Campaign group Cycling UK says that transport project promoters will be motivated to think more deeply about their rationale if in-house teams are required to prepare a “case for change” at the outset of all projects.
The group was commenting on changes to the Welsh Transport Appraisal Guidance (WelTAG) which may prove to be a pathfinder for changes to appraisal guidance elsewhere. The Welsh Government is overhauling WelTAG so that the guidance better reflects its commitments on climate change and in other policy areas.
Updating LTT on the WelTAG revision, a government spokesman said last week: “We are currently reviewing the responses to the WelTAG consultation and will be updating the guidance to take account of the comments. We will publish the consultation responses shortly, together with the final version of the main guidance.”
One of the changes in WelTAG 2022 is the addition of a new “Stage 0 case for change”. The government said: “This sets out the objectives of the programme or project [and] should not be specific to any transport mode. It should be developed by the in-house team and not consultants.”
Many Cycling UK members and volunteers provided input for the group’s WelTAG consultation response, which was coordinated by campaigns officer Cherry Allan. In the response, she wrote that Cycling UK warmly welcomed the introduction of Stage 0, because it would require a clear statement of the case for change at the outset.
“We also generally support the idea that the Stage 0 ‘case for change’ should be produced exclusively by the in-house team, without the use of external consultants. This will be a useful discipline, motivating the proposer to think through their rationale at the outset, own and invest in it. At the same time, it should trigger a much-needed boost for active travel expertise within local authorities.
“Nevertheless, it is inevitable that some proposers will find it a challenge to make a persuasive case for change in-house without any access at all to external and independent advice, especially in the early days of the new WelTAG approach. We therefore suggest that clear provision is made to support and guide them upon request, so that they are not left completely to their own devices during Stage.”
In a blog post on the group’s website last week, Allan praised the bold approach of WelTAG 2022, which she said “should rightly become the envy of the rest of the UK”, and Gwenda Owen, Cycling UK’s engagement officer in Wales, said: “The proposed changes are radical for being so proportionate, for being so refreshingly fair to active travel and serving well-being far more handsomely than appraisal systems have to date. Their potential to make a long-lasting and positive difference to current and future generations is both exciting and real.”
However, Cycling UK does find fault with the Welsh Government’s approach on review groups, which will provide feedback and constructive challenge before projects progress. The government expects each review group to include people with expertise in key areas of well-being appraisal, along with representatives of people likely to be most affected by the potential project or policy.
“We are dismayed to note that the section [of the consultation document] on review groups states that a review group is optional,” wrote Allan in the response. “This is a seriously retrograde step from WelTAG 2017, and we do not understand the rationale. This is because our lengthy experience clearly demonstrates that independent review is an absolutely vital part of WelTAG, and of effective and convincing engagement with people.
“In our view, not only should review groups be mandatory, but their composition is critical. Most importantly, stakeholder involvement must be arranged in such a way as to ensure transparency and promote public confidence in WelTAG outcomes. This means appointing genuinely independent and objective representatives, not simply people from TfW, local authorities and organisations contracted to the government.”
She also wrote: “WelTAG 2017 has been bedevilled in operation by a lack of clarity about what degree of engagement is expected, and with whom. Unfortunately, the draft WelTAG 2022 does not fully resolve this problem.”
Cycling UK “strongly supports” the proposed Integrated Well-Being Appraisal Framework, commenting: “This is an excellent idea which will ensure that transport interventions more closely fit with the Wales Transport Strategy and Net Zero Wales.”
Cycling UK’s blog post on WelTAG
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