|David J. Rowlands AC|
|Hefin David AC|
|Joyce Watson AC|
|Lee Waters AC|
|Mark Isherwood AC|
|Russell George AC||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Craig Mitchell||Pennaeth Cefnogi Gwastraff, Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru|
|Head of Waste Support, Welsh Local Government Association|
|Gail Bodley-Scott||Arweinydd Adran (Gweledigaeth, Polisi a Strategaeth Trafnidiaeth), Gweithrediadau’r Ddinas, Cyngor Caerdydd|
|Section Leader (Transport Vision, Policy and Strategy), City Operations, Cardiff Council|
|Ken Skates AC||Ysgrifennydd y Cabinet dros yr Economi a Thrafnidiaeth|
|Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport|
|Matthew Price||Arweinydd Adran (Gweledigaeth, Polisi a Strategaeth Trafnidiaeth), Gweithrediadau’r Ddinas, Cyngor Caerdydd|
|Section Leader (Transport Vision, Policy and Strategy), City Operations, Cardiff Council|
|Natalie Grohmann||Arweinydd Tîm Polisi Trafnidiaeth, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Transport Policy Team Leader, Welsh Government|
|Rhodri Griffiths||Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr Polisi, Cynllunio a Phartneriaethau Trafnidiaeth, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Deputy Director, Transport Policy, Planning & Partnerships, Welsh Government|
|Vincent Goodwin||Swyddog teithio, Cyngor Sir Powys|
|Travel officer, Powys County Council|
|Robert Lloyd-Williams||Dirprwy Glerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Papurau i'w nodi||2. Papers to note|
|3. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd ar gyfer eitemau 4 a 5||3. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from items 4 and 5|
|6. Llywodraeth leol—Deddf Teithio Llesol (Cymru) 2013—Craffu ar ôl Deddfu||6. Local Government—Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013—Post-Legislative Scrutiny|
|7. Ysgrifennydd y Cabinet dros yr Economi a Thrafnidiaeth—Deddf Teithio Llesol (Cymru) 2013—Craffu ar ôl Deddfu||7. Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport—Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013—Post-Legislative|
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 09:30.
The meeting began at 09:30.
Bore da. Croeso, bawb.
Good morning, and welcome to everyone.
I'd like to welcome Members to the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee this morning.
I move to item 1. We do have apologies from Vikki Howells and Adam Price this morning. Are there any declarations of interest? No.
In that case, I move to item 2. There's one paper to note. Are Members happy to note that paper?
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd ar gyfer eitemau 4 a 5 yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from items 4 and 5 in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
We move to item 3. Under Standing Order 17.42, I resolve that we go into private session for items 4 and 5. Are Members content with that? They are. Thank you.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 09:30.
The public part of the meeting ended at 09:30.
Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 10:17.
The committee reconvened in public at 10:17.
We move to item 6 in regard to our post-legislative scrutiny on the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013. This is our last panel before we take evidence from the Cabinet Secretary, Ken Skates, later this morning. I'd like to welcome the witnesses this morning, and I'd be very grateful if you could just introduce yourselves, just for the public record, if I can start from my left.
Okay. My name is Vincent Goodwin. I'm a travel officer for Powys County Council, effectively doing transport planning, and active travel comes within that remit.
My name's Craig Mitchell and I work for the Welsh Local Government Association.
I'm Gail Bodley-Scott and I'm a section leader in the transport policy team at Cardiff Council.
I'm Matthew Price. I'm a section leader in the transport policy team with Cardiff Council.
Lovely. Well, if I can ask the first question: has the active travel Act worked, and has it delivered what it promised it would deliver?
Shall I open?
There's probably a range of different aspects to that question, which is around the delivery. The first is clearly around the process, and that's the mapping and the consultation, and I think you'll undoubtedly have further questions in relation to that. But, as a general point, it's the first iteration of undertaking that exercise. I think it's very important that we understand what works and what didn't work quite so well, and there's an independent evaluation of the maps that have been submitted. We're looking forward to working with Welsh Government to understand how we can improve that process further, and colleagues will have thoughts around that, certainly. I think, also, there are issues around the integration across a range of Welsh Government policy areas, and the most obvious is around planning. And the current iteration of 'Planning Policy Wales' that is out for consultation does apparently, speaking to planning colleagues, have an awful lot more in there around active travel. And I think that's really important, because what is in 'Planning Policy Wales' and the technical advice notes has a significant bearing on how local development plans are developed and the whole process of new developments across Wales. There are issues around housing, land and viability that probably the committee would want to come back to around that.
The broader issue, really, is around the governance of the issue, and that's to do with what we're seeking to do with active travel. Now, clearly, what we're seeking to do is around a range of outcomes that local authorities and other public bodies are very keen to deliver around health, around economic development and around regeneration, and I think that's very much a work in progress in terms of what the WLGA are doing with the cohort of new members that were elected last year, and their induction, and the information and training we provided around the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and active travel, amongst a range of other issues, but also the role of cabinet lead members around transport and their understanding of this agenda, and also how we engage with senior officers in local authorities. On Monday, I was due to meet with the strategic environment directors, who typically have responsibility for planning and transport. Unfortunately, that meeting was cancelled. And I also meet on a regular basis with heads of planning. Clearly, what I want to do is continue the dialogue with them, so that they understand the requirements of the Act as a process, but we also understand the ambition of the Act and what we are seeking to achieve by it and how we can use a range of different tools within local authorities to deliver on that.
Thank you, Craig. On some of the points you've mentioned, I know that Members want to go into much more detail, so I won't ask further questions now, especially with regard to mapping and planning, I know. But if I could ask any of the other panel members to perhaps comment in very broad terms—has the active travel Act been successful?
I think it's moving in the right direction. We are not there yet, and I think it's important to recognise that we've only just had our integrated network maps approved. For Cardiff itself, our INMs contain some quite ambitious proposals. We've got some quite exciting schemes lined up for the city, but it's going to take another one or two years before that actually translates into actual physical change on the ground.
This year, and the projects we're delivering this year—they are based for the first time in the active travel design guidance itself. So, that was published in 2014. Since then, last year, we had our first parallel cycle zebra crossing. That went in a year ago, and this year we are trialling other features that have come through the active travel design guidance. So, we've got light segregation, which is just completing at the moment, and we're also trialling early starts for cyclists at a signalled junction.
So, things are coming forward, but there's always going to be a lag between the policy developing and it actually turning into real, physical changes.
And if I can perhaps broaden it out, looking perhaps at Vincent as well. The active travel Act is there to encourage people to walk and cycle more and in greater numbers. The evidence we've seen is that there isn't a great increase in those that are walking and cycling. What are the barriers that are there that are stopping people from walking and cycling?
I think there are a couple of things. In response to the first question, which was 'Has it delivered?', I think it has delivered in part and, sometimes, where it has delivered in part, it has done quite well. But there are gaps in what we're trying to deliver, particularly around winning the hearts-and-minds side of things, and that is both at local resident level, amongst the communities, to get people to engage with the principles of the Act—
Behavioural change. So, some of that is around, obviously, the infrastructure and allowing us to put the innovative infrastructure in there, but also around getting people to use the infrastructure. Research would show that you need to have a behaviour change programme to support an infrastructure programme in order to get the best return on investment and to create the change that you want. But, also, the hearts and minds politically are within leadership in local authorities as well. It's still very much, in most local authorities, I would say, a fringe activity. It's one where the specialists cause the agenda and drive the agenda; it's not driven by heads of service particularly, or departments, or planning, or anybody. It's seen as an add-on, rather than it being integral to the main piece of work. So, until you get the hearts and minds there, you're not going to see the changes that you want to see.
So, you're suggesting that there perhaps is an issue broadly, not just with one particular county council, but in terms of leadership at cabinet level and—
I think it's early days. As Gail said, we've just completed the mapping exercise, so there's a lot more work yet to do. As Gail said, the guidance of the Act has acted as a spur for us planning, in Cardiff, some really high-quality infrastructure, which will mark a step change in what's gone before. So, that's very good. I would say that what needs to happen going forward is that there needs to be a much broader effort across local authority service functions. The way the Act is framed is that very much the effort on the mapping has focused on the transport and highways functions of local authorities, but really what we need is a sort of marriage of capability and capacity in infrastructure delivery with the capability and capacity to deliver the behaviour change programmes. So, I'm thinking particularly about work in schools, working on school travel plans, getting active travel action plans going in schools, so working on behaviour change but also marrying that to identifying the physical improvements that need to go on outside the school gates and linking into the catchment areas to remove some of these physical barriers that parents may feel prevent their children from walking or cycling safely to school.
My next question is probably for Vincent, but for anyone on the panel. It has been suggested that the Act is more focused on urban Wales rather than rural Wales. Is that something that any of you recognise?
Yes. There are distinct issues about outlying settlements. In Powys, we've got 11 active travel settlements, which creates a huge resourcing issue in terms of engagement with local politicians and local people—two people trying to get round 11 towns and fitting in around their timetables is quite difficult. But actually, beyond the active travel distance, we've got quite a lot of dispersed settlements that are not connected to the market towns, so that is an issue for us—that we are restricted within that very, very absolute three-mile limit. If we could bring in what we would class as associated settlements within the Act, that would help us as well.
And finally, Vincent, to come back on your point with regard to leadership at local authority level, how can that change?
I think it's about education; I think it's about commitment. The way funding comes through is seen as a little bit of an add-on. It's a bidding process, it's a competitive bid against other local authorities. So, some authorities choose not to take part in that because they don't see this as important. Some authorities that win the work start to see that success breeds success. So, once we were successful with some centralised funding this year, that's made some real changes in our senior leaders' attitude towards the routes that we're putting in, and they're happy about that, but actually unless the money's there, it's seen as something that's easily forgotten.
It is, absolutely, yes. But it's also about training. You've got a team of highways engineers who, historically, have not focused on active travel; they've focused on other issues. And that's particularly true in a more rural county where we don't see this infrastructure and don't see some of the issues on a daily basis, so trying to get those engineers and those senior people to engage with this message is quite hard.
I just want to ask about the mapping process itself. As I understand it, the intent of the mapping process was twofold: it was to identify where there were gaps in the existing network, but also just to create a resource so that people would know where the routes were. Has that worked, or has it—? The sense I get from the evidence is that the mapping process has become an end in itself.
I think the problem really comes down to the fact that the idea has been that the mapping process should be this twofold process, that it serves both the purpose of providing a route-planning tool that's public facing and also as a technical assessment of the quality of network. What we found in practice going through the mapping process for Cardiff itself is that the value to us as an authority was in it being a technical assessment of the network. For our existing routes map consultation, we actually identified and went to consultation on a lot more active travel routes than actually made it into our final existing routes map that we submitted, and that was down to the fact that we identified the routes that we knew, that we developed, routes that are signed on the ground, and routes that people told us are important to them. We audited those routes, and a lot of those routes came out through the audit tool as being very borderline in terms of that quality. I think it was useful for the consultation to have that discussion about what constitutes 'good enough' in terms of our active travel network, but the fact of the matter is that, measured against the standards in the design guidance now, a lot of the routes that we have on the ground aren't up to scratch, and that's why the value of the ERM, as this technical assessment tool to then feed into our INM and plan the work that we need to do, was really important. But, as a route-planning tool, it's not been of much use, in practice.
One of the philosophies behind this agenda is to try and reorientate people's mental maps of their area. It may not be about a formal route. It maybe cuts through back lanes, residential streets and so on. Is what you're saying that the way that the Government have done the guidance, unwittingly, has had the unintended consequence of working against that whole agenda, right back to showing a very narrow group of routes that's available?
That is definitely where the guidance led us to, but, at the same time, I think—. The root of the matter is, when you're talking about barriers to active travel and—. There are massive safety concerns that people have, particularly in relation to cycling, and a lot of that is in relation to the fact that, if you've got a busy road, you can't avoid crossing that busy road or travelling a certain distance along that busy road to get to where you want to go. That needs to be addressed, and without those safety issues being addressed, it's not going to work as an active travel route. So, I think there is more to be done in terms of addressing the basic barriers—making sure there are dropped kerbs and you've not got gates and barriers and that kind of thing—but if you want a truly comprehensive network to get people from point to point, then you're going to have to address the difficult problems too.
I think to have that clarity on what the purpose is on the ERM and whether it is a route-finding tool or whether it is an assessment tool. That would help us. I also think, for moving on to the next round of ERM and INM revisions, we found that it took a considerable amount of time, actually, to do the technical assessment work, to identify the schemes, to run through the consultation process, to get the approvals that we needed for our INM, and although the Welsh Government was supporting the pilot projects with some local authorities to develop case studies and lessons learned on various aspects of the INM development process, the outcomes of those pilots were not timely in order to enable us to incorporate those lessons into the work that we were doing at the time. I think we've got, now, three years before we need to submit our next INM. I think, really, we're looking at the sort of next 12 months to really bottom down how the process should be streamlined and improved for the next time around so that we can incorporate those lessons from the outset when we're doing our planning for the next INMs.
As I understand it, you in Cardiff have agreed—even though you've submitted your plan and it's been accepted—to do a new version within the next year, in response to feedback from local cycling campaigners. Can you tell us a little bit about that, which I think is to your credit, by the way?
Yes, again, that was focusing on the concerns that were coming out that we were looking at point-to-point, focusing on the bigger destinations. We were looking at identifying the four main corridors, really, connecting the city centre to the outskirts of the city and the communities and the main destinations there. I think that focus is really important if we want to get the step change in provision that we need for Cardiff, but the flipside of that was that some of these smaller details of making sure you've got access through road-ends in residential areas were overlooked because of the way that we were working on the primary routes first of all, and then some of the secondary routes, and we didn't get down to that more basic level of detail. So, what we're planning to do, in relation to the superhighway corridors that we're looking at now, which form the same function as the primary routes in the guidance, is looking at that local level, where you've got the local streets that feed into those routes, and just making sure that we are addressing those barriers on that basic network, so that if you do live 200m or 300m away from a superhighway, you are going to be able to get through your residential side streets to get to that route and really maximise the return on the investment.
And that's exactly the sort of thing the design guidance had in mind. So, can I just ask Craig Mitchell: as far as I'm aware, Cardiff is the only authority doing that—other authorities have tended to put in the bare basic route to the process—so what can be done to make sure that local authorities take on this learning?
I think that's where, obviously, the WLGA have a role in working with cabinet lead members and also the strategic directors to make sure that that learning is understood, and we share that approach. The issue for us is, clearly, the maps were a necessary process, but they were to get to us a point where we started to have a more informed debate and conversation about what this active travel is, effectively. Up until that point, everyone can agree that active travel is a good thing, and it's a rather esoteric debate about, 'Yes, we should improve health, we should improve economic connectivity' and so on and so forth, but once we have the maps we have something tangible that we look at in terms of, 'Are they fit for purpose? Can we then have a debate about what their role is? How can we improve them?', and there are mechanisms for that more informed consultation and debate within communities. Obviously, that's the line that we will be promoting with our members and with—
So, how will you be doing that, because, arguably, you should have been doing that in the first place? So, how are you going to be doing that now?
Certainly. Not to dodge the question—personally, I've only been involved in the transport side of things for the last couple of months because a colleague left. However, I know that the Cabinet Secretary does meet with cabinet lead members on a regular basis across all portfolio areas. I think that's been less so in transport, perhaps, in the past, but that's a key forum for discussing these issues, ensuring that they understand the priority in relation to that.
Sorry, I'm not trying to be difficult—that's an action for the Cabinet Secretary, and you're right that it's something he needs to do, but you said the WLGA will be looking to do that. So, how are you going to be doing it?
Sorry. Normally around those meetings, we meet separately with the cabinet members, and we go into more detail about particular issues and subjects, and that's where we get into getting the peer-to-peer support for members. So, it would be a case of getting the cabinet lead member for Cardiff to talk about their experience and what they're doing and what benefit they've derived from it as a way of sharing that practice.
David, would you prefer if I came to you, because you've got two sections, haven't you? I'll come to you on one section, then come to Joyce, then come back to you. Is that all right? David Rowlands.
That's fine. Can we discuss the purpose of the maps and how they will be used in practice? That's obviously why we're producing these maps in the first place. So, how are both maps being used in practice by local authorities, their partners and the public, of course, and does the practice vary over Wales?
Okay. So, I can talk about how we're using them in Cardiff. As I said with the existing routes map, it's turned out in practice to be of much more value to us as a technical planning tool. We've struggled to convert the existing routes map into something that is useful and public facing. If that's a role for the ERM in future, then we'd certainly welcome some guidance on how to make use of that. So, the ERM, for us, formed the foundation of our planning then for what routes we needed to upgrade and what changes we needed to make in the INM. And then the INM itself is the tool that we've got now to prioritise what changes we need to make to our network to improve active travel, and we will be using that to prioritise which elements are funded.
In Powys, we're going to be using it in two ways. The first of those obvious ways is that, in addition to making them available on our websites and things, we're also looking at putting that information on some smart information boards that are going in our new bus interchanges, so that when somebody arrives at one of the market towns, they can pull this up on the smart information board to see the map. There are some issues around the format on that and how that looks, because it's quite difficult to read on a small screen. But that's kind of where we're looking to go with it.
The second way is when we started the consultation process—and this echoes what some of the others on the panel have said—engaging with stakeholders and engaging with communities on active travel was quite a difficult issue in an area such as Powys. And we see this now as the start of a conversation for the next three years, and using these maps that have been published is a way of doing that. And, actually, the move from consultation on the map to actually having it approved and signed off has suddenly sparked interest among a lot of local politicians to actually have that discussion about what they envisage their towns would look like. So, we're going to use the next 12 months, and through into the three-year period, to start a dialogue about what we want the networks to look like going forward, and not resting on our laurels. So, the map is providing a useful discussion tool, and some of those routes we are using it to pick out, and we're actually building them. So, that starts to give us that embryonic transport planning that we need.
Thank you. The WLGA's comments that the maps lack content, quality and ambition, and particularly ambition with regard to the lack of knowledgeable funding that we're going to get: what sort of comments would you make with regard to that?
I think what we're trying to reflect is that, across the 22 authorities, there was a difference in approach. And, quite clearly, the authorities you have before you today tend to be the ones that work in a very vigilant manner. What we're keen to do is understand what the issues were with any of the other maps, what we need to do to support authorities to bring them up to speed effectively, because, obviously, I think four authorities have been directed to go back to their maps and undertake that work again. So, from our point of view, we need to understand how, as a local authority family, we can share the knowledge and the good practice with those authorities to make sure that what they're doing is correct.
Fine. Does anybody else want to make a comment on that? No. Okay.
Will integrated network maps set out an effective 15-year plan to create an integrated network? We have to look to things such as regard for local transport plans and wider corporate strategies. So, will these maps help you in those determinations?
I think that issue of corporate governance and understanding is critical in how the integrated network maps, as you say, feed into wider transport planning processes, but also wider corporate planning processes. I think there was a question asked about the public services boards in a previous session, and I think, if they're to have meaning, then the debate at that level has to be able to link back into tangible change on the ground. And the integrated network maps are a way of delivering that change, so we need to ensure there's a link between, for want of a better word, the rhetoric and the actual delivery on the ground. So, there has to be that link through, and I think planning is a good example of that, because, obviously, we now have, in 'Planning Policy Wales', the relevant aspects of active travel picked up in there. However, it needs to feed through to the technical advice notes. When local authorities are reviewing their local development plans, they have to make sure that they're capturing active travel in there as a key area in terms of their local design guidance.
And, equally, the development industry need to be able to understand these requirements, understand that you shouldn't be bringing forward development that doesn't integrate active travel in the appropriate way. But there will always be a degree of lag in that process because local development plans often were developed before the Act came into being. The sites that were promoted for development were promoted under the understanding of what kind of issues would be addressed through section 106, in terms of education facilities, in terms of highways infrastructure, in terms of affordable housing, which certainly the—
What you seem to be suggesting here is that there should be a holistic approach to this and it's not happening at the moment, is it?
I think it will happen, but I think there's—. To use an example that an authority raised with us around biodiversity, which is a separate subject—but, obviously, the environment Act brought up the issue that local authorities should be positively planning for improvement in biodiversity. One local planning authority was introducing conditions on larger planning applications to try and do that, and what they found was that, when it went to appeal, those were the first conditions that the planning inspector knocked out. We had a meeting with the planning inspectorate in Wales and local authorities, and we asked the question of why that was when we have a proactive, positive duty as local authorities to promote biodiversity. Generally, the response was, 'Well, it's to promote biodiversity in your function', and in this case, it's the planning function, and your planning function, to a certain extent, is about material considerations, and you have planning legislation, and you have 'Planning Policy Wales', you have the technical advice notes—
So, should we have an individual—a fairly high-level individual—in each authority who should be looking at the whole holistic approach to this? Because that's what it sounds like.
If we're doing the well-being Act properly and if we're doing active travel properly, that should be happening. I think what we need to understand is what those governance arrangements are in local authorities, and that's where I know Wales Audit Office are starting to look at how they can audit these sorts of things, to make sure that they do run through every aspect of what the authority does, as you're suggesting.
Okay, fine. You've produced the maps. What are you actually doing to promote them? Because we've read something that they are pretty complicated things, and perhaps the public are not going to be able to understand the maps as they stand at the moment. So, what are you doing to publish them?
Well, I come back to the point I made before that we're taking these out to the communities and the stakeholders and engaging with the communities on the map about what that means, once we get large prints of them. So, we are using that as a way of having the dialogue. I think, as well, just to touch on the other point you mentioned, the network maps are a very useful tool, but they're only as useful as we use them. So, if we don't use them, but we put them on a shelf and forget about them, then we're not having that dialogue. A classic criticism of developers when they come into an area is that planning departments don't actually know what they want, so we've used these network maps in meetings with developers to say, 'If you're developing this site, this is what we expect to see from it. We want to see this network improved. There's the specifics that you're always saying—'. So, yes, they are confusing. The maps and the format of them is very much about specialists, so they're not particularly public facing as they stand, but we can talk that through with communities, and that's the way we're going to use it. It's difficult, because we've got a lot of towns to go through, but that's the intention of what we will do: we will prioritise certain areas, depending on where we think—
Well, the public are the end user at the end of the day. They have to know and understand what these maps are about and be able to—.
Can I ask, Gail, as well: I think, earlier on in the session, you mentioned a difficulty in converting the maps into public documents? Why is that so difficult?
It's the level of detail that is required within the maps themselves. I think, certainly with the mapping system that Welsh Government made available for us to use, the outputs from those are not particularly readable or easy to use, unless you're really keen on maps. And the same goes for the integrated network map—in fact, more so for the integrated network map, because you've got the routes on the one hand and then you've got a schedule of schemes, and, certainly with our schedule of schemes, you've got an awful lot of detail in those, which, as a planning document, is exactly what we need. So, in terms of promoting the INM internally and making sure that other decision makers in the authority are aware of the INM so that they can factor that in to their projects as well, it's important, but, yes, certainly, converting that into something that's a public-friendly document is a real challenge for us.
I think, again, it's looking at what information the public needs and how that would be of use to the public and just really working on then presenting that as—. It's getting that balance right between presenting it as simply as possible but also having the information that we need to have.
