The latest version of Warwickshire’s Local Transport Plan, which sets out a high level overview of how the Council should be managing and investing in its transport infrastructure, has been approved. The document sets out a very clear vision for transport over the next decade, putting walking, wheeling, and cycling at the top of the transport hierarchy.
The document is not without issues however, and approval only came following an hour-long debate amongst councillors. Concerns were raised over a lack of detail, the question of money, the state of crumbling local roads, and whether the local authority will follow through with the direction set out – all valid worries.
The final version has been released following a public consultation period and feedback from a Citizens’ Panel, to help ensure public buy-in. Broadly, the document is positive, however on a personal level I am disappointed that many concerns I raised when submitting my own response have been ignored. This leaves a number of problems which I still believe should have been addressed, including:
- The use of non-committal language (“the Council will seek to…” rather than “the Council will…”)
- A hierarchy which, while good, should have been more detailed to explicitly put walking and wheeling above cycling.
- The language of encouragement and promotion around active travel, where enablement should be the key focus.
- A misunderstanding over what car dependency is, failing to appreciate that reducing car dependency can never be detrimental.
- Issues with the presentation around cycling (for example, in the graphics there is a general lack of diversity in cycle riders and cycle types, the cyclists all wear helmets, and the cover shows riding on a dirt track) which does not communicate a move to enabling everyday riding for local transport.
For more details, my comments on the draft LTP are available, but the big concern for me is that language allows the Council a lot of wriggle room to deviate away from the overarching direction. This makes the document much weaker than it could otherwise have been.
Still, with it now approved, the document will provide a useful tool for new developments and infrastructure schemes, as a means to help ensure that new projects put active travel first and that provision is made to a good standard.
The debate and councillors’ comments
The debate can be seen in the below video, which is only lightly edited from source to focus only the comments, leaving out superflous parts like handovers (at the time of writing, the original is available here). Of particular interest and relevance for Nuneaton though, were comments made by Cllr Golby (Arbury), Cllr Kennaugh (Stockingford), and Cllr Baxter-Payne (Attleborough), as well as some very positive sounding comments from the county’s portfolio holder for transport, Cllr Matecki. These are summarised below,
Cllr Golby made a good point about the County Council following through on its Local Transport Plan, with similar comments being made by councillors from other areas around Warwickshire.
She noted the Bermuda Bridge project which has significantly overrun in terms of budget, and is locally very controversial given it will route through traffic from the A444 into an area which previously was not subjected to potentially very high traffic flows including heavy goods vehicles. This would now contravene the new plan.
Also of note was the point about only 305 responses to the consultation (22 in Nuneaton). Whilst this was later countered by Cllr Matecki referencing the Citizens’ Panel, it does seem to be a very low number – less than 0.1% of the county’s population.
There was a grand total of 305 people responded to this consultation. Out of a population of nearly 500,000, I think that is appallingly low. 22 people from Nuneaton and Bedworth responded. That’s absolutely nowhere near enough to be basing anything in relation to an ongoing strategy or a serious, meaty plan like this, at all. More people responded to the consultation for the Bermuda Bridge than they did to this; more people responded, ‘don’t do the Bermuda Bridge’ than responded to the whole of this consultation, and we went ahead and did it anyway. So, I suspect that’s probably why we’re not getting many responses from people, particularly in my patch, because they just get ignored. There is a level of apathy when it comes to doing things like this.
On position F7, it says, ‘help reduce instances of HGVs using inappropriate smaller roads to enhance the environment and wellbeing of those living and working in affected areas’. Again, going back to my own patch [and Bermuda Bridge], this council is actively not doing that. You have opened up a through-route, through a traffic-free area, to route thousands and thousands of extra vehicles including HGVs. That is in direct contravention of what we are writing here. So, you do with one, and you say with the other.Cllr Golby
Cllr Kennaugh spoke about Nuneaton’s roads being at capacity and agreed that they cannot take any more expansion, but still he questioned putting driving in third place behind active travel and public transport (the transport hierarchy). Never mind that motoring has been firmly at the top of the investment tree for decades at the expense of everything else, he still argued the case for investing more in motoring. To support this, he highlighted the state of local roads – which is a fair point, although I’d note that when I’ve reported specific potholes, they’ve tended to be fixed pretty quickly – and that driving is essential for the economy. He did not acknowledge the importance of cycling in local transport as an economic driver in its own right.
He made comments about people needing to drive to work, sometimes over short distances because it’s still too far to walk and public transport links are poor, but failed to appreciate the role cycling can play to capture some of those journeys under five miles. Despite not driving himself, he did not appear to appreciate providing for active travel choices for those who cannot or choose not to drive, but still who need to make local journeys which may never be possible by public transport.
Then on the one hand he said the roads cannot take any more cyclists, immediately followed on the other by saying nobody uses the infrastructure on Weddington Road – Schrödinger’s cyclists indeed!
As a side note, Weddington Road has come up before. It’s “infrastructure” is almost entirely just narrow painted lanes which offer no protection and may actually increase the risk from drivers. The road remains dangerous for inclusive, everyday cycling. That is a key reason why people may not cycle there, as well as a lack of a broader network.
One of the issues I have with this is the hierarchy system. For me, this puts motorists firmly at the bottom of the pile in terms of priorities for investment and infrastructure going forward. We don’t run the economy, we enable it, and the economy is driven forwards on the roads. We have to make sure that we’re investing into roads infrastructure to make it more suitable for motorists.
If you come to Nuneaton and Bedworth, the roads cannot take any more capacity. They’re annihilated at the moment. How many of my colleagues around the chamber today have had to wait months, and months, and months to get just the smallest patch of roads resurfaced, a pothole filled, or a patch of pavement cleared?
