Decisions for funding transport schemes 'that have a significant impact on people’s daily lives' will be taken at a local level, Transport Minister Norman Baker has confirmed today.
Future funding will be allocated locally according to population, allowing priorities to be decided by newly established Local Transport Bodies which will be made up of local transport authorities, local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and others with a key interest.
Sustrans has cautiously welcomed the move, warning that sustainable transport alternatives including cycling should be considered alongside road-building projects.
Policy Director Jason Torrance said: “We welcome moves that allow communities to play a greater role in deciding local transport spending and infrastructure, but any changes must also reflect the long-term needs of the nation as a whole, including using effective alternatives to expensive and damaging road construction.
“Government needs ensure that low cost and better value options, including walking, cycling and public transport schemes, are considered on a level playing field. There is a risk that local transport schemes will ignore wider priorities, including the need to reduce carbon emissions.”
It's not yet clear what the priorities will be for the Local Transport Bodies. In an earlier written statement, Norman Baker wrote:
Transport is vitally important to local economies, and new infrastructure can provide the missing links that are often so crucial in getting economies moving and creating opportunities for new investment and employment...
I fully support the key objective of removing Whitehall from the process of making decisions on which local schemes should or should not go ahead. However we have a responsibility to ensure that the new local decision makers have arrangements in place to achieve the value for money that we know the right schemes can deliver and to take account of other important factors such as environmental impact. Most respondents accepted the need for robust local assurance frameworks and we will shortly publish detailed guidance on this, to enable local areas to submit their draft frameworks by December.
Today he said: “We want decisions on new transport infrastructure to be made more efficiently, and at a more local level than has previously been the case.
“While it is right for the Government to look at the big picture and co-ordinate schemes with a national impact, there is no substitute for local knowledge.
"That is why we want to make sure that important decisions affecting the future of towns and cities across England are made by those who best understand the specific issues facing their communities.”