Agenda item

Agenda item


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 removed.


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  These had been awarded WG funding in June 2020, with the exception of Denbigh which was withdrawn.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 overall effectiveness;

·         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 Denbighshire. 


A vote took place and it was unanimously agreed to the additional recommendation.


Following detailed discussion on all aspects of the Schemes the Committee:


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.


Supporting documents: