Tuesday, 24 May 2011

On Thursday, will Greens accept the Local Transport Plan made by the old Tory-led council?

Core Development Areas (LTP3-App 3)
24 May. The delayed Local Transport Plan (LTP) will be presented to a Special meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council on Thursday 26 May 2011.

This LTP was devised under the just-demised Tory leadership of the council. So is the LTP full of plans to remove cycle lanes and turn green spaces into parking spaces? Not at all. In fact, the Plan makes it sound like the Tories had a Road to Damascus Moment and converted to the Green Cause. Here is the vision statement:

“To deliver an integrated, accessible and balanced transport system that supports economic growth and enables people to travel around and access services as safely and freely as possible while minimising damage to the environment and contributing to a safer, cleaner, quieter and healthier city.”

OK, no mention of the "sustainable" word in the vision statement, but plenty inside.

The LTP is a truly awesome document in hundreds of pages. A quick scan (link below) shows how transport planning impacts many aspects of our lives - housing, how we go to school, work and shop, what our cities look and feel like. Air quality affects our health, traffic affects our enjoyment of the urban environment. Our economy depends on how transport flows - not just how quickly, with billions being lost by traffic jams - but also how enjoyable the experience is, with some high streets being blighted by noisy dangerous traffic, and others boosting retail trade with safe enjoyable pedestrian areas like New Road in Brighton.

UK's local authorities are supposed to work to 12 year strategic plans, and the last one (LTP2) was drafted in 2000. So a new one (LTP3) was supposed to be agreed by the end of March 2011. But the council administration was in a turmoil - with the possibility of council opposition defeating the LTP just weeks before the May local election - so everyone agreed to delay considering the LTP until after the election.

Well, as we now know, the Tories lost, and the Greens won the election by a margin that surprised everybody.

So the LTP becomes almost the second major policy document to be debated by a the Green-led council. (The first item on the agenda is councillors' allowances - Green promised to scrap these as part of thier election promises).

Although created under the demised Tory administration, the LTP is supposed to be non-political, being drawn up in the best interests of the city by council officers. But, as we experienced over four years of Tory admin, council officers are susceptible to political pressure - as the sad demise of Old Shoreham Road Cycle Freeway, Valley Gardens project, etc etc bears witness. Many of these were components of the last (2000) LTP2.

Back in November I did query the questions asked in the public consultation that formed part of the LTP. For example, there was no clear question that asked: Do you favour a clear commitment to Sustainable Transport?" The closes we got was:
"To reduce the need to travel  - and enable people to travel more sustainably."
The the above, 73% agreed,  21% neither agreed nor disagreed, 6.5% disagreed. So what part of that sentence did they disagree to? This is a trickster question. It is important, because the the LTP bases it's priorities on the results of public consultation. Other policies had higher approval so these get given priority.

My sources tell me this new LTP3 is masterpiece of worthy generalisation, which would have allowed a Tory administration to adapt the sustainable-sounding plan to its nefarious ends, while still being fit for the purpose of securing government funding.

But the good thing about this vague kind of Plan is that it allows the incoming Green administration an equal flexibility.

The word is that it will be adopted by council on Thursday.

In any event, delay would be extremely uncomfortable - government funds will not be forthcoming until the LTP is agreed. Local highway authorities have a statutory requirement to produce a Local Transport Plan [LTP] as part of the process to secure government grant funding. The current LTP expired at the end of March 2011 and the third LTP [LTP3] for Brighton & Hove was supposed to be in place by the beginning of April 2011.

Click link here for downloadable copies of LTP3. The details are in Appendix 3 and 4.

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