Page 12 of the document, on the suitability of different areas for different things, it says that urban areas like Nuneaton and Stockingford are less suitable for increased vehicle capacity. That’s absolutely correct. But at the same time, it says that it’s more suitable for infrastructure to do with cycling. If you look [at] the roads in Nuneaton, they can’t take any more cyclists. The one cycle route we do have in Weddington, isn’t used by anyone. So, to promote cycling in some parts of Nuneaton is like promoting rare fillet steak at a vegetarian conference.
People need their vehicles to get to and from work, sometimes particularly close [by], because the trains don’t work or it’s just too far to walk. When the trains and buses are inadequate, they must drive.Cllr Jack Kennaugh
In Cllr Baxter-Payne’s comments, he spoke about traffic issues in Nuneaton which were perhaps rather exaggerated, suggesting people cannot achieve the speed limits – it may be the case on some roads at peak times, but it’s certainly not universally true (he also spoke about minimum speed limits, though hopefully this was simply a misspeak). However, he did reiterate his belief that education and encouragement are essential, something that he has commented about before. While there is a place for encouragement, this alone does not get people cycling – it must first be enabled through infrastructure so that people feel safe and comfortable cycling. This isn’t about forcing change on people, but providing that necessary choice.
most of the people in Nuneaton and Bedworth would actually like to get to the minimum speed limit. On regular occasions, you’re lucky if you get to twenty mile an hour driving through the town.
A point I made recently at a Borough Plan meeting, which I was pilloried for later is, if we want to encourage people out of their car, we have to educate, we have to encourage. We can’t force them out of the car.Cllr Baxter-Payne
Looking more generally, there seemed to be a lack of appreciation from some quarters that travel is not only about commuting and getting to work, and it’s not just about getting goods into and out of the county, but it’s also about everyday life – going to school, visiting the shops, accessing leisure centres or a doctor’s surgery, going to town for a coffee, visiting a country park etc. Cllr Butlin did acknowledge that in cities (of which Warwickshire as a local authority has none) and major towns, people may want to walk and cycle, but for smaller and more rural places the focus is elsewhere. While that may be true to a point, people still want and need to travel within their local communities and active travel still plays an important role here. Even linking more rural localities together and to their nearest larger settlement may reduce reliance on patchy public transport.
Those in the cities and the major towns, we can basically apply things like walking and cycling etc. because that’s what people want. But when you get into the rural communities and where they’ve basically got very little choice, and they’ve got large distances to cover, we’ve still got to maintain their ability to get the work. We might have to put more money into bus routes on those places, or in some cases if they’ve got the beauty of a train station, getting better links into those train stations.Cllr Butlin
The more motorcentric comments were, however, challenged by Cllr Jan Matecki, the portfolio holder for transport, with a very encouraging and positive reply.
He spoke of a recent visit to Nuneaton, recalling a number of people cycling – but on pavements. Whilst he understood why they would choose to do so because of the dangers of cycling on roads, he appeared to understand that this was not a solution where it puts riders and pedestrians into conflict.
He spoke about the need to provide choice, and that where roads are congested and at capacity, as long as there is an alternative transport option provided (e.g., a cycle lane), then if people choose to sit in traffic, that is their choice to do so. This appears to suggest that he understands we cannot keep building our way out of congestion by providing ever more space and capacity for motor transport; alternatives must be provided.
This isn’t about telling people how they should travel. That’s not our job. Our job is to give them safe alternative ways to actually travel, and for different communities to be able to set their own priorities.
What is the purpose of removing the cars? Is it for congestion? Is it for air quality? If it’s just for congestion, as long as we provide alternatives for people to use, if they want to sit in a traffic jam in their cars when they could’ve taken a bike, then that should be an alternative that we give them.
I hear what you’re saying about Nuneaton, but actually I’ve got to disagree with you. I was actually in Nuneaton just last week. I was only there for a short period of time [and] there was a steady stream of cyclists on the footpath. I had to walk off the footpath into the grass verge; there were parents with pushchairs. It is dangerous to put the two together. And why are they on the footpath? Because they don’t feel safe on the road. So, we have to provide a safe alternative. And if you provide safe alternative[s], I’m sure more and more people will use them.Cllr Jan Matecki
A full transcript of the Council debate, including comments from councillors across the county, can be seen below.
We move therefore on to a new local transport plan for Warwickshire, and I ask or invite Cllr Jan Matecki to move the recommendation
0:00:12 Jan Matecki (Cons)
I’m more than happy to come to Council today and ask for this Council to adopt the new Local Transport Plan.
It’s quite important that everybody realises that it’s been developed and evolved in response to a few public consultations, and I know there was worry from a certain member at Cabinet that there may have been some obscure plan in the background, and I can assure that member that that isn’t the case, and an addendum has been added so everybody can see what everybody was consulted on.
And I think it’s also important to know that there was a Citizens’ Panel involved of thirty people from across the whole county, and they have been involved in the production and the evaluation throughout the whole process in developing this plan. As I said, it’s been to communities OSC, and it’s also been to Cabinet, and they’ve considered the plan, and they’ve put it forward to be adopted by Full Council.
I think some of the key points in response to the public feedbacks were that there was four key themes, which was Environment, Wellbeing, Economy, and Place, with Environment and Wellbeing being regularly the top priorities for the public.
This new plan recognises the diverse nature across Warwickshire, and it also recognises the travel hierarchy that promotes sustainable transport options first and foremost. But it also recognises that different communities require different needs. So, it’s not a case of one fits all.
The LTP4 will provide the policy and strategy foundations for all our transport related interventions in Warwickshire over the next decade, or until circumstances dictate that the plan needs revisiting and updating.
