|Adam Price AC|
|David J. Rowlands AC|
|Joyce Watson AC|
|Lee Waters AC|
|Mark Isherwood AC|
|Russell George AC||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Vikki Howells AC|
|Mark Farrar||Cyfarwyddwr Cynllunio, The Urbanists Ltd (Yn cynrychioli y Sefydliad Cynllunio Trefol Brenhinol (RTPI) Cymru)|
|Planning Director, The Urbanists Ltd (Representing Royal Town Planning Institute Cymru)|
|Martin Buckle||Ymgynghorydd Cynllunio, Trafnidiaeth ac Adfywio Annibynnol / Cadeirydd, Fforwm Cynllunio Polisi ac Ymchwil Cymru|
|Independent Planning, Transport and Regeneration Consultant / Chair, Wales Planning Policy and Research Forum|
|Rachel Maycock||Rheolwr Cymru, Living Streets|
|Wales Manager, Living Streets|
|Robert Jones||Cynllunydd Trafnidiaeth Cyswllt gyda WSP Consultants, Aelod o Gymdeithas Ymgynghoriaeth a Pheirianneg Cymru (ACE)|
|Associate Transport Planner with WSP Consultants, ACE Member|
|Ryland Jones||Pennaeth Amgylchedd Adeiledig, Sustrans Cymru|
|Head of Built Environment, Sustrans Cymru|
|Simon Shouler||Rheolwr y Gymdeithas Ymgynghoriaeth a Pheirianneg (ACE) yng Nghymru, ACE Cymru Wales|
|Association for Consultancy and Engineering Cymru Wales Manager, ACE Cymru Wales|
|Steve Brooks||Cyfarwyddwr Cenedlaethol, Sustrans Cymru|
|National Director, Sustrans Cymru|
|Abigail Phillips||Ail Glerc|
|Robert Lloyd-Williams||Dirprwy Glerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Ymgyrchwyr—Deddf Teithio Llesol (Cymru) 2013—Craffu ar ôl Deddfu||2. Campaigners—Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013—Post-Legislative Scrutiny|
|3. Amgylchedd adeiledig—Deddf Teithio Llesol (Cymru) 2013—Craffu ar ôl Deddfu||3. Built environment—Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013—Post-Legislative Scrutiny|
|4. Papurau i'w nodi||4. Papers to note|
|5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod||5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:31.
The meeting began at 09:31.
I'd like to welcome Members and members of the public to the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee this morning. I move to item 1. We have no apologies. Can I ask if there are any declarations of interest?
Yes. For the sake of transparency, I'd like to declare I'm the chair of the cross-party group on active travel and I'm a former director of Sustrans Cymru.
Lovely. Thank you, Lee. Any other declarations of interest? No, I see no one.
In that case, I move to item 2, and this is the first session in our active travel post-legislative scrutiny, following on from the Act in 2013. I'd like to welcome members of the panel this morning to provide us with views and evidence, and I'd be grateful if you could just introduce yourselves for the record. If I start from my left.
Yes. Rachel Maycock, I'm the Wales manager at Living Streets Cymru.
I'm Steve Brooks, the national director for Sustrans Cymru.
I'm Ryland Jones. I'm head of built environment at Sustrans Cymru.
Right, great. I'll ask the first question, then. Has the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 worked?
I think it's a very broad question. I think, overall, there's parts of it that we're pleased with in terms of the progress that's been made, and then there's parts of it where we've got concerns.
I think, broadly, it's caveated in that way across different aspects of the Act. I think, broadly—I think Rachel would probably agree with this—where there has been progress that has been made, it has largely been against the letter of the Act rather than the spirit of the Act. So, I noticed Lee's tweet this morning saying he'd given evidence to this committee 10 years ago about the need for an Act. I think a lot of the conversation that happened 10 years ago about what the Act could accomplish, I think those kinds of hopes and ambitions probably haven't been realised.
Tell us about then—. It was a wide question. So, tell us about what you think the Act hasn't achieved that it promised to achieve.
So, one of the key objectives of the Act, which is around the mapping process, I think it's fair to say—and obviously the Cabinet Secretary made an announcement at the end of last week in terms of where the Government was accepting or declining various local authority integrated network maps—I think, by and large, with one or two notable exceptions, the maps have literally just been maps, and I think 10 years ago, when we were all talking about this, there was an expectation that the maps could be more than a map.
So, ideally, existing route-maps and integrated network maps should be a way for a local authority to really think strategically about the role of walking and cycling in its long-term ambitions and to site it alongside other things like your local authority transport strategy or your corporate plan/programme for government and your LDP. It's in that kind of suite of documents. And I think probably what we've seen overall is local authorities perhaps seeing this as just a compliance exercise, that they must produce a map, which just basically maps out routes, rather than a document that captures ambition.
Can I add to that, perhaps? Would that be helpful?
I think, really, we've left it down to chance, whether it's been implemented in any sense of the spirit of the Act. The letter of the Act is to produce these maps and I think we need to look at that in a little bit more detail, as to what these maps are for, who they're meant to be used by and whether they're actually promoting walking and cycling where people are living and not just the main routes.
I think, in terms of whether the Act has been implemented, it's fair to say that most people haven't felt a difference since 2013 when the Act was passed. I think this committee, with input probably from others, need to think about whether we're happy passing legislation in the Senedd that is left down to chance whether people are actually going to feel that impact. It's not just about funding; it is about leadership as well.
If you want to dig into a few more details, that's going to be very helpful through the session, but I think, overall, we need to say that this hasn't been a successful Act. It hasn't linked into other pieces of legislation successfully. We wrote, for example, when the future generations indicators were being decided, and active travel was suggested as a national indicator, but it wasn't put in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. Similarly with planning, I know we're going to have an opportunity going forward for some of these things, but a couple of things have gone past as opportunities and they've been missed when it comes to promoting and making sure that active travel is a national piece of legislation.
Okay. Thank you, Rachel. And there are quite a few things you've said there that I won't ask questions on because I know other Members want to dig into some more detail on them. In terms of what the Act promised and hasn't delivered, perhaps, Ryland, if you—.
Sure. I think, as we've said, the focus really up to now has been very much on process and the local authorities have very much gone through a cycle of the existing route-maps and the integrated network maps and they've reached the end of that first cycle. So, they would probably argue that they've done the job in terms of going through those basic functions and it's now a case of how that's rolled out. But I think because that was always meant to be set in the context of a 15-year strategy, and very much a vision as to how that network integrated with other transport modes in the authorities, and their wider visions and aspirations for transport, that, I think, has largely not been met yet. It remains to be seen if what will happen now will be a hiatus until the next three-year cycle or if there will be some genuine progress. I think our evidence on that at the moment is that it's probably very patchy. Some authorities are probably quite focused, but because there seems to have been generally a limited buy-in at a senior level, it's been left very much to junior officers to deliver the process. So, there remains a question mark about the commitment of local authorities, at a senior level, to be able to really push this forward strategically.
I think you've all seen our survey results that we've carried out as a piece of work as a committee, and some focus work that's been done with some focus groups. Are there any comments on our survey results and are they in line with what you would expect to have been found, and are they line with any work you've done with regard to your own surveys?
It rings true for us as well in terms of what we're hearing. It would have been nice if the level of consultation that this committee did for this hearing was reflected in the level of consultation that local authorities did on the maps, for example.
I hope you come on to consultation as a point because it's something that Living Streets has talked about for a number of years. Meaningful co-production is not something that is built into the Act at the moment, and I think when we revise the Act in a couple of years, we really need to look at that. The impact on the ground: people might not even know the Act exists. They might not see a cycle track or an improvement for walking in their area. It's been a paper exercise up until this point, so I'm not surprised that you got those findings. It's the same for us.
I think, again, your survey backs up the kind of findings that we've had. We have a programme of work called Bike Life, which is funded by the Freshfield Foundation and basically looks at cycling conditions in seven UK cities. It's inspired by the Copenhagen bicycle account. The headline from that is essentially safety. I think people are concerned about how safe it is to cycle. I've always said that a local authority's network is only as good as its worst bits. If you don't have a door-to-door safe route, then even a small gap within that that is a bit hairy to tackle becomes a barrier for a lot of people. I think one of the problems that we've seen with investment over the last few years, and one of the effects of the way Government has funded this stuff over the last few years, is that because it's so piecemeal, local authorities can only do a little bit here and a little bit there, so that sense of having a safe, convenient, accessible network across a local authority area isn't there, so it's no surprise that your survey found issues around safety as a primary concern.
Can I just mention, on safety, that speed limits are now in the purview of this Chamber—of this house, building or whatever we're in, and not this particular chamber? Speed limits came to Wales in the Wales Act that just got passed, so that isn't just about keeping speed limits at the top end down. That is potentially about addressing some of those concerns and making speed limits safe for walking and cycling in urban areas. We've campaigned together over a number of years for 20 mph to be the safe limit where people are living, going about their business, going to school. And that's something that this Senedd could look at more seriously.
Yes, that will be part of what we look at in a separate inquiry, actually, as well, so—
Invite us along. [Laughter.]
We will invite you for comment, yes, absolutely.
Right, Members have got some specific subject areas now to cover in a bit more detail. I'll come to Lee Waters first.
Thank you. Can I just first of all ask Rachel Maycock to elaborate on her point that she thinks the Act has been left to chance to be implemented?
We haven't had consistent leadership, either in Welsh Government or really from local authorities. It has been left to individual good officers, who I think have to be commended for the work and vision that they have shown as low-down officers in local authorities to really see the spirit of the Act make a difference where they're working.
The schools programme is probably quite a good example, and this is in no way critical of the people delivering it, because they're doing an amazing job, and the response from schools is really positive, but we've got over 1,500 schools in Wales and there are about 100 schools getting any sort of significant support funded because of the Welsh active travel Act. I just don't think that's good enough, quite frankly. It's down to headteachers who might have a vision or officers who might have a vision, but ultimately it's not down to the Welsh Government setting a standard or saying that this is required. I know that that wasn't built in at the start. We've got guidelines instead of requirements, and the design guidance is probably a good example of that. If you look at consultation, there were a couple of things mentioned as ideal best practice forms of consultation, including taking people to where they live and walk and shop and actually audit the routes that they're doing. I don't know of any local authorities that did that in the process of those maps. So, that was completely left down to chance.
Where the schools are engaged, again, it's completely down to chance as to whether the schools were open to that, whether the local authorities were open to that. It wasn't a requirement set here. I think that if we were looking at Welsh Government policy just for a minute, the twenty first century schools programme, the rail franchise—it's only because we have been bringing it up tirelessly, and again and again banging our heads against the brick wall that active travel needs to be considered there, that the Welsh Government has tied these threads together and is now looking at how the rail franchise can promote active travel and how the twenty-first century schools plans that get approved promote active travel, because band A—any plans that I've seen do not promote active travel; they bring buses right to the door. So, that opportunity's been and gone and it was left to chance.
I'm sorry that that sounds quite critical. I'm not saying that all opportunities have been missed, but, by and large, it hasn't been a requirement. It's been a, 'Oh yeah, maybe that makes sense.'
So, I'd like to ask about the mapping process. There were two maps required under the Act: an existing network map, to see what's already there so people would know what routes there are; and then the individual network map, a future map of what should be put there for the next 15 years to link up trip generators. The Government said last week that four of them, I think, have been sent back: must do better. Of the ones that were accepted, how many of them, do you think, properly engaged in the spirit of that second map, of linking up what they call trip generators, so you're putting in an aspirational network over a long time to make people do the everyday trips that they could potentially do?
Okay. Well, obviously, while we've not seen the final submissions in full, so it's hard to give a definitive figure, I think it's fair to say that, from the consultations that we were involved in, particularly with the integrated network maps, there are a number that I think have probably passed that I still think may not meet the aspiration of really understanding the vision of what they're trying to achieve with it and really seeing genuine link-up between trip generation and destination points. So, I think it does depend to some extent on the standard that you want to apply to the mapping. In absolute terms, there isn't a specific bar that's been set, initially. There's been independent analysis, I know, by Dr John Parkin on the maps, and presumably he's applied a form of quality standard to what he's passed and failed. But our view would be that the measure needs to be, 'Are we really seeing the right schemes coming forward for funding?' The prioritisation has been fairly simplistic in terms of short, medium and long term, and we would have liked to have seen perhaps more of a sort of numeric prioritisation, which might have given a better idea of how impactful the routes might be.
So, the more high-quality maps, we would say, are more comprehensive in terms of the routes, and, obviously, the poor ones less so. But the extent to which that will actually impact on people's journeys and ability to undertake them is questionable and really will depend on the roll-out now.
Can I add to that, quickly? I think it comes back to who these maps are for, and I think that's quite unclear in a lot of places. If these maps are meant for people to access and find out about walking and cycling routes in their area, that's not what we've just spent three years producing. If it's an engineering exercise, then maybe some areas have done that. I was going to make another point—what was it? Yes, in terms of whether these maps are going to achieve the vision in 15 years, the existing route map that was an amendment to the Act originally—they were going to do integrated maps, and then they realised that they didn't have a set of existing route maps. Anecdotally—and things that we've seen and been involved with in terms of local authority engagement—we know that routes were taken off those existing routes. So, these integrated routes were almost designed to fail in the first place. If you find a map—the active travel map where you live or where you work—they don't have all of the routes on them. They don't.
We've had evidence from Pembrokeshire County Council on that, which said there was a tension at local authority level between the planners, who wanted a full network of routes, and engineers, who wanted to fail the routes that didn't meet the design standards, which is ironic because the design standards were brought in to try and raise levels, not the unintended consequence of actually denuding the map of the existing routes.
If you look at really highly populated areas, like Whitchurch, for example, there's one route that goes on the main road. That is not the active travel map for Whitchurch. I don't live there; I live in Grangetown. It's probably about the same in Grangetown. There's one route—it's the Taff Trail—in Grangetown. Those aren't the active travel routes that people are using in Grangetown.
Can I just ask a final question on that? In terms of challenge, it's interesting that Cardiff Council, even though they've submitted a network map, have agreed to do another one in a year's time, as a result of pressure from local campaigners. Do you think there has been sufficient pressure from the Welsh Government on local authorities to be aspirational?
No, in short. In our evidence we talk about the kind of four brakes on delivery, one of which is around leadership. I think, if you look at the kind of territories where they've made real progress on this, you've always had a Minister or a mayor who's kind of really owned it and has driven it forward. I think the problem we've had in Wales is that we've had a number of Ministers over the years. We've had Ministers who perhaps have a budget but not necessarily the political will to do it. You might then have a Minister who has got the political will but who might not have the budget. At the moment, we've got a Minister who has both the will and the budget, so things are looking better. But, at the end of the day, you do need political leaders to actually say, 'This is important', to explain why it's important, and to also provide space.
So, a lot of the issues that we were just talking about are around the kind of the understanding, the capabilities and the capacity of people like highways engineers, transport planners and local authority staff to understand the Act and then understand how you can technically do it. The Welsh Government has done this kind of stuff before, and they've changed—. We call it the 'practice chasm', if you like—the gap between national level policy and on-the-ground delivery. In other areas, the Welsh Government has managed to kind of broach that. On active travel, they haven't, and I think that's why we're seeing some of these issues where you'll just get a staff member in a local authority go, 'Oh, we can't do that. It's a valley. There's not enough space to put a cycle path in', or, 'That's a village. Nobody's going to walk there anyway. Let's not bother'. I think that's why you are getting some of these issues cropping up.
So, they're going to have to submit another one in three years. It's almost a rolling programme. So, they need to start now to address these deficiencies. So, what is it this committee can recommend to make sure that the next lot of maps learn the lessons of this current set?
I think our top recommendation would be that those maps are co-produced with people that are going to use the walking routes and cycling routes in those areas, and that hasn't been the case. Consultation has been, for the majority, a 12-week online statutory minimum that hasn't really been promoted. It hasn’t been going into schools. There are exceptions as there are some local authorities that have had town hall meetings, school events, where they're actually looking at the maps where people live and use them.
One of the things in the design guidance is community street audits, and I think that we need to consider those more seriously. They genuinely capture the experience of people using a particular route, and not to take away from the good work that’s happening in cycling but we have had quite a lot of focus on cycling routes as opposed to walking routes. And if you're talking about all the benefits of active travel, the large majority of people who are going to benefit from physical activity are going to be walkers rather than cyclists. So, we need to think about putting our resources where we're going to have the largest impact as well and where we can actually make a behaviour change in a more significant way.
Where you're looking at infrastructure, and that is usually high value, it has to be coupled with behaviour change and revenue spending that is promoting those routes, that is maintaining those routes, that is celebrating those routes—whatever it is that will make the community use them more—not just building things and hoping that people will use them, but building the right things that have had proper input from the community that will then end up using them.
If Members have got no other questions on this area, I'll move on to David Rowlands.
You've just touched on this, Rachel, but can we explore the impact that the Act has had on infrastructure and facilities, or has not had on infrastructure and facilities, and specifically whether the duty on local authorities to secure continuous improvements in infrastructure has been effective, and, I think, following on from that, whether the duty imposed on local authorities and Welsh Ministers to, and I quote,
'take reasonable steps to enhance the provision made for walkers and cyclists in constructing and maintaining highways'
is operating effectively? I think I know the answer to this, but carry on.
Perhaps I'll let my colleague, Ryland, give a bit more detail about maybe specific schemes that we could cite as examples.
I think, overall, we haven't really seen—. If I had colleagues come in to visit Wales from, say, Copenhagen, I think I would genuinely be struggling to think of a place I could take them to show them some innovative infrastructure. I think I'd probably end up doing a presentation on the Act, and the future generations Act, and talking about public policy rather than on-the-ground delivery.
Again, to go back to the problems around the delivery gap, or the practice gap, there's a lot that needs to be done with people who are working in this sector to build their understanding and their capability to do this kind of stuff, and perhaps Ryland can talk about some of the old design manuals and some of the other processes within transport planning that, quite often, trump the Act in the minds of transport professionals.
I would say, in terms of some of the other bits of the Act around giving due regard to, that I think we are starting now to see Welsh Government highways begin to think more around integration with walking and cycling. It’s certainly not enough, and if you were to hear evidence from Highways England, you'd probably contrast what Welsh Government isn't doing with the kind of thing that Highways England are starting to do. They're starting to think, when they are putting in major highways infrastructure, whether they can use some of that money to improve walking and cycling access, for example.
Just on that—I have always referred to it in Caerphilly as the Corbetts roundabout, but there's another name for it—the work that's going on at this moment, apparently, there's nothing in there for cyclists that's being constructed specifically.
That wouldn't surprise me. Again, we were in correspondence with the Welsh Government around the Caernarfon bypass and expressed safety concerns around some of the proposed infrastructure that was there because that cuts across a major part of the national cycle networks and there are lots of walkers and cyclists crossing that road.
And, again, you come up against a traditional engineering school that is like, 'Ooh, we can't do that,' or, 'We haven't really done that kind of stuff before in Wales, so we'll always do what we've always done.' I think, again, to go on to things like the design guidance, there are relatively few examples of where people have really pushed the boat out on infrastructure and really thought, 'What can we put in here that is innovative, that will actually serve the needs of people who are walking and cycling rather than just kind of squeezing in a bit of space for walking and cycling?
You're suggesting that there should be a sea change in the attitude when they're actually planning this infrastructure right from the word go—when it first gets mooted—and that this has to be a part of that.
Yes. And just, perhaps, before I hand over to Ryland, Rachel's point about the twenty-first century schools programme is a classic example of—if you were a local authority and submitting a bid in the twenty-first century schools programme, there isn't space to consider active travel in the business plan. So, when you're thinking about the money, school catchment areas, pupil admissions, HR and all that kind of stuff, how pupils, parents and staff get to school isn't a part of that process. The next stage is around design concepts when you draw those lovely pictures of a silly blue sky and lots of children smiling when they're at school. And then there's the bit where you actually then eventually get to walking and cycling and the more design phase, but by that stage, lots of decisions have already been taken about how the school is going to be designed, built and sited in the community. So, it's too late then. I don't know if you want to perhaps pick up on the mindset of—.
Yes, sure. I think it's fair to say—to go back to your original point—that we've yet to see any definitive scheme that we could point to and say, 'Absolutely, from start to finish, this has been really embedded completely in the process and really driving to where we want to be'. There are elements in Cardiff of good-quality infrastructure that are emerging, and I think we are starting to get a few examples in Wales of high-quality innovative aspects. But, as Steve mentioned, they are somewhat piecemeal. There is more evidence of missed opportunities with schemes, not only within local authority schemes, but also trunk road schemes as well, where we think that maybe the de minimis approach was taken and it could be a lot more ambitious and opportunistic.
