When I walk through the centre of Ludlow, I get tackled on all manner of issues but mostly transport. Road closures. Parking. Buses. These problems are not just confined to the town centre. We live in a town that was not designed for current levels of car ownership. We need to take concerted action to ease the problems.
That’s not the only problem we must tackle. Ludlow is a green thinking town. The town council has declared a climate emergency as has Shropshire Council and much of the country. The UN General Secretary yesterday called on all the countries of the world to declare a climate emergency.
A sustainable transport for Ludlow is overdue and 2021 is the year in which we must complete it.
A lot of thought and effort has been put into sustainable transport in Ludlow but our traffic and transport problems are far from resolved. We have achieved small changes and have big ideas and wider ambitions. But we lack a comprehensive whole town strategy to collate these ideas and to guide our ambitions.
We have too often patched one problem in Ludlow only to cause problems elsewhere. Just one example. As we have seen recently, Linney and Dinham suffer when King Street is closed.
Here are just five main reasons to develop a Ludlow Sustainable Transport Strategy (LSTS) in 2021:
- The need to rapidly address the climate emergency at every level, local, county, national and international.
- The increasing difficulties of accommodating growing traffic levels with larger vehicles and ubiquitous courier vans.
- The urge to maintain an attractive town centre environment to maintain footfall to our independent shops and traders.
- Ludlow has a strong sustainable transport community, centred on Ludlow 21 and In and Out of Ludlow.
- Shropshire Council is developing the next edition of its local transport plan (LPT4).
One of the problems we have faced in recent years is that when a sniff of potential funding comes along, we have lacked a transport strategy to support our case. We also tend to think small. Fixing a bit here and a bit there. We need to be bolder and think big. That could give us access to central government funds, as well as a stronger position in discussions with Shropshire Council.
We saw this with the 2017 Parking Strategy review. Our response as a town was reactive. We could have got a better deal if we had had a sustainable transport strategy underpinning our arguments.
At a smaller scale is a recent decision to upgrade the traffic lights at both ends of Station Drive. The scheme will take £132K from the community infrastructure levy (CIL) – a tax on housing developers that is meant to ease the impact of new developments. Leaving aside that I believe the Station Drive scheme breaks Shropshire Council’s own policies and national CIL regulations, the main impact of current development will be on the East Hamlet One Stop junction. That needs urgent improvement to maintain safety, especially after Sainsbury’s opens last next year. I have got an urgent review on this decision next Tuesday and we will be pressing the case for urgent work at East Hamlet One Stop.
People reading this article will have many, many examples of where action is needed. But we need to think of broader concerns when we draft the LSTS.
Moving electric. Buses and cars. Reducing traffic into town by improving the park and ride service. A modal shift to using buses, walking and charging.
I was drawing up plans for a strategy back in February when we were debating the state of the park and ride site. But coronavirus hit us and that became the urgent priority. But we must now move forward.
We can wait no longer. We need to take on board the lessons on active travel we learnt during the epidemic. We should not unconsciously drift back to travel as normal with its congestion, environmental and human costs.
We need to think differently. That’s about different ways of working. Different ways of travelling. Ways of not travelling. Greater respect and space for non-motorised travellers.
The final Ludlow Sustainable Transport Strategy will need to be signed off by both Ludlow Town Council and Shropshire Council.
Will development of a bold strategy be easy? No way! But if we don’t start, we will never finish.
I’ll be setting out more on the thinking behind LSTS in papers presented to In and Out of Ludlow and Ludlow Town Council in the New Year.