So, what are the next steps? The Local Transport Plan will be supported by Area Sustainable Transport Strategies, an action plan, and monitoring plans. The Area Sustainable Transport Strategies will ensure the benefits from the new Local Transport Plan are felt across the whole of Warwickshire’s diverse geography by discussing the specific transport challenges and schemes for each district and borough. The action plan will be a live document and it will detail specifics of how we will deliver transport improvements in the county, and showing how each scheme supports the overall themes of the Local Transport Plan, and the Council Plan. In addition, the Monitoring Plans including key performance indicators will be established to measure the impact of each scheme and our achievement towards our overarching objectives of the Local Transport Plan.
Together with the action and monitoring plans, we will provide a clear demonstration of how the County Council aims to provide a modern, fit for purpose, sustainable transport network for Warwickshire. These plans will be updated and reported on annually and provide the links between on the ground delivery, strategy, and policy.
What we have to remember is, as a Council we may have great influence on the way people travel, but we must also ensure that we have the greatest impact. LTP4, with its hierarchy, is about providing choices for our residents with safe alternative methods of travel. So, I hope you’ll all be able to support this Local Transport Plan.
Do you have a seconder? Cllr Baxter-Payne, are you seconding that motion?
0:03:44 Cllr Baxter-Payne (Cons)
I’m happy to second this, Chair, and I reserve my right to speak.
Do we have an amendment? Cllr Chilvers, you have an amendment? Would you like to propose your amendment?
0:03:55 Cllr Chilvers (Grn)
Thank you Chair. You should have the amendment on the green bits of paper.
LTP4 has obviously been a long time in the making, and LTP3 before it, and it takes a lot of time to put it together. And the big question with a document like this is, what happens to it after it has been passed by ourselves? What impact does it have in the future? Does it sit on a dusty shelf in people’s offices or on people’s computers, or does it actually filter down into all the other documents and work of the council? And that’s been my concern with LTP3, and it’s also my concern with LTP4, in that I think there are lots and lots of good things in the LTP3, but a large number of them to be honest were not taken into account when transport schemes were designed.
And so, the aim of this amendment that I’m proposing today, is to think about how the good work that’s been done in the LTP4 filters down into the work of the Council over the coming years. And the focus on that is the transport hierarchy, or the travel choices hierarchy, which many of you hopefully will be familiar with, that says we should look at active travel solutions first – walking, cycling, and wheeling – public transport solutions second – bus, rail, and e-scooters – and private vehicle solutions third. And that transport hierarchy was in the LTP3, it’s prominent in the LTP4 as well.
And the reason I like it is that it’s not saying that there isn’t a place for the private motor vehicle; there is. You know, particularly in rural areas – we’re a very rural county – and people with mobility needs. We’re not saying that there isn’t a need for that, but that when we’re sitting down to design transport schemes and thinking about how we need to all get around, is that we should look at ways of encouraging active travel first and thinking about that first in our designs, and then public transport second, and private vehicles third. And in the past, I don’t think that that has always been the case.
And so, the other thing that I want from a policy document like this, is it provides a very clear steer to people. So, they should be able to open page one and very quickly get a sense of of what’s going on.
I’m not going to pretend I like everything in the LTP4 as it stands. I think that some of the key position statements are too vague. But I do recognise that actually having those guiding principles really clearly there are important. And so, that’s why we’re proposing this amendment today, so that it’s about what happens next to this document, what happens next to the work that’s been done, so that when developers are putting together 278 designs, or putting together suggestions, we want to give them a clear steer that we want them to think about this travel hierarchy before they come and talk to us.
So, that’s what this amendment is like. It’s about putting into practice the LTP4. So, thank you Chair.
Cllr Drew, are you seconding this amendment?
0:07:57 Cllr Drew (Grn)
I’m happy to second and reserve my right to speak.
Cllr Matecki, you’ve heard the amendment as proposed by Cllr Chilvers. Are you accepting this as a friendly amendment or not?
0:08:07 Cllr Matecki (Cons)
Basically, yes. There’s nothing in the amendment that is actually changing the Local Transport Plan. That is the aim of what the Local Transport Plan is doing, so we’re quite happy to accept it as a friendly amendment.
Thank you. As this is therefore a friendly amendment, it becomes a substantive motion. Therefore, we will debate the amendment as the motion that we are now looking at, which effectively becomes proposed by Cllr Matecki and seconded by Cllr Baxter-Payne.
Do we have any members who wish to comment?
0:08:45 Cllr Holland (Lab)
Well, it did seem to me, Chair, that Cllr Matecki and Chilvers actually said the same thing. So, I’m pleased we’ve come together in a friendly amendment.
But I’ve known these local transport plans going back to the first edition, which must be several decades ago, and the transport plans all seem to hit the the twin targets of healthy lifestyles, and reducing the environmental impact of transport, and the problem therefore isn’t the plan, the problem is in the implementation. And if we are having a plan, then we do have to mean it, and it does have to be translated into actions. Looking at the transport infrastructure projects which have come through for major funding in recent years, they seem to me to be in conflict with the plan.
Now Cllr Matecki, of course, was promoted into his role in May, and has come at this with a fresh look, and from the comments made in the presentation, we can be quite hopeful.
In my role as local councillor for Warwick, there are a couple of points that I would like to emphasise.
We have an Air Quality Management Zone order in place on our town centre, which can only be put right by action by the County Council. And the three councillors for Warwick worked hard with our residents, asking them how we could do this, and we started by being community-led. And when we put together a plan, we were confident that our residents would give us support because it was their ideas on how to go about it. We know there’s a resistance to road price charging, so there’s no charging in it. And it’s all based on existing transport policies that people who wish to bypass the town, use the bypass.
At that time, Cllr Butlin was transport portfolio holder, who was very rigorous in checking on our work. We asked the officers from the air quality authority, which is Warwick District Council and Environmental Health, to work with our transport planners, and the computer modelling of traffic flows – because we obviously want a healthy, thriving town centre, and residents who live in the town centre need to drive up to their doors, but businesses of course do require vehicles – and the plan which we found, that there was only one possible plan that would resolve the air quality issue and keep the town centre open and traffic flow, and Cabinet actually approved that in 2016.