In terms of guidance, yes, I think a lot of highways engineers work to a thing called the design manual for roads and bridges, which is the sort of bible of how to build roads and structures. That is obviously a lot of mandatory information. It has a very tenuous link with the guidance of the active travel Act. Although, in principle, they would refer to that, very often that's either not done, or it is just done as a tokenistic exercise. There's still a lot of resistance amongst traditional highways engineers, I think, in terms of anything that affects the impact of traffic capacity and flow, and I think there's a perception that they feel that there will be a huge public backlash if they do anything to mitigate motor traffic in any way. Therefore, things like putting in signalised crossings for cyclists and walkers and so on can be seen as being adversarial to that flow, as opposed to being beneficial to the wider network. This is clearly about what do we want the hierarchy of our movement, particularly around cities, to be. Do we want to maximise it for people on a human level—walking and cycling—or do we want to do it for cars? Clearly, the mindset of engineers is still very much that they're basically about moving cars around, first and foremost, and then trying to fit in active travel around that. And that, unfortunately, is the reflection that we then see in terms of scheme design.
Yes, we've had consultation responders who have suggested that key appraisal and design standards, such as the Welsh transport appraisal guidance and the design manual for roads and bridges, are unsuited to appraising active travel elements of highway schemes. That's what you're suggesting there.
Yes, absolutely. I mean, I think WelTAG—the transport appraisal guidance—has moved on from its original iteration, to be fair, and I think it is more inclusive and more balanced in the new version, but it still remains for local authorities to roll that out in a way that really is as inclusive as it could be. It's still largely predisposed towards larger schemes, particularly in terms of economic drivers. Again, anything that penalises flow of vehicles tends to be then penalising in economic terms under current cost-benefit models. We'd like to see more measures around things like health benefits coming in on an economic level to really see where the balance is. Because whenever you measure on those levels, active travel schemes come out as hugely beneficial with very significant benefit-cost ratios. But, again, often, in larger schemes, that's not really evaluated very effectively, because it's more difficult to do, of course.
Okay. Finally from myself, consultation responses again have suggested that the urban focus of the Act will limit investment in rural routes. Is this a concern? And if so, how should it be addressed?
I think there is a difficulty about where you spend your resource. Clearly, in centres of population, you're going to have, potentially, the greatest benefit. It's a tension that lives right across different policy areas in Wales and it's almost a political question rather than a policy question.
We've made some representations to Welsh Government about how to structure funding in the future, which I think goes some way to get over this urban-rural problem. I think there's a definite need for dedicated funding that local authorities can use to implement schemes under the active travel Act, so you're almost—. If you think of that as highways-type work, it is connecting routes within local authority areas. I think there's also scope for a dedicated fund that funds schemes that are perhaps more regionally or strategically important. So, that could be the travel-to-work corridor in Deeside, for example, or it could be the Cardiff cycle superhighway—things that are important to a region economically. The Government already does that with the way it views the M4. It sees that as something that's beneficial for the whole of south Wales. I disagree, but they see it as something that benefits the economy of the south Wales region, rather than a road scheme in Newport.
But I think there's merit in also keeping some money for other elements of investment—so, that might be things like the national cycle network, it might be other schemes that perhaps are less about active travel and more about leisure and tourism, and perhaps the sporting end of physical activity. But I don't think that should detract from proper investment in actually implementing the Act, which is about everyday journeys—trying to get more people, either by foot or by bike, taking journeys under 5 miles. But you're right; it is a tension in a country like ours.
Yes, just a couple of quick points on facilities and infrastructure. For walking, it's often as simple as there being rest stops and toilets for people, whether they will make a journey by foot or not. So we're not talking about million-pound cycle highways to get a lot of people moving who don't yet move as much as they should. So, we need to think about putting more of those things in, or putting them in in an innovative way, opening businesses up to allow people to have a rest and perhaps use the facilities, which is something that other places in the UK have looked at.
In terms of value for money and spending the money properly, in the transport hierarchy, walking and cycling investment is the best return on investment—more than any other form of transport. So, never mind the physical activity and health savings that you might get; it is something that we're underfunding in Wales and it's the year stop-start that's prevented a lot of these things from happening in terms of infrastructure. I think I said before that it's really important that that's coupled with behaviour change that encourages, supports, cajoles, nudges and bribes people to use those infrastructures.
I'll just very quickly mention Let's Walk Cymru, which is a scheme that the Welsh Government funded for a number of years. Without any fanfare or fuss, it got ended last September. The day before the anniversary of the active travel Act, Welsh Government stopped funding for Let's Walk Cymru. So there are no Welsh Government funded walking schemes at the moment beyond the Active Journeys scheme, which is kind of ridiculous when you have an active travel Act to say that we should be investing more money here.
Okay. I didn't realise that. I appreciate it. Are there any more questions from Members before I move to Lee on a new subject area? No. Lee Waters.
I want to get into the nuts and bolts of the guidance, because as you mentioned earlier, a network is only as strong as its weakest part. You mentioned concerns around safety that are preventing people from walking and cycling. So, there are two sets of guidance under the Act. There was the delivery guidance for how the Act was brought in, and the design guidance. Your evidence—and I think Ryland Jones has already referred to this—is that the guidance has not been applied from end to end in any case that you're aware of. So, what is it that is stopping the guidance, which has been praised, from being implemented?
It's more than praised. It's the model across the world now, this design guidance. The only place that isn't looking at it seriously is Wales, perhaps. That's a political point.
In our evidence, we drew a parallel between how Government has acted in this policy area and how it acted on changes to building regulations about 10 years ago. It's slightly different, but in a similar sense what you saw then was a kind of political intention from Welsh Ministers, a clear direction from the Cabinet Minister responsible, and also investment in helping industry and local authorities, home builders, understand what the building regs meant for them—how you technically do it. I think what we've said in our evidence is that you've got pieces of paper, design guidance, delivery guidance, that is relatively good, but in terms of equipping people to actually use it, there's a huge gap that's there. We spoke about the lack of staff resource to be able to do INMs properly; there's a lack of staff resource to deliver INMs properly as well. In our evidence, we say that there's 2.5 full-time equivalent civil servants working on this in the Welsh Government—
They're not full-time either.
They're not full-time; they also accomplish other aspects like road safety as well. So, there just isn't the kind of critical mass of people working on this to actually do it, and that's before you get into any of the engineering problems, like how do you solve a tricky junction that is busy but you want to give priority to pedestrians and cyclists. So, there is a fundamental resource question before we even get into the more technical engineering aspects of why this stuff hasn't been picked up.
I think, linked to that as well, we need to understand why some local authorities aren't taking the bull by the horns. Another example that I really think we need to dig into is why some local authorities have stopped applying for Safe Routes in Communities funding at all. They're not even applying for the Welsh Government grants. So, there's something going on in local authorities, and I think we probably all know it's the big 'a'; it's the austerity cuts. It's had a big impact on what local authorities can deliver, and I think when it comes to training and upskilling and putting more people in this area, that's going to be an issue for local authorities. They're struggling to deliver what they already deliver around Kerbcraft or junior road safety officers. You've got fewer people doing more.
So, as you've said, clearly there's a capacity problem, but also in your evidence you talk about a capability problem, because this is an unorthodox agenda for the traditional approaches to engineering. Ryland Jones mentioned the design manual for roads and bridges, which still trumps everything else, because, as you said, it's mandatory, and the design guidance for this Act is not statutory. So, what needs to change for the next round to address your concerns?
I think two things. One is about looking at how that guidance can actually be put on a firmer statutory footing, so it's more directive and so that choice, I suppose, isn't there. Allied to that obviously is Ministers being a bit muscular, I think, in clarifying what their expectations are. I think also, within that, there's an issue of making sure—. One of the criticisms that we cite in our evidence is around the fact that, quite often, a local authority might submit a scheme for funding, but there's no real process that checks that the—. It might meet design guidance, but there's no real process from Welsh Government to go back and have a look at how the scheme was eventually built and whether it actually met design guidance, or whether through the course of planning and delivery little bits here and there got chipped away because there was concern about road safety—somebody in highways or engineering said, 'We can't do that, we can't to that, we can't do that', so the final scheme that comes to fruition isn't the scheme that was—. So, I think that's the first thing about Welsh Government being on top of it.
Again, I go back to supporting staff who are working in the field to actually understand how to do this. I don't know if you've—. You've seen the design guidance. It's quite a chunky document. You can't really make it less so because you lose vital detail, but people do need support to understand what it is, how you do it, for them to be able to see other parts of the UK that are doing some interesting stuff, to ask them questions: 'Well, how did you do that, how did you get around this problem, what have you learnt?' And, again, that kind of support isn't there for staff working out in the field to do this. And as Ryland says, very often, by and large, where you've got a local authority that's doing good stuff, quite often it's because there's a junior or a middle-ranking member of staff who knows their onions, has got really good connections within the local council, is trusted, and is then able to kind of push this. An Act really shouldn't be dependent on a person's personal relationships. An Act should be dependent on strict direction from Ministers and appropriate funding, or just repeal the Act if you're not serious about it.
I think it needs to correlate with other pieces of legislation that are coming through here as well. So, it needs to be referred to when it comes to planning, when it comes to air quality, when it comes to education schemes, not just transport. And the whole idea of the Act is that it breaks down a lot of barriers. Active travel touches so many areas of Welsh Government work, and I think, in terms of structures in local authorities, structures in Welsh Government, those silos are still very much alive and strong—that it's still in transport or road safety, it's not cutting into other areas. A large chunk of the design guidance is engagement. I've mentioned it before, but it's not being taken seriously. Engagement, co-production and consultation are not—it doesn't have the teeth. Local authorities defer to the minimum and, if you want to produce maps, infrastructure, schemes that work, you need the community to be involved in the design of them and not just at the start where it's the 'nice-to-have' wish lists, but right through the process so, when you end up with a scheme, the community really does use it and it's not a load of money spent on something that wasn't quite what people had in mind and doesn't link communities together, doesn't get people to school safely. Like Steve said, it just takes a couple of weaknesses in that chain for a whole scheme to be absolutely pointless.
Just to repeat my earlier question: briefly, if you could, do you think there's insufficient challenge from the Welsh Government on how this is done in detail?
Say that again. [Interruption.] Oh, insufficient.
No, there's insufficient challenge. [Laughter.]
Okay. Just make to sure we're clear on that. [Laughter.] Just one final point from me: the evidence from the Royal Town Planning Institute says that the Act and this guidance mostly relates to retrofitting existing areas and is not really relevant to new build. Can you say whether or not you think that's a fair point?
I think that it's—. I don't think it's fair to say that—. There may be a lack of understanding of the breadth of the Act, but I think the Act should absolutely apply to new developments. I think what it does show is that there's a definite weakness in terms of planning policy links to this. The language for planners is 'should possibly consider' some development rather than 'must' or whatever. It's not very demanding of them and, so, therefore, it's very easy for them to not see this as something that's actually important and critical. So, I think that when you've got people like development control staff or people who are looking at new developments, they absolutely have to take into account the Act. That should be explicit, but at the moment it isn't. So, that's something that could be strengthened, ideally through the review of planning policy that's being undertaken at the moment—that would be hugely helpful.
