Examination of Witnesses (Questions 540
WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2001
540. Would you accept that part of the problem
is that a lot of people, a lot of us, have built life-styles on
particular forms of transport and it is the lifestyles that determines
it, you referred to people having to have their cars to get to
work. Let us take a practical example, people who go for a weekly
shop to the supermarket, for picking the food you do not need
a car but to get it home you do. I am interested in the extent
to which the two bits of Department could link together on this.
For example, why could the Government not say in relation to new
supermarket developmentsI am not talking about out of town"You
can have it, provided you offer to every shopper a home delivery
service, which means they can walk to and from it, pick their
food, go home and then the food would be delivered later and they
would not have to take their car". Is that not an example
of the kind of way in which if the Department links together we
can address people's lifestyle needs, which can then give them
a greater choice about the mode of transport they pick for a particular
(Ms Hughes) I agree with you about that. I do not
think at the moment in law we can require supermarkets to offer
a home delivery service, it does not fall within what would be
material planning consideration. There are other means by which
we can prevent that. I agree, in terms of the general point you
are making. I am very concerned about promoting walking from a
whole variety of points of view, in terms of protecting and enhancing
our town centres and in terms of helping the process of regeneration
of disadvantaged communities, in particular walking is a key issue,
and the extent to which through transport policies and urban and
regeneration policies and planning policies we can integrate and
create a fit that is going in that direction. That is very important.
Many of the things we are trying to do in terms of developing
town centres and city centres depend on creating a kind of policy
environment in which walking is going to be the first choice and,
therefore, walking itself is of fundamental importance to getting
the most out of the kind of policies that we are trying to help
local authorities to pursue. There is a kind of reciprocal relationship
really. We also need to encourage walking to actually get the
maximum in terms of regeneration and sustainability of our towns
541. I recognise we could not do that under
the current planning regulations, but planning regulations develop
over time to meet, broadly, social objectives. There is a clear
fit between planning and transport here. Do you think that as
a practical example is one that we might need to consider in the
future in certain circumstances in order to try and do something
about the issue which is the subject of this inquiry.
(Ms Hughes) We are trying do that and we are willing
to look at any other additional measures or any other additional
means by which we can support what we are trying to do across
planning urban policy regeneration and transport. I think there
is a real reciprocal relationship here. Walking is a good thing
and we want our policy to promote it. If we can get people walking
more we are going to get more out of those policies, more benefit
to people in towns and cities than we would otherwise.
542. And yet would you not accept that if it
is about giving people the choice which allows them to pick a
different mode of transport, we have to make sure that we offer
choice rather than just encouragement?
(Ms Hughes) We do. We have to offer not only choice
but in order to make walking the choice we have to pay attention
to the kind of factors that deter people from walking at the moment;
street paving and the quality of pavements, the sense with which
people feel a degree of safety and security, the attractiveness
of the environment, the ease with which they as pedestrians can
move about that environment. I am quite encouraged in some of
our cities where we are seeing the development of a great deal
of practised wisdom about how to do that better. I know Manchester
very well and Leeds too, but in the smaller towns we are also
seeing that and we do need to promote it. There are signs that
it is not just about transport and transport money, there is a
whole raft of environmental streetscape issues at that level that
we need to pay attention to because that will encourage
Chairman: I am getting rather conscious that
if we are going to complete all the issues we want to raise we
need slightly shorter answers. Anne McIntosh?
543. In its staggered pedestrian crossing memo
the Department said this: "A straight crossing, even with
a central refuge, is legally a single crossing. A staggered crossing
is two separate crossings." Why, Minister, do we need two
separate crossings when one will do? And why do we have guard
rails to the extent we have in this country when nobody else in
the world seems to have them and how much do they cost when they
appear to be the biggest barrier to pedestrians? As to safety
of pedestrians, I will be very honest with you, Chairman, I tend
to walk round them or over them rather than waiting where I should
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Do not let me catch
you at it!
544. Stand outside the House of Commons and
watch every Member of Parliament cross diagonally to avoid the
staggered crossing between here and Millbank.
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) We can all join together
in my campaign to get Ministers to belt up in the back of their
545. We would prefer to see Ministers walking!
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) If I can say, Chairman,
you can see some instances where it does seem sensible given the
traffic flow (and you mentioned Whitehall, where you can see very
large groups of people and a very wide street) to stop at the
middle, regroup, and wait for the next change of lights as we
do at present. On the other hand, I think obviously the evidence
in this area is pointing people more towards the straight crossing
rather than the broken, staggered crossing. I think that is the
way that we are beginning to work, moving again from the pelican-style
crossings to the puffin-style crossings as well.
546. Could you explain what a puffin crossing
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) A puffin crossing is
a pedestrian, user-friendly, intelligent, light-controlled crossing,
if you wish to get into the acronym. It is a different phasing
of the lights. There is no flashing amber signal on a puffin crossing
and the green man phase for pedestrians, after which the traffic
lights remain at red while the pedestrians complete their crossing,
is being detected by a sensor, so it is a more sophisticated form.
547. Which Ministers in your Departments are
involved in whether we have puffins or pelicans?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Certainly our transport
Ministers and Lord Whitty.
548. That comes as a considerable surprise to
the Committee. Who is going to make their entire political career
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) It is something that
comes under Lord Whitty with his jurisdiction for roads but we
are a very joined-up Government so I would not be surprised if
there were not many more of us involved.
549. If you are a joined-up Government why do
you not know which other Ministers are involved? The Minister
spoke to us very recently about the importance of walking for
a whole raft of reasons and you are one department. What is the
point of having responsibility for a number of areas if you do
not use it when you are looking in this case at walking? Which
Ministers other than transport Ministers are involved in the issue
of what kinds of crossings are there? If you want to encourage
walking around there is great relevance to what kind of crossing
you use, whether it is pleasant, let alone safe, for pedestrians
to walk within cities. Who is responsible for that and monitoring
the effectiveness of that?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Lord Whitty.
550. Who does he talk to?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) He talks to me. He is
the Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department. He is responsible
for roads and for road safety, but I am involved in road safety
too. I was addressing the ROSPA conference on child safety on
roads in Glasgow on Monday but Lord Whitty was the Minister who
took through our document on road safety which was published a
year ago this month, but of course the information that we have
available is available to the other Ministers involved in the
planning of urban regeneration sites
551. What I am trying to establish is how is
this dealt with at a practical level? If we move away from the
grand plans and policy and 10-year plans and relate it to regenerating
an individual city and making it pleasant and easy and safe for
people to walk around, which Ministers, if any, are looking at
the impact of what type of crossings operate in a given area and
whether it is easy and pleasant and encouraging for pedestrians
to walk in the given area? Which Ministers are looking at the
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Lord Whitty generally
across England. It could be the Minister for London, Keith Hill,
if it is London. I would certainly be involved. Mrs Hughes would
be very much involved from a regeneration point of view.
552. Could it be explained how this is monitored,
if it is monitored, at a very local level? If the Department is
looking at regenerating cities and encouraging walking,, who is
it who is looking at the impact of pelican crossings, puffin crossings,
cattle-pens and all of that, on encouraging people to walk around
in cities safely and pleasurably?
(Ms Hughes) I think, as my honourable friend will
know because she has been the leader of a very large local authority,
the transport sections of local authorities themselves will be
looking at this in relation to what is happening in their own
individual areas. Our Department through the Highways Agency,
the Civil Service and up to Ministers will be collating the experience
of local authorities across the country in terms of any issues
arising, but it is at the local level that both the information
and also the decisions about the best solutions in any individual
circumstances regarding crossings are made.
553. What lessons have been learnt by Ministers
from collating information on this? Have they changed the guidance
or attempted increased guidance in some areas?
(Ms Hughes) That is in progress at the moment, Chairman.
554. When will it be completed?
(Ms Hughes) It is an on-going thing in terms of the
information local authorities send us through their local transport
plans and how those plans are being implemented and issues arising
from decisions taken, for example about one form of crossing or
another, and if there were a sufficient groundswell of information
about a particular issue coming forward then we would act on it.
555. Do the Ministers have to give permissions
before certain crossings are put in place?
(Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) What we have got at
the moment is guidance through local transport notes of 1/95 and
2/95 and that guidance still stands, but it is being supplemented
to take account of, for instance, these puffin-like crossings.
556. You have a choice in the Department as
to whether you approve a pelican or a puffin?
(Mr Whybrow) No, Chairman. The local authority is
free to install a pelican crossing. At the moment it needs a special
authorisation to install a puffin crossing. When the next edition
of traffic signs regulations comes out puffins will be prescribed
crossings and local authorities will be able to install them without
reference to us in accordance with the regulations.
557. When will the regulations come out?
(Mr Whybrow) I think later this year.
558. Notwithstanding the efforts (and I recognise
there are big efforts going into urban regeneration in specific
targeted areas) across the broad panoply of local authority work
in any town, should there not be a requirement for the local development
plan to have land use so that facilities which people will use
can be accessed by walking?
(Ms Hughes) I think this is a matter for the local
authorities. They consider a whole variety of issues, my learned
friend will know, in developing and finalising their local plan.
That is one issue that we see coming across in many of the development
plans, but also in more specific local plans, particularly those
that are focused on regeneration of town centres.
559. The planning inspectors view local development
plans at some stage and the public have a good input to them,
or ought to have. They are given the authority's views on matters
to begin with, that is where we are, so should local transport
schemes be supported or withheld around policies, including parking,
ie inconsistent with transport objectives? This might seem to
you a little draconian, but if what is happening on the ground
is inconsistent with the objectives which are required could there
be something done about it, because it does not seem to be the
case. If they do not get it right, they do not get it right and
all of the people in the town might suffer.
(Ms Hughes) I really do not quite understand the main