North Yorkshire County Council’s Climate Change Strategy (Dec 2009) says that it will ‘permeate all areas of our business – from transport to energy usage, from schools to roads’. It also states that the council ‘will ensure that climate change issues are embedded across all its strategies and plans’.
North Yorkshire’s CO2 emissions are higher than those of similar local authorities. The proportion of North Yorkshire’s greenhouse gas emissions produced from transport is 38%, the highest figure for any large rural county.
NYCC is currently consulting on its Local Transport Plan (2011-16). This LTP3 makes only token gestures towards Climate Change and offers no specific, measurable proposals to reduce emissions. In a key introductory paragraph (Objectives) it even says:
‘The overall contribution of transport in North Yorkshire to climate change is very small.’
Harrogate District Friends of the Earth group has scrutinised the Local Transport plan closely and is now urging the Council to review its proposals radically. We are alarmed that North Yorkshire will make little progress towards its agreed target of reducing emissions by 34% by 2020 unless it takes decisive action.
Our full response to the consultation can be found at www.harrogatefoe.org.uk. This is a summary:
Criticisms of the Plan
1 NYCC’s Local Transport Plan (2011-16) is at odds with NYCC’s Climate Change Strategy (Dec 2009) and fails to face up to its agreed responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 34% in this decade
2 LTP3 sets no targets to reduce Traffic Volumes. It discounts the implications of Climate Change and ignores Peak Oil (as supplies fall behind demand and energy prices rise). If traffic is allowed to increase so will road congestion and accidents
3 LTP3 takes ‘Improving Accessibility’ as a priority but seriously underrates the additional transport difficulties the elderly (an increasing group), young, poor, disadvantaged, isolated will face as fuel costs rise and services decline
4 LTP3 fails to offer necessary plans for infrastructure to support electric vehicles or for radically improved provision for pedestrians and cyclists
5 LTP3 mentions illegal levels of air pollution in several NY towns but has no specific plans to correct these or to avoid the fines NY council taxpayers will face as result. The damage to health, and consequent costs, are overlooked
6 LTP3 aspires to improve public and community transport but lacks systematic, practical strategies to achieve progress. Proposals are tentative
7 LTP3 makes no firm commitment to extend or even maintain the vital Little Red Bus community transport network
8 LTP3 fails to spell out the key role of transport in developing more self sufficient local communities
FoE’s counter proposals for Transport in North Yorkshire (2011-16)
The pivotal priority is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport by at least 34% by 2020. Most of this progress towards that objective needs to occur by 2016. The plans for reduction need to be underpinned by solid, robust and comprehensible targets.
Therefore traffic volumes must be reduced, a complex challenge. Incentives for car sharing and for home-based working will help. Community based work-hubs, with full IT facilities, need to be developed to reduce daily journeys. Public transport (including trains) has to become more reliable, high quality and with early and late services. Travel to school needs to be managed to create safer walking/cycling routes and to minimise private car journeys. Community transport such as Little Red Bus needs to be greatly extended so that only the most essential journeys are by taxi or ambulance. (NYCC pays for about 400 daily taxi journeys for pupils at a gross cost of about £4m pa). Traffic management in built up areas should give priority to pedestrians and cyclists, and discourage excessive car usage. An infrastructure for re-charging electric vehicles should be developed quickly.
Across NYCC and the private sector a strong commitment to generate sustainable local communities is vital. Towns need to become more self sufficient in providing employment, retail, education, health and social services. They should be hubs for their rural areas, with co-ordinated public and community transport. This will benefit everyone (especially disadvantaged groups), reduce daily journeys, reduce traffic volumes, enhance local economies, save money and improve environments.
Funding should be allowed to maintain existing roads and paths with safety for cyclists and pedestrians as a priority. Regular cycling and walking carry major health benefits, including expenditure saving. No new main roads should be built.
Only NYCC is in a position to co-ordinate such policies and to bring all the community partners, including the NHS, industry, business and retail, to the table. LTP3 offers an opportunity to share a clear vision of a radically different, sustainable future for the county. These policy priorities would also achieve significant costs savings.