Just going back to your point about the operation of the guidance, Sustrans did do a little bit of work as part of a pilot study for Welsh Government on interpreting some of the processes of how you might go about delivering aspects of the guidance in a more structured way. But I think it was left very much to local authorities to decide how they wanted to interpret that rather than Welsh Government saying definitively, 'This is the process we want you to follow' in absolute terms.
I've just got Mark and Joyce wanting to come in as well. Have you finished?
Can I just—
Can I just move on a little bit? Because we're just—. I'll bring you in at the end, if that's all right, but I just want to—
Oh, I'll come in just before the end as well.
Yes. Two joined up issues: you referred to safer routes, and I've got a scheme in mind in Mold in Flintshire, which secured safe routes funding, and it's a residential street with a school either end on normal streets with normal two-way traffic and standard pedestrian pavements. Because the proposed route will simply introduce one-way traffic and some extra room for walking and cycling, the vehicles that have to access their homes, or the delivery vehicles that have to access the school, will simply be displaced—they will travel down the two conventional roads to get to the other end, and still the volume of traffic will come through to the end of the same road, where it'll rejoin the network and so on. So, the community or the residents at one end have produced evidence suggesting that this won’t have the desired impact and actually might add to safety risks for the pupils at the school because of enhanced traffic coming from one direction and its connectivity with the new cycling and walking routes, which might encourage them to step in the wrong way. So, to what extent should, therefore, this design be linked into consideration of the joined-up infrastructure, as applies here, but also displacement, where the people still need to access their homes, the delivery vehicles still need to deliver, so they'll simply go round and come in at the other end instead? And related to that is your comment—a few comments—that mentioned co-production and meaningful co-production. Clearly, meaningful co-production, although it can deliver significant benefits for individual well-being, community resilience and the pocket—and it's the public pocket particularly—is not built into the psyche of many local authorities. We see that with the well-being of future generations Act and we see it with the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. Are there any good models you can point us to—any local authorities—where you're encouraged by the co-productive approaches they're taking in practice with their communities?
If possible, can just one of the panel members address those points?
Do you mind if—?
I'll make a note of lots of things that I'll say at the end.
I can't comment on that specific scheme, but I think what stands out in my mind is—and it's the same with air quality, where there's always an argument to build a bypass because it will improve air quality in a settlement where you're taking traffic out. I think one of the social consequences of not having a proper active travel Act that's implemented is that you get communities almost fighting each other or fighting with other communities about how transport plans should be implemented. I think that's why it's really, really crucial that local authorities see the Act as a means of actually saying, 'How are we going to keep our county moving? What are the key travel and journeys that need to be accommodated? How can we help people who are overly reliant on the car to get around?', whilst at the same time recognising that there perhaps are some journeys that are necessary by car. There will obviously always be freight deliveries that need to be accommodated, which I think leads me nicely on to the second point around where you talked about co-production. I think that's exactly why it's so important.
In Scotland, we run a programme called the Community Links programme, which is funded directly from the Scottish Government. We run a budget of £55 million, £56 million, in Scotland and we distribute money out to local authorities. As part of that programme—co-production is one of key aspects of it and what you see is that we're able to support local authorities to actually sit down, so when you are in an instance like that you're able to talk to residents, talk to local businesses, talk to public service providers, find out what the needs are, talk to all the engineers and planners and understand technically what's possible and look to create solutions that try and, if you like, meet as many of those problems as possible. It's not always possible, but it's a means of managing some of those tensions.
I'll come to Joyce to ask her question, and then, Rachel, we are pushed for time, but I'll come to you if you want to make any brief points that you want to summarise, that you want to say, that covers the last couple of questions. Joyce.
It's all right, because my question is towards Rachel. It's about town-centre use. There have been lots of inquiries about the change in town-centre use, and the evidence is showing that there's a demographic change, that it's older people accessing it as a meeting point. Also, that brings back another aspect that's not mentioned here, and that's people on disabled scooters, as well as bikes and their feet. So, to Rachel specifically, how do you think we can use that information to make town centres more accessible for the groups of people we have evidence that demonstrates are actually using them?
I think one of the things that, when we revise the Act in a couple of years, as well as speed limits, we need to look at—we should seriously look at pavement parking as an issue in Wales and consider actually stepping up and Wales making a decision on pavement parking. It is a life-changing issue for a lot of people with disabilities, and I'm not just talking about mobility scooters but people with any sort of disability—visual impairment, people with hearing issues. Parking on pavements is a scourge in every town and it affects safety and it does affect people's decisions whether to go out of the house or not, which can knock on into social isolation and loneliness, mental health issues.
When it comes to town-centre use, we've done a piece of research that we're actually updating at the moment called the pedestrian pound, which shows that people who arrive to access their shops and services by foot spend a lot more money—about £147 on average per month more—than people who go by car. It might sound counterintuitive, but actually people spend more time. They spend more social time. They spend more time in cafes. They haven't got the clock ticking on their car parking, essentially. They are spending more time in towns than they would do if they drove.
So, if we're encouraging more people to get in on park-and-rides or public transport, walking, obviously, cycling, then that is going to have a positive impact on the viability of our town centres. I mentioned before about simple facilities. If more cafes and more shops are open to allowing people to have a rest and a cup of tea, that can make quite a big different to people in terms of whether they'll go by foot, because not having an accessible toilet is an issue for a lot of people as well. It's not the focus of the evidence today, but small changes like that can make quite a big impact on people's decision to walk or not. I'll come back to the other things later.
Okay, thank you. What I'll do, Rachel, and the other panel members, is I'll come to you the end of the session and ask if there are any other brief points that you want to make. So, anything you feel you have not covered, that's your opportunity then. Adam Price.
I'm just wondering if you could—you touched a little bit on this earlier, Rachel, in particular, but if you could say a little bit about what more could be done to promote behavioural change and address some of the behavioural constraints in relation to active travel, and, also, as time is tight, if you could talk a little bit about whether the duty on local authorities and the Welsh Government to promote active travel has been effective to date and, if not, how could it be more effective?
To your second point, no, it hasn't been successful to date. I mentioned Let's Walk Cymru earlier— that's a programme that's, to all extents, ended under the active travel Act. I think, when it comes to behaviour change, you're best focusing on certain groups. The 'walk to school' is a group that I think the Act should focus on. You do have the daily mile in some schools in Wales. The WOW badge scheme that we have is in some schools in Wales. They're not funded by the Welsh Government; they're self-funded by schools or they're essentially free to run. They're successful schemes. I'm very loath to point to England as where they get everything right, because that's not always the case, but the Department for Education has used the sugar tax, for example, to expand the physical education and sport premium to allow schools to buy in schemes that promote walking and cycling to schools. So, active travel is now part of the sugar tax. And that's a very simple hypothecation, where you're taking bad behaviour from children and investing in good behaviour with children. So, I think you need to focus on certain groups. I think older people is another group that we seriously need to look at, because of the knock-on effects with social isolation and loneliness and people staying active longer and healthier for longer, and none of those things are really happening right across the country. I think I mentioned before that there are less than 100 schools that are getting direct support, and it's a very successful scheme. That scheme used to just focus on cycling. It's run by Sustrans. It used to just focus on cycling for more money in fewer areas. It's now a larger geographical area, walking and cycling—
And scooting. So, the remit's larger, the money's less and the geography's larger and that's just not the kind of direction that you need to go when you've passed the active travel Act.
You've mentioned education, but is Public Health Wales, for example, or the NHS more generally, involved actively in active travel promotion, because of the obvious health benefits? Is there a specific programme?
Less a practical level than a meeting kind of level—there is a sub-group that Public Health Wales convenes on active travel to schools. They also have a Healthy Working Wales scheme. Those conversations are happening but, in terms of delivery, not yet, I would say.
Perhaps the committee might want to follow up on—one of the last things that Rebecca Evans did as Minister for public health was issue a direction to Natural Resources Wales, Public Health Wales and Sport Wales to co-ordinate activity to deliver some of the physical activity elements of 'Prosperity for All'. And we haven't really seen any kind of progress. That was October, November. It would be interesting if this committee was able to find out more information about how they were taking that forward.
If I could quickly, if I may, just in terms of—. I'd support everything Rachel says. I think, in terms of behaviour change, it's absolutely critical that you do behaviour change on top of infrastructure as well, because one of the best ways you can waste public money is to do some behaviour change work with a group of people who've got really poor infrastructure, and then improve infrastructure over there but not do anything to engage people in how to use it. And, again, one of the things that Welsh Government haven't been great at is actually doing that layered approach. So, I think you get a better bang for buck when you do that.
On behaviour change as well we've had a couple of pilot projects that were in the active travel annual report. They were successful projects. They were called pilot projects. They weren't then rolled out anywhere. So, we produce a toolkit for school route reviews and, as far as we know, there isn't a school or a local authority that has taken that up. It's a bilingual resource that you can use in schools for children to identify the issues that make them decide to walk or decide not to walk. It involves children, teachers, parents and governors. It's a good little booklet that isn't really being used.
And just for me to understand your point, Steve, to take active travel to school, for example, the safe routes to schools budget—I think it would take 100 years for the waiting list to be completed. It's appalling, really, the tiny proportion of routes or projects that are being invested in. You can run the best attitude and behavioural change programme in the world, but if there are simple infrastructural barriers there then it's not going to work—that's essentially the point.
You're absolutely right. I think, as your survey showed, quite often it's safety, particularly when you are talking about children and particularly more for secondary pupils who are perhaps making those journeys on their own; primary pupils less so because they're usually accompanied by a carer. But you're absolutely right—that's where the natural barrier, I think, comes down for a lot of people.
A couple of questions just on the nuts and bolts of the implementation of the Act. The active travel action plan—what's your view on the impact or the effectiveness of that document? I know you both have a couple of comments in there. And then the active travel board—any thoughts on how we can improve the effectiveness of the board as well.
If I talk about the plan and you talk about the board—yes. Before the Act there was an active travel action plan that had targets, milestones, deadlines, dates and funding. Since the Act, all of those things have been stripped out of the action plan. We don't have a road map to success, and that is what an action plan is. It's a motherhood and apple pie statement, I'm afraid. It's saying, 'We should all do more on active travel—you know, look at these great behaviour schemes that we've piloted.' They don't go anywhere. There's no road map to success. One thing that I have been banging on about, I'm sure you've all heard me talk about this, is targets.
