Active Travel plan adopted after disability forum concerns

Shay Bottomley

Councillors adopted the Royal Borough’s Active Travel plan on Thursday night after concerns from a disability and inclusion forum earlier in the week.

The Local Walking and Cycling Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) has been shaped by feedback from last summer’s borough-wide consultation – the Big Conversation – together with the existing Cycling Action Plan, analysis of where demand for walking and cycling are highest, and a review of the existing provision.

This has been used to identify and prioritise opportunities for targeted investment in walking and cycling infrastructure, including cycle facilities, accessible walking routes and pedestrian spaces, school streets and ‘people-friendly’ streets.

Following its adoption, Cllr Phil Haseler, Cabinet Member for planning, parking, highways and transport, said: “We want walking and cycling to be more convenient, safe and enjoyable travel options for people of all ages and abilities.

“While not every journey can be walked or cycled, many of the shorter trips made in our borough could be made on foot or by bike with the right investment over the coming decade and beyond.

“Our Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan identifies locations to target investment and how improvements can be made at specific sites.

“We want to provide the right infrastructure to support an increase in walking and cycling rates in the borough, and this in turn will help tackle congestion and climate change, as well as improve air quality and health and wellbeing.”

“Active Travel, and reducing the reliance on motor vehicles for short journeys, is an important part of the strategy, and the LCWIP is a community-led vision of how and where cleaner, greener transport infrastructure in the Royal Borough could be delivered.”

Three days prior, the chair of the disability and inclusion forum, Angela Clark, urged councillors to seek greater inclusion for disabled residents in the LCWIP.

“At the last forum, we discussed our concerns that the draft LCWIP hadn’t cosndiered or included the needs of borough residents and visitors with disabilities,” said Ms Clark.

“The words ‘disabled’ or ‘disability’ were not included in the whole of the document.

“The forum was invited to comment in April on the draft LCWIP, and we drew attention to this oversight, particularly the lack of dropped kerbs at junctions or at crossroads and suggested ways to include them.

“It now includes a brief mention of people with disabilities, but our needs – the effect of inaccessible pavements and streetscapes preventing us to get to where we need to, and a strategy for remediation are not an intrinsic part of the plan.

“If it is decided to approve the LCWIP as is, the needs of 30,000 residents and an estimated 800,000 visitors with disabilities must retrospectively be built into this ten-year plan.”

Cllr Helen Price (tBF, Clewer and Dedworth East) said there were repercussions that cabinet may not have been aware of.

She said: “If people can’t safely get out of their homes, then they’ll be more inclined to stay in their homes, and then they’ll increase loneliness and isolation.”

“I can’t see how we can be said to be applying the equality duty if we’re not considering the needs of residents with disabilities when we’re making such long-term decisions.”

Fellow ward councillor Carole da Costa (WWRA) agreed, and believed ‘retrospective inclusion’ was not the way forward.

“If we’ve been ignored for seven years so far, I don’t see anything happening very soon,” she added.

The LCWIP is subject to call in by an overview and scrutiny panel.

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