Cllr Butlin checked on our work by coming to a meeting of Warwick Town Council, who very enthusiastically supported us. Warwick Town Council are now asking me, it’s seven years later, why hasn’t it been finished? About a third of the scheme has been built, but the Town Council have asked me to go to a meeting later this week and explain why the scheme isn’t absolutely completed, or more to the point, can we get it done? And I think obviously, that is the key to the whole problem. The plan is there, but the implementation is the thing that we need.
Also related to that, I did raise at Cabinet the issue with Warwick District Council Local Plan, and our transport planners were required to submit two almost conflicting sets of documents, one to meet the District Council requirements that people travel by car, and one to meet our requirements of the Local Plan that’s just been outlined by Cllr Matecki. And of course, there has been a change in May in Warwick District Council, and the new councillors I would hope will come into line with the county council plan, and discussions on that will no doubt take some time, and I would not expect to have an answer to that today because it does take time to put things together. But I hope those discussions are taking place, and if there’s anything in Warwick that we local councillors can do, we are here to help.
So in summary, I’m glad to see that agreement seems to be breaking out between the proposer and the proposer of the amendment, and we’ll support that.
0:13:39 Cllr Fradgley (Lib Dem)
I think this is a fine document. It’s attractive, it’s easy to read, and it’s easy to understand. But it’s at such a high level. It has little teeth, guidance, and direction to help local communities set their detailed action plans.
My local community is very anxious to work with Warwickshire County Council and has actually made that quite clear during the coming together of this particular plan, and it’s quite frustrated that it doesn’t have the guidance to make its own short, medium, and long-term plan. Because, I mean, Stratford does have considerable transport issues.
I’m pleased that active travel is the first section in this plan, but we must be far more ambitious. And Cllr Chilvers has just said these plans filter into further plans. I think time for filtering has actually passed. We’re in a very difficult situation as far as climate change is concerned. And one of the key ways to reduce local carbon is to actually sort out the way in which we get around what is in fact a difficult county because it’s rural and has small urban communities.
It is a big problem, but I’m not sure that this document as it stands gives that guidance that we actually need to make things happen in the short-term, as well as this filtering down long-term.
So, at the moment, I am not in a position to fully support. Thank you.
0:15:25 Cllr Millar (Lab)
I’m very interested in the amendment, and welcome it, and very, very glad that we’re all agreeing about embedding and demonstrating the application, and to Cllr Holland’s point about implementation.
I wondered if there were any reflections on the proposed ticket office closures squaring away with some of the main issues in this document that Warwickshire communities want us to tackle and are highlighted in the plan, including at page nine, such as Wellbeing and the Place themes, including access to active travel choices, accessibility, travelling safely and securely, and social exclusion and isolation.
0:16:04 Cllr Kate Rolfe (Lib Dem)
Like my colleague here, it’s a pretty, colourful document full of diagrams, aspirations, and dreams. My real concern is where the money is coming from to fulfil all these dreams.
I genuinely don’t think there’s enough emphasis in this document around infrastructure before development. We have a real problem all over Warwickshire about infrastructure coming before development, and I think we could have been a little bit more definite about that.
I think this could have been a meatier document, it should have had a bit more detail, and therefore I’m not supporting it, in its current form.
0:16:52 Cllr Sarah Feeney (Lab)
Thank you, Chair. I’ve got a couple of comments to make.
I noticed we have a comment in there about managing space, and speaking as somebody with a town centre division, we really do have a problem with managing space, particularly around parking spaces. And I think, you know, we talk about making sure that we decarbonise, there’s a comment in there about low emission zones. Well, they’re very much likely going to be in those places we have problems managing space, likely to be in those parts of the county where people are living in deprivation, and we need to ensure that residents are supported if we’re going to make these changes. Because what we can’t do is disenfranchise a whole body of people who live in this county and stop them being able to travel because we’re putting punitive measures upon them. We have to make sure that they are supported and brought along on the journey. And that’s not just putting in some electronic charging points in terraced areas. It’s going to have to be really well thought out and getting people to move along with us. Because otherwise we’re doing to people, not bringing people with us.
One thing that’s not in the plan, but something that I am very keen on, is average speed cameras. And I think that will help with some of the issues we have on our roads in the county. Certainly, Cllr Simpson-Vince and I share a part of a very long road that goes through Rugby, and both of us get lots of comments about speed and traffic along that road. I’m not even going to go into the speed limit question today. That’s a longer discussion for a much different time, but I think average speed cameras and the use of those across the county would be really welcomed by a lot of residents.
0:18:26 Cllr Tim Sinclair (Cons)
We call it a Local Transport Plan; I think it’s more of a local transport strategy. And picking up on Cllr Chilvers’ words, strategies need not just to be words, but they need to be useful documents. Strategies also need to have flexibility built into them that allows for change as the world evolves over time, and I do think this document does that. They also need to have balance, and the balance we need to draw here with this strategy is between, as it says in 1.5, the environment, wellbeing, economy, and place.
And I would just draw colleagues’ attention to 1.10, 1.11, and 1.12, that talks about the key themes that have emerged from communities as part of the consultation process that has been undertaken. And just reading briefly, if I may, from it, 1.11 says, “taking this feedback into account, it is the intention to provide more detail on individual transport interventions in the form of annual action plans and monitoring plans which will flow down from LTP4 and provide the link from strategy and policy into action on the ground.” And so, it’s my expectation that with a commitment to make that link, this will be a useful strategy, and we will be able to have effective implementation plans.
0:19:52 Cllr Golby (Cons)
Leading on from the comments about consultation, the numbers of the consultees are actually enclosed in the document. And if I’ve read this right, there was a grand total of 305 people responded to this consultation. Now, out of a population of nearly 500,000, I think that is appallingly low. And there was 22 people from Nuneaton and Bedworth responded. That’s absolutely nowhere near enough to be basing anything in relation to an ongoing strategy or a serious, meaty plan like this, at all. Because I don’t think we are actually covering all the basis on this. More people responded to the consultation for the Bermuda Bridge than they did to this, and more people responded, “don’t do the Bermuda Bridge” than they did to respond to the whole of this consultation, and we went ahead and did it anyway.
So, I suspect that’s probably why we’re not getting many responses from people, particularly in my patch, because they just get ignored. So, there is a level of apathy when it comes to doing things like this.
And when we talk about policies, so looking at policy positions on F6, we talk about the A5 Partnership and the A5. The A5 is one of the major pieces of highway, certainly from the north of the county, and it barely gets a passing mention. We are struggling in the north of the county because we need dualing, I think is probably the best way to go about the A5, and we’re getting nowhere with that. So, I would’ve expected to see some more consideration given to the real, heavy-duty structures in our highways that we’ve got in the north of the county.
And also again, on position F7, where it says, “help reducing instances of HGVs using inappropriate smaller roads to enhance the environment and wellbeing of those living and working in affected areas”, again going back to my own patch, this Council is actively not doing that. You have opened up a through-route through a traffic-free area to route thousands and thousands of extra vehicles including HGVs into my patch. That is in direct contravention of what we are writing here. So, you do with one, and you say with the other. And it doesn’t run, it doesn’t accord to what we’re actually asking people to agree to and sign up.
I find this really difficult because there are some good things in here. But I’m not convinced on the “do as I say, not as I do” thing, and I’m really struggling with this. And I’ve had this conversation many, many times. We’ve got – again, parochial – Bermuda Bridge. I don’t even know how much it’s costing. We won’t even publish how much it’s costing. And it’s taxpayer money. We’ve gone probably four times over the original £3.7m budget. And when we’re going to put strategies and policies to people, we have to stick to them. And I don’t believe that we are doing at the moment, particularly not in my area, particularly not with the amount of disruption that we’ve had. And the lack of engagement from my residents on this is just stark. And it’s what is not being said more than what is being said that should be taken into account as far as I’m concerned.
0:23:21 Cllr Roodhouse (Lib Dem)
You’d better minute what I’m about to say, make sure it’s minuted. I agree with Councillor Golby. On the consultation bit.
I think it’s, as you said, incredible really that we’re basing judgments around the amount of people that have been consulted and that evidence that’s come back in around that, into such an important document.
Of course, in the summing up, I’m sure the portfolio holder who arrived at this document – it was probably about three-quarters produced when you arrived into your position into that, so it was a sort of fait accompli in a way – we will be told it’s a high-level strategic document. I think it’s so high-level, I’m not sure whether it’s in the stratosphere and whether we’ll ever be able to reach it or do anything with it really.
And there’s a number of concerns in the document which relate to the baseline evidence which is coming through. It doesn’t give you any baseline evidence. And I’m actually amazed that within it – was it KP5? – we talk about, “we will collect data both to determine the effectiveness of our transport interventions and to inform works and direction.” Don’t we do that now? Don’t we collect any data? Don’t we do anything like that? It just seems amazing that we’re actually not putting in, “this is where we’re working from, and this is where we want to go to” within that.
Now, at Cabinet very recently, something called the Energy Strategy arrived. And I said it was a very good document in relation to how it was written, because the opening paragraphs to that document gave hyperlinks directly to all this Council’s corporate priorities and direction. So, it immediately linked the energy strategy to exactly what the County Council was doing and trying to achieve, and into other areas. This document is absolutely void of that on public health, and all the other elements that we’re trying to achieve. And it’s around those reasons, Mister Chairman, that we can’t support this document.
0:25:30 Cllr Butlin (Cons)
This document, when I was transport portfolio holder, it basically kind of underpinned everything that we did. But there is, kind of like, from various quarters, they want more detail, and they want to basically, kind of like, second guess just about every policy, every project that’s going to go on in the county. You can’t do that. All you can do is lay down a strategic proposal in terms of how and in which we design and bring forward different schemes across the county to keep us connected. And that’s what this does.
I agree with Sarah Feeney. We do not need punitive measures in terms of what we impose upon people. I found out, as Cllr Holland pointed out when I was portfolio holder for that one, you need to bring people with you, and you need to deal with the communities when you do these schemes to bring them forward and basically, kind of, get buy-in, as I call it. And I managed to do and achieve that on several occasions. And this document will allow the new portfolio holder to actually kind of take that forward, and all our officers to do the same as well. It’s a strategic document on which we hang our hat on.
It also takes into account new government legislation in terms of what their priorities are, and we have to weave that into our policies because it’s government policy. And that’s the reason why you’ve got things like cycle routes, walking routes, sustainable development, etc., all weaved into this document.
But we still have to take into account we have an economy in Warwickshire to run, and the economy of Warwickshire depends on good connectivity, on whatever form it takes. And there is no getting away from the fact, especially those in rural communities, they have little choice in terms of what those sources of getting around are. And the source of their economy, the source of their income, is basically being able to get from A to B, from getting to work, getting to a place of education. Again, this strategic policy achieves that for us. It has to be flexible, as Cllr Sinclair has pointed out.
In terms of basically relating to the communities, again we have the Citizens’ Panel, and everything is put back through to the Citizens’ Panel in terms of where we want to go and getting that kind of community view. But also, when we do those local schemes, we engage with those locals as well.
But don’t forget, the root to all basic kind of prosperity in the county is one, a job, and the ability to get to that job, and also anything we produce, getting it away, and getting it in. And it may take several forms. It may take trains.
