The inaugural meeting of Cheshire West and Chester’s Sustainable Transport Task Force (STTF) took place using Microsoft Teams on the evening of Thursday 12th November 2020.
The idea for this Task Force had grown out of discussion at the September Active Travel Forum (ATF), which is attended by many members of Chester Cycling Campaign and other local partners, CW&C officers and councillors keen to promote ‘Active Travel’ in the form of cycling and walking.
The Terms of Reference of the new STTF explain that:
The Task Force has been established to consider what the opportunities and barriers may be to deliver ambitious inclusive walking, cycling, public transport and integrated transport projects and what can be done to secure positive outcomes.
This is within the context of the Council’s declaration of a Climate Emergency, and a target that was unanimously adopted at Council for the borough to be carbon neutral by 2045. The establishment of the Task Force follows significant levels of opposition received to several sustainable transport schemes during the Summer of 2020.
It is important that the Task Force has the strategic support required to be as wide ranging in its evidence gathering as possible, and this is reflected in the composition of the Task Force.
It shall consider the potential for sustainable transport projects to make a positive contribution to; public health, tackling the climate emergency, improving air quality, improving accessibility, reducing congestion, achieving value for money, helping economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, tackling transport poverty and inequality of access.
Membership of the STTF comprises an impressive combination of representatives from national organisations (eg Sustrans, Road Freight Association, Transport Focus (for buses), British Cycling) together with local representatives from a range of important partners and interest groups (eg University of Chester, Marketing Chester, NHS CCG, Chester Chamber of Commerce, Chester BID, Active Travel Forum). In this context we are delighted that our CCC Secretary Stephen Perry has been invited to represent the Active Travel Forum in this Task Force.
The first part of the meeting provided an opportunity for:
- the STTF members to introduce themselves,
- the CW&C Secretariat led by Sean Traynor (CW&C Senior Manager – Highways and Transport) to explain and take feedback on the STTF proposed Terms of Reference, and
- to appoint Emeritus Professor Garfield Southall from the University of Chester as Chair of the Task Force.
It was thus agreed that the remit of the STTF is…
To identify and make recommendations to the Council on ways to create high quality places and communities that support town centre economies together with general health and wellbeing through the improved delivery of ambitious inclusive walking, cycling, public transport and integrated transport projects in Cheshire West and Chester.
The meeting was open those members of the public who had applied to observe and together with STTF members and those in the support secretariat the meeting comprised a total of just under 200 people. The meeting was recorded and will be available on the CW&C website.
Members of the public had been invited to pose questions in advance to the meeting and thus the middle part of the agenda was dedicated to trying to address a selection of these questions. Without previous sight of the questions and with limited time to address them, this well intended initiative failed to give the level of response expected. However CW&C secretariat had already committed to answer all the questions posed in the near future.
Professor Garfield then led a discussion on the themes that the Task Force will need to consider and explore in their programme of work, with a focus on their first priority:
… to consider a work programme … which shall help inform the 2-monthly reviews for the Cheshire West and Chester Emergency Active Travel Fund Tranche 1 experimental schemes at the A51 and A5116 corridors in Chester; and reporting of its findings / recommendations.
In his closing remarks Professor Garfield committed to working with immediate effect for the Task Force. He pledged to engage the Task Force members in actions that will address the shorter term priorities, but making sure these fit within a wider picture and a longer term plan. This would include not only the unique City of Chester but also fully across the borough.
Task Force Members: