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LTNs and 15-minute cities in the sights of the Government’s ‘Plan for Drivers’

At the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester today, transport secretary Mark Harper launched  the Government’s ‘Plan for Drivers’, a series of measures that formalises the party’s post-Uxbridge, pro-motorist rhetoric.

The first words of the document set the tone for everything that’s to follow: ‘There’s nothing wrong with driving’ it announces, before appealing to the sense of victimhood that has been propagated recently: ‘It is not right that some drivers feel under attack.’

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Anti-driver measures are not needed, we are told, because of the move towards electrification. A move that the government recently put the brakes on.

Under the heading, ‘Stopping unfair enforcement’ the plan promises guidance on 20mph zones to ensure they are used appropriately. There will also be new guidance on low traffic neighbourhoods, emphasising the importance of local support and a review of existing LTNs that ‘have not secured local consent’.

The most hyperbolic rhetoric is reserved for the 15 minute city concept: ‘Stop local authorities using so-called “15-minute cities” to police people’s lives. Consult on measures including the removal of local authorities’ access to Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) data to enforce such schemes by camera.’

Writer James O’Malley honed in on the presentation of the first sentence: ‘I suspect the only reason the specific formulation of words “15-minute cities” was included was because it’s a nod to a popular right-wing conspiracy, that bridges from the fringe-but-broadly-respectable right, like Toby Young, Matthew Goodwin and GB News, to some of the absolute maddest cranks on the internet.’

Mark Watts, Executive Director at C40 Cities said: ‘In criticising the 15-minute city concept, these politicians are showing they are completely out of touch with what the majority of Britons want. 15-minute cities provide all urban dwellers, regardless of age, income or ability, access to more amenities nearby, and more options to travel around their city and beyond.

‘They improve quality of life especially for families with children, older people and those in underserved neighbourhoods, which often lack basic services and infrastructure. 15-minute cities are about saving time and increasing choice for everyone, not just the most well-off. Suggesting otherwise plays into completely debunked conspiracy theories and the fossil fuel industry that’s polluting our air and heating our planet.’

The final jab at local authorities in this section is a call for evidence on ways to restrict their ability to ‘generate surpluses from traffic offences and over-zealous use of traffic enforcement powers.’

Speaking the day before the plan was unveiled, Chris Boardman questioned the logic of making driving less bothersome: ‘If you actually join the dots, if we don’t give reasons not to drive it’s going to make life pretty miserable for motorists. Follow the logic string, it’s not a very long one. If driving gets easier, then logically more people will want to do it, which is more cars, which makes driving miserable.’

Responding to the Government’s plan for motorists, Cllr Darren Rodwell, Transport spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said: ‘Councils want to work with the Government to make our roads safe and attractive for everyone who uses them. However, it is councils – who know their communities best – that should be trusted to make local transport decisions with their local residents, not Whitehall.

‘They must continue to have the ability to work with local residents on any measures which can help improve road safety and air quality and reduce congestion.

‘Removing the ability of all councils to enforce moving traffic violations would be a backwards step that will risk creating a two tier transport system between London and the rest of the country.’

 

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