Active travel fund outline engagement plan

Introduction

We are committed to engaging with local stakeholders in the development and delivery of new transport infrastructure. We want residents to be at the heart of what we do as a council.

We believe engagement should be meaningful, timely, inclusive and direct. We want local people to help shape any proposals that affect the services they use or the areas where they live and work. Engagement will be a crucial part of all future active travel fund projects, both in advance of implementation and throughout the project life-cycle.

Delivering infrastructure to make walking and cycling a safe and attractive option for local trips is at the core of a number of our priorities.

Strengthening our communities

Inactivity is a major and growing public health crisis across the UK. Almost 1 in 5 Buckinghamshire residents are physically active for less than 30 minutes per week (via leapwithus.org.uk).

Physical inactivity costs the NHS up to £1bn per annum, with further indirect costs calculated at £8.2bn, and regular physical activity can cut the risk of developing:

  • depression
  • dementia
  • cancer
  • hip fractures
  • diabetes
  • cardiovascular disease

Regular physical activity reduces your risk of all-cause mortality by 30% (via DfT's Gear Change document). We want our residents to live independent, fulfilling lives, within strong, healthy, inclusive and resilient communities.

Improving our environment

Transport is now the largest sector for UK greenhouse gas emissions (27%), of which road transport accounts for over 90%. (via The Road to Zero)

We want to protect our precious local environments, while also contributing to addressing the global challenge of climate change. We also want to improve local air quality, therefore boosting people’s health. Road transport is already the largest contributor to emissions of nitrogen oxides, rising to up to 80% near roadsides (via clean air strategy 2019).

Air pollution is the second biggest cause of preventable death in the UK, second only to smoking (via the Wycombe District Air Quality Action Plan).

Protecting the vulnerable

Over 1 in 8 (13%) of Buckinghamshire households do not have access to a car (via Buckinghamshire’s Local Transport Plan 2016 to 2036).

Safe and attractive sustainable transport networks are critical in allowing these households, disproportionately lower-income or with disabilities, to access jobs and services. Improving sustainable connectivity can support our most vulnerable residents by helping people recover from illness sooner, improving access to services and reducing social isolation.

Our goal is to reduce inequalities and enable everyone to live independent, happy and fulfilling lives.

Increasing prosperity

We want all Buckinghamshire residents to have access to local high-quality jobs, regardless of access to a car, fostering investment in skills, innovation and connectivity. Well-planned improvements in the walking environment can increase shopping footfall by up to 40%.

Cycling already contributes £5.4bn to the UK economy per year and supports 64,000 jobs (via DfT's Gear Change document). We want to support a thriving business economy, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, that competes effectively nationally and globally.

Engagement strategy

We want to hear the voices of those most affected. It is important to us that local people are involved, working together on developing and testing solutions and services. We want this to be a “bottom up” process, building and working with the local community. Pride and control within communities is important and something we want to be paramount with our community engagement.

To this end, we will seek to engage with:

  • local residents
  • local businesses, where they are directly impacted by the scheme
  • emergency services
  • bus operators
  • Royal Mail
  • local MPs and councillors
  • other relevant parties, such as waste refuse collectors and disability groups.

Where relevant, we will also consult with other relevant bodies, such as the Road Haulage Association, conservation boards, National Farmers Union, Sustrans, British Horse Society and local cycling and walking community groups.

We will also use media to engage, including publicity and information through press releases including providing direction to the website, and direct mail to local residents and businesses.

We are committed to ensuring that engagement properly captures the overall views of the local community, avoiding results becoming dominated by louder voices, either for or against a proposed scheme, at the expense of the ‘silent majority’. Government surveys suggest that 65% of people across England support reallocating road space to cycling and walking in their local area. Nearly 8 out of 10 people (78%) support measures to reduce road traffic in their neighbourhood.

Buckinghamshire Council website

The website will form the centre of engagement activities and will be the primary way in which we communicate with people. A dedicated active travel fund webpage will include information and opportunities, such as:

  • an overview of proposed and emerging schemes, including why and how they can benefit local communities and the key objectives of the proposed schemes.
  • more in-depth information on the scheme, including detailed drawings, plans and maps wherever available.
  • calls to action, such as resident surveys. Questions could include; “what is important to you about the proposed scheme? How could the proposed scheme improve your neighbourhood? What else would you like to see incorporated or changed within the proposed scheme? What other opportunities could we provide with the scheme? How do you think you will use the scheme?”
  • a “get involved” page, with opportunities to provide feedback and raise queries.
  • copies of communications shared, for example copies of letters sent to local residents living in the vicinity of any proposed scheme and letters sent to local businesses.
  • information on any engagement activities planned, such as engagement events and webinars. Webinars will be recorded and published on the website.
  • a “sign-up” function, allowing people to sign up for newsletters for project updates.
  • interactive maps, using tools such as Commonplace.

Our main focus will be digital engagement, using social media platforms and other online opportunities. Experience from other local authorities shows that mapping tools such as Commonplace can also provide additional feedback from those who may not use social media, provides a rich variety of data and is the closest to face to face interaction possible at the current time.

Blended engagement

We recognise that digital engagement is not accessible to everyone so we will undertake blended engagement, utilising both digital means and other means such as signage in community centres, for example near local shops and facilities.

We will also provide paper surveys in local businesses where possible to enable people to respond and work with local media services such as radio stations, newspapers and television stations to publicise proposed schemes and engagement opportunities.

Key stakeholder meetings and workshops

Meetings and workshops will be a key part of engagement. This includes webinars, with question and answer facilities, for local residents and local businesses.

There will be separate meetings and workshops with local MPs and ward councillors. Webinars and workshops will be held at key project stages, such as early within the engagement process and part way through the engagement process, as feedback is received, and designs and plans are adjusted in response to feedback.

Other relevant parties, such as emergency services, bus operators, Royal Mail and waste refuse collectors will also be consulted directly, through direct engagement, ensuring their comments and views are also taken into consideration as part of the engagement process.

Public opinion surveys

Public opinion surveys can be a highly beneficial way of understanding the extent to which there is local support for proposed schemes and programmes being funded by the active travel fund.

These surveys could also help local authorities understand perceptions of proposed schemes and their individual elements, barriers to acceptance of their proposals and what they could do to overcome this, and opportunities to optimise scheme design. They can help to tap into the views of the ‘silent majority’, who may feel strongly about a scheme one way or another, but would not attend a traditional ‘town hall’ event or seek out a response form from our website.

The Department for Transport has recently published detailed guidance for local authorities looking to undertake public opinion surveys as part of the active travel fund programme, and we will use this as the basis of any surveys carried out for these schemes.

Ongoing consultation

We will also ensure that, once implemented, scheme evaluation and monitoring is ongoing and there are opportunities for all stakeholders to provide feedback to help understand the impact implementation of the scheme has had and to help assist future design work.

It is also important that the outcomes of monitoring and evaluation programmes associated with active travel fund schemes are published, in an accessible format, following conclusion of these programmes. This enables local residents and businesses to understand the effectiveness of schemes and the rationale behind any decision making from us related to the scheme.