 25 per cent less than the allocation in 1991-92. In reality
it meant that, aside from commitments in terms of maintenance
of assetsthe structure of principal roadsand specific
allocations made to reduce accidents, there was very little cash
to spare for investment in anything else. In 1997-98 and 1998-99
my own authority was not allowed a single penny of capital spending
to go on what might be described as integrated transport, including
walking, other than a small amount in one part of my county known
as a "package area". In 1999-2000 there was a small
allocation for integrated transport works, and we have used some
of that in Mr Olner's constituency. Obviously, for the current
year and next year there are very significant increases in the
allocations available to us. That is when one will begin to see
things happen on the ground.
389. Do you agree that to a degree to try to
promote walking within your profession is rather like pushing
water up hill? Is that not why all these matters have been relegated
to junior, or less important, personnel?
(Mr Deegan) I do not believe that it is true to say
that these matters have been relegated to junior personnel; nor
is it true to say that in some sense walking is at the bottom
of the hierarchy, which is the implication of your question. The
fact is that local highway authority engineers now clearly understand
that national transport policy is geared towards the implementation
of integrated transport strategies for local areas, which necessarily
involves a much wider range of skills than has historically been
the case with the design and construction of new roads or the
maintenance of the existing fabric.
390. But that study fails the reality test,
does it not? Which results in greater kudos for a member of your
profession: a major road scheme like the Hastings bypassto
name one that is in this morning's newsor sorting out some
pavements? At the end of the day, it will be the major road schemes
that attract the high-flyers and most talented people in your
profession every time?
(Mr Deegan) That is not so. This morning Birmingham
has been quoted. I quote it again. It seems to me that a very
significant element of Birmingham's urban regeneration has been
the creation of superb quality environments for pedestrians in
the city centre, and linking that to Broad Street and the ICC.
That has attracted huge international interest.
391. It may have attracted huge international
interest, but the people of Birmingham said that they wanted 9
per cent of the highways budget spent on pedestrian areas, whereas
in reality only 1 per cent was spent. Is that not an illustration
of the fact that, in spite of it being very popular, highway engineers
and councillors in Birmingham do not give walking that degree
(Mr Deegan) Obviously, I do not know Birmingham's
details and would hesitate to become involved in the details of
its budget allocations. I can only say that in relation to our
budget allocations the predominant capital expenditure will go
on the maintenance of the existing fabric, whether it is the maintenance
of roads, street lighting or other facilities of that nature.
Inevitably, we give that priority, and it is right to do so. I
am not sure that it is particularly helpful to talk in terms of
budget percentages in that way.
392. While we are talking about highway engineers,
do you believe that guard railings and staggered crossings are
necessary for pedestrian safety?
(Mr Deegan) I believe that that was the advice given
to local authorities by DETR in its Note 295.
393. Is there any research evidence to show
that it is necessary for the safety of pedestrians, or do you
and other engineers simply say that when a scheme is introduced
it will require railings and the crossing will be staggered?
(Mr Deegan) With respect, it is not quite so straightforward.
The advice from DETR is that in some circumstances it is appropriate
to have staggered crossings, for example where there is a wide
carriageway, or dual carriageway, and there may be significant
risks to pedestrians from through traffic in that they are perhaps
unable to see the full width of road.
394. But is there any evidence of that?
(Mr Deegan) I cannot comment. I can only assume that
in producing Note 295 the DETR based it on adequate evidence.
395. What touching faith in central government!
You work for local government and you are asked to give a view
on an issue but hide behind the Government's advice note without
offering a professional opinion of your own?
(Mr Deegan) I do not know what the evidence is. I
do not hide behind the note. You will appreciate that local government
and the DETR do not always agree on many matters. In terms of
the advice that is given in relation to highway design, it is
my general experience that the advice given by DETR is to a good
professional standard, but I cannot comment specifically on the
evidence which lies behind that note.
396. Why are railings and staggered crossings
not used on the continent?
(Mr Deegan) I do not know the answer to that. To be
clear, we are not defenders of staggered crossings and railings
as the ideal form of pedestrian crossing.
397. What is the ideal form?
(Mr Deegan) My view, which I expect to be shared by
my colleagues, is that ideally pedestrian crossings should be
at grade without any interference or hindrance to the desire line
or pattern of preferred movement across the road. Inevitably,
if one is talking of urban centres of any size at all, it is probable
that to deliver that one must either close a road or sink it below
its existing level. That can be hugely expensive and, therefore,
highway authorities will necessarily make compromises between
cost and access for vehicles and pedestrians.
398. All I seek to establish is that the other
cost is the extra impediment faced by the pedestrian?
(Mr Deegan) Yes.
399. Where does the responsibility lie for our
being so far behind best practice on the continent in planning
for pedestrianswith the institutions or government?
(Mr Deegan) We have said in our evidence that generally
there is a culture of car dominance in the country, which does
not affect the professions any more than any other group. I believe
that one of the key reasons why we are not as advanced as I should
like is that there is an absence of an effective pedestrians'
lobby in this country. I do not say that with any intended disrespect
to the Pedestrians Association, which I know well and have worked
with for some time. The fact of the matter is that pedestrians
do not have the same lobby as for other modes of transport, whether
they be producer lobbies as in rail or bus operators, or user
groups such as cyclists. I believe that one of the ways to achieve
that is by the creation of a national walking forum.