We need to have active travel targets. If you're going to give this teeth—and I'm not just saying pluck a figure out of the air—work on this properly. We've offered to run a couple of workshops with the Welsh Government. It would be great if people here are interested to be involved. But we do need to say what success looks like. Data came out on 30 January that said that active travel, particularly the walk to school, is in decline. And that's not being addressed. So, without targets, long-term funding, I don't see where the road map to success is, and I think that's what the action plan needs to be. There's a history behind it, but that is what I think the next iteration of the active travel—
And data has long been an excuse not to make change, I think, around this area—the fact that we haven't got all the data to inform decisions. But we need to start trying things and measuring them, monitoring and evaluating some innovative schemes that aren't just plucked out from Copenhagen or Scotland or London. That's not going to work for Wales. You need to have community innovation schemes that are tested and trialled here and then rolled out. It's not rocket science. We just need to get on and do it. Perhaps with the statement from Ken Skates a couple of weeks ago, we might be heading in that direction.
I think on both, there's a hanging question for the Cabinet Secretary about how he intends to co-ordinate cross-Government activity on this. As we've said, this is just as much about the planning system as it is about the transport system, and it's just as much about education as it is about transport. The action plan should be the means by which cross-Government priorities are taken forward. I don't think it is at the moment.
In our written evidence, we suggested some changes to how the board should operate. I'd be keen to—again, you might have a view on this, whether it could ape boards like the Supporting People programme board, which have a bit more teeth. At the moment, it's all very nice the information sharing, but there's no sense of it either holding Government to account or holding Government's hands as we make a difficult journey. It just feels like a place where you go to receive information, really. So, we've made some specific recommendations about potentially an independent Chair, about broadening out the membership, about making it much more public facing so local authorities know what's going on.
Thank you, Chair. Here in Wales, we have a fantastic hidden gem that has the potential, I believe, to transform active travel, and that is the network of disused railway tunnels, which, particularly in the south Wales Valleys, can connect east-west to complement the metro's delivery in the north-south direction. I just wonder what your views are on where we are with that already. I know there's been lots of talk behind the scenes, but what are the barriers, or the perceived barriers, to getting moving with this? I know Highways England, which own the tunnels, seem to be very keen to offload them, so what other barriers are there to us actually harnessing this potential?
So, a few things to say, and then specifically—. I think the first is that the Abernant tunnel in your constituency is a really good example of something that isn't as shiny and sexy as the south Wales metro, yet for the 1,500 people that we think would use it every day will be absolutely critical, in terms of them accessing employment, seeing family and friends, accessing education and training. So, I think other politicians, the Welsh Government, need to get their head around it's also about things that go east-west at the Heads of the Valleys as much as it is about getting people down into Cardiff.
I think the second thing is to say that, actually, Abernant is an example of something that spans two local authority areas, which actually should be seen in the round as something that's strategic and regionally important, because it is about connecting those communities either side of the tunnel, and so for Welsh Government to see it as such, in the same way that it has kind of viewed the Head of the Valleys and the dualling of that, about the connectivity of the north of the valleys. Abernant is another scheme like that.
And then lastly, the kind of issue, the problem, that will put the brakes, if anything will, on the project, is one about liability. I won't go into all the details—although I could probably write a book about it—in terms of what happened to all the British Rail land when it was privatised and who ended up with the ownership of it. For Welsh Government, and for the two local authorities in question, there's a big question about who owns the liability of the tunnel. So, if something goes wrong, or if there are just ongoing maintenance cost, who pays for that?
Again, I would actually have sympathy with both local authorities in terms of their caution about taking it on as an asset. And it's something that Welsh Government—again, if they saw it as a regionally, strategically important piece of infrastructure—they should actually take that liability on. So it's time I think Welsh Government stopped seeing active travel as this kind of—not that they do it all the time, but I think it does still exist, that mindset amongst some—that this is just people pootling around or having a bit fun on a bike. Actually, for a lot of people in Wales, this is about being able to access GP services, or being able to safely get to your bus stop or go and care for your nan. And that's how it should be viewed—it's important journeys.
Certainly, in my discussions with the local authorities, funding is the issue that comes up time and time again, and with the liabilities that you've discussed there. And that leads me on to a broader question about all aspects of active travel, really—it's the importance of multi-annual funding, which has come up time and time again. I understand that Ken Skates has said that we'll be moving to five-year cycles for funding. Do you think that this could be a game changer?
It has the potential to be a game changer. We absolutely need consistent multi-year funding, as we said in our written evidence, at the moment, because it's one-year funding, and what you tend to get is local authorities who will do very quick, one-year schemes, which is why you end up with survey results like you had—because your network doesn't link up, because the local authority hasn't been able to invest in, say, connecting east and west in a serious way. You also get public annoyance because they don't necessarily see the rationale of having gaps—they think that the council have almost planned it.
So multi-year funding is an absolute basic. We've said we want see funding scaled up to probably around £20 per person per year. At the moment it's between £3 and £5 in Wales. In Scotland, it's around about £16; in London it's £17; and in Copenhagen, which everybody kind of worships, it's over £40, but there you can see the benefits from that. So, I think, yes, multi-year funding, but also actually increasing the overall amount of money that's going into active travel.
And within that funding, having a good split between capital infrastructure funding and behaviour change revenue funding. You can't do them separately and you shouldn't. Some of that is about co-production, spending money on engagement through the process. That's also about signage, promotion, successful schemes like Active Journeys or WOW, so that those pieces of infrastructure are celebrated and used and people are supported to use them.
And one final question from me, then, about the options available to actually increase funding. Do you think it's inevitable that investment will be in the form of transport grants or are there more innovative approaches that could be possible?
I think there are certainly other avenues that can be explored for funding. I'm conscious that, quite often, this then descends, to be frank, into quite a party political battle where people say, 'X party wants to increase car parking charges', and it kind of goes into that place. So, I think there's definitely a need for political parties to, dare I say, perhaps raise the level of debate, particularly locally, when you're campaigning on these kinds of issues.
There are other options, I think, that can be explored—again, things like smart charging, potentially, for areas where you've got high levels of air pollution, should be looked at. There's obviously a kind of equalities aspect to that, and we need to make sure that we're not disproportionately impacting people who, perhaps, can't afford to pay those charges, so that needs to be looked at.
But at the end of the day, the Cabinet Secretary has full control over the transport budget. When you look at the amount of money that's been historically spent on building roads—I think it's £300 million on average a year over the last decade in capital spend on roads—and compare that to how much has been spent on facilities for walking and cycling—it pales into insignificance. There's a fruitful seam, financially, that can be mined within the transport budget to pay for this.
The bulk of the benefits around active travel will probably be seen in public health, and that's the gap that it's fallen into, I think. So, it's way, way down the list of transport priorities in the hierarchy where that money and those budgets are being set, and the benefits are over here, around air quality and public health. So, I think that's where the silos need to think about cutting down, talking and not being so parochial about what active travel is and where it sits—it shouldn't be an either/or.
Steve made the point before that we've had different Ministers who have had different powers. Now, we've got, perhaps, the moment to have these two things together—the leadership, the will, and somebody who's got the budgetary levers who's not just in charge of transport but in charge of a larger budget than that. If he needs to speak to his colleagues who have other budgets, I'm sure he should, but at the moment that's not the argument to be having—it's about the size of funding, not necessarily where it comes from, and that it is going to change Wales into a country that moves more.
That's the vision of the active travel Act—it's a vision for a country that actively travels for short journeys and doesn't just jump into the car and isn't polluted. It's a vision because Wales did this first, because it believed that it could be a successful piece of legislation. Hopefully, we'll get there and that for the 15-year vision we'll be having a very different conversation.
Just to say quickly, I think there are also financial opportunities from the planning process as well—that with the review, if we can give the planning process teeth under the active travel Act, what we can do is get things like the community infrastructure levy and developer contributions up. So, some authorities do that very successfully now, but it's very patchy when left to them to see what options they have. I think if we made that more robust through planning policy, it would definitely lead to some opportunities for more funding for active travel-type activity.
Okay. In a moment I'll come to Joyce Watson to ask the last set of questions. I will come to you briefly at the end, but if you could be succinct and make any points that you want to make that haven't been drawn out through questions and particularly think about what actions can be taken to improve the Act and the implementation of the Act—. You'll have to be succinct at the end, because we're running out of time. Joyce Watson.
I'm going to ask one question, because all of the others have been done. I'm going to make you be succinct, because I'm going to ask for one example—your main example—that you think that we can put forward as a recommendation as being the main barrier to integration and how to address it. Short and sharp.
In three or four words, or five: funding and guidance on a firmer footing.
Consultation, co-production and making sure that we celebrate the good examples and roll them out—not just pilot them and stop. Target setting, I think, is how we move this forward.
Training, I think, is another area that could be improved hugely, particularly if Welsh Government's able to set some definitive parameters for local authority staff, particularly at a more senior level. That would be hugely beneficial in leadership there.
There we are. Thank you, Joyce. One question I do have is: local authorities have asked for greater funding from Welsh Government. Do you think that that is required, or do you think that local authorities just aren't prioritising their own resources effectively?
I think it's required, but it's not the only thing that we should be looking at. So, one thing we've suggested at Living Streets is that there's a community innovation fund as well, so it's not just via local authorities that change can happen. So, like I said before, we have got some local authorities that don't bid for Safe Routes in Communities funding any more. So, those communities aren't getting that improvement. They're being bypassed, essentially. So, if there is a funding scheme that can allow communities to show innovation and put their ideas forward on active travel, that would be an absolutely brilliant way of co-producing solutions on active travel, but there's no doubt about it: local authorities do need more funding on active travel too.
Yes, I think—
Very quickly, I think, obviously, if you don't fund it properly, there's only a certain level of implementation you will ever get to, but there are steps I think local authorities can do now to at least raise levels of good implementation. It is around things like, as you say, collaboration and communication with residents. It's also about being savvy about development and planning. We still see housing estates being built in Wales that are pretty impenetrable if you don't have a car. The lowest paid workers are working in the care sector, in retail and in hospitality, and very often, new employment centres for those are sited on the edges of towns, which are difficult to get to. So, local authorities are still allowing things to develop and be built in their patches, which if you don't have a car—.
Yes, very quickly, you mentioned—. On the funding side, you mentioned Scotland and Copenhagen, but of course just across the water we've got Bristol, which is spending £25 per capita. Have you had any chance to evaluate the impact that might be having in Bristol? Because, obviously, that would be a good lever for us to use in our arguments with the Welsh Government for funding.
So, we can circulate details of our Bike Life Bristol report, which will have more concrete details of the progress that's been made in Bristol. I think certainly in comparison to Welsh places, it's good. Bristol doesn't necessarily hold up if you compare it to places like Copenhagen or Amsterdam. I would probably encourage the committee to look north of the border in Scotland if you want to see more substantial infrastructure changes, to be honest.
Right. I'll ask each of you to make a very brief closing comment. Rachel.
I think the moment's now for active travel. It should have been in 2013 when the legislation was passed, but we're here, so I think if the committee wants to move this forward, we can still be optimistic. It's not just about large sums of money; it's about spending it properly; it's about touching all areas of Wales and not just thinking about the low-hanging fruit of the capital and surrounds, even though this is where we spend most of our time—making sure that it's felt right across Wales. And I think that target setting is something that we should look at more seriously, and genuine consultation that involves people in this process, because unless we involve them, we're going to build a lot of cycle highways and footpaths that go nowhere and are used by nobody. So, that is absolutely essential to us. Final point: I think we need to focus on a couple of key groups, and that is younger people and older people specifically.
Two quick points, I suppose. One is: there's a big elephant in the room, which is the role of the car, and we've built Welsh society around the car. A quarter of Welsh households don't have access to a car, so what happens to them? So, I think there's a wider question around what kind of Wales we're creating and how transport as a service addresses or creates barriers.
The second is the opportunity, I think, for the Welsh transport strategy. So, Government has to prepare a 10-year statutory strategy. That's due this year, I think. If I was a cynic, what you would do is you would get your policy officials to write some nice blurb for the front, which would talk about the well-being objectives and 'Prosperity for All', and then you'd get your delivery guys to just put in a scheme of road improvements at the back, and that's your transport strategy for 10 years. Again, the committee might want to look at this, but there's an opportunity to perhaps do something differently and turn it on its head, and use that strategy as a means of driving forward the political action that we've said has been lacking over the last 10 years.
Obviously, we've now reached the end of this first cycle of the mapping and so on. There's a danger, I think, now, that local authorities just sit back and go, 'Okay, job done; let's look at it again in two or three years' time.' I think there's an onus on Welsh Government to really help to drive the agenda now, to really bring forward some priority schemes that have been envisioned in these INMs. We need good examples from Wales. We need case studies that we can look to and say, 'Yes, that's a really good piece of work and that's how we want to do it going forward.' So, I think just really grasping the nettle to try and develop some good quality schemes in Wales on the back of some of the INM schemes now, and really be able to show what we can do locally, which will then, hopefully, encourage everybody to raise the bar in taking this forward.
Thank you. Well, listen, thanks ever so much for your time this morning with us. We're very grateful. A transcript of the proceedings will be sent to you. Have a look at that, and if you feel that you've missed anything or want to add to anything then let us know, and if you feel that you've got any comments following other witnesses over the next few weeks that you want to make, feed them into the committee. So, we're grateful for your time this morning. We'll take a 10-minute break, and we'll be back at 10:55.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:45 a 10:58.
The meeting adjourned between 10:45 and 10:58.
I move to item 3 in regard to our second session of post-legislative scrutiny of the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013. We have a panel before us to provide us with information and answer some of our questions this morning. I'd be very grateful if you could just introduce yourselves for our Record, if I can start from my left.
I am Rob Jones of WSP. I'm a transport planner and I'm here on behalf of the association of civil engineering.
Simon Shouler. I'm ACE's Wales manager, and I'm here to represent the Association for Consultancy and Engineering.
I'm Martin Buckle. I'm a chartered town planner, and I chair the Royal Town Planning Institute's planning policy and research forum for Wales.
My name is Mark Farrar. I'm a chartered town planner, a member of the RTPI policy forum. I'm a planning consultant with the Urbanists, a planning, urban design and landscape practice based in Cardiff, and I'm here on behalf of RTPI.
We're very grateful for your time with us this morning in committee. Mark Isherwood.
Thank you. Good morning. I want to focus my questions on your views on the extent to which the Act has impacted the amount and quality of active travel routes and facilities. As you're aware, the integrated network mapping process, sequentially, is supposed to provide 15-year plans for network development. What are your views, therefore, on the IN mapping process so far?
I should say, don't feel you all have to answer the question, if one of you feels that it's more relevant to answer the point. Who would like to take that point?
Okay, I'd be happy to take that. As a mechanistic activity, the existing route-maps and the integrated network maps are providing a good spatial base around which authorities and stakeholders are able to collaborate in developing more effective networks. We are aware that the mapping process required extensive work by the local authorities, and it is desirable that future routes that are shown on the integrated network maps are integrated with future development sites, where these are known. It's not clear to what extent the future walking and cycling networks, set out in the network maps, take account of sites that are allocated for development in local development plans.
There is a key limitation of the way in which the boundaries of the designated localities have been drawn, in that, in general, they've been drawn up to the existing boundaries of urban areas, often failing to take account of proposals in local development plans that would extend settlement boundaries. This emphasises a philosophy underpinning the Act that focuses on retrofitting active travel infrastructure into established urban areas—primarily the role of local highway authorities—rather than a more strategic approach that considers established areas alongside opportunities for extended networks in new areas of development, which would require collaboration between local highway authorities and local planning authorities.
How do you respond to the comment made to us by Pembrokeshire County Council that, in clearing the existing route-maps, planners wanted a full network of routes whereas engineers wanted to fail existing route-maps with routes that didn't meet design standards?
Martin, you were smiling. You look like you want to answer that question.
Yes, I wasn't aware of that view. Quite reasonably, engineers will look to achieve best practice engineering standards, as one would expect. I think perhaps the perspective from the planners is to look at developing a network that does actually tie in with proposals in development plans and perhaps may be rather more ambitious in terms of the extent of the network, but perhaps there may be questions about its deliverability in terms of the resources available.
Please indicate if anybody else on the panel wants to come in on that.
Yes, we can add to that because, from our experience, the guidance is quite specific, and, if you have geographical constraints such as developing schemes in the Valleys, for example, you may not be able to meet the minimum or maximum gradient criteria for cycle ways, for example. So, I think one of the comments we made was that there should possibly be a little more flexibility about how you apply the requirements of the standards.
I think, with respect, the point Pembrokeshire is making is quite different—it's about the existing network map, which is designed to try and capture what's already there to allow local authorities then to look at what might happen in the future. The point they're making is the unintended consequence of what's happened is that, by setting design guidance, the engineers tried to minimise what was captured on that existing network map to only pass things that passed the design guidance, not to try and capture the natural network that already existed.
Okay. I can't comment on that.
So, why is it, do you think, then there is a—? We heard evidence earlier about a mindset of an orthodox engineering approach deferring to statutory guidance, designed mainly for roads and bridges, for example, and not trying to embrace the ethos of this new approach. What are the barriers that are getting in the way and how can we overcome them?
Well, I would say they're cultural rather than technical. It's a matter of people trying to make something work rather than finding a way of not doing something. I think standards and design guidance could be made to work; you may have to apply relaxations or departures, but I don't see them as a barrier. I think it's more of a cultural issue.
Through dialogue within the industry. I can't come up with an immediate answer to that, but I think we can certainly look at—through ACE, for example, we can spread advice and give guidance as to how we view the application of the codes.
So, what have you been doing to upskill the profession in the spirit and the letter of the new Act, in that case?
What have we been doing?
Nothing precisely, no. We didn't know there was an issue.
Well, that's curious, isn't it, why that would be, when all the evidence from the authorities and the third sector is that there is an issue, and the profession is not alert to that.
I don't represent a profession.
Well, the ACE is a—. We're not a professional organisation.
What role could or should the Welsh Government play in reconciling this apparent conflict so that everybody's singing to the same song sheet?
I think it's very much about getting people around the table, to be honest, and working together. Clearly, this is a new process, a new set of arrangements; it's an important innovation. It's not unusual that different perspectives and different professions have a different view on their role, perhaps, in moving things forward. Certainly, one of the issues that we've identified from the perspective of the planning profession is that, by and large, the legislation's been drafted without very much of a recognition of the important role that planning needs to play in delivering the networks. And I think certainly it's broadly the case that in many authorities the role of the planning service in contributing to this work has not been at the centre of the work, and that's probably something, particularly, I think, in terms of looking at future resourcing, that needs to change.
Noting that ACE Cymru, the Association for Consultancy and Engineering Cymru, stated there's a need to clarify what constitutes continuous enhancement, to what extent do you believe that the Act has improved the amount and quality of active travel infrastructure?
Well, it's a good start, I think. The aims of the Act are valid.
In terms of your quote, we actually said, 'constitutes enhancement' rather than 'continuous enhancement', and by that I mean the guidance cites enhancement as, for example, comfort, cohesion, directness, safety and attractiveness. Now, if you push one of those buttons, does that mean that you have enhanced, or is the Act looking for a wider application of those enhancements? So, I think that was the point we were making about clearer guidance as to what constitutes an enhancement. People who are designing quite like targets to hit, so, if you have a strategy or some sort of plan, then they can show that they're delivering against it.
Well, you've also identified, quote, a need to adopt
'a more strategic/centralised mapping and route-development approach'
to reflect the fact that cross-authority walking and cycling is commonplace. Of course, where I live it's not just cross-authority, it's cross-national-boundary as well.
What needs to be done? I think there needs to be a stronger lead from Welsh Government in terms of helping to map out a longer term strategy for delivering the priorities. I think the way it's being taken forward at the moment is local authorities are very much looking at their patch. We were talking earlier about, for example, longer distance cycle routes for commuting, as a typical example, between Cardiff and Newport. There's no great incentive for either Newport or Cardiff to really make that happen, and the two need to get together to make it work. I think that a steer from the Welsh Government in terms of strategy would help deliver that.
I think I would add to that that the delivery guidance does advocate authorities working together to look at improving routes across boundaries and networks across boundaries, but when you've got finite resources and there's no increasing budget associated with that, then, inevitably, you're going to probably focus on your own key settlements first. So, there is a danger of that aspect getting overlooked, and that's still active travel—commuting between settlements and commuting between more peripheral areas and settlements. There is a danger that those people get overlooked and don't get provided for and actually end up with a worse rather than an enhanced environment.
Good morning, all. I want to probe a little bit about RTPI's comment that the provision of active travel networks can provide very effective mitigation of development impacts, so that's post application, if one of you wants to explain that comment further.
Well, I'll certainly kick off on that. If I can illustrate this through the way in which development tends to come forward, the strategic approach to planning is through local development plans, identifying development sites, then planning applications coming in from developers to provide the detail. In terms of the quantum of development that may be able to be accommodated on a site, clearly one of the factors there is the ability of the transport infrastructure to accommodate that. I think perhaps, traditionally, the approach to the capacity of the transport infrastructure has been very much about the highway capacity and its ability to move road traffic, but, clearly, looking more widely at the full range of transport modes, including walking and cycling, if there is the potential, through more effective networks, to shift the modal balance of a development and the traffic it generates away from the private car, there is then the facility to perhaps bring forward a larger quantum of development in a particular location before needing to address more fundamental constraints on the highway network perhaps more widely.
