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Government ‘driver friendly’ policy changes to hit local transport plans

Peter Stonham
05 October 2023

A wide-ranging set of policy measures impacting on local transport options has been announced by the Government as part of its attempt to appeal to motorists in the run up to the General Election, but with significant implications for those involved in more general local transport planning and management.

The policy paper, A Plan for Drivers, was published on the first day of the Conservative Party conference. As well as expressing support for the interests and rights of car users, it sets out detailed new approaches on a range of subjects, including local traffic management, parking and moving traffic enforcement and penalties, the basis on which local authorities use CCTV and ANPR to monitor vehicle movements, and how parking restrictions are handled. It also covers road closures, streetworks, traffic signals, bus lanes, road safety, clamping down on inconsiderate drivers and supporting the transition to zero emission vehicles.

The 25-page document provides the Government position on all these matters and promises revised guidance and regulations on a number of them, including the results of the review of the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, already announced recently by prime minister Rishi Sunak, and further guidance on the use of 20mph speed restrictions. It rules out the general adoption of such limits for urban areas as implemented in Wales.

The Government is also threatening to stop the camera enforcement School Streets and moving traffic offences by no longer allowing councils to access DVLA data.

There is speculation that this new document and its implementation will overshadow delivery of the long- awaited new Local Transport Plan guidance, as many of the commitments in it would have implications for measures that the local transport authorities, responsible for LTPs, would otherwise have been expecting to pursue.

The background to the new policy paper was given in his party conference speech by Transport Secretary Mark Harper, who left any mention of a decision on the northern route of HS2, to the Prime Minister himself (see this page).

But Harper was keen to stress the Government’s commitment to buses and public transport more generally, as well as its support for motorists, as does the policy paper, along with voicing support to walking and cycling. Harper said the Government’s position was to offer people a choice and not force them to travel in a certain way. He attacked what he called the “metropolitan bubble”, who see owning a car as immoral. He claimed a Labour Government would make cars harder and more costly to use, and that the Welsh Labour Government had indicated its approach by its “ideological ban on road building”, as well as the blanket 20mph urban speed limit.

The commitments made in A Plan for Drivers appear to be a mix of directly motoring-related policy measures, but including others with more general traffic management and transport policy implications. If followed through, they look set to lead to a number of new advice and guidance notes to local authorities over the coming months.

On Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, councils would be told to “properly listen to what people say”, said the transport secretary, and to stop “over zealous use of traffic management”, and “misuse of 15-minute cities” and associated CCTV enforcement.

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