Response to the Strategic Economic Plan consultation

We are severely worried about the very lacking status of sustainable active transport in the strategy. It seems that only major traditional (road) projects are concentrated upon, when the future will be about creating liveable places, towns and cities. This is a landuse planning and a devolved engineering issue. By not acknowledging the ‘crossroads’ we find ourselves on, we are manoeuvring ourselves into a dead end. I refer you to Iain Docherty’s thinkpiece on your website.

Section B4 mentions points that would undermine the North East’s ability to grow, and discusses a few points, but misses out transport entirely. The only mention transport – being the connector of people, homes, businesses, education and culture – seems to get relates to private motor traffic. Why is that when transport comes in many forms? Inducing more private car travel is not the way forward and indeed would be very detrimental to the region’s economy and wellbeing. Induced private car travel is blighting our region by reducing our mobility choice and fair accessibility of places of work, culture and education. We must create a region where the default choice for journeys is by sustainable means.

Towns and cities in the North East have to become more attractive to live in. Creating liveable spaces and places that are not designed for commercial purposes like parks will attract and keep people. It is also more likely that a skilled individual will want to walk or cycle for their day-to-day activities (like their commute) – this transformation seems to be happening in Bristol. A city we’d suggest is worth a further look. Maybe links could be formed. Creating cities where active travel is a realistic option could help promote the North East as a place where a person could realise their lifestyle aspirations.

Section D also talks about linking people in the North East with economic opportunities. These transport options must include high quality cycling provision, to ensure that people have an active and sustainable transport option. Section F2 mentions connecting those in need of work with employment opportunities especially with public transport, there should be a focus on also providing high quality infrastructure for active transport so that people are given a real choice to cycle or walk to jobs. Section G when discussing transport infrastructure has no mention about creating a high quality cycle network, which is something the North East is in need of to stay economically competitive.

This is a landuse planning as well as an engineering task that requires resolve and expenditure. The Netherlands spent £25-30 per capita per year on cycling infrastructure alone; that figure is well documented. For the North East this would equate to an expenditure of £50-75 million (when your table mentions £2m for all sustainable modes). This expenditure would actually be an investment in the future, and would be repaid manifold from reduced costs for public health, environmental pollution, and social inequalities.

In cooperation with others we hosted a conference in November last year. You may be interested to watch these two presentations, tackling the issues described above.

Cllr Nick Forbes’ presentation for its link to economy

Philippe Crist (OECD) who talks about what makes cities competitive, modern and attractive

We previously voiced some concerns that we’d also like to bring to your attention.

In summary

Both for attracting the skilled worker as well as providing a fair transport mix to everyone, the North East must focus on alternatives to the private car, through car restraint measures and by creating viable travel alternatives such as excellent public transport, high quality walking and cycling networks and environments, as well as allowing for seamless interchange between these modes. And that requires a dedicated sustained budget to be set aside.

If you could confirm receipt, that’d be appreciated.

Katja Leyendecker