You also say, and it follows on, really, that the lack of a clear linkage with the planning system is the major weakness in what we're all trying to achieve. So, you've made the statement. We need to address it, clearly. So, what would be the most productive way of addressing that weakness?
Well, I think it is to bring the active travel planning system much more closely aligned with the development planning system. The way that the active travel legislation has been drafted is very much from a perspective of retrofitting active travel infrastructure into established urban areas, but clearly the areas where perhaps there's the greatest potential for change are in areas of new development, where, in fact, you can actually plan the active travel infrastructure into the development, rather than seek to retrofit it and often perhaps not achieve the outcomes as effectively as you might. So, there certainly is potential, I think, to integrate active travel planning and land-use planning much more effectively. As it stands, the Act does not address those issues, but that's not to say that they're not capable of being addressed, and certainly the draft 'Planning Policy Wales', which Welsh Government has just recently launched for consultation, does actually represent quite a big step forward in that regard. That is about advising planning authorities and, indeed, developers and all of those involved in the planning system, to have regard to the active travel legislation, and particularly to look to contribute to delivering the outcomes that it seeks to achieve.
That's great, because you've answered the next question too. The point is, here, that engineers are quite innovative people. They are probably responsible for the majority of gains in the economy from time immemorial. So, surely, given the right guidance, they can play a significant part in driving this forward, through their own innovation, with the right guidance. Really, that's what we're after. So, you mentioned, didn't you, in a previous answer, 'It's about culture'? Somebody mentioned it's about culture. But engineering is, in my opinion, one of the most adaptable cultures available. So, how are we going to do that?
I think funding is a key issue. Engineers will innovate and deliver what they're paid to deliver. If I can cite some figures in terms of funding: Wales's annual spend on walking and cycling is about £3.30 per head; England is £6—and Cambridge £20; and £20-plus in Holland, Denmark, et cetera. So, if you have money there to deliver, people will innovate and spend that money wisely. But without the incentive, if you're requiring active travel enhancement to bolt it on to projects, then people are guarded as to how much they can spend.
It shouldn't be bolted on, though, should it? It should be part of the spend.
Yes, but the money, the funding—. If you're including active travel in developments, whether they're private or public, there's a cost to that, and that money has to come from somewhere. So, either the scheme costs go up, or there are costs across portfolio funding.
They wouldn't go up in every case, though, would they? If I look to Martin, if you design something from the very beginning so that—. Because we're not just talking about cycling; we're talking about walking. People have always walked, as far as I know—those that are able. So, there isn't a sudden cost because people have started walking all of a sudden, because it's not a new innovation. So, in terms of the cost, we need to, as a committee, get underneath exactly what additional costs we would be looking at.
If I can come back on a couple of aspects of that question, clearly one of the issues, in terms of funding infrastructure, is actually what the funding sources are. When it comes to retrofitting infrastructure into established urban areas, I think it's very much seen as requiring public sector funding through the local highway authority. I think, if we can perhaps take a more strategic approach to active travel infrastructure, and particularly looking at how our urban areas change and how new development comes forward, then I think there is the opportunity to shift some of the funding burden so that it becomes part and parcel of the costs of taking forward new development. That may not only be, for example—I don't know—a major new development on the edge of a settlement and the infrastructure within it, but it may also include enhancements to the wider network, perhaps outside the actual development site, but which would perhaps enable easier movement in and out of the centre of that urban area. So, I think it's about taking a strategic approach and particularly looking at the extent to which costs can be borne as part of the costs of the development.
We've already touched on—this is the last question from me—the fact that developers from outside Wales, looking to implement schemes in Wales covered by the Act, will benefit from more detailed information that then will avoid late design changes and costs. So, maybe, Mark, you want to say something.
Yes. The response that we gave from the RTPI referred to the need for planning practitioners—all those that are involved in the development process, on the applicant side, the designer's side and on the planning officer and highway engineer's side—to have an early understanding of what the potential is for design improvements to a development before that development gets anywhere near a planning application submission, such that there's an understanding of costs from the outset and of what measures would be required in order to deliver the active travel design elements as an integral part of the scheme, as opposed to them coming later on in the design process, when there can be more resistance from applicants and developers to providing these things, because, 'But we haven't put these in the costs; they're going to impact on viability, and so on and so forth.' So, it's an early understanding from all parties of what they're going to be in for here and what they are going to be expected to provide. So, the question leads on to then, I suppose, the permeability or the ability of the professionals to draw what they need to draw from the very comprehensive and detailed guidance, so that there can be, as I said—I'm starting to repeat myself—a clear understanding from all sides of expectations and requirements and what can be delivered and what should be delivered.
Just a quick one. You referred to spending per head, on a comparative basis, and you also referred to public and private development. Can you clarify is that exclusively public spending per head, or is that public and private combined?
The figures I quoted are public expenditure.
Can I say, if you do have additional comments to make, then please indicate? We're very keen to know what your views are in terms of improving the effectiveness of the Act and its implementation. So, by all means, if you hear a question and you feel that there's a point to make, then please do indicate to come in. David Rowlands.
Inevitably, you've touched on some of what I might be covering here, but if we can look a little more closely at how you feel the highways and wider transport policy has effectively integrated with the active travel policy, and if we can go on with that, whether the duty imposed on local authorities and the Welsh Ministers to—and I quote here—
'take reasonable steps to enhance the provision made for walkers and cyclists'
in constructing and maintaining highways is operating effectively. If not, what are the main barriers and how should they be addressed?
I'll come in on that. I think some of the barriers are the objectives of the schemes, in the first place, where these schemes are concerned with reducing congestion and improving journey times for the business and time-related benefits of those, rather than overseeing and looking at what we can actually do to reduce congestion. They tend to be very specific to things that you can actually do and measure through appraisal processes in terms of quite established forecasting and modelling tools for vehicles.
Inevitably, it's more difficult to bring out the benefits for the walking and cycling aspects of those schemes. In fact, it's very easy to put a cost to the aspects for walking and cycling, but the benefits are a lot more challenging and a lot less established—quite often working from quite a low base in the first place. So, I think it's welcome that tools like HEAT—the health economic assessment tool—are being advocated through the WelTAG refresh, and there are obviously other units that can be used to measure time. But, even using HEAT, it's kind of flawed in that, because it's all about physical activity, if you reduce journey times for walking and cycling, that's actually reducing physical activity and you're getting a negative cost. So, although well intentioned, it might not actually work that well for certain schemes.
So, I think there are things that can be done to quantify benefits for walking and cycling, but I think it's more challenging, and it takes quite a desire that would have to be brought out in the objectives of that scheme in the first place, and really understood. Otherwise, it's always going to be seen as a kind of impact on operation, perhaps. If you've got crossings, for example, that impact on the benefits of journey times for traffic, and of course the extra cost associated with those—what are often seen as, in my experience, additional parts to a scheme rather than integral. That's what I have to say on that.
I think the well-established appraisal process for, in particular, trunk road schemes is quite a focused tool that doesn't take things like active travel into account. Whether you would want to go down the route of analysing active travel schemes and the benefits they provide, or whether you wanted to perhaps take a broader view and have an ambition to achieve something, and you can then measure against how well you're achieving that, and you're not looking at it specifically in terms of value for every pound spent—as Robert said, it's quite difficult to actually demonstrate, pound for pound, the active travel benefits and disbenefits.
David, do you mind if I just bring Lee in and come back to you? Lee.
Well, that's just not the case. Using the established methodologies you've described, Mr Shouler, that is true, but there are the World Health Organization's additional tools. There's the HEAT tool, for example, which shows a very clear methodology and benefit for doing that. It's just that the profession, from Robert Jones's evidence, is still thinking in very conventional terms about interruptions to traffic flow and journey times. So, in practice, how much is that view still a barrier to seeing these schemes as having a useful contribution?
Is 'barrier' the right word? Possibly. It's a challenge, certainly, and again I think it comes back to culture and leadership of these schemes, of the drivers of these schemes and who really wants them, and the motive behind them. So, yes, there possibly are some inherent barriers in that, I think. But I suppose really we should be focusing on what we can do to address those things. I think that's maybe a function of time and of leadership and of sharing best practice, perhaps, and getting that knowledge better understood. Maybe that best practice initially may need to come from outside Wales, until we've got some schemes where we can see that here. But, yes, I certainly see that there is a bit of an issue there, I think. There's a challenge, definitely.
I take your point about Government, but there's no shortage of evidence about the efficacy of this approach, or where it works well within the UK. I guess my question is about the role of the profession itself, because a theme to many of your answers is: 'If we were given more money, we could do this'; 'If there was different guidance, we could do this.' That's true to a degree, but what is the impetus from within the professions and the industry itself to change the way of thinking and working to reflect these new objectives?
I would say it's patchy and opportunist. There are some people that will think like this and there are some that won't, and then it probably comes down to who's got the most autonomy in that decision-making process.
I think one thing of interest is the Institution of Civil Engineers' Project 13 initiative. They're focusing on new ways of delivering and procuring, and they're moving away from strict economic-based output to added value, and I think that could be a really good step forward, because you're looking at ways you could add value to delivering a project, rather than just crunching the numbers at the end. So, I think the ICE may well be—. I don't think it's aimed specifically at helping to deliver active travel, but as a spin-off, I think it might be a good start.
I should bring David back in. David, do you have further questions?
Yes, just moving on a little, to ACE Cymru's comments that
'Current appraisal methods focus on journey time benefits and thus are not suited to appraising Active Travel schemes.'
Are appraisal methods such as the Welsh transport appraisal guidance, and standards such as the design manual for roads and bridges, a barrier to active travel infrastructure?
They're not a barrier. There are some limitations, I think, for the reasons I said earlier in terms of the forecasting techniques, in terms of that low share in the first place for active travel users, that makes it difficult to quantify significant benefits. Where there is definitely a barrier, I think, is where you have the outputs of historical DMRB application in the absence of other considerations, within urban areas in particular, where you have a lot of people needing to walk and cycle about, and wanting to walk and cycle, but there are constraints because the scheme has been designed very much for motor traffic. I guess that is seen most in urban areas, but sometimes beyond as well. So, it's a historical barrier to get around there, but it shouldn't be a barrier for new schemes, and I don't think there's any reason why DMRB can't be considered in combination with statutory active travel guidance and other good guidance for walking and cycling, and that they can't come to a sensible solution that works for all users, really, though it might cost more money.
The DMRB is only mandatory on trunk roads. A lot of local authorities do use it in part or in total for some of their design, so it doesn't automatically sit well in urban areas.
Okay, thank you. Mark, perhaps you could comment on the RTPI's view that supporting active travel provision should be a specific aim for Transport for Wales. Do you think that that integration with public transport policy is effective?
Sorry, in terms of effective in its current operation?
Yes, perhaps I can pick that up. I think there's been quite a focus on the interface between active travel infrastructure and conventional highway infrastructure and, clearly, that's very important. But I think the interface with public transport operators and public transport planning is equally as important. It's important to recognise that every journey by public transport actually begins with a journey on foot or by cycle to get to the bus stop or to get to the railway station, and so the interface between walking and cycling routes and facilities and public transport is really important. One of the key constraints at the moment is actually around the ability of public transport vehicles—buses and trains—to carry bicycles. It's interesting that—. There are countries where carrying a bike on a bus is perfectly commonplace, and I think that's one area that we could certainly explore in a lot greater detail. It is a matter of some disappointment that one innovation in enabling bikes to be carried by buses, which was the Brecon Beacons bike bus, which operated successfully for several years through the summer, actually has been discontinued because of reductions in bus subsidies. That kind of initiative, I think, could take us quite a long way.
I think, looking at the rail side of things, it is inevitable that there is going to need to be a lot of new rolling stock on the Welsh rail network, whatever comes out of the franchising process and the metro programme, and there is an opportunity to consider very carefully the specification of the rolling stock, whether it's new or whether it's upgraded. So, the opportunity to actually specify higher capacity, for example, for carrying bicycles, which would also enable more capacity for carrying wheelchairs or for carrying children's buggies, would have the potential to make our public transport system far more accessible to the diverse needs of our populations than perhaps tends to be the case conventionally.
I think another issue to particularly think about is actually access to railway stations. In some places pedestrian and cycle access is extremely good; in others, it really isn't so good at all. It's a supreme irony that one of our busiest railway stations in Wales, which is Queen Street station, has actually lost the right of pedestrian access from the east—quite a remarkable development, I think, and something that happened several years ago, but it's perhaps disappointing that, notwithstanding the vast amount of investment that's gone into increasing the capacity of Queen Street station, you still can't get at it from the east, and so it's not nearly as accessible to a wide range of potential users as it might be. And it's that kind of integration that I think we need to be thinking about, and making active travel links within the mainstream of people's thinking on transport planning, whether it's public transport or whether it's on the highway.
Thank you. We've got to finish around about 11.45 this session, so we've got about 10 minutes. I've got Lee on one subject area and Adam on another. I want to allow time for Adam as well, so can you be succinct, Lee, in your questions on your next section, please?
Okay. There's a couple of things I'd like to ask, just to go back to the point on appraisal, because I don't think this is a particularly well understood—perhaps deliberately—area outside of the professions, but the practical impact this has on schemes. So, if you can just confirm my understanding is correct, and maybe add some analysis of your own, if there was, for example, a proposal to increase the crossing time on a pedestrian crossing—. We've got an ageing population, and often the little green man isn't up there for very long. Say we wanted to double the amount of time it was kept on green to give people time to cross, under the current WelTAG system, that would be seen as a bad thing because it would slow down journey times for motorists. Is that right?
I wouldn't say a bad thing. Potentially, it could impact on the business case, the cost-benefit analysis. It depends on the split of users. But, inevitably, you're probably not going to have huge numbers of users, depending on where it is, that do need that extra time. So, I guess that the scheme sponsor might look to really investigate how necessary that is, and not to have it longer than necessary, depending on the traffic conditions. If is starts to cause queuing and safety issues, if it's near to a junction, say, then, potentially, it could be a challenge; I wouldn't say a bad thing. You've got to weigh it up, haven't you? The appraisal processes, you're saying—.
Yes, but the starting point of that analysis is the negative effect it would have on the journey time of a car user, rather than the positive impact it would have on the pedestrian.
No. The starting point is that somebody's identified the need for it. So, the starting point is very much the positive impact it would have on users to use the crossing. I think that you would also generally find that somebody would look at the impact it would have on traffic, both for safety reasons, and for the impact it would have on their journey times as well, especially if they happen to be the majority of the users.
The WelTAG has been refreshed with the intention of bringing it into line with the future generations Act and the active travel Act. In practical terms, what has changed to assist this agenda?
I think, in practical terms, the future well-being Act, and, to maybe a slightly lesser extent, the Active Travel (Wales) Act, has been pushed right up to the top of the guidance on WelTAG. And I think—
But what in practice will be different, rather than just a reference to a policy? What decisions might be different as a result of that?
I think it might actually change the very initial thinking about the objectives and the way they're framed, which I think is so important. So, they're not all just about journey time and regional connectivity, they're thinking wider about what they actually want to achieve going forward and how you can actually improve the area for everyone. So, I think they haven't really—. They haven't been—. It hasn't changed that long ago, to be fair, so it's difficult to say the impact—
Untested so far. Okay. If I can just move on to the guidance, the design guidance, because you say in your written evidence—you asked:
'What action should be taken to improve the effectiveness of the...implementation'
and you say:
'Provide guidance to address fragmented and disjointed networks through urban areas and across authorities’ boundaries'.
Well, that's really what the design guidance is meant to be doing already. So, why hasn't that worked, do you think? What's been the failing of the design guidance as is?
You're talking about the delivery guidance rather than design—
The design guidance. I was specifically—. Previously, I think we were referring to what it says in the delivery guidance about—. Design guidance tends to be more about the actual schemes—
But they're both, taken together, meant to be addressing this point. My question to you is: you clearly think that that's not working and I'm just trying to understand why.
I think it comes down to funding, again, ambition, limited resources, perhaps looking after your own patch, with 22 authorities. If you're Cardiff or Newport, just as an example, you're probably going to think about your own employment areas and people living in your own authority first, if you can't do everything, I think. I think that would be natural and I think that wouldn’t just be the case for active travel, but for everything.
I think something we mentioned earlier is possibly relevant, and that's how you'd describe enhancement, because without a clearer definition of what actually is enhancement, you have differences of interpretation.
Well, the intent was, with this notion of continuous improvement, that it gets better over time.
Yes, but there's a difference between continuous improvement and enhancement, as described by the guidance.
Not in terms of—. No. I think our comment would be that it could be clearer. It could be a little bit more—. To give a target a hit, rather than—.
I fail to understand why funding would be a barrier at this stage, because the whole point of the individual network maps was to scope out, over a 15-year period, where ideally we'd like different routes to go to link up. So, the fact that funding may not be available now shouldn't really constrain ambitious thinking of where you'd like things to go over 15 years. So, what's gone wrong there?
I wonder if I can come in there. Ultimately, in putting any plan together, you have to have regard to the resources that are likely to be available to deliver it. Every authority—
Well, no, because—. The guidance doesn't say that. The guidance says: give us an aspirational network over 15 years—where would you like the routes to go?
I agree with you—it is intended to be aspirational, but, nonetheless, any engineer or planner putting a plan for anything together will not do so regardless of the resources that are likely to be available. And, as has been pointed out already, the level of resources coming through mainstream public sector funding for active travel is still very modest. I think there is a real challenge here of being able to widen the scope of the sources of funding that we’re able to look at in delivering widespread network improvements. At the moment, we've not got to that point.
Thank you, Martin. We can go over on time, Adam, so take what time you need for your subject area.
Great, and that was a fantastic prelude to my questions, which really are about funding. So, ACE Cymru, you said in your written evidence that, without adequate funding for active travel, then it's likely to be at the expense of other, planned spend. Could you just say a little bit more about what precisely you meant by that?
Yes. Everything has a cost, and if you take, for example, a trunk road scheme, if you're taking on active travel initiatives and innovations, they will have a cost to deliver. Some, you can accommodate by design, but if you are putting in, for example, additional cycle ways, things of that nature, they will have a cost. If you don't have the cross-portfolio funding for that, it will push up, for example, the trunk road budget. With a private developer, if they're delivering active travel initiatives, the cost has to be borne by the recipient of the development, whether it's a factory or people buying homes. There is a cost that is passed through the chain to doing those enhancements. I'm not saying that it's a negative thing; it's just a matter of fact that if you're spending money on initiatives, the cost flows through the project and will find an owner for that additional cost.
So, for example, the community infrastructure levy on new development—the degree to which that could be used to levy further funds to provide off-site works for expanding the network and undertaking the works necessary for delivering the network maps.
Specifically on that, what practical steps could be taken to do that? How could we use the levy more effectively for active travel?
I think it would probably need a significant change in approach to the way in which the community infrastructure levy is used. It's certainly not impossible, but it would require the right policy framework to be put in place. I think certainly the proposed changes to 'Planning Policy Wales' are a step in that direction. I think in terms of funding it's also—I think there's a bigger picture in terms of the potential of development to fund infrastructure. Any major development site will have a requirement to fund a certain amount of highway infrastructure to cope with the traffic it generates. If you're able to achieve a significant modal shift away from the car towards walking and cycling, then you're actually going to be generating fewer car movements, in which case you're not going to need, perhaps, to invest so much money in upgrading the highway network. And if you're able to save money in terms of highway improvements, then you've got some funding that you could devote towards active travel infrastructure.
And active travel infrastructure is very attractive to people who want to buy homes et cetera. So, you could sell it to developers as actually part of their marketing, effectively, in terms of envisioning their development.
You can certainly sell it to developers in that way, but you can also sell it to developers on the basis of: if you're able to achieve a significant modal shift away from private car use, you can get a higher density of development on your site, hence your site value is increased and your profitability is increased. So, there is potential for I think quite a lot of this infrastructure to effectively be self funding if it's actually managed through the planning system in that way.
Those are great and very interesting ideas. How do we take them forward? What's the mechanism? Who can lead in turning those outline ideas and actually implementing them?
I think it's absolutely top down through the planning policy system, and that is kicking off with 'Planning Policy Wales' and the consultation on the redraft that's under way at the moment. That then could carry through into individual authorities' local development plans.
Thank you, Adam. Can I thank you for your time this morning? We will send you a copy of the transcript, which details your answers to our questions this morning as well. Please review those when you receive them over the next seven days. If there's anything in there that you want to add to, or there's something you said that you feel you want to change, then that's fine because we want to extract from you your views in regards to how we can best implement or improve the effectiveness of the travel Act and its implementation. Please, also, if you watch or have any opportunity to see future proceedings and you hear other comments from other witnesses and you feel that you want to add anything further, please also do that as well. We'd be very grateful. We're very grateful for your time this morning. Thank you very much.
Can I move to item 4? We've got a number of items and papers to note. Are Members happy to note those items? Thank you.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Item 5 is a motion under Standing Order 17.42. Can I resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting? Yes, we're happy.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:50.
The public part of the meeting ended at 11:50.