I can see Matthew nodding. Tell me, though, what the Government needs to do to change, to get to avoid that?
I think we all need to work on a sort of method for how to bring these things to life, because, essentially, maps are technical documents and professionals are used to looking at maps. We're used to looking at accompanying spreadsheets that list the schemes, but, to people out there, they may not be terribly interesting. It's quite a challenge to actually engage people on the content, when really you're looking at a line on a map linking two points on the map. Often, the proposals don't really develop a relevance and a life until they're developed in greater detail, a greater level of detail than the actual integrated network maps actually contain. Because a lot of these schemes are aspirational, they're described as possibilities, in a sense. But, for the general public, that doesn't really burst into life until you've got a much more detailed plan that relates to the locality and the physical space within someone's neighbourhood.
What's the solution? I think we need to come up with a way of bringing it to life, really. This is a challenge for—
Is that your job? Or, is it the Welsh Government's job to support you in that?
I think we need to collaborate on that effort, really. I think it needs—
What? Welsh Government and local authorities, or local authorities?
Yes, I think so, because it's a challenge—
Yes. It's a challenge for us at the front line because we're the people going out and meeting communities. It may be there's an investment in the media that we use to capture people's imagination. Because we as professionals can imagine what a segregated cycle route looks like, but it's difficult to convey what that might look like unless you've got some sort of visual representation.
Yes, just some quick questions emerging from the evidence there. First of all, just on that point, what you're saying is the maps have two audiences: the internal 'in-house engineering' audience, but also the public-facing 'somebody who wouldn't dream of getting on a bike' audience. Does the Welsh Government have the capacity and the capability to be able to work with you to develop the guidance that makes that work? Because I understand that they only have two and half people who are only working part time on this. Is the wherewithal within the Welsh Government there to get the detail of this right? A quick answer will be fine.
Yes, I think—
Yes. [Laughter.] The example of the mapping software is a really good demonstration of perhaps the limits of capacity at the moment. I think a lot of emphasis was placed on what the mapping software could deliver and, in practice, it's not delivered perhaps what we need, particularly in terms of the public-facing element of that.
I think this is so new to a lot of local authorities that they need a lot of help. I've had the sense that there hasn't been the drive from the centre to drive forward the Act from the Welsh Government. With two and a half people, you can't do a lot, really. What is needed is Welsh Government needs to be a centre of expertise that has a resource of experts on hand to provide, on tap, the advice and the help that local authorities need in learning how to do the technical aspects of the work and being able to transfer that knowledge and disseminate it across their organisations. As Vincent said, there are highways engineers who are much maligned, and unfairly maligned I think, in many respects, but there are people who really aren't accustomed to doing this thing properly. So, I think the Welsh Government needs to have a central unit that drives forward the Act, champions it, and provides a technical resource that local authorities can call upon. It may be a pool of consultants who can come in and work with local authorities, sit at desks and deliver training internally and really build up that capability.
That's very helpful. That could be a recommendation for us to consider. Just a couple of quickies based on what you've said. So, clearly, planning policy is key here, because we want these routes to be built not just by Government grants but organically as new developments occur. You mentioned the new edition of 'Planning Policy Wales'. Will the Act be a material consideration under the new iteration of 'Planning Policy Wales'?
Obviously, that's out to consultation. We'll be meeting with heads of planning shortly to get their views on that matter. Obviously, their initial feedback is that it's represented a lot more strongly in there, that the transport hierarchy is in there, in terms of cycling and walking being at the top of the hierarchy.
It will be, yes. It's PPW. It is a prime consideration.
Yes, absolutely. I think previous drafts, or the latest addition, which was published back in the autumn, mentions the active travel Act, but it doesn't really move beyond warm words, really.
So, what could we recommend for 'Planning Policy Wales' to say that it doesn't currently say?
The policy needs to be considerably strengthened, so all new developments are required to facilitate the development and completion of routes on the integrated network maps and, where relevant, to safeguard routes that are identified in the maps. There needs to be a requirement for development to integrate with local active travel networks, as defined in the INMs, and development needs to contribute to the expansion and improvement of local active travel networks through the provision of well-designed on-site and off-site facilities.
And that needs to be an essential requirement, because we design—. There's no question about the width of a road or the standard of a road when a development is built, it's accepted as standard. But, for some reason, we're not seeing the high-quality active travel facilities coming forward as part of new developments, so we need to get that right. So, there needs to be a sort of marriage of quality on new development that is the same as the quality we're trying to achieve through retrofitting the urban environment following the active travel design guidance.
Thank you, that's very helpful. Final question: in terms of twenty-first century schools, as I understand it the guidance for that does not include active travel at all and we've been seeing new schools being built since the Act's been passed that have no facilities for active travel. Why is that, and how can it be changed?
Yes. Sorry. Yes, it's a frustration that's been highlighted. The whole regime around twenty-first-century schools doesn't seem to allow that. Clearly, it's something that needs to be addressed and in terms of the guidance for that programme, that could be addressed through that process.
I just want to carry on with the statement that was made about twenty-first century schools, because Safe Routes to School has been in for a very long time. So, I don't really accept that it shouldn't have been in the thinking when we were designing and building schools, when it has been the single biggest spend of public money that this country has probably ever seen. So, that concerns me. We're dealing with children; people already know that there was an issue around safe routes to school and obesity and all the rest of it. Are you seriously telling me that local authorities are incompetent in thinking about the welfare of their children when they're building their schools?
Sorry, but I think what we were stressing was how the twenty-first century schools programme was operating, that it was constrained by just looking at the key issue of the site and the school.
Unfortunately, I'm—. That's something that perhaps we can come back to you with.
It's something we can pursue, I think. Anyway, but I just am flabbergasted by that, I have to say.
We've heard comments from the Association for Consultancy and Engineering, or ACE, about some barriers, and they're saying that the barriers to building are more cultural rather than technical. Do you agree with that?
I'd agree with that entirely that it is a hearts-and-minds thing. We have the technical solutions. We've had the technical solutions for many, many years and we come up with more innovative things as time goes on, but we have a whole range of technical solutions for these things. It is a cultural one; it is absolutely hearts and minds.
I think by doing good practice where you can do it, and capitalising where you have got open doors and working with the willing and then using that as a lever to show other people that these things could work and that they're not necessarily an issue. So, you concentrate your activities on areas where you can make a real difference, and then you get other people to follow. So, we've just done quite a big scheme in Presteigne, and Knighton Town Council have been ringing us saying, 'Can we have the same?' So, you've kind of got to get that critical mass rolling on it.
We've got a bypass you might know something about, in Newtown, and again a massive spend of money. In the design of that and the operation thereafter, is it the case that this policy has been used and utilised in the design?
I feel it has. I think there are issues about trunk road priorities and how they have competing priorities to active travel generally, because they're about flow of vehicles and other things. But we've seen it, as Powys council, as an opportunity to start making some real difference in Newtown. So, we eat, sleep and breathe active travel in Newtown, but that's not everywhere. It's about individuals taking this baton and running with it, and I think what we're talking about here is everybody taking that baton and running with it, rather than a few dedicated people.
Yes. Can we just explore a little bit about how the Act has actually impacted on the infrastructure that we've got for the active travel? The duty on local authorities to secure continuous improvements of infrastructure—has it been effective? I'm going to ask this as quite a broad question, so you can only answer from your own individual stances, obviously, with regard to this, but how much active travel infrastructure has been constructed in Wales since the Act? And how does the rate of construction compare to the period before the Act? Because that's the very important thing.
People are looking at me and I'm not sure I have the answer to that. I can certainly—. If I can find that information, I can come back to the committee.
I think it depends on the local authority area, essentially. I think where people have embraced the Act and seen the opportunities that the funding provides, that that has actually seen an acceleration in the build, and in other areas it's probably stayed very much consistent and not moved forward. But, again, it's about those people picking up that and seizing that opportunity.
Okay. Do you think that local authorities ought to be funding parts of this infrastructure themselves, or are you just content to get the grants from the Welsh Government on that basis?
There is a requirement for match funding of the local transport grants provided by Welsh Government, so local authorities are expected to provide some of the match funding.
It's been suggested in our inquiries, actually, Matthew, that this is not happening. It's looked upon as the poor relation of the transport infrastructure. Would you say that that may be a fault of the authorities, of the local authorities?
I think the risk is that, in any austerity, this didn't get the chance to reach its critical mass before the funding cuts started hitting.
So, do you believe the Act is actually focusing your mind now? It's filtering through. Obviously, Gail, you said that it takes time to get these things in place, but do you think that that Act has been constructive in focusing your minds on this particular aspect of infrastructure?
I would agree with that.
Are the routes and facilities being maintained to the standard that they ought to be maintained? We've heard from other people that that isn't the case—potholes, et cetera—and this affects, very much so, cyclists, obviously, but also the disabled, even, when they're accessing these. Do you think that you're doing the job properly on that basis?
Most of the new stuff that we're building is intended to be within the highway boundary, so that action will automatically fall within our maintenance programme, so that's okay. There are, potentially, some legacy issues around off-road routes that go away from the highway and who maintains those long term and about land transfers and things like that. So, those, potentially, could fall into a hole if we weren't careful, but we're working, in Powys, not for that to happen. But the ones that are within the highway boundary, those are relatively easy to put within a maintenance schedule.
Okay. Do you think the Welsh Government should be helping you on looking after those areas where—?
I think it would help, because they're often away from normal view. So, that's an extra cost.
Can I just ask how the active travel guidance interacts with various design standards? I'm thinking for example of the Welsh transport appraisal guidance or the design manual for roads and bridges. Or does it not interact at all with them? Gail, you look like you wanted to answer.
I'm not sure, really. The design manual for roads and bridges obviously predates the active travel design guidance.
But certainly, for the design of the routes that we're looking at within Cardiff, we would look more towards the active travel design guidance and manual for streets than we would necessarily the MRB. Going back to the latest WELTAG guidance, I think the design guidance for active travel does fit within that. I think the approach within WELTAG itself is quite broad—its method for identifying options and assessing those options. Within the latest WELTAG, I think, it points you in the direction of the Department for Transport guidance for assessing the wider benefits of proposals, and there is plenty within that for assessing the benefits of active travel routes.
Obviously, there is various guidance that is looked at, and it's all there on your desk, and you're balancing one against the other. But the question is: do they interact? Do all the regulations and requirements interact with each other, and do the active travel regulations have enough standing and status within thinking in highways departments?
I think, in terms of the documentation and the guidance, they do interact. I think, in terms of implementation, they often don't. People will use old methods, they will use old ideas around designing a road and then try to shoehorn in active travel on the back of it. I think there is perhaps a need for the professional bodies that regulate highways and engineering to perhaps do modules on active travel. We go on training in active travel, but not necessarily everybody in the design teams goes. So, it's not the documentation per se; it's the implementation.
I can see Matthew wants to come in, but my question really is: does active travel have enough authority when officers are looking at all of the various regulations and legislation?
Probably not yet. So, essentially it needs to be promoted and there needs to be training within local authorities on how to use it. As a policy team within Cardiff, as the client for a lot of active travel schemes, part of our role is to promote the active travel guidance and to work with colleagues in our design teams, with highways engineers, with traffic engineers, to basically promote it and say, 'This is the way you do it. You might have done that in the past, but this is the way we're expected to do it now'. So, it does need that internal effort, but I think we need that external help to promote this and to raise the status of the guidance across the professions.
Thank you. Ask your question and come on to your section as well, Lee, please.
Okay. I think we hit on the crucial plumbing issue here, of how this is done in practice. We heard evidence from engineers a few weeks ago that, backing up what Vincent Goodwin just said, the design manual for roads and bridges, which was the old stuff, is still being used by many people, and the new guidance doesn't quite have the status yet.
