Video conference speech
Thank you for the opportunity to address your conference today (22 June 2013). However, due to other diary commitments, I regret that I cannot be with you in person, but I am pleased to be able to speak to you via video technology.
I know that today (22 June 2013) you will be discussing how you can get your message across and influence government at all levels.
Through your campaigning, and through the work of the Living Streets team, you are already doing this – and doing it well.
The role of local campaigning will continue to be an important part of this success. The coalition government has a commitment to support more sustainable transport, but this will not be delivered by central government alone.
As I set out in the Creating growth, cutting carbon
white paper in 2011, local communities and local authorities are best placed to design and deliver the solutions that meet their needs.
My department has supported this by providing investment: £600 million over 4 years into the Local Sustainable Transport Fund. Many