COVID-19 ACTIVE TRAVEL PLAN SCHEMES
To consider a report by the Traffic, Parking and Road Safety Manager, to provide a further update on the findings from the project (copy attached).
A member of the public, Mr Stuart
Davies, had requested to address the Committee and it was agreed he could speak
following the members and officers.
Councillor Brian Jones, Lead
Member for Waste, Transport and the Environment, introduced the Covid-19 Active
Travel Plan report. The report detailed
the temporary active travel schemes that were implemented in a number of
Denbighshire town centres in late 2020 and which had now all subsequently been
The report was a further update on the findings from the project as a
follow-up to a report that was presented to the Partnerships Scrutiny Committee
in December 2020 and was included in Appendix A to the report.
The Traffic, Parking and Road
Safety Manager gave a summary of the background to the original scheme. Schemes had been developed for Denbigh,
Llangollen, Rhyl and Ruthin town centres.
These had been awarded WG funding in June 2020, with the exception of
Denbigh which was withdrawn. The
December 2020 report included in Appendix A provided more detail surrounding
the grant and process followed.
Following initial delays due
to contractor availability and material shortages, the schemes in Llangollen,
Rhyl and Ruthin were implemented in November 2020.
Ruthin Scheme - The scheme in Ruthin encountered initial teething
problems which were largely addressed by making slight amendments to the
scheme. A number of businesses, which had been directly affected by the
measures, complained about the loss of spaces for parking and loading outside
their premises. Whilst some mitigation for those losses had been included
within the overall scheme, this had not been considered to be enough by some
business owners. In light of the concerns, meetings were held with Ruthin MAG
which led to the Lead Member taking the decision to withdraw the scheme and
this work took place in February 2021.
Llangollen Scheme – The scheme in Llangollen initially received
little feedback following its introduction in early November 2020. However,
from March 2021, a number of incidents began to occur involving pedestrians
tripping over the bases of the temporary bollards that had been introduced. As
these incidents continued, the bollards were replaced with narrow planter boxes
which put a stop to the tripping incidents. The temporary scheme had also
resulted in an increase in some large vehicles mounting the pavement in order
to manoeuvre past obstructions caused by the opposing lane of traffic.
Despite the concerns, the Dee
Valley MAG were keen to retain the temporary scheme on the basis that the
additional pavement width that had been created was proving really useful for
the heavy pedestrian footfall that was being experienced in Llangollen. The
view had also been based on the feedback from a follow-up online consultation
where although views on the temporary scheme were mixed, approximately 60% of
respondents indicated that they felt that the scheme should remain either
because they felt it was working well, or because they felt it was too early to
draw any conclusions to the contrary. On-site observations by officers observed
plenty of usage of the widened pavement area even outside peak periods such as
weekends and school holidays.
Following the relaxation of
the Welsh Government Covid restrictions in mid-August
2021 and the move to Alert Level 0, the Lead Member for Waste, Transport and
the Environment took the decision to remove the temporary scheme following
discussion with the local members.
Rhyl Scheme - Once
implemented the Rhyl temporary scheme had generated little feedback from residents.
However, concerns were raised by local businesses who stated that the loss of
on-street parking had a detrimental impact on their businesses. Some of
residents and local members raised concerns that the scheme had increased
traffic queues at the A548 Wellington Road/Bodfor
Street junction. The Lead Member took the decision following consultation with
the Rhyl MAG, and the scheme was removed in late April 2021.
The particularly negative
reaction to the Denbigh scheme had resulted in a short consultation being
agreed for all four of the temporary schemes proposed.
With the exception of the
Denbigh scheme, the other three schemes had been mostly supported by the
consultation respondents. By the time the projects were introduced in late
October/early November the peak spring/summer footfall had subsided and the
October “firebreak” had just taken place. The colder weather combined with the
further lockdown that commenced on the 20th December 2020, and ran
until Spring, resulted in many of the town centres being relatively deserted.