You say in your evidence, Craig Mitchell, that there's a case for greater flexibility in the way the guidance is implemented. Is that a reflection of the traditional engineers saying, 'We don't like this new guidance. We want to stick with our traditional method', or does it mean something else?
I think it relates to a point Gail raised earlier, which is around: what is the purpose of the map identifying the route and the availability for the public? So, with the hard definition within the guidance, you may have a route that fails the definition of an active travel route. However, you may have something there that, potentially, you'd want to engage with the public on in terms of promoting that in some shape or form. So, it's more really about flexibility in how to engage with the public about active travel routes rather than—
In terms of the design guidance, can you tell me a little bit about the status that has, as Vincent Goodwin just said, not just with the progressive people, if you like, in the teams who go on the training, but the people who then get passed this and do a scheme design drawing and are sticking to what they've always done all their life and are not keeping up with the new guidance? How do we get to them?
As Vincent said, there are professional bodies that support these individuals, and we do meet with the Royal Town Planning Institute and other professional bodies to discuss areas that we feel need addressing. I think there's a broader debate in terms of resilience of local authorities and in terms of expertise around these issues. That's obviously a broader debate that's ongoing. The reality is that, if there is potential to send out a very clear signal from Welsh Government in terms of what the relationship is between these different technical documents, how they should be used—guidance on that side in terms of the broader transport function—I think that's where we need to be having that debate.
Matthew Price suggested earlier that there is a case for a central unit of expertise within the Welsh Government, whether that be a floating pool of consultants or a fixed team, to hand-hold local authorities through this. So, would technical expertise be part of that support offered and, as an addendum to that, when your route-maps were submitted, were they judged against the active travel design guidance?
Yes. The design guidance was a fundamental part of the considerations that we had, and it was part of the methodology that we used in identifying schemes in the first place, which was rooted very much in the audit tool. And actually what we found then with the feedback that we got through the consultation process was that, in some respects, the audit tool lets things through of a lower quality than what the actual detail of the guidance suggests we should be aiming for. So, in some cases, we were then revising again and rethinking our approach—
I don't know. This is one thing now—and I'm really pleased that the design guidance is being reviewed at the moment, and I will be feeding into that. There are some specific examples that I can think of. For example, one fundamental thing for cycling is the issue of at what point you need to segregate a route and what the considerations are for vehicle speeds and vehicle flows, and there's a table within the bulk of the document itself that sets out levels of traffic flow that are acceptable from road use, but the audit tool itself then has a much more flexible definition in terms of what's acceptable. I mean, I can understand that there's a certain degree of flexibility that may be required, but I think it's something that does need to be pinned down a lot more, particularly when we're looking to design routes rather than assess routes for what's publicly suitable now in terms of what's on the ground.
So, would you expect that all the routes that have been approved and will be constructed over the next few years as a result of these maps will all comply with the active travel design guidance?
I should hope so, yes.
I think one thing that's been quite interesting since the design guidance has come into use is that what we're finding is that, where we're applying for Welsh Government funding for local transport schemes that have active travel objectives, Welsh Government are putting more scrutiny on the quality of those proposals, and we have had feedback on funding applications in the past that has actually led us to revising our schemes. I think that, moving forward, though, what would be really helpful is to have the opportunity to have that feedback, that expert input, prior to the point where we actually get to the funding process, so that we can work in feedback at an earlier stage in the design and really look to improve the quality.
Okay. And, finally, although we talk about active travel, in practice, you're mostly talking about cycling. How does this apply to walking?
Yes, we took a different approach to walking from cycling, basically because if you look at the network of cycling routes out there on the ground we've got a lot less. So, we're really starting from scratch in a lot of parts of the city. With walking, within the Cardiff context, it's much more about identifying the gaps and the detail of particularly looking at vulnerable pedestrians and making sure of the crossing points, dropped kerbs, and that's some of the much more detailed and very local level. So, it's a very different approach to the two.
Because we heard last week from a coalition of disability groups, who said they simply hadn't been—the local access forums—engaged with at all in developing these maps.
Not the case for Cardiff. We've got an access focus group that has representatives, with people from various disability groups, and we took our proposals for the ERM and the INM to that group.
Perhaps this is a question better posed to Clive Mitchell, then, about the all-Wales picture. Why aren't access groups being engaged with?
To be honest with you, I was very surprised to read that and a little disappointed. So, that would be one of the issues that we would want to take up with authorities, to try and understand: were there any particular issues? Was it to do with the wider consultation process? Why weren't they using the avenues that they currently have? It would make sense to do that, so that is something that we've identified there's a—
Is it possible to send the committee a note about that, once you've had a chance to talk to them about why that is, so we can better understand it?
Could I very quickly pick up on another point, which was about central support, and just draw an example from another policy area, which is waste? With Welsh Government and the WLGA, we have the collaborative change programme, because we recognise that we needed systemic, fundamental change in the way that we deliver waste services and that we needed to do that by sharing understanding and expertise across 22 authorities, but also drawing external support through WRAP and their support for that process. So, that is a central support process that's working with authorities in terms of the design and development of their waste services. It has clearly worked very well in terms of the outcomes from that. So, perhaps that is a model that could be looked at. However, it is a model that did require quite sizeable Welsh Government funding to enable that expertise to be accessed, but also to fund some capital work in terms of delivering change in services.
Thank you. Denbighshire County Council told us in its evidence that it was not clear how local authorities should promote active travel to comply with the Act. Commenting on the commitment in the active travel action plan to develop a national communications strategy for active travel, Bridgend County Council said it would have been helpful during the integrated network map process and is still needed to provide a framework for promotion. So, how, therefore, is the duty imposed on local authorities and Welsh Ministers to promote active travel being applied on the ground?
Apologies. It's not something that I would have detail on, and perhaps it's something that we could come back to the committee with—
Well, if you're happy to and if you could drop us a note, we would be very grateful.
Are you able individually, or collectively, to comment on what the barriers are, therefore, that need to be addressed to help this go forward?
I would say, in terms of Powys, we take advantage of the Sustrans Active Journeys programme, which is limited because of our remoteness from where the offices are based, but we use that with schools to promote it.
We try to engage with Public Health Wales about their Making Every Contact Count to try and get that agenda through. Again, some of the resources are limited for doing that, and we're about to do a little bit of limited intensive work with schools internally ourselves. But it is a little bit piecemeal. You've got limited officer time that's concentrated around the network mapping. That does reach a point now where we can move on from that a little bit and start doing some other things, but, essentially, it's a resourcing issue. So, you do what you can where you can in terms of promoting it. And you use what resources you've got, which, unfairly, are probably limited.
How are you engaging, perhaps, with the third sector—which, of course, drove much of the impetus that introduced the changes that the Act represents in delivery—which, often, can be at low cost or no cost to yourselves?
Well, again, we take advantage of Sustrans Active Journeys and we bring them in; we work locally with Sustrans. In Newtown, we're working with a third sector organisation who have access to lottery funding. So, we're working with those, but it is in certain places at certain times, rather than a holistic approach.
Engagement with LVCs, local voluntary councils—is there any on this agenda? Are you working with them to share the promotion across their network as well as your own?
Yes. To a limited extent, yes, but not universally.
Okay. You've made various references, I think, many of you, so far today, to behaviour change and the barriers to behaviour change, and, of course, in our representative democracy, the public often complain that the barriers to behaviour change exist in reverse, in Government at local and national level. But the profession of change management says that the focus, therefore, needs to be on doing things with people—whether they're the internal customers and staff or the external customers, the public and service users—rather than to them. So, how effective is current policy in Wales at local and national level in driving that behaviour change in accordance with change management principles?
Perhaps if I begin—. There is a range of different aspects to this, isn't there? In terms of typically implementing behaviour change techniques, you have to make the better outcome the easier outcome to do, so you need the infrastructure that people feel safe to use to be able to even begin to have a conversation about the potential for doing some journeys using active travel rather than the vehicle.
So, the infrastructure—it's a given that you need to be able to have that in place to be able to engage with people. I think, equally, there probably has to be a discussion at some point about how do we incentivise people to do that when, on the whole, car journeys, notwithstanding congestion and parking changes, tend to be relatively easy and practical to be undertaken. So, there needs to be a discussion about how we can encourage and support people in making that behaviour change. I think, particularly for local authorities, it's about capturing it in terms of the wider benefits rather than walking and cycling, per se—it's the wider benefits that we can encourage people with in terms of the public health messages that you were discussing last week.
The reality is that there probably isn't an awful lot of intense work around behaviour change, encouraging people to make those switches, except where the infrastructure is appearing and there's active work in terms of promoting that infrastructure. Again, drawing the example from waste, we have had nearly 15 years of awareness raising and then behaviour change campaigns funded centrally and delivered through Waste Awareness Wales and now through Recycle for Wales, to encourage people to make that change in their behaviour. From that, we've very clearly found that you need to find the right message, using the right medium, to the right people at the right time, so that they can make that informed choice. So, it has proven to be quite an involved process to deliver that.
I think the example of schools shows how you need to, essentially—the level of resources you need in terms of going in and speaking to people and working with people and combining that with physical infrastructure measures. Essentially, you need both. You need to be able to offer suitable infrastructure, but then you need action to stimulate the uptake of that. The work that Sustrans did through the Bike It programme some years ago shows the value of, actually, when you've got someone in doing some intensive engagement, working to develop a culture of cycling in schools and just doing that kind of hand-holding. That's incredibly important.
What we're trying to do in Cardiff is—. There's an ambition to have every school equipped with an active travel action plan. What would that be? Essentially, that would be a plan to engage with school pupils through the curriculum, through some hand-holding, through providing national standard cycle training in year 6 and helping the teaching staff, who are obviously under pressure with other things, to get through that. That needs to be done in combination with work to identify some of the physical barriers outside the school gates to ease some of the concerns about safety. Behaviour change is an intensive process, so there does need to be investment in time and people to do that.
And how is this incorporated internally into your own continuous professional development and performance management strategies within your own organisations? And, of course, externally—. I think I got the picture from Craig that initially we're talking about a reactive approach, when you have the infrastructure first, but then described the waste management process, which is about recognising chicken and egg—you have to get a public willingness to drive the change in order to get the infrastructure.
Yes. It's been an interesting example, in relation to waste, because what we found is, in terms of making the changes, you need to provide the service, but you also need to make the alternative slightly more difficult, which is why we've had the debate about residual restriction and Conwy going to four-weekly collections and so on and so forth. So, that has made people—it's been a trigger for people to question their behaviour and, consequently, they then are able to access the services that are available. That's just a broader behaviour change point, that you need the basics right, but then you need, as Matt said, some mechanism to engage with them and some point to make them question, 'Why do I always get in the car to go half a mile down the road when there are alternatives?' And that infrastructure is there, and it's safe to use and deals with the concerns that the public have about—.
A very, very short final one. In this context, how can the active travel action plan be improved and the active travel board become more effective?
In terms of the board, from our perspective—I've only actually been to one board meeting, but what was clear was there was an awful lot of expertise in that room from groups that are involved in active travel. Perhaps what we also needed was, from the delivery side, a bit more engagement, so the wider involvement of local authorities, perhaps, at a political level, as well, but also the development industry, if they're involved in providing new dwellings—so, the Home Builders Federation, those sorts of organisations that have a stake and need to understand the active travel process and what's involved and what they, as stakeholders, need to be bringing to the table. It struck me that a wider representation on the board, or engagement through the board, would be productive.
