A new ‘master plan’ for the central area of Basingstoke – known as The Top of Town, which includes the pedestrianised High Street – was published on 31 January 2014 along with a public survey (that closed 7 March 2014).
The plan highlights the construction of a new 5-storey car park along with a few more ditties – like a redeveloped central car park – to keep you happy if you choose to drive your car around Basingstoke’s central area.
But what if you want to choose a different way of getting around town?
The Basingstoke Master Plan:
- makes no mention of creating protected, segregated bicycle lanes;
- doesn’t mention creating joined-up bicycle routes across town; and,
- says nothing about permitting cycling across the top of town (eg to access the shops and the council offices).
There are already some good walking and cycling facilities near the town centre (and a coffee shop that welcomes people riding bicycles through their drive thru!); but this plan fails to leverage them – and create more – to the benefit of the businesses and the town’s people as a whole.
Instead of actions, the master plan relegates walking and cycling to mere ‘Vision’.
Even then, the objectives of the ‘Vision’ are a side-note to promoting even more car use in Basingstoke (my emphasis added):
To ensure that Top of the Town is easy to get to by car whilst enhancing accessibility by other modes including bus, bicycle and foot and to locate car parking and bus stops where this helps to channel footfall through Top of the Town;
To improve the connections both within Top of the Town and to other parts of Basingstoke by car, bus, bicycle and foot creating a more integrated place;
In Basingstoke, there’s hamburger junctions on the menu!
BASINGSTOKE OFFERS POOR FACILITIES
Basingstoke needs a lot more than simple “enhancing” to make it more accessible by people who choose to walk or cycle – that is admitted in the Master Plan:
Basingstoke is an ideal sized town for cycling, but offers poor facilities. The existing cycle route network is fragmented and there is a lack of dedicated cycle facilities on main routes.
The large-scale junctions across the town discourage cycling.
Cycling is prohibited on pedestrianised streets in Top of the Town (with a max £500 fine) and there is limited cycle parking facilities.
If you choose to walk, then you’re not much better off…
Whilst many of the streets in Top of the Town are pedestrianised much of Basingstoke town centre is unattractive for pedestrians to walk through…the character and environment in the town centre is likely to deter walking…
Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council (B&DBC) have a long history of this kind of planning, especially in Basingstoke. Before this Master Plan, there was “Basingstoke Vision” in 2007; and “Basingstoke Central Area” in 2003. In short, the council have years of experience of writing plans, reports and press releases whilst doing little to counter the dominance of the car as a transport choice.
RE-BALANCE TO BOOST BUSINESS
It is right that people who choose to drive cars are considered – of course, this is the reality of today’s Basingstoke – but there must be an increased commitment IMMEDIATELY to create space for cycling and walking, in order to build a better Basingstoke.
Planners in Basingstoke must re-balance the transport schemes to include the variety of modes that people can use – which will also benefit the town’s businesses…
Bristol City Council, for example, in “Spend on high streets according to travel mode” (pdf document is HERE) stated:
Government has recognised the evidence that pedestrians, cycle and public transport users provide as much if not more spending power than car users in town centres.
The real kicker:
Studies in Germany and the UK have shown that pedestrianised areas have the potential to bring about an increase in footfall for retail services of between +20% to +40%. This is then reflected in increased property rental value.
and driving the point home:
there appears to be consistent misinterpretation by traders that the majority of their customers arrive by car.
Furthermore, the response by the GB Cycle Embassy (HERE) to the Department for Transport’s recent consultation on local authority parking states:
there is no evidence of any connection between the availability of extensive and cheap (or even free) on-street parking, and high street vitality
CONTRARY TO ITS OWN POLICIES?
The actions that the Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council says in its climate change strategy that they will take include:
Ensure that walking, cycling and the use of public transport are facilitated and encouraged through good design in all development proposals;
Ensure that all new development is built and designed to be resilient to climate change and incorporate features to minimise its impacts;
Deliver a new Green Business Park at Basing View, setting the examples for local business.
So how does this line up with what is actually to be implemented in Basingstoke given this latest master plan?
In short, it appears not to.
Chas Bradfield, the Basingstoke Town Centre Project Manager appointed by the council, has said that the council’s Cabinet will be considering the final draft and the consultation responses on the 18th of March. He added,
When the final version of the Concept Masterplan is approved, we will then be working on specific actions to bring each objective into reality over a period of time.
Taken at face value, there is an opportunity now to influence what it means to turn each objective into reality: Fill in the survey and email the project manager. Together, let’s focus the minds of this blurry vision’s authors to pedal something other than the same-old-same-old.
The Basingstoke master plan was created by Hugo Nowell of Urban Initiatives Studio Ltd for the Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council, following their appointment of Chas Bradfield as Basingstoke Town Centre Project Manager with over £250,000 to spend.
(in contrast, the so-called car-centric “hamburger” junction for Basingstoke is slated to cost – sorry, be an “investment” of – £4.3million).
Further plans, visions and press releases are on the council’s dedicated webpage at www.basingstoke.gov.uk/go/
Statistics show that there are about 3 people killed or seriously injuried each year in Basingstoke whilst cycling (in 2011 there were 6).
The master plan dissected:
Instead of encouraging cycling, the ‘spatial plan’ recommends the opening up some routes to allow more access to people who choose to drive their cars (item 4 page 49) and classifies car parking as “essential” to the shops and businesses (p51) which leads to the recommendation of creating a 5 storey car park with 470 spaces for cars (p51); with on-street parking remaining in some streets too (p51).
The comparison to Ashford Ring Road (p55) shows “shared space” as being the vision there – namely that people who walk and cycle will have to contend with people who choose to drive their heavy (and sometimes dangerous) vehicles — people often cite fear of traffic as a reason for not cycling. Shared space is not the way forward.
The drawings and pictures in the ‘vision’ section are hardly inspiring either for people who had hoped to see cycling given more prominence – there’s a picture of 2 women pushing, not riding!, their bicycles and a drawing of a person on a bicycle doing battle with a motor-vehicle dominated landscape.
A search for the term “cycl” (which matches on ‘bicycle’ and ‘cycling’) returns:
a) The Vision – 2 To ensure that Top of the Town is easy to get to by car whilst enhancing accessibility by other modes including bus, bicycle and foot and to locate car parking and bus stops where this helps to channel footfall through Top of the Town;
b) The Vision – 3 To improve the connections both within Top of the Town and to other parts of Basingstoke by car, bus, bicycle and foot creating a more integrated place;
c) Cycling – Basingstoke is an ideal sized town for cycling, but offers poor facilities. The existing cycle route network is fragmented and there is a lack of dedicated cycle facilities on main routes. The large-scale junctions across the town discourage cycling. Cycling is prohibited on pedestrianised streets in Top of the Town (with a max £500 fine) and there is limited cycle parking facilities;
d) OBJECTIVE TWO – To ensure that Top of the Town is easy to get to by car whilst enhancing accessibility by other modes including bus, bicycle and foot and to locate car parking and bus stops where this helps to channel footfall through Top of the Town;
e) OBJECTIVE THREE – To improve the connections both within Top of the Town and to other parts of Basingstoke by car, bus, bicycle and foot, creating a more integrated place; and lastly,
f) Early Win Projects – Provision of more cycle parking at points of arrival into the town.