I’m a very, kind of, keen advocate of trains and basically moving an awful lot of freight on to the trains. I think the east-west strategy across this country is appalling because there’s too much emphasis on north-south, which comes to Sarah Boads comments about HS2. But we are now making use in the greenway, or what is the thing that we brought forward earlier, in terms of that route with Sustrans, we’re using an old railway line which was put in, in the kind of, the nineteenth century. I don’t know what HS2 is going to be like in two years’ time, but it might well be another greenway.
So, this is, kind of like, a strategy for where we are now, and I’m very keen to basically have something that’s flexible, adaptable, and also plays into those priorities we want across the county and the people being able to get to work. Those in the cities and the major towns, then we can basically apply things like walking and cycling etc. because that’s what people want. But when you get into the rural communities and where they’ve basically got very little choice, and they’ve got large distances to cover, we’ve still got to maintain their ability to get the work.
We might have to put more money into, kind of, bus routes on those places, or in some cases may even, if they’ve got the, kind of, beauty of a train nearby, or a train station, getting better links into those train stations. Again, this strategy achieves that and it’s flexible. And that’s why I, kind of, encourage you to approve this proposal.
0:30:06 Cllr Sarah Boad (Lib Dem)
I wanted to talk particularly about the section on a public transport network for the future. I would agree with the comments of some of my colleagues. This is full of all sorts of very, very fine words that nobody – nobody – could disagree with. But where’s the substance? Where’s the money? Where’s the doing?
You know, I’ll just briefly mentioned cycleways before I start on buses. K2L, a long, long, long-term objective of this Council and of many of us, is going to take years – years – to put in. And so, an initiative that could remove hundreds, thousands of cars probably from the road over the period of a week, is going to be unusable for many, for many years to come. And that is a major, major issue.
It’s great to put the words in here, but actually, it doesn’t mean anything.
I mean, the public transport network for the future, WCC role in supporting the bus network and all our various policy statements on page 85, 86, 87 – working with partner agencies to improve public transport. We’ve just been given over £2m pounds BSIP money – people may remember BSIP, Bus Service Improvement Plan, which I spoke about a couple years ago and we got set up a working group, and that working group meets faithfully every three weeks, and has done for literally years, and it’s a wonderful group, and we try and achieve stuff – officers came up with a plan to buy some more minibuses so we could replicate some of the IndiGo work, which is incredibly successful west of Warwick, south of Kenilworth. And what happens? Stagecoach object. And the officers had to go away because I understand Stagecoach have a statutory right to object.
So, we have a rubbish bus service in many parts of the county. The County tried to do something about it, and is probably struggling because of an objection. And as I understand it, the money was given to the County Council by the BSIP, and at the same time the Government took away the subsidies they were paying to the bus companies to help them with the COVID issues.
Where I live in North Leamington, most of Lillington has – there’s a bit in the middle that has a twenty minute service; the rest of us have a one-hourly service. I used to have a fifteen-minute service going both ways past my house. It’s now one an hour and it goes one way. And if that bus doesn’t turn up, which often it doesn’t, it will be two hours, or three hours.
I have many, many residents with bus passes. They should be the absolute target market to be using those bus passes. They don’t use them. Do you know why? Because they can’t rely that the bus will bring them back. And so, given the choice between going in the car or going on the bus, they go in the car. And you have to give people really strong reasons to use the bus. And at the moment, the fear of the bus not turning up means they don’t actually use it.
And people cannot survive with a bus that’s only one an hour, and as I say, if it doesn’t turn up, you can’t rely on it to get to work, you can’t rely on it to get to appointments, you can’t rely on it for anything. I’ve got residents in their eighties who are desperate to give up their cars, and they won’t give them up because they can’t rely on the bus.
And so, I want to see some – as I say, on the BSIP working party, we are doing our best, aren’t we? I’m sure those of you members that are on it, we are absolutely doing our best, and we have some really, really good, meaningful conversations to try and make our bus services better. But at the end of the day, we’re reliant on the bus companies.
We have a situation certainly in Leamington where we have one bus company that is dominant and they have the monopoly, and that is not a good place to be.
So, I will be joining my colleagues in not supporting this because it’s very fine words but there’s no action and there’s no sign of action.
I just want to mention briefly the station ticket closures at Leamington station. I have got a question about this later on, but I’m delighted to hear it mentioned. Leamington Town Council moved a motion at my suggestion last week opposing these changes. They will not encourage people to go – I suspect it’s another reason that people will just say, “you know what? I’m not on the internet, I haven’t got a smartphone, I haven’t got the app. I used to speak to that really friendly person at Leamington Station who would help me buy my ticket. And now I’m expected to turn up hours early to find a machine that I don’t know how to work, I may not even have a credit card or a bank card. And a person is going to help me get my ticket? Do you know what? Actually, I’m going to Coventry or Birmingham or Stratford. You know what? I’ll just go in the car. Because it’s easier.”
And this whole digital divide, once again public bodies discriminating against people who do not have access to the internet, who don’t have one of these [holds smartphone] at their fingertips, or a computer, or whatever.
I did a disabled blue badge application for somebody the other day. I printed the form off in my house, and took it round, and filled it in for her. Because she isn’t on the internet, she doesn’t have a laptop, or a printer. No way of doing that stuff.
There’s a real digital divide coming, and it’s coming down fast, and I don’t believe this document is helping that digital – because it talks about doing stuff on smartphones and doing stuff electronically. Where is the help and support for our many residents who can’t actually do any of those things?
I understand that, for example, new parking machines will have access for people to use cash in some machines in Leamington, and I guess in other towns as well. Because otherwise you are just excluding people and they will not come into the town centre, they’ll go to a shopping park, or they’ll go somewhere else. And they will drive because they can’t do it on the bus easily, they can’t do it by train easily, and so the car will become even more of the king or queen than it is now. And until this document recognises some of those issues, I’m afraid I can’t support it.