I think the board really needs greater presence and status, and I think it also needs to involve more people and more arms of Government. It's quite striking, if you look at the active travel action plan, how many of those actions fall to transport, and, really, there need to be far more actions that fall to education and other arms of Government. I think the board really needs a role that probably sits somewhere between a cross-party active travel group and another body where it has that status and gravitas to hold the different actors in this process to account and oversee a programme of action where you've got different departments with clear actions to deliver part of this agenda feeding into the board. I think that board can have a role in liaising with external bodies, with the built environment professions, with the development industry, and it potentially can be a very dynamic body that can be seen to be driving forward this agenda.
I'd like to come back to the issue of staffing, and you mentioned, Matthew Price, the centre of expertise the Welsh Government could have, which would then be people who go out to local authorities. What about staffing within local authorities? Is that sufficient?
I would say not.
Well, I can't speak for other local authorities. I would say, from Cardiff's point of view, we've struggled to get the mapping out, and, really, that's been the effort of a very small number of people, really just led by Gail—you know, Gail's full-time job, I would say. So, we are actually in the fortunate position to be looking to recruit staff now, and it's probably a unique position across Wales to recruit additional engineering staff to work specifically on active travel. The positive effect of the Act is to raise the ambition, and we've got an INM, we've got some great routes to deliver, so we really need those extra bodies to—
That will be from the council's own resources.
Okay, and what about, Craig Mitchell, the WLGA's position across Wales? is that a picture that maps across local authorities?
I think it varies considerably, and I think—you know, clearly, there are issues about resilience, which is a wider debate currently, and about the available expertise. So, you know, it is a discussion that's ongoing with strategic directors across a whole range of different issues. For example, in north Wales, the six authorities are sharing expertise around ecology and biodiversity, primarily because they, individually, had problems accessing that expertise.
It is, but it also—. You know, those individuals working across authorities develop a skill set and face a range of different issues in terms of their work that allow them to grow in terms of career issues, but also it provides greater resilience. So, the danger is that, in a period of cuts, you reduce and reduce and reduce, and, if you're left with one member of staff doing something, if that's reduced then you have a problem.
But simply increasing funding again isn't going to solve the expertise problem.
Yes, it is more complex. But, to a certain extent, the increased funding—again, going back to the chicken-and-egg analogy—does lead to a greater emphasis on that area, does lead to, potentially, recruitment and, therefore, builds capacity.
Yes. So, a large increase in funding in one year—clearly, WLGA would never object to that. However, it needs to be programmed in with other—
So, with that in mind, the Cabinet Secretary said that he has an aspiration to see per capita spend increase to that of Scotland. Are you finding that reassuring?
I suppose what I'm asking is: do you trust that will happen within a reasonable period of time to enable the re-growth of expertise to happen?
I think the commitment to some of the LCF for the next financial year that is targeted specifically towards the design of active travel routes, I think that's a really good starting point for us to help expand the resource and the expertise and the capacity. And I think it is a question—we do need an increase in funding to deliver the aspirations we've got in our INMs, but it needs to ramp up, rather than just turn up overnight, to allow that capacity to develop to deliver those schemes.
And I think we need that certainty going forward, rather than saying, 'Are we going to get funding next year?', so there's that certainty going forward that you can then say, 'Right, we've got that capital funding. We can build the internal resource to deliver.'
That would be great.
I'd like just to touch on that as well. When you're on this annual funding cycle, and—. The design money has made a big difference to morale and whether people have stayed within the county, within Powys, currently, but when you're on annual funding cycle those individuals that are so precious to us in terms of active travel are constantly feeling that their role is coming to an end. So, the industry is, effectively, potentially losing a large element of expertise year on year. So, it's not just resources and skills, it's the back door where they're going out as well.
And often there's funding from the public sector. What private sector investment—I know we've touched on developer contributions—can be levered in, and what barriers are there for developer contribution?
Well, it's development money, isn't it? That's effective where you get—. The barriers to that are reality on the ground. If you're in an area where you want to regenerate and you need that development to happen, often planners and leaders within local authorities find it difficult to insist on the development money that would then pay for active travel because you don't want to turn it away and the neighbouring county get that development or something like that. So, universal attitudes to that would help.
One of things you said in your opening remarks was about the five-year housing land supply and local development planning. Is it the case that, where there is a lack of five-year housing land supply and you may have development by appeal, that limits the capacity to build in sustainable development within new builds? Is that the case, or can that still be insisted upon?
Perhaps if I—. Even though it's planning by appeal, all the principles of planning and the policies and the requirements still remain. So, the site may not be within the development plan, but it still has to adhere to what is sought in terms of planning policy. What may be an issue is about the viability of that site and what is able to be realised through section 106 agreements to fund some of the ambition for education, for travel, for other areas.
Yes. Viability is a big issue. And the Royal Town Planning Institute gave some good evidence on this. Essentially, I think, from the development industry's point of view, the policy needs to be strong enough to say, 'This needs to be a central consideration as part of your development.' So, it can be factored in early on when developers are working out the costings of their development and working out how much they're going to pay for the land, and they're working out the whole economics of the development. And that's before it ever gets to a planning application stage. So, then, they're not getting hit with a policy requirement once they've paid out a lot of fees on technical work to prepare their planning applications. And this is where we come back to the need to strengthen planning policy, and also the work to revise the design guidance currently needs to actually speak across all of the professions and across the sectors. So, it needs to speak to developers, their designers, as well as local authority practitioners who are considering applications, so that there's a toolkit and a checklist saying, 'These are the basic active travel requirements that have to go in this development', and so that there are no surprises and so that active travel can be a standard component of all development schemes.
Okay. So, it's not the case—I would be misunderstanding if I thought that if a developer was aware of a lack of five-year housing land supply in an area that they could then skimp on certain areas, knowing that it would be then overturned on appeal because of a lack of five-year supply.
I think the key principle is that they can bring forward sites that aren't in the development plans. That's a key issue. And that's—
Yes. And therefore it's not within the direct control of the local authority—not part of a greater plan.
They will still be required to consider issues like affordable housing and those other issues. It just depends—. They won't be within a wider plan for where you put in active travel infrastructure, so that may present problems in terms of getting contributions on that front.
But it would interface with the integrated network maps. So, you could use that as, perhaps, your planning control.
Okay. You made the comment that certain aspects of behaviour change are outside local authority remits in the submission from the WLGA and therefore we should consider potential reallocations from health. But isn't it the case that you could simply work together, rather than reallocate budgets?
I think it's probably inexpertly drafted. I think what I was trying to get at is there is an interface through the public services boards. There is a mechanism there. The point I was making is that it's not always about the local authority and what they're doing and what they're doing in terms of communication, not least because the public have different views of their local authority and respond in different ways. I think what I was trying to get at is that there's a range of other trusted intermediaries that the public respond to in different ways, and some of that would be public health in terms of their campaigns and engagement, but it could equally be in terms of local third sector partners and what they do in terms of their engagement with their client groups, but also housing associations, for example. So, there's a range of different people who could be involved in that process. I guess the point I was making is that it's not just about what the local authorities do in terms of what they fund in terms of communication to make the changes—
Yes, we will have to draw the meeting to an end. Do you have a very brief last question or are you finished?
I think I'll reflect on the fact that a local authority could be a lead for that and could be an enabler in a regional area.
Could I just touch upon that? Because I've been trying to do that with our local health board, and you're pushing very much an open door, and it's shared priorities, and they say everything you want, but the reality on the ground is that they come back to us and they have not got a resource to deliver anything meaningful in terms of behaviour change. So, they don't have the same level of contact with people that we would expect a behaviour-change programme to have. That might be different across different authorities, so it might just be our teaching board, but they're saying that we don't have people on the ground. Because I thought I could do exactly what you're suggesting, which is piggyback on their intervention programmes, but they're telling me that they don't have any meaningful intervention programme of that nature—it's more of an information service.
Okay, thank you. We'll have to draw this session to an end. Can I thank you all for your evidence to us this morning? We're very grateful. It was a very useful session. We're due to have the Cabinet Secretary with us in three or four minutes, so you're very welcome to stay and watch that session from the public gallery. We will just take a very short three-minute break. So, apologies to those in the gallery who have just sat down. We'll take a three-minute break and then we'll be back in public session in a moment. Thank you.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:42 a 11:48.
The meeting adjourned between 11:42 and 11:48.
I move to item 7, and I'd like to welcome the Cabinet Secretary, Ken Skates, with regard to our post-legislative scrutiny of the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013. I would be grateful, Cabinet Secretary, if you could introduce your colleagues for the public record.
Thank you, Chair. I'm delighted to be with you today. I'll allow my officials to introduce themselves, if I may. Rhodri.
Rhodri Griffiths. I'm head of planning policy and strategy in the transport department.
Natalie Grohmann, and I work in the transport policy division, mainly on active travel and road safety.
Thank you for being with us today.
Has the active travel Act been successful?
Well, it's early days, but I don't think we should underestimate the significance and the impact of the active travel Act. It's done something that's never been done before: it's led to the development of plans for usable and safe walking and cycling routes across Wales relevant to more than 100 communities, to all communities with a population of more than 2,000 people. We've invested more than £60 million in infrastructure since commencement of the Act. We've invested through 70 local transport fund schemes and 125 safe routes in communities schemes. But, I think, if we are really to appreciate the value of this legislation, we can't just focus on infrastructure; we also need to go on developing a cultural and behavioural change. In many respects, it's that challenge that is the greatest and will take most of our effort, and not just within my department or by this Government. I think that, in order to bring about the cultural and behavioural change that I think we would all wish to see, we're going to have to bring together all stakeholders in the public and, actually, as identified in the economic action plan, in the private sector as well.
Since the passage of the Act, how many more people are walking and cycling?
I've already stated my disappointment at the figures showing, I think, in some respects, an alarming reduction in the number of young people who are active in terms of their travel. It also alarms me that those who were active before the Act are probably more active now according to the data, but we are still not seeing people who didn't walk or cycle before the Act becoming active now. This is also reflected in many respects across the physical activity agenda. We've seen that, in terms of physical activity, whilst there might have been an increase, the increase can largely be attributed to people who have been physically active over many years. So, the risk is that we see a widening of the gap between individuals who are physically active, including those who participate in active travel, and those who are not. That then leads to greater inequality in terms of health and well-being and so it's imperative that we close the gap, that we improve not just the amount of walking and cycling, but the amount of people who walk and cycle. That will require, I think, behavioural and cultural change—significant behavioural and cultural change. It's my view that we're probably best delivering that cultural and behavioural change at the earliest possible age. Often, it's children who change the behaviours and patterns of their parents' behaviour. Certainly, that's the case with recycling. It was young people who drove the recycling agenda; I think it could be young people again who drive the active travel and physical activity agenda.
Why do you think that the number of young people walking and cycling has not increased, as perhaps was envisaged when the Act was passed in 2013?
Okay, so in order to take up—. In many respects, in order to be successful in any way, shape or form, but particularly in order to be physically active and, in this regard, to take up active travel, you need to have the right opportunities, and by right opportunities with regard to active travel, I'd say: safe, convenient, reliable routes. You also need to have the right support, so training, if you're a young person at school, to be competent, and you need the purpose as well.
It's not just for the Act, though. The Act is largely about ensuring that we have the infrastructure in place. That's really what the focus has been on, making sure that we have the networks in place. But, in order to drive up those figures, we need cultural and behavioural change, and it's not just for this Act to deliver that. That's why I'm keen to utilise every lever possible, for example, in terms of economic development, in terms of planning and regeneration, to ensure that you don't just have the right opportunities for people to engage in active travel, but that you also have the right form of support and you also develop the purpose as well. We know that active travel can make a huge contribution in terms of reducing and preventing obesity, in delivering people from isolation, ensuring that people are better connected with one another. So, it's my view that we should use the forthcoming well-being bond and social prescribing to ensure that the purpose of getting fit and healthy applies to active travel. But, in order to really drive up those figures, which I think we all wish to see happen, we have to embark on a very, very ambitious degree of cultural change.
