An offer of quick and easy-to-use technical support to local authorities charged with recasting urban streetspace to meet new statutory guidance in the light of Covid-19 has been sent to transport secretary Grant Shapps by a group of professional representatives co-ordinated by Urban Design Group director Robert Huxford.
The initiative was shaped up during last week’s LTT fortnightly online discussion on the topic at which Huxford explained how the timeline for responding to the Covid-19 challenge and opportunity set out by Shapps required fast action by councils, not all of whom were equipped with the necessary human resources to take the steps required.
Shapps has called for “transformative change in how we make short journeys in our towns and cities” and says the Covid-19 crisis has provided a “once in a generation opportunity” to do so. Presenting to the LTT online discussion last week, Huxford said “the statutory guidance calls for measures to be taken within weeks. Many highway authorities will not be in a position to respond owing to staff shortages, and the enormity of the task”. He pointed out that many capable professionals were on furlough, and their skills could be brought back into use in providing the necessary advice and guidance.
The letter to the transport secretary, which has also been copied to the Prime Minister’s transport adviser at 10 Downing Street, Andrew Gilligan, has been signed by a number of leading experts, including the chair of the Institution of Civil Engineers’ municipal expert panel, the head of Urban Design London, the president of the International Federation of Municipal Engineers and over a dozen leading traffic and urban design experts.
They say that “to aid the implementation of the requirements, we urge the Department for Transport to support the creation of a partnership between professionals, professional organisations and local government to produce urgent detailed technical guidance that all can benefit from.”
They point out that highway authorities are confronting common scenarios, and rather than each attempting to generate its own detailed design solutions, effort, time and costs will undoubtedly be saved by the production of detailed guidance in common. A number of pioneering authorities had already developed robust approaches to network planning and detailed measures in specific types of streets, and these could very beneficially be shared and built upon.
“There are many professionals like us – engineers, urban designers, transport planners, landscape architects and more besides – who would gladly help in the production of guidance, as well as supporting local authorities in implementation, including many professionals who are currently furloughed.”
The letter says that, as professionals in this field, they are keen to support the secretary of state’s objectives to reallocate road space and achieve modal shift in urban areas in response to the Covid-19 situation. “To aid the implementation of the requirements, we urge the Department for Transport to support the creation of the proposed partnership to produce urgent detailed technical guidance that all can benefit from”.
“The statutory guidance requires measures within weeks rather than months. To achieve this requires the provision of practical detailed guidance and support within days rather than weeks. As professionals working to a common purpose, we urge the DfT to support and aid us in the sharing of this necessary expertise, and would be delighted to work with your officials to this end.”
Huxford told LTT that he hoped for an early indication of support from the DfT for the project, and that he and colleagues were already working on the necessary material. This team included Saskia Huizinga, a public realm specialist currently on furlough, who has been developing a simple street typology that could be very quickly applied to generate a network system of safe shopping streets, strategic public and cycling routes, as well as a local network for walking and cycling to enable safe travel to schools, shops and surgeries.
Also involved are David McKenna, of Transport for London; Colin Davis, a public realm and streetscape expert; and Chris Sharpe, of Holistic City Software, who has been working on mapping support.
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