This made the purpose of the temporary schemes seem less obvious especially as
this had often been at the expense of on-street parking. This had undoubtedly
been a factor in the early removal of the Rhyl and Ruthin schemes.
It was confirmed that DCC had
ongoing dialogue with the Welsh Government and had communicated some of the
issues and hurdles which had been encountered regarding the schemes.
During the discussion:
Committee members acknowledged that the
emergency scheme fully funded by WG was aimed at helping town centre businesses
during a national crisis when social distancing rules were in place, the tight
timescales and stringent rules entailed with it had hampered its delivery and
Officers advised that other local authorities
who had acted quickly without consulting with local businesses in order to get
the schemes off the ground quickly had also been criticised regarding their
implementation and delivery
Local members for Llangollen were of the view
that the scheme there had been a success and had helped keep residents and
visitors safe during an exceptionally busy tourist season in the area;
Regular discussions had taken place during the
schemes’ implementation at the Council’s Senior Leadership Team (SLT) meetings
and local authorities had been regularly reporting to WG on their schemes,
their successes and any opposition and hurdles encountered with them;
Lessons learnt from this particular exercise
would be useful when developing future long-term active travel schemes aimed at
addressing the effects of climate change
At this juncture, Mr Stuart
Davies was given the opportunity to address the Partnerships Scrutiny
Committee. Mr Davies referred to the
report relating to Llangollen which, in his opinion had been incomplete. He felt the report failed to acknowledge
significant issues. He recognised the
short timeline involved but felt it had been agreed in principle without any
prior consultation with Llangollen Town Council or members of the public. He went on to state that the report failed to
acknowledge a petition of 600 verified signatures in opposition to the scheme
which had been presented to DCC officers and councillors. He stated 80% of local businesses had opposed
the scheme. Given the number of
injuries to members of the public, there had been a failure by DCC officers and
relevant councillors to exercise due diligence by documented risk assessment
that took into account risk of injuries to the public despite public concerns
being expressed from the outset. The
July public consultation recognised that the majority of the responses stated
they were not encouraged to use active travel measures more. Following a spate of injuries to the public
and despite Llangollen Town Council requesting that a risk assessment be
undertaken for lane defenders to be used as an extension for pedestrians on a
public highway, and subsequently planters, one was never received. Initial concerns from the public were ignored
until the accidents documented by CCTV footage and photographs from Mr Davies
were copied to MPs and the Press. In Mr
Davies’ view Llangollen had received some of the worse publicity possible as a
result of the national press with reports appearing on the BBC and in the Daily
Mail. Even then, in his opinion DCC
officers continued to assess the scheme as being fit for purpose without any
documentation or fact based evidence to support their statement. The scheme in Llangollen went on to have
modifications, at additional cost, whilst resisting public calls to remove the
scheme. The closure of Short Street was
part of the scheme and based on personal opinions with unspecified safety
concerns being quoted. Subsequent
Freedom of Information requests (FOI) revealed there had not been any accidents
there in the previous five years. Mr
Davies called upon Partnerships Scrutiny Committee to ask why was there a lack
of proper risk assessments which led to serious injuries to the public. A failure to take public opinion into account
being progressed and why did DCC try to fit something which was not fit for
purpose in the first place. Ruthin had
their active travel scheme removed, why could this not happen in Llangollen?
Following the statement by Mr
Stuart Davies, it was proposed by Councillor Rachel Flynn and seconded by
Councillor Joan Butterfield that the Council review the process utilised to
implement and remove all Covid-19 Active Travel Plan Schemes in
A vote took place and it was
unanimously agreed to the additional recommendation.
Following detailed discussion on all aspects of the Schemes
RESOLVED: - subject to
the above comments and observations to –
(i) receive the information provided; and
(ii) request that the Council review the process
utilised to implement and remove all Covid-19 Active Travel Plan Schemes in
Denbighshire with a view to identifying good practice and lessons learnt that
may be applied when distributing future short-term emergency funding streams
that may become available.
- Covid AT schemes - Final report, item 6. PDF 134 KB
- Appendix A - December 2020 report, item 6. PDF 135 KB