0:36:08 Cllr Clarke (Cons)
Well, it’s interesting to listen to the debate on this one. Everybody’s got an opinion, and they’ve got their own opinion as to what should be happening in their own area, or should be happening in other people’s areas.
I was part of the process of this, insofar as I was a cabinet member at some point when this document was travelling through. I’ve also been the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at the present time that looked at this, and I’ve also had feedback into the proposals that are before us.
It is a strategic document. It looks to see how we move forward as a county to benefit and to ensure that our residents get the services that they need. And unfortunately, some of the services that they need we’ve heard that are diminishing insofar as less people using the buses. How do you address that? Get the people back onto the buses. Yes, that would be nice. But if people are not using the buses, the companies are not going to put the buses on.
Trains. Proposals to get trains moving better through the county. Seventeen out of twenty-two services from Nuneaton to Leamington were failed recently. How do we, as you say, get people back on to use those services? We’ve got to ensure that people are using them, but they’ve got to be there for them to use.
That said, comes back to the highways which is the major one, obviously, that people need to use. And they need to use it, as do businesses, because we have to get businesses working, we have to get goods to and from the consumer, whether that be through town centres or whatever. There has to be opportunity for the delivery of goods, for the people to be able to get into the towns to purchase those goods.
I mean, we’ve heard the diminishment of town centres. We have to be careful that we don’t add to that by putting things in local transport plans that are going to impede on those town centres, that are going to stop those town centres developing, or growing, or at least surviving. What we must do is ensure that what we do do, and this document is a strategic one and it does point out that it’s relevant to individual areas, and I would ask both members and officers to be thorough when they look at the individual areas as to what the needs are in those areas, and I think that is essential that they do do that. Because every district and borough in this county is different to each other. Every one. There’s not one in the county that is the same as any other district and borough. And we need to ensure that whatever we do – and this document does give that opportunity because it identifies and demonstrates that it’s down to the local areas to recognise the need, recognise what’s required, and for them to then put the local things forward.
So, whilst it’s a very overarching document, it’s also very encompassing insofar as you can put into it what you need to put into it, I think. But what we do need to put into it is the effort and the individuals, for the individual areas.
So, I can broadly support it, but I do need to see that those local issues, local needs are met in any areas in the development of these localised plans as we move forward.
Thank you chair.
0:40:24 Cllr Kennaugh
I have a few issues with this document as well. I’d just like to first echo what my colleagues, Cllr Golby and Roodhouse, have said.
One of the issues I have with this is the hierarchy system. For me, this puts motorists firmly at the bottom of the pile in terms of priorities for investment and infrastructure going forward. And to come back on something Cllr Butlin said, is that we don’t run the economy, we enable it, and the economy is driven forwards on the roads. We have to make sure that we’re investing into roads infrastructure to make it more suitable for motorists.
If you come to Nuneaton and Bedworth, or if you even look down Stockingford, the roads cannot take any more capacity. They’re annihilated at the moment. And how many of my colleagues around the chamber today have had to wait months, and months, and months, and months, to get just the smallest patch of roads resurfaced, or a pothole filled, or a patch of pavement cleared?
And this brings me on to my next point, is that on the page below, which I think is page twelve of the document, on the suitability of different areas for different things, it says that urban areas – like Nuneaton and Stockingford – are less suitable for increased vehicle capacity. That’s absolutely correct. I agree. But at the same time, it says it’s more suitable for infrastructure to do with cycling. And I mean, if you look down the roads in Nuneaton, they can’t take any more cyclists. The one cycle route we do have on the roads in Weddington, I believe it is, isn’t used by anyone. And so, to promote cycling in some parts of Nuneaton is like promoting rare fillet steak at a vegetarian conference.
It does not make sense why we can’t look at different areas for what they need.
And then on page – what is it? – eighteen, it mentions private motor vehicles being necessary for long and medium journeys. People need their vehicles to get to and from work, sometimes they’re particularly close, because the trains don’t work or it’s just too far to walk. I don’t drive myself, believe it or not – I’m a passionate champion of the motorist – and when the trains and buses are inadequate, they must drive. They must drive.
And it brings me back to my point before of the roads not being suitable. We need to be investing in motorists and we need to be investing in our roads.
And just a final, very, very quick point I’d like to make. Freight is mentioned in the document as well, and I’m sure anyone who’s driven down the motorways has seen how many massive lorries and vans there are clogging up the SRN [Strategic Road Network]. The only way you can get freight off of the roads is on to the railway. But there’s no capacity on the railway. So, that means you have to move passengers out of the main railway system, and the only way you can do that is with HS2. I’d just like to bring that to everyone’s attention, that by supporting HS2, you’re actually supporting bringing freight off the roads.
Thank you very much, Mister Chairman.
0:43:38 Cllr Drew
It’s been a very interesting debate. A lot of what I’d like to say has been said already very articulately, and I am going to be repeating something that I said earlier in relation to the Lias Line.
Warwickshire has fallen below regional and national statistics for both use of public transport for travel to work, and as I said earlier, our emissions compare negatively too.
Another thing I’d like to say is that we are disappointed, as Cllr Holland suggested earlier, that this has taken so long to come to our attention. We need to take the urgent need for change seriously, and again as has been suggested, meaningfully. Residents need to be able to choose actively rather than passively to use a car, as has been said maybe for longer journeys. However, we all need to stop the car being the first choice by default. And an increase in active travel routes for shorter trips will mean that we experience fewer jams when we do drive, fewer new roads – I know some people won’t like that – but fewer new roads being built, and fewer emissions.
Just reflecting on some things other people have said, we need to see our policies translated into actions, and I’ll repeat it again, meaningful actions on the ground. 1.11, as Cllr Tim suggested, is to be especially welcomed if strategy can be translated into actions.
I’ll stop there, but yeah, thank you for the amendment and for the document.
