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matters by John Darker,AM B M
The road transport industry and planning (3)
TWO previous articles have outlined some of the planning requirements, and the opportunities for public participation in decision making. If, in the past, the stress of the planning authorities has been on negative lines, "Thou shalt not do so and so," the emphasis in future is• to be more purposeful and constructive.
Until structure and local plans have been prepared under the 1968 Town and Country Planning Act (for England and Wales) and the 1969 Act (Scotland), plans produced under earlier legislation will proceed. There is always a considerable time lag before new legislation begins to bite. But it is clear that the road transport industry must lose no time in preparing to play an active part in the new era of public participation in planning which is a statutory right under the 1968 Act. Individuals and organizations who deliberately opt out of the chance to influence planning proposals cannot expect any public sympathy if subsequent planning decisions ignore their interests.
Co -option Spokesmen for the road transport industry may be able to influence future planning by getting co-opted on to planning committees. There is provision in Part 1 of Schedule 2 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962, for the co-option of members of the public to planning cornmittees, though members of the authority must constitute a majority. I have yet to hear of any representative of road transport interests being co-opted to a local authority planning committee; certainly, the opportunity for an informed and sympathetic spokesman of the industry to serve on such a committee should be seized wherever possible. Bearing in mind the intimate association of land and transport planning it is extraordinary that authorities have not sought out qualified spokesmen from the industry.
But, I must reiterate, the authorities are not interested in hearing special pleading from the road transport or any other commercial or amenity interest. No one can study planning problems for long without realizing their complexity. No wonder Lady Sharp, in "Transport Planning: The Men for the lob" concluded that not a single one of the 14 universities and colleges of technology now offering fulltime, postgrad,uate courses in . transport subjects could, even with adaptations, provide the kind of education and training necessary for transport planning. Surely this means that any spokesman for the road transport industry must be extremely knowledgeable and persuasive, not only aware of the industry's needs but capable of reconciling them with other interests involved in the planning process?
As the Skeffington Committee said: "Group (spokesmen) have a responsibility to their members and individuals should express their views, but it is as possible for people's views to be narrow, bigoted and ill-informed as it is for Jocal planning authorities to be autocratic, insensitive and stubborn. The fact that many societies represent only one aspect of community life increases that risk."
In every case, the planning process will be complex and intricate, calling for considerable and varied professional expertise in making the best reconciliation of different demands, interest and constraints. "The constraints are important" said Skeffington. "because they limit the choice of solutions open to an authority. Some of them may arise from the application of governmental or regional policies, . some may arise from physical barriers and others from economic feasibility. Plans have to have regard to what is possible; those which would build castles in the air are useless."
At almost any stage it is possible for interested parties to play a part in the slow, arduous but essential processes of planning. For obvious reasons, those who take part in the earlier stages will exert the maximum influence. Individual employees of whatever grade or sex can often play some part in the community planning discussions of their home town or village. In the process, they may be able to act as ambassadors for road transport interests.
It is apparent that the active spokesmen of any industry or service can hope to play a valuable part in the initial stages of planning. Some planning authorities have established advisory panels on such topics as the countryside or conservation. .What about advisory panels on shop deliveries, public warehousing, city or rural transport problems? We live in an age when facts—whole wads of data—are sought by planners and politicians—even by some industrial tycoons. Specialized fact-finding surveys run by committees in which there is no general public participation may be particularly appropriate for road transport.
In every traffic area there must be substantial numbers of inadequate, badly sited transport premises. Area officials of the RHA or FTA may be in possession of detailed information. In conjunction with Ministry of Transport examiners, who visit premises fairly regularly, there would seem to be much valuable data available already, though, obviously, a thorough survey would be revealing. Such data would, I think, be powerful ammunition in the planning context. In the light of the Road Safety Act 1967 and the Transport Act 1968, local authority planning officers could hardly ignore a factual survey prepared by the industry alone, or in conjunction with others interested in transport and distribution.
It would not be too difficult to carry out a survey of premises in any area which present a particular hazard to road transport vehicles entering or leaving the premises, or which are ludicrously deficient in parking or marshalling space, or involve tight navigation through narrow access roads or low archways. Drivers on regular rounds could reel off dozens of such addresses, I have no doubt. This type of factual information is highly relevant to planners, and, such is the cost of professional surveys, they would welcome information from road transport interests.
A variety of publicity media will be invoked as local authority structure plans are welded together. The plans are likely, to take at least two years to prepare. In that time there will be plenty of opportunities of discussion in the local Press, on local radio stations, at Rotary or Chamber of Commerce meetings, etc. On every possible occasion the needs of road transport should surely be canvassed.
It was noted above that public participation procedures are not obligatory under the procedures of the Town and Country Planning Act 1962. The Skeffington Committee urged that local authorities proceeding with plans under the 1962 ' Act should voluntarily accept an obligation to give full publicity to their proposals as they are being drawn up and provide an opportunity for the public to join in the plan-making process.
Taken too literally, public participation in planning could mean that everyone should continued on page 58