National Planning Framework 4 makes fundamental changes in the focus of transport investment towards people and places. However these have not yet been matched by changes in national funding for empowering communities to deliver more sustainable travel choices and investing in local places.
Whilst we wait for Transport Scotland to bring their transport funding in to line with Government Policy a worrying announcement has been made by Paths for All who administer the largest single source of Transport Scotland funding for walking and place making in communities – Smarter Choices Smarter Places (SCSP). Paths for All’s announcement is here.
The transport community in Scotland has been greatly enhanced by the fantastic team at Paths for All and it is of great concern that the announcement about the withdrawal of funding comes ahead of any new announcement about the replacement funding approach by Transport Scotland. Change in transport needs to be managed carefully to avoid a loss of capacity in the industry, which many have worked hard to nurture over many years.
It is hoped that all people in the Paths for All team who have been working on SCSP transfer across to the local authorities. Under the Christie Commission model which everyone agrees is best practice, Clacknannanshire Council (where Paths for All are located) could host a joint centre for administering SCSP so there would be no loss of programme or momentum.
Greater democratic control over this growing area of transport spending is needed with smarter travel and places becoming the backbone of local transport delivery for local authorities. Paths for All was set up as a spin out project from Clackmannanshire Council (and Scottish Natural Heritage) in the mid 1990s. In the 1990s investment in walking networks was unable to thrive within local authorities where the local policy and governance lagged national aims. Paths for All have been able to nurture and grow these new areas of transport delivery investment in more attractive places where walking is more attractive has become central to government policy priorities.
Local authorities are facing tougher financial circumstances than for many years and it is hard to see how funding for community based projects across Scotland will be protected as local authorities cut their services. To maintain the momentum of transport programmes which invest in people and places Transport Scotland will clearly need new approaches to administration to keep SCSP programmes running, and ensure growth of investment in community based solutions, not only community cars and minibuses but also active travel.
The policy work on a new national transport strategy and national planning framework has helped to bring investment in place making, community empowerment and sustainable transport up the political agenda. To weaken the actual delivery of these new policies would bring the whole process of national policy development into disrepute.
Hopefully with budget announcements ahead Scotland will see the announcement by Paths for All in a new context.