I was asked to talk about this question at a meeting at Conference.
Growth comes from people wishing to do new things, to buy new goods and services, to renovate and improve their homes, to transform their lives and their environments in ways they like and can afford.
All too often Councils are the official bodies who are out to stop them doing this, or out to tax and charge them for daring to try.
Most local businesses depend on the van. Plumbers and loft insulators, new goods deliverers and conservatory builders come by van. Most of us do not live next to the station. We rely on the flexible and ubiquitous van, which may not always be white, to turn up with the goods or the service. Professional and on line services often depend on the car to get the providers to their place of work or to the customer’s home if needed.
Many Councils see the van and the car as an opportunity to raise tax revenues, to charge them and to restrict their use. If Councils really wanted to help the local economy they would see that they need to do much more to allow reasonable vehicle access to potential customers, and to allow potential customers access to shops and other centres of trade. They could:
1. Allocate land for sufficient parking near town centres and residential developments, and provide it free or at low cost.
2.Ensure that all new developments have ample parking at or near people’s homes, to allow trade access as well as taking the residents’ cars off the main highway.
3.Work to create less congestion in existing developments. This includes the need for safer junctions, with sufficient space at the junction to keep pedestrians away from traffic and to separate right turning traffic from the rest.
4.Allowing the delivery of items to the door as long as the road is not blocked for traffic by the drop off
5. Reviewing all their local roads with a view to improving the flow of traffic
6 Making selective junction improvements, increasing the number of bridging points over local railway lines and rivers whicb usually create the main congestion.
Councils also have an important role in promoting or limiting enterprise when it comes to planning. Again many Councils see this as an opportunity to tax and charge people more. Of course the Council has a planning role to prevent inappropriate devlopment which would annoy neighbours or damage the amenity and environment of the locality, but at times and in some places this is extended to a general opposition to change. Councils could
1. Lower their fees for seeking planning permission and Building Regulation approval
2.Speed the decision making process up
3. Require objectors to demonstrate that a proposal would have an adverse impact like more noise or the loss of light
4. Be more relaxed about a change of use where there are not reasonable grounds for objection
5. Ensuring all main settlements have land demarked for extra provision of space in all the main categories
6. Encouraging local plans to come forward for more starter units for businesses
A number of Councils and professional bodies involved with planning and town centres were represented at the meeting. There was a surprising amount of agreement with the proposition that parking and access were vital issues. Some cited examples of better and cheaper parking policies which had helped revive shopping centres.