Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Actions speak louder than words on environment

Today we had confirmation that the Labour Govt. and Conservative Council do not really place a high priority on the environment. Today was day two of the public inquiry into the Borough Council's Town Centre Area Action Plan. The topic was a variety of transport issues.

The Chelmsford Cycle Action Group (to which I belong) was there, calling for improvements to the cycle network. For instance, north-south links through the town and making Sustrans Route 1 up to the proper standard for its full length through the Borough. Lib Dem Cllrs. Keith Francis and Graham Pooley backed this up and made the case for improved walking and bus links too. For instance, promoting the idea of a circular bus route to move people round the town centre. The Lib Dems also tried to make the fine words about cycle networks etc. into a firm objective "to be delivered within the timeframe of the plan" but the council and the inspector resisted this as 'outside their control'. So what is the point of the plan? Most of its objectives are outside direct council control - but footpaths actually are not!!

The Inspector's response? "I have to strike a balance between the different modes of transport. I cannot favour one over the other." Setting aside for a moment that the latter does not follow from the former, he and the plan clearly DO favour one over the other. The vast majority of the resources allocated in the plan are for more roads. Government policy, which he is supposed to be implementing, talks about making local development more sustainable. I asked him whether he accepted that that was a Government objective and that he is supposed to deliver it, but he ignored the point.

Under questioning from the Lib Dems present, Chelmsford council shifted their position from saying "High Bridge Road may be demolished" to it WILL be demolished, and replaced with a new road across the water meadow onto Chelmer Road. (The road is only 14 years old.) Clearly they have no idea what sustainability means in practice.


Post a Comment

<< Home