Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Merton LIP 2 -

The Merton Local Implementation Plan (LIP 2) is out now. LIPs for all of London will be out soon if they're not already and you should comment on as many as possible. Politicians only take notice if people make noise. The documents are here.

The LIP 2 outlines the Sustainable Transport Strategy for the period 2011-2026. That's a long period of time, and given the massive challenges we face from climate change and peak oil, it requires a bold vision.

Section 2.2 says
"This vision of this is of an environment where the public realm has become a space where people choose to walk, cycle and use public transport rather than use their private car. It is a safe, accessible and sustainable public realm with reducing levels of traffic congestion."

Oh good. However, Section 5.2 says
"As an outer London borough it is unlikely that public and active transport infrastructure and services will   improve to the level that will significantly impact on motor vehicle usage for some time and therefore a programme of schemes that balance safety, congestion and modal shift is proposed for the lifetime of this strategy."

In section 5 (The Motorised Movement of People and Goods in Merton), there are precisely no measures outlined to reduce, control or mitigate motor vehicle use. Nothing at all. So, re-reading 5.2, public and active transport infrastructure won't improve enough to attract people out of their cars, and yet there are no measures to coerce people out of their cars. I do not wish to appear overly cynical, but for a sustainable transport strategy, that strikes me as a somewhat fundamental flaw.

In terms of transport then, it's business as before in Merton. Meanwhile, over at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil and Gas, they have a rather different perspective. "We are heading towards a global oil supply crunch and price spike", they say. They also warn of coming energy scarcities and outline a rationing system which could ensure fair access to energy and guarantee emissions reductions."

So, based on the LIP 2, Merton are doing virtually nothing to help the community transition to low-carbon transport, and nothing to reduce our dependency on cheap oil. There is no commitment to prioritise active and public transport over private car use. To be fair to Merton, they cannot act alone. There needs to be a national strategy. Instead of that, central Government are pushing the decisions down to boroughs like Merton. I've pointed out before that the risk of putting green investment decisions in the hands of local authorities is these decisions get fudged, watered down or kicked into the long grass by parochial forces and 'nimbyism'. I suggested there was little evidence that local authorities share the vision of greener transport, and some proof of that seems to be in the Merton LIP 2.

All that said, there are some good programmes in the LIP2, so progress will be made. But without the commitment to make decisions that prioritise active transport over private car use, progress will be slower and more expensive than it could otherwise be.

I'll be looking at the Merton LIP 2, in particular the cycling implications, in more detail in due course.

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