This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor Mike Rigby (Planning and Transportation)
Report Author: Graeme Thompson, Principal Planning Policy Officer and Sophie Jones, Planning Policy Officer
Graeme Thompson presented his consultation report to the Committee for consideration.
An email had been submitted from the Taunton Area Cycling Campaign (TACC) in support of the Connecting Garden Communities Consultation. This was read out by Cllr Buller as follows: -
“We would like to express our general support for the work in this report. Whilst we may differ on some details, we believe that the work is extremely important in filling the many gaps in SCC's original Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP), which was not integrated with major development sites.
It is also important that the work is embodied in the thinking of the new unitary authority. A mechanism for doing this needs to be agreed. One option would be for it to be a supplement to the LCWIP, which is a DfT recognised document (although not statutory).
We are pleased that TACC's contribution in terms of volunteer time is recognised in the report. To date, we have found the officers' process for developing the active travel network to be open and professional.
We would be grateful if this email could be circulated to the rest of the
Mike Ginger (for Taunton Area Cycling Campaign)”
The Chair acknowledged the letter and asked that
During the debate the following points were raised:
· Officers were commended for the work and collaboration that had gone into the consultation report and the positive outcomes for everyone.
· Sustainable transport needs to start further out in the rural areas and needs to be more than just aspirational, it needs to be delivered! It should also include those communities such as Ruishton that are split by the A358 or the M5 motorway and would benefit from safe travel routes into town.
· How is the network of routes arrived at, when there appear to be some obvious omissions, such as the canal path? This is already a busy walker's route, but the pathways are exceedingly narrow. Could the towpath be widened to accommodate more users?
o The canal is an asset that is owned by the Land and Rivers Trust, so any work would need to be undertaken in partnership, with full consultation with all user groups. Whilst this doesn’t prohibit the work from happening it does prevent challenges that make it unlikely.
o Associated costs would also be considerable. For instance, widening of canal tow paths along the Bridgwater/Taunton canal would be extremely expensive and would have a detrimental impact on other areas of the environment and ecology.
· How is demand determined, in order to understand who wants to travel where?
o The LCWIP is very data led with good historical information about the pathways of travel for usual routes to schools, employment and business. It also uses the existing Local Plan to determine where development will be in the future, and the likely impact this will have on existing routes and networks. This plan is used to negotiate with developers to ensure that they factor this information into their travel plans.
· Cllr Lisgo expressed concern that the Equalities Impact Report indicated that the proposed changes would have a positive outlook for everyone, which may not be the case for those who are reliant on a car. This has been previously demonstrated during the road closures in East Street last year, when disabled vehicles were prohibited from parking in the town centre.
o The Equalities Impact Assessment is working on the premise that the networks will be accessible for all and will deliver on the Government’s priorities, without any user group being disadvantaged.
o This will include wide enough footpaths to accommodate two-way cycling, wheelchairs and pushchairs etc. This consultation report is not about the detail in the design but more about the overall network and connectivity.
Cllr Darch joined the meeting at 7.11pm
· Overall, the impact of the report is good for all users as it will improve air quality for those people who suffer respiratory problems, will reduce congestion by limiting cars, and will make walking and cycling routes safer and more user friendly for those travellers. This will have a positive impact on those who are car reliant as there will be less traffic on the roads, and fewer hazards to negotiate.
· Cllr Darch also made the point that the strategy is enabling for those people who cannot afford to buy or run a motor vehicle as it allows for alternative methods of active travel.
Cllr Ed Firmin left the meeting at 7.15pm
· What work is being done to involve local landowners, promoters, stakeholders and developers etc in the early stages?
o There are different stages of progress dependent on the project, but they are all being approached when plans are submitted.
· There is also a need to negotiate with existing landowners about how to make existing infrastructure safer. For instance, making better use of the underpass by Sainsburys which would assist with bicycle travel into the town centre. There is currently a stile on the footpath, but if the landowner could be persuaded, perhaps a more accessible alternative could be considered?
Cllr John Hassall left the meeting at 7.30pm
· Visitors from outside Taunton need to use vehicles to get to the town centre but are not supported on arrival. Car users and persons with limited mobility still need to rely on the car for essential journeys and this needs to be recognised.
· Will this consultation and report align with strategic priorities from the Dept of Transport and other partners and stakeholders?
o This consultation is NOT a transport strategy as its primary focus is on connecting the garden communities, but it will influence future strategies in such areas as the town centre, leisure and tourism.
o 20mph restrictions and other traffic calming measurescan be considered as part of the overall strategy but it would be down to partners such as SCC and the parishes to embed these measures. This falls outside the remit of this consultation.
o Working with partners such as the SCC Highways Team and outlying parishes is very positive and there is a collaborative approach to delivering the strategy’s aspirations.
o The consultation is designed to tease out some of the community aspirations so that there is a focus on what the parishes prioritise when it comes to funding. The delivery on projects will be costly, so it is important when dealing with limited funds to determine which projects take centre stage, and which are considered less needed.
Cllr Lisgo proposed a recommendation that an additional paragraph is added to the report prior to progress onto the Executive: As routes are developed through the design stages, officers need to revisit the Equalities Impact Assessment and ensure that they are not disadvantaging some of the different groups.
It was agreed by Graeme Thompson that this would be incorporated into the report before the onward path to the Executive.
Prop: Wren / Sec: Coles. Unanimous.