If there are no more comments to be made, I will go back to the seconder of the amended motion, if you have any comments, Cllr Baxter-Payne, you wish to make.
0:46:28 Cllr Baxter-Payne
Thank you, Chair.
I just want to echo some of the points that have been made in the room today, and also to make a point myself.
I think that the comments as echoed by Cllr Clarke show that we all have a different opinion of how we travel. In our area, we all have a different idea of what is best suited to our area. And this plan, by supporting it, allows us as members, as districts, as boroughs, as communities to put forward those ideas. What works in an urbanised town will not work in a rural area.
The mention of average speed cameras – most of the people in Nuneaton and Bedworth would actually like to get to the minimum speed limit. On regular occasions, you’re lucky if you get to twenty mile an hour driving through the town. So, this plan will enable the district, and the boroughs, and the members, and the communities to shape what they believe is their priority.
And a point I made recently at a Borough Plan meeting, which I was pilloried for later is, if we want to encourage people out of their car, we have to educate, we have to encourage. We can’t force them out of the car by saying, “this is the way you should travel”. We should encourage people. So, this plan again enables that, because it enables a way to shape the way in which we travel for the future.
But as the point is made by Cllr Golby, we have to take people with us. So, we have to enable that if somebody comes forward, if we put a plan forward, that we follow it through, and that we can back it up. And that is where the monitoring of this plan comes in. We have to show that what we say is what we will do. And as we move forward, we have to do things. We can’t be seen to say something and not do it.
Thank you Cllr Baxter-Payne. Cllr Matecki, as the proposer of the amended proposal.
0:48:29 Cllr Matecki
Thank you, Chairman.
It’s been a very interesting debate and some very good points, but I think the one theme that’s coming out is about locality. Everybody’s talking about their own area. And that is exactly what this plan is about. It enables each area to actually set its own priorities. So, this isn’t the done and dusted deal; this sets the overarching principles of it. Below this will sit other plans that are relative to each district and borough.
I know some things have been mentioned about the A5, dualing. Well, I’m sorry, that’s not in our control. That’s a National Highways road. So, that’s not for us to actually do that.
But I know Cllr Roodhouse says that it may have been a fait accompli when I took office. Rest assured if I was not happy with this document, it would not be sitting here today. I would have pulled it until I was happy with it.
I read it twice. And like a lot of people, the first time you read it you think, having read LTP3, you think, “hmm, this doesn’t have a lot of substance in it.” But the second time you actually read it in the context that it’s written, it actually makes a lot of sense. This isn’t about telling people how they should travel. That’s not our job. Our job is to give them safe alternative ways to actually travel, and for different communities to be able to set their own priorities.
It is a high-level document and it has to be flexible. The transport industry is moving extremely quickly. Electric vehicles, you’re getting more and more of them on the road; hydrogen is coming in, so we don’t know where that’s going to go; we even now have a synthetic fuel that can go straight into normal combustion engines that are carbon neutral.
So, we have to think. What is the purpose of removing the cars? Is it for congestion? Is it for air quality? Or what is it? If it’s just for congestion, as long as we provide alternatives for people to use, if they want to sit in a traffic jam in their cars when they could’ve taken a bike, then that should be an alternative that we give them. And I think that is the point that’s being missed.
And in terms of Nuneaton, I hear what you’re saying about Nuneaton, but actually I’ve got to disagree with you. I was actually in Nuneaton just last week, and when I was there, I was only there for a short period of time, there was a steady stream of cyclists on the footpath. Well, I had to walk off the footpath into the grass verge, there were parents with pushchairs. It is dangerous to put the two together. And why are they on the footpath? Because they don’t feel safe on the road. So, we have to provide a safe alternative. And if you provide a safe alternative, I’m sure more and more people will use them.
And maybe the people of today, the older generation, don’t want to use it. But we’ve got to think about the future. Our children are far more savvy and they will be doing a lot more of it. So, we can’t just say because they don’t do it today, that they’re not going to do it in the future.
The consultations. There have been criticisms about the consultation and the number of people that were actually consulted. You have to remember, we had a Citizens’ Panel. That Citizens’ Panel represented every single area, and they were regularly meeting, and they came from a cross-section of the community. And I think that’s the important thing. And a lot of people, when you go to a lot of councils, talk about having the Citizens’ Panel to guide the plans, and that is exactly what we’ve done. It is an important document and we have had a Citizens’ Panel that actually delivers that.
And finally, what I want to say is, if there is any doubt about commitment – and actually, there was another comment saying about what these policies say and we’re not delivering. Well, what I’d say is, we’ve not adopted it yet. So, don’t criticise the policies because we don’t adopt them. Let’s adopt it, and then if we’re not delivering it once we’ve adopted it, then you can come and be critical about it. But to say we’re not doing it before we’ve actually started doing it is a bit nonsense in my mind.
But let’s have a look at what we are doing. Over the next five years, we are anticipating to spend between £40m and £50m on active travel schemes. We’ve already got £18m committed. On electric vehicles, we expect to spend between £3m and £4m on infrastructure as well. Now, that is a commitment before we’ve even adopted this local plan, and that is the way we are going. And I hope everybody can actually support it.
16 speakers on that one.
Just to summarise, we’re told this is a strategic policy document. There are members who are concerned there’s not sufficient detail in it. I think that probably encapsulates the majority of what sixteen people said. Hopefully, I haven’t cut anybody’s view out.
But it is now come to the vote on this matter, and therefore we’ve heard this is – the original proposal was amended, that amendment was adopted as a friendly amendment, proposed and seconded by Cllr Matecki and Cllr Baxter-Payne. Therefore, I moved to the vote.
All those in favour of adopting the new Local Transport Plan for Warwickshire, LTP4? All those against adopting the new policy document? And those abstaining?
The vote is carried, and therefore the proposal, the new Local Transport Plan for Warwickshire has been adopted.