Report of the Group Director of Services.
The Cabinet Member with the Local Services Portfolio introduced the report of the Group Director of Services (previously circulated) providing Members with the annual update on highways and transport from a regional and local perspective; outlining the delivery, performance and public satisfaction in 2021/22; requesting that consideration be given to the 2022/23 programme, including the release of funding; and providing an update on the Tees Valley Strategic Transport Plan and the Darlington Transport Plan.
The submitted report stated that changes in travel behaviour had been one of the very visible impacts of Covid-19; the bus and rail industry had been significantly impacted; online shopping and home deliveries had increased the number of vans and lorries on the roads, which was unlikely to abate; many people were continuing to work from home with a move to more agile working combining home and office work; and as a result the transport sector would need to work hard to increase bus and rail services back to full capacity and encourage passengers back on to them.
It was reported that there had been good progress on the delivery and development of the transport capital programme including working in partnership with the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) to deliver elements of the strategic transport plan; there was a focus by the Department for Transport on progressing the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIP) and the Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIP); Darlington had started the delivery of one of two priority schemes in the LCWIP with the creation of phase one of a cycling route on Woodland Road; and that the BSIP had been submitted and progress was being made on the Enhanced Bus Partnership.
Particular references were made to the Transport Strategy for the Borough, Town Centre Transport Plan and Parking Strategy which were being developed and to the revised Travel Plan Policy which aimed to ensure that high quality travel plans and personalised travel planning could be delivered as an integral part of the Planning Process, in particular on large scale housing developments. References were also made to the performance in 2021/22; public satisfaction; financial and legal implications; estates, property and procurement advice; equalities considerations; and consultation, which would be undertaken on the individual schemes.
In presenting the report, the Cabinet Member with the Local Services Portfolio acknowledged the contribution to the report of Sue Dobson, Transport Policy Manager, who was due to retire shortly, and to the significant funding that she had helped secure for Darlington and national prominence in Sustainable Transport.
References were made at the meeting to a number of government targets; enabling active travel; the funding spent on tackling ‘rush hour’ congestion in particular; the work undertaken on Geneva Road in respect of speeding ‘hot spots’; the need to publicise the amount of work undertaken to tackle pot holes; the challenge of encouraging people to use public transport; and to speed of mobility scooters in the Town Centre. The Cabinet Member the Local Services Portfolio responded thereon.
RESOLVED – (a) That the progress in delivering the Local Transport Plan, as detailed in the submitted report, be noted, and £0.893m of Integrated Transport Block and £2.175m of Highway Maintenance Funding, subject to confirmation by the Tees Valley Combined Authority and the Department for Transport respectively, to deliver the 2022/23 transport programme, be released.
(b) That the release of monies, subject to Department for Transport and Tees Valley Combined Authority confirmation, to deliver the Tees Valley Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP), specifically Phase 2 of the Woodland Road scheme; to deliver elements of the Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP); and to deliver other schemes as detailed in the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement Business Case, all as detailed in the submitted report, be approved.
(c) That the Travel Plan Guidance, as appended to the submitted report, be approved, with measures funded from section 106 agreements.
(d) That it be agreed to be party to the Tees Valley Enhanced Bus Partnership, which was presently a shell agreement with no direct obligations on formation, the detail of obligations being added over time and subject to individual considerations and approvals.
(e) That delegated authority be given to the Assistant Director for Highways and Capital Projects, in consultation with Cabinet Member with the Local Services Portfolio and legal team, to engage through the bus partnership governance structure and agree further detail in relation to any priority, which had implications on the highway network, subject to confirmation of funding and satisfactory completion of the necessary statutory processes.
REASONS – (a) To continue to deliver Darlington’s Transport Strategy as set out in the Third Local Transport Plan and to maximise the opportunities to maintain the highway asset for the benefit of all road users.
(b) To deliver the Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIP) and the Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIP) in line with Government guidance.
(c) To ensure that high quality travel plans are submitted and then implemented as part of the planning process in order to minimise the traffic impact of residential and non-residential development, and secure better quality development in Darlington.
(d) Coronavirus continues to impact on bus services in terms of patronage, service delivery and operational timetabling. These impacts coupled with uncertainty around the potential funding to support the delivery of the Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) has made the process more challenging. It therefore needs to be recognised that the BSIP and EP need to be fluid and will be adapted as there is more certainty, particularly around the funding allocation.
(e) Enhanced Partnerships or other formal arrangements with Bus operators are required in the future to secure Funding from Government as part of the Government Policy direction to Improve Public Transport.