The Lichfield City Masterplan –
Ambition, Action and the Climate Emergency
Reading the recently published plans, what we were looking for were any elements relating to cycling, transport, movement, health and well being and the sustainability of the city we live in. That those are our priorities should be no surprise, our charity exists to encourage and enable people to cycle, to be active and to transport themselves in as sustainable and environmentally friendly way as possible. We agree that Lichfield has the perfect terrain to encourage cycling into the city centre, being relatively flat and compact.
This plan mentions many of those things, but lacks the ambition to put them at the heart of the plan. Walking, cycling and public transport and transport for those with disabilities should be prioritised and enabled by those in local authorities in tandem with a desire for modal shift away from the dominance of cars in the city centre (and elsewhere). Remember, most people who use the city centre actually live in the city. The report tells us that Lichfield has one of the highest levels of car drivers in the County, at 75%. “This suggests an over reliance on the private car for transport”. How can this plan begin to contribute to an ambition to encourage residents to want to use sustainable forms of transport to enter the city centre?
City councillors in York plan to ban private cars from the city centre, to cut carbon emissions. It is a move they have admitted is “unashamedly ambitious”. The drive for this is the current high levels of air pollution in that city. One of our volunteers recently visited Oxford, a Cathedral city known for high levels of cycling, and was surprised to see the cost of parking was £5 per hour compared to £1 per hour in Lichfield. The car park he was in was very quiet. Of course this isn’t solely the function of the district council but the work it plans needs to make sense alongside the ambitions of other local authorities covering Lichfield (and the wider region). The climate emergency should jump start a serious and ambitious, forward thinking, joined up plan.
The mitigation in the draft plan of the dominance of car transport in Lichfield city centre is more about designing pathways across the traffic-ed roads rather than properly prioritising the desires of pedestrians, cyclists, human powered beings. We don’t feel the report goes beyond mentioning this as an aspiration. It merely echoes a vision of the present and past, with some brightly coloured street furniture thrown in. Yes, we want to see the greater pedestrianisation of the city centre streets, more pedestrian centric routes from station, to centre and cathedral, and better links down to Trent Valley station from the city centre.
The only thing that is planned in some detail seems to be the circular walking and pedestrian route around Minster Pool. This one concrete example entirely misses the point and sums up the lack of serious ambition (around our priorities) in the documents. This would make sense and link the national cycle network that enters the city centre from Stowe Pool to the route crossing through Beacon Park, crossing Beacon Street by the registry office. But if a drastically more ambitious plan was imagined, this new path and route would be unnecessary. If walking, (directly or after alighting from improved public transport) or cycling into the city centre from either East or West directions, the flow could be onto Dam Street and into to the commercial centre by a traffic free, pedestrian friendly former Bird Street car park, not through a car park just re-imagined with an island of trees in the middle.
This plan is one opportunity to properly look ahead to 2040 and beyond, with ambition. Radical sounding plans will be mainstream before we know it. The plan demands its contents be realistic. If emergency equals urgency, then let’s get on with it. We are one local charity with an interest and expertise that we can share. In the Spring we plan to host a cycling and walking forum and this could easily incorporate a wider look at health and movement in the city and of it’s residents, inviting those authorities and interested people to imagine the ambition we feel is lacking in this document and elsewhere.
Lichfield Re:Cycle – January 2020
Draft Lichfield City Centre Masterplan
Lichfield City Centre Masterplan – Analysis, options & issues report
York to ban private car journeys from city centre within three years
Draft Birmingham Transport Plan