In your paper to us, you said that 'we have achieved major milestones'. Has the rate of construction of active travel routes and facilities increased since the passage of the Act?
In terms of infrastructure, as I've said, the spend has been considerable. Therefore, the infrastructure activity has been very significant. If we look at the spend and, therefore, the amount of programmes that have been delivered in recent years, we'll see there's been an increase. It's averaged around about £4 to £5 per person in [correction: before] this current financial year, which is coming to an end. We increased spend and, therefore, activity quite considerably. It went up to £7 per person. So, as a consequence, the amount of infrastructure being delivered is increasing.
How can we quantify that? How many more cycle roads are there—or cycle paths are there?
Local authorities have a duty to report on improvements being made in terms of active travel each year, and so we can judge progress against delivery in that regard. But I've already said—I've gone on record as saying—that I'd like to see a significant increase in the amount of funding available for active travel and that it shouldn't just come from one departmental budget, that we should be utilising on a cross-Government basis, given the degree of significance of active travel to other departments.
So, have you got any analysis of how many extra miles of cycle routes or walking routes you've achieved since the passage of the Act?
We don't have the data on how many extra miles, but something that we do see, and have seen over the last couple of years, is that the kind of schemes that are coming forward as funding applications are getting bigger. So, we're not just having the individual, tiny, little zebra crossing kind of schemes, but actually we're having more ambitious schemes, more expensive schemes and that sometimes also means we can fund fewer at the moment, although hopefully we can move to a situation where we can fund more of the bigger schemes as well. I think that's where the additional funding that was made available for this coming financial year, which is about the pre-work for bigger schemes, to get those ready for construction, is really important, because—
This is the £5 million that we made available for projects to be worked up, and I think it's fair to say that in the coming weeks you'll see an example of that. We'll be announcing a particular programme linked to the north Wales metro, which demonstrates how the ambition of local authorities and Welsh Government has improved during the course of the legislation, or rather during the course of the last three and a half years since legislation was passed.
You said that the Act is very much focused on putting the infrastructure in place, but you don't know how many extra miles of cycle paths or walking routes you've got. Is it that you don't have that today? Do you have that information that you could provide to the committee?
You will be familiar with the fact that the Act has got in it a reporting duty. So, every local authority has to report annually how much they have spent on implementing the Act and on making improvements. However, it doesn't go beyond that very simple financial headline. So, we have created a pro forma that maybe tries to get local authorities to give us more detail and, so far, these returns have been very mixed. So, we're trying to now look and work with local authorities on how we can get better quality information on the amounts being spent, where the sources are—are they coming from local authorities themselves, are they coming from developers, are they coming from us in central Government—and what kind of miles are being put—
You're very much talking about how much is being spent, but we want to know what's there in place.
Yes, capturing that as well.
When? Well, they submit the reports annually in the summer, and obviously we now need to work on this new reporting mechanism, so, as of next summer, I would expect to have that detail.
But if they report annually, have you not got the latest figures from last year?
That's on spend. This is one of the weaknesses actually, and I'd admit that there is a weakness here, in that it focuses on the spend rather than on, if you like, the outputs and outcomes. Given that the legislation has been passed and we're working with local government to address this, I think it's fair that we continue that work and make sure that the right reporting processes are in place and that we get the right indicators as well, which would include—in my view it must include—the amount of additional miles that have been delivered as well as, if possible, where we can assess, at a more local level, the amount of new people who are undertaking active travel.
I would have thought that, five years after the Act has come into force, we would have more information on the output. The spend is perhaps not the important issue; it's the output that is the important issue.
I'd accept that that is correct and that's why we're trying to address it.
Thank you. Before I come to Lee, I'll just bring in Mark Isherwood.
Should that reporting data not also include integration to ensure that the mileage isn't in isolation, with the only way of accessing it through routes that don't have active travel?
Yes, because the purpose of the integrated maps is to make sure that you do have that integration of routes. So, I'd suggest that you're absolutely right, it should include that, yes.
It does seem to me that the amount of miles built is a slightly perverse measurement, with respect, Chair, because we're looking for the amount of people using the paths. It could well be a very small section of path that's put in that could unlock a whole range of new journeys currently taken by car. So, I think it's a very crude measurement. I think we should be very cautious about looking at—
I'd agree. It's one of a basket of measures, I think, that we need to adopt.
Just going back to your point earlier about the parallel with recycling, which is very interesting, because we've just had some very strong evidence from local authorities and they give the parallel of recycling, which is a long-term behaviour change project, obviously. But two of the things that were present, they thought—the WLGA thought—in making that a success were the central resource that was available for local authorities to hand-hold them and encourage them through this. We've been discussing the staffing capacity and expertise available within the Welsh Government, because, with respect to Natalie, there's a very small team working on this. They're working hard on this, but it's a very small team—I think two and a half people—and they're working on other things as well; this isn't a full-time project. So, is there enough capacity centrally? And the example of waste would suggest that additional resource to help local authorities deal with a whole range of challenges here is going to be needed if we're going to achieve this ambition.
So, I'll just deal with it quickly because I know that Rhodri would like to say something on this. But, in terms of capacity, I think we need to recognise that the Act was passed at a severely difficult time for the public purse. I predicate anything that I say in terms of resource and capacity with a warning that austerity is not yet over, so it can be quite difficult in a whole raft of areas in Government to allocate appropriate and sufficient resource. You're right that people who are responsible for this area of work are incredibly dedicated and hard-working, but other divisions within Government are also under great strain and, given the ongoing austerity, I don't envisage a significant increase in staff resource within the civil service, and within all parts of the civil service, particularly given—
So, that's a real problem, isn't it, in terms of the barriers of this Act? Because the evidence we've had—. I think there has been lots of very helpful evidence to this inquiry, which I hope—we're not going to go into today—you'll be able to reflect on as it'll be in our report.
What has been striking about it is that it has been consistent—from the focus group with young people to the evidence of cycling campaigners to local authorities, and so on. One of the consistent points that has been made is that the guidance, and the spirit of the guidance, is not being adhered to. This idea of local authorities doing a 15-year aspirational network, which they contribute to year after year, is not there. Local authorities are putting in fairly conservative bids, which they are confident they can deliver, which goes back to the funding point. But the ability to scrutinise that centrally and the ability to help local authorities implement the design guidance properly isn't there and that is a real constraint to achieving this agenda.
First of all, I would say, local authorities shouldn't be conservative in their bids—
That needs to change, especially given that we've given a clear indication that we wish to see an increase in the amount of resource that's available for active travel. But secondly, whilst our capacity is constrained, I've got every confidence in my officials who are working incredibly hard in this area to be able to properly scrutinise what local authorities are doing, or indeed what they may not be doing. And, in terms of a central resource, it's not just about making more money available; it's about making sure that we join up better. And I know you hear this on a whole raft of areas, but, genuinely, across Welsh Government, but also across local government, across public bodies, there is a need to join up better and to avoid (a) duplication—particularly in terms of promoting active travel, I think there has to be a greater degree of co-ordination—but also in terms of being able to share best practice and recognising best practice. That doesn't necessarily mean that it's just for Welsh Government to enforce or demand. I think there's also a role, particularly at a regional level, for local government to be able to share best practice and to be able to influence each other.
Yes, but Minister, with respect, these are easy things to say. The reality of this is that the devil is in the detail and the constraints within the system. Because this is such an ambitious cultural change project, this all comes down to an individual scheme level and the experience of somebody new to cycling, whether or not the dropped kerbs are in the right place, or whether or not there's a segregated lane where there should be. And if it's not right at that level of detail, no matter how much money you've spent, people aren't going to take up the behaviour change challenge. So, local authority engineers who are still using design manuals for roads and bridges rather than local design guidance—it makes all the difference in the world. And if there isn't training available for them and if there isn't a central resource in the Welsh Government to say to them, 'You're doing it wrong and we're going to help you to do it right', then this will never work.
So, on this specific point—. I take what the Member says. On this specific point, we are offering training to those individuals to ensure that that first experience of active travel is right, but the details are correct and are delivered appropriately. Rhodri.
I think we recognise that resources are constrained across both local authorities and us. So, it's an iterative process. The high policy level that we've been engaging with at the moment to shape how we might take this forward needs to shift into delivery focus. Transport for Wales, as a delivery agent, can actually help us to assist in that delivery on the ground—
Well, that's something that Transport for Wales needs to deliver, and they have a mandate to deliver that expertise that can help supplement both the team that's in transport but also the wider team across Government, so—
So, you envisage them becoming that central expert resource team, do you?
I wouldn't consider them being that central expertise on the policy, but, in terms of the delivery and support mechanism, they would have a role within that—
And they'll be resourced to do that, will they? They will be resourced to do that.
Okay, and they'll be working with the policy team for the scrutiny of those future maps, will they?
They work to us, so they'll be working with the policy team to make sure that the delivery is—
So, fast-forward three years when this new next lot of maps is submitted, it's your intention that those maps will go through a process where they get technically assessed by Transport for Wales and they can work with local authority engineers to make sure that the design guidance is properly implemented.
Excellent. Okay, we'll look forward to seeing that.
Also—and apologies, Chair, I'm slightly trampling on other people's areas here—as you mentioned the recycling parallel and the evidence that we've just had, the other very interesting parallel that was made was around behaviour change and promotion. And the recycling campaigns have the benefit of 15 years of centrally resourced behaviour-changing, awareness-raising programmes, through WRAP and so on. There have been big campaigns to try and get people to change their recycling behaviour, and we've all seen this at an individual level, and it's worked, but that's an interesting parallel for active travel, isn't it?
But it wasn't just that. It was also driven in part by the private sector, who saw an opportunity through, for example, newspaper recycling, to engage directly with schools and local authorities. I don't think you can always say that it's just about central resource. It's also about making sure that we get the most out of all partners and, if I can just add—
But this surely was a key promotion part of this, which is lacking from the active travel agenda.
I wouldn't necessarily agree with that, because, actually, the central resource idea is somewhat redundant, because we have so many potential partners to drive active travel—
No, the promotion—that's part of the problem—. The promotion is coming from so many, but it's not co-ordinated necessarily in the right way. I think anybody who has not heard of active travel so far has probably been living on a different planet—
Well, it's not hearing it as a phrase, is it? It's how you get people to change their behaviour on an individual, granular level, and the evidence shows that there's a whole range of nudges that you need to do that, and that work isn't there because the Act is focusing primarily on infrastructure—
But that's not because of a lack of a central resource, and to say that it is, I think, is to miss a point about recycling where, actually, it was largely driven by young people, by schools, by the private sector, which saw an opportunity—
But it was actually driven by schools largely engaging with the private sector—
But there was a big central push to promote it. My point is that, with active travel, you're focusing on the infrastructure, which, as we've discussed, has some way to go yet, but what is missing is the softer measures, the behavioural side.
But equally, on the softer, behaviour measures, we fund a number of organisations to promote active travel, to promote the purpose of active travel. So, the central resource is being used, but I don't think it can be said that there is insufficient central resource. The arguments supporting active travel are overwhelming, and I think you'd have to be—
Minister, with respect, the evidence is quite clear on this, both to this committee and the academic evidence: to achieve travel behavioural change is difficult but it's doable, but it needs that softer intervention, and that is not currently part of the Government's toolkit.
But it's not—well, you say it's not part of the Government's toolkit; it is part of the Government's toolkit. We've been doing it in schools. Through Public Health Wales—
Help through Public Health Wales—there are numerous campaigns that have taken place promoting physical activity, of which—
No, they are working in terms of getting people generally more physically active, but, as I said at the outset, what they're not doing is getting those who are not physically active active. So, while rates may be increasing in terms of physical activity, it's the people who were already physically active. In terms of getting more people physically active and to encourage a greater degree of active travel, we're looking at not just our ability to influence behavioural change, but we're also looking at how the private sector, how employers can encourage behavioural change through, for example, the new economic contract that's going to be rolled out in the next financial year.
I don't think I'm getting very far, so I think I'll quit while I'm behind on that one.
In that context, why is the promotion engagement toolkit promised by the Welsh Government not yet available? Or, if it is, why does the evidence we've received say to the contrary? And given your understandable comments about resource constraints within your own department, how do you respond to the evidence we received in the last session with local government, particularly around the active travel board, that there's a need to extend beyond transport participation to include other areas such as health and education, better using the cross-departmental resources that already exist?
In terms of the board, I'd entirely agree. We periodically review the terms of reference and the membership of the board. I'm keen to make sure that we bring on board individuals and organisations who deliver the infrastructure. So, I'm looking at increasing the membership amongst local authorities on that board. I think it's absolutely vital that we pay respect to what local government is able to deliver, and, therefore, I think they need better representation on the board. In terms of the toolkit for schools, Natalie, are you able to—?
Well, the initial action plan had the concept of a promotion toolkit for local authorities, and we had started some work on that, but I have to admit it has stalled somewhat. However, there have been other initiatives by Sustrans, for example; they've developed something quite similar that we have then disseminated.
We have also commissioned a walk to school audit toolkit, which has been very well used. It has been downloaded nearly 5,000 times—not downloaded but looked at, certainly, 5,000 times via the Hwb website. So, there is activity in promotion, but we would like to do more but it is a little bit of a busy agenda. Local authorities have been supportive in developing the toolkit, but they also haven't identified precisely how they can—what, specifically, they need to help them meet their promotion duties.
We've already discussed infrastructure and the impact that the Act has had on infrastructure, but, more specifically, do you think the duty on local authorities to secure continuous improvement, which comes under the Act, has been effective, given the fact that there's a suggestion that local authorities have actually focused on the preparation of maps rather than that of delivering infrastructure? Again, this is linked to their belief that the funding may not be available.
Yes, I think, first of all, we've got to make sure that form and function are the right way around. So, the primary objective at commencement of the Act was to make sure that the maps were developed. Having those maps in place, having prioritised schemes published, enables then for the infrastructure to be built. But I would suggest that it's only right and proper that the maps are delivered first and then the investment in the infrastructure follows.
There's a duty on other agencies as well to take reasonable steps to enhance the provision made for walkers and cyclists. I'm talking now about construction, et cetera. We've already had a discussion this morning about Pwll-y-pant in Caerphilly, which doesn't seem to have embraced the active travel thoughts on that, and we've already had a discussion as to whether that's the constituency AM's fault or the regional AMs' fault, but I don't think it is. But there is a duty on them to do this. It hasn't happened, has it?
I think there are good examples of where the active travel Act has led to a change in the way that we build and plan new infrastructure, roads and social infrastructure such as schools, but I would accept that there are also instances and examples where walkers and cyclists have not been considered at a sufficiently early stage in the development of programmes.
Following on from that, do you think that the highway appraisal and design standards are suited to appraising active travel elements of highway schemes?
Yes. We, of course, have been revising the Welsh transport appraisal guidance, and any scheme that comes to us for funding has to be judged by an appropriate person with expertise in active travel to ensure that that particular project meets our objectives within the Act.
Some of the consultation responses have suggested that an urban focus to the Act will limit investment in rural routes. Is this a concern?
I'd reject the idea or the accusation that this is just an urban programme, because it covers more than 100 communities across Wales, with populations of more than 2,000, but I am completely open in the future to expanding that by reducing the population threshold.
And it comes in stark contrast to the programme that's operating in England, where we're seeing funding of active travel programmes restricted to, I think they're called 'ambition cities', intensely urbanised areas, and only a handful of them. So, whilst the accusation may be correct or may be levelled at England, I'm not sure that it can be at Wales, where we have a huge number of communities included within integrated maps. And, equally, local authorities are able to go beyond settlement boundaries and to include population centres of less than 2,000. I think it's right and proper that we give local government that ability to operate more flexibly.
Just one more, please, Chair. Do you believe that there's a really holistic approach to the active travel plan, taking into account things like schools being built without provisions being made, et cetera? I mean, we really do have to have an emphasis on this holistic approach, don't we?
Yes, without a doubt. We have to ensure that social infrastructure is constructed in a way that reflects active travel needs. We have to make sure that the development of maps and the delivery of infrastructure for active travel pays due regard to local development plans and that the building of hospitals, of schools, of community centres and leisure centres as well reflects active travel considerations.
Actually, there is work with regard to twenty-first century schools that is being undertaken to ensure that there is that greater degree of match and alignment in policy areas.
And both that and Planning Policy Wales are out to consultation at the moment, which provides clauses on active travel, and we'll be strengthening those, possibly, after consultation, when we've seen the consultation responses. I think that's fundamental land-use planning—design, density, proportion—that's going to have a really big effect on active travel.
Just in terms of the design and delivery guidance, obviously, this is the first time that this has been done. What are the reflections of the team involved?
In terms of the delivery guidance, I'm considering an update to that. In terms of the design guidance, it's been very well received. I think it's been recognised as best practice in many respects, but in order to make sure that it remains fit for purpose and up to date, I've commissioned an update and a review of that guidance. It's my intention to launch an updated design guidance in the middle of May, after we've been able to hold workshops for stakeholders to influence the work of Phil Jones Associates, who've been tasked with examining the design guidance and making sure that there's appropriate change where necessary.
Okay. Well, that's very encouraging. I think you touched upon Planning Policy Wales working to potentially strengthen that, and I think I heard you say that twenty-first century schools, given the evidence we've had—that that would be put right.
The issue, then, is of awareness about consultation on the maps, because, obviously, this is going to be an ongoing three-year rolling period, and clearly, local authorities do have resource constraints, as we've discussed, and also many of the people who're running these—you know, the highway engineer department—aren't necessarily skilled at public consultation. There have been some very low levels of consultation, and I think you've rejected some of the submissions on that basis, but even overall, as far as the cross-party group on active travel was able to establish, on average, there were pretty low levels of feedback and very few have been imaginative about it, so it's been—
So, how can that be addressed in the future, given that, as you say, austerity isn't going away? What more can be done to reach people who currently do not walk and cycle, not just those who are already active?
This is really important, and there's a clear correlation between the degree of consultation that took place and the quality of the maps that emerged, and I think there would also be, given that, a correlation between the consultation that's taken place and the degree of promotion of active travel as well. I think in terms of promoting active travel, and in particular the maps, the first stage comes with the consultation that takes place with the public. So, if the public aren't even aware that a consultation has taken place on the development of maps, they're probably not going to be aware of the maps when they're actually published.
I did reject some of the submissions on the grounds of failure to consult adequately. Those local authorities that were amongst the few that I rejected will have to resubmit by August of this year. But there's also a need, given we'll be in a similar position, or the same position, in three years' time, to ensure that best practice and that creativity in terms of consultation are shared right across local authorities. I recognise, right across my portfolio, that we're constantly embarking on consultations and there's a risk that the public become tired of consultations. But with regard to active travel, I think there are ways that we can be more creative and imaginative and it can't just be about reaching out to those people who are already walking and cycling for travel. It's got to be about making sure that we reach out to those people who are yet to experience active travel—
Something that we have done throughout the process, actually, is occasionally bringing local authorities together on a regional basis and just sharing the learning from the process so far and then looked ahead to the next stage. I think that's something that we'd be looking to do again now that we've completed the whole cycle. There have been some local authorities who have done excellent work on consultation. There are some that have done coffee mornings and all sorts of innovative things that you wouldn't normally associate with a walking and cycling consultation. So, I think that's something that we will, centrally, try and do: get people together again and share—the people who've done successful consultations, how they've gone about it, what the cost was, what the resource implications were, how they can be lowered and, again, encourage others to follow a similar pattern next time. And we're looking at the conference to make that quite a practical—
How many good examples would you say there were of local authorities doing good, imaginative things?
Well, there's at least a handful that did really go out of their way to seek out different population groups that definitely are not your usual suspects, and I think that's something that we can build on.
The evidence from the Welsh Local Government Association—the written evidence—also talked about how the costs of preparing the maps were higher than they anticipated. What can be done to make sure that the support is there for local authorities to get this right?
Again, I just reflect back on what I've already said on numerous occasions: that we are going to be increasing the resources available for active travel—
Well, we've talked at the board about the availability of revenue support as well and the split of revenue and capital, and that is something I'm considering at the moment. I think that will be of great relevance to local authorities that are struggling to meet the revenue cost of developing the maps. So, no decision has been taken yet, but it is something that I'm considering as part of the wider review of support for active travel.
When we're looking at measuring active travel, I think we would be doing a disservice, when we're measuring cycling, if we didn't look at the cost of cycles to the average family. So, when we're measuring who's cycling, I think we need to look at who can afford a cycle, because I know that the majority of people can't afford cycles for themselves and their families, and how we might address that inequality that I am absolutely certain we will find. I think we also need to do some disaggregation in terms of gender and who is managing to cycle to work and who is managing to take the children to school. That would be a useful piece of analysis. I'm really keen that people do take, where they can, the opportunity to be active in either going to school, to work or elsewhere, but we can't be blindsided, either, in the way that we're measuring things. So, I think that, when we're looking at school routes, particularly, we need to really focus on areas where they're clearly never going to buy a bike, because they can't afford it, so that those people can walk, and they can walk safely. I'm really pleased to hear that twenty-first century schools are coming into the fold, but I think it was a massive, massive missed opportunity to get it right. Also, when we're talking about active travel, certainly in my region, you wouldn't be cycling 30 miles to the next town, but you actually might cycle or walk to the railway station or the bus, if there was one. So, I'd like to see some measurements in that regard as well, about whether we are encouraging more people in the different parts of their journey, in multimodal transport, and that we are succeeding in changing some of those patterns.
I'd agree entirely with what Joyce Watson said. I'd be very interested to look more in depth at the demographic differences among cyclists and walkers to see whether there is a correlation between income and the availability of bikes and whether individuals and families on lower incomes are more likely to walk than they are to cycle, more likely to walk on shorter journeys than use their own transport. I think we can probably all guess what the answers to those questions might be, but it would be helpful to be armed with that further evidence.
In terms of what you were saying about particularly walking to schools, I think that again justifies why I think Lee is right to say that you can't just measure the success or failure of the active travel Act in terms of infrastructure on the basis of how many miles of routes you've been able to develop over any given year. It has to be about the outcomes and the outputs, rather than the construction in its own right—the infrastructure. It has to be about the infrastructure enabling more people to participate in active travel, and focusing on key aspects of our social infrastructure I think is absolutely right—focusing on schools, focusing on large employment areas, focusing on transport hubs as well, to make sure that, if you do have a bike, you can cycle to your bus stop, and then when you're at the bus stop you're not going to get soaked because it's raining, and making sure that when you then get to the next stage of your journey you're able to get onto a train quite speedily. So, active travel is also about making sure that we have fully integrated public transport available as well, either at the start or the end of the journey, or in between.
And in terms of railway stations, we see it in other places—for those people who might cycle, but can't afford one, maybe we could have a system of available bikes at obvious destinations, like maybe railway stations in Cardiff, renting out a bike so that somebody could use it, if that's what they wanted. You would have to probably start with more highly populated areas to try and get some success, but at least you'd have an idea of whether it would be successful and whether there's an appetite for it. I just think that we need to start—. I know that the maps are hugely important, and they are, but we also need to think wider than maps. We really need to think about trying to promote this to people who otherwise might not see it for the advantages that it has. You can talk all day about changing behaviour, but if there's no opportunity, once you've decided you want to change your behaviour, to actually take part in it, then life is going to not change at all.
I also want to bring into questioning the fact that Living Streets have said that funding for Let's Walk Cymru has been discontinued. If we find what I'm suspecting we're going to find—that large sections of our communities are only going to be active in walking—then how are we then going to promote that if we remove the funding?
Okay. There are two things that I'd like to say on this. First of all, if we just talk about funding for a moment, I think it's absolutely right that we evaluate programmes and make sure that we are funding the programmes that have the most impact, and that will become increasingly important as we roll out the well-being bond later this year and as we roll out a greater degree of social prescribing. They are what will really enhance and encourage active travel rates, making sure that people are prescribed activities that are designed to alleviate mild conditions or, indeed, designed to prevent ill health, and making sure that we channel resource, particularly from public health budgets, into those services and those support systems that have a proven track record of returning on the public purse. And so, to a great extent, we're going to become more ruthless in terms of the organisations and the schemes that we fund, and we're going to be more ruthless because we need to be funding on the basis of the outcomes.
The outcome we're particularly concerned with at the moment is health. There are additional concerns that we have, including environmental impacts as well. All of these are being captured within the economic action plan, and I don't think we should underestimate the potential of the economic contract to contribute to behavioural and cultural change as well. I know that many businesses are incredibly enthusiastic, and many are already delivering schemes to improve the health and well-being of their employees. There are examples of businesses that are really responsible in terms of making sure that there's provision—showering provision, in terms of bike storage, in terms of safe routes within industrial estates—and that's something we're keen to invest more heavily in.
So, there's huge opportunity in terms of the economic contract, because, if you're going to get through the door to draw down support from Welsh Government, you're going to have to demonstrate how you are taking responsibility for the health and well-being of your workforce and making sure that they are healthier, not just physically but also mentally. So, getting workers and employees to be more physically active will be very important in that regard.
But there's also a need, I think, in terms of the behavioural change that you talked of, particularly in terms of school estates, to make short car journeys to and from school socially unacceptable. I can't believe that we are still at the point in 2018 where it's acceptable for you to try to use a very big vehicle, often a 4x4, to get as close as you possibly can to a school gate, and for you not to be questioned, or for other parents not to be dismayed by this. Personally, I think any parent that attempts to get their child as close to the school gate as possible because they fear the driving abilities of other parents really is only contributing to the lack of safety and provision of safe routes for schoolchildren.
So, we all have a responsibility. I mean, around this table we're all pretty good at talking the talk, but literally, do we all walk the walk as well? Are we all walking children to school? Do we all walk to work? We have to lead by example, each and every one of us. There was support for this legislation across the Chamber, and so it's essential that we all demonstrate that we are committed to it. Sorry; that wasn't a direct challenge, by the way. [Laughter.]
One issue that was raised in last week's evidence session, especially coming out of the evidence of the disability groups, was pavement parking that prevents active travellers. Is that something you recognise as an issue?
Oh, 'pavement'—sorry; not 'payment'. Yes, definitely, and there are already powers that local authorities are equipped with to be able to deal with certain instances of inappropriate parking. There is no doubt that parking on pavements inhibits the ability, particularly of disabled people, to be able to travel safely, but also, in terms of cycling, it can be incredibly dangerous to have cars and lorries parked in inappropriate areas. And so there is a need to ensure that any infrastructure that is constructed does not allow for cars or commercial vehicles to be parked over them.
I think it's a bit of a grey area, because I think local councils don't seem to have the power, from what I can understand, and there's a bit of a grey issue there. And, also, I'd ask: is this a devolved area, and, if it is, is this something that you could potentially legislate in?
I think it might be worth us producing a comprehensive briefing note for you on this.
We'd be very grateful for that. Did you want to come in, Rhodri, or—?
It's quite a complex field.
Private parking—it's contractual law, which isn't devolved. On streets, it is devolved in certain areas, and the police, obviously, have a role in that, and only certain law enforcement agencies from local authorities can actually intervene. So, I think a note would be helpful.
Yes, that would be really useful for us. Thank you. Can I bring Mark Isherwood in?
A quick observation and a short question. When I was a young adult, with very little money, I bought a second-hand bike for not very much, which I rode for many, many years. So, could we better be developing perhaps local cycle recycling schemes alongside the furniture recycling schemes that we already have? And my question: why do you think it is that Pembrokeshire County Council told us that it's not clear how local authorities should promote active travel to comply with duties under the Act, and that Bridgend county council told us that the national communications strategy for active travel, promised under the action plan, is still needed to provide a framework for promotion?
There are some really good examples of recycling schemes for bikes. It's something that we've been encouraging. They don't stand in isolation, but I do think that there is greater potential for people to be able to offer their bikes for reuse by, particularly, young people living in communities that are somewhat deprived. So, in terms of being able to support those organisations, I think some have actually benefited from Welsh Government grant funding. I think some may have benefited from Jobs Growth Wales schemes as well. There are a good number of programmes across Wales that promote recycling of bikes. Are you able to give a bit of detail on them?
We are not currently funding any, but there are some very successful community bike workshop schemes, which it would be great to see in more areas across Wales. And I think that's something that we would like to encourage other colleagues to possibly look at, in terms of regeneration funding—
There's something to be said about the cycle to work scheme as well, I think. You reach the end of a period—. I've just come to the end of my cycle to work scheme, offered by the National Assembly. I'm still using my bike, but I'm pretty sure that in the next six months I'll be getting another bike, and it's my intention, if I do leave my Boardman bike behind, to give it for recycling and reuse. I think it makes sense that, with bike to work schemes, perhaps we could see an incentive to offer up bikes that have come to the end, or individuals who have come to the end of their scheme and are looking to upgrade, an opportunity to recycle.
We're a bit stretched for time. I know Lee and David want to come in. Can I take Hefin first—we don't want to run out of time for him—and then I'll come to Lee and then David?
I'm content that the first two questions have been addressed, on the funding issue.
Just some quick-fire questions. Bearing in mind, I cycled to work this morning on my second-hand bike I bought for £170 this week—
Just three quick points, if I could. The issue that Joyce Watson raised—in the field work I did in Bynea school in my constituency as part of the inquiry, the major barrier amongst the children was cycle maintenance rather than owning a bike. Most of them had a bike in the shed; it needed doing up. So, could you consider, as part of the action plan, how we can do cycle maintenance? So, that's one question. Secondly, the traffic commissioner is consulting on allowing HGVs in bus lanes, which are currently used by bikes, and many cyclists, particularly women, to take Joyce Watson's other point, because there's a huge gender divide, would be heavily intimidated by HGVs in bus lanes. Do you have a quick response on where your thinking is on that?
First of all, maintenance: that's something certainly something that should be considered. It could be considered as part of educational programmes as well as within schools—training programmes, proficiency training courses. In terms of the HGV proposals, you're right, this isn't something that Welsh Government's proposed; this is something that's being proposed by the commissioner, and it's something that I wish to see developed on the basis of evidence. I am aware—very aware—of the concerns expressed by cycling organisations. I would urge them to present empirical evidence to be able to demonstrate that the concerns are accurate and correct. Clearly, I would not wish to see any changes that put at risk the health and safety of people using our roads, be they people on bikes or people in cars, or, indeed, people who would potentially be driving those HGVs in bus lanes. My concern is in ensuring that people are able to access goods and services and work as quickly as possible in a way that disrupts other individuals in the least way and which contributes the least carbon to our atmosphere, but I'm also very, very concerned that we keep driving down the rates of and the numbers of seriously injured and killed people on our roads. We should not see any changes taking place—
Surely, the burden of proof shouldn't be on cyclists to prove that any changes the traffic commissioner is consulting on would be safe. It should be the other way around.
No. No, I said that if there is any evidence that can be provided then I'd like to see it, because the decision has to be evidence-based. Others will be presenting evidence, I'm in no doubt, but those organisations that have already stated their objection to this consideration—I think it's important to be able to support that with any evidence, if they have it.
Well, we have an Act that is encouraging levels of active travel. Surely, that should be your starting point.
But you started with an assertion that people would be put at risk and that there could therefore be an increase in—
Well, the majority of deaths for women in particular is through buses and HGV lorries. The evidence is quite clear on that.
Okay. And then my final question is on the active travel board and the independence of the chair. We've had a number of representations that feel it would be better if there was an independent chair able to work with the Government, as there previously was, I believe—that's now been reverted to one of your officials chairing it. I'm just wondering if you had any reflections on that.
I don't think there's a need to have an independent chair, because the concerns that have been expressed by those who would like to see an independent chair are largely that my presence and that of Government officials in some way inhibits their ability to offer challenging views. Now, having an independent chair but still having the Minister and still having the officials within the room will probably not address that. I think what's important is that the role of the board is fully recognised, and the role of the board is to ensure that all stakeholders are working together to advise Government. The board's role is not necessarily to scrutinise the Government and to hold the Government to account, but to make sure that we are working together collectively—and not just Welsh Government, but local government and all stakeholders—on the same purpose, to the same point, and having an independent chair—. You know, as I've said, I'm already committed to reviewing the terms of reference and the membership of the board, and I'll consider the potential role of an independent chair, but it's my view that if you still want the Minister in the room, if you still want the officials in the room, then having an independent chair won't necessarily lead to individuals around that table feeling more free to express perhaps more challenging views. The way that you allow more challenging views—and, you know, I could express them back to the stakeholders that we are trying to work with to develop a greater degree of active travel—the way to actually develop that ability to be able to challenge one another is through trust and recognition that constructive criticism, that challenge, can be helpful, and they need to be able to trust me and officials that we're not so thin-skinned as to take challenge in a way that would lead us to make adverse decisions on the basis of those organisations' funding.
Given the evidence, perhaps you need to improve their confidence around that.
We do need to move this on. We do need to finish on time. Just briefly, I'll come on to David Rowlands.
Sorry, did you just want to address that last point?
Yes. I think, absolutely, the confidence of stakeholders is absolutely critical, and, actually, since Rhodri became chair, I think the degree of engagement and the degree of dialogue and the challenge has been very healthy. But, essentially, we need to just reflect on the purpose of the board, and the purpose of the board is to make sure that we are all working together, advising one another, and that we are all making sure that we are applying best practice and able to scrutinise not just Government. It's not the sole purpose of the board to scrutinise Government; it's to make sure that we are all doing as good as we can.
A rather specific topic, but, in her absence, I wanted to raise an aspect that Vikki Howells has been keen to explore, and it's with regard to the infrastructure for active travel, and that's the refurbishment of disused tunnels and possibly viaducts. Vikki's been keen to point out that these have the ability to link quite disparate communities at times, but, obviously, funding for those sorts of projects is outside the remit of local authorities. Does the Welsh Government have any provision, or have they had any thoughts on providing funding for that sort of thing?
Yes, indeed. Well, Vikki Howells is very proud that she represents an area with the most viable tunnel for conversion into an active travel route, into a cycling and walking route that would be very exciting, not just to promote health and well-being, to promote active travel, but also to promote tourism in the area. The particular tunnel that Vikki's very proud of—the most viable tunnel—is included in the maps by the local authority. We've been able to fund some feasibility work, and of course there are health and safety concerns about having three-mile long tunnels open for cyclists and walkers. But we've seen delivery elsewhere, and it shouldn't be beyond the wit of human imagination to be able to develop a cycling route and a walking route through a former industrial tunnel that is safe and attractive and delivers against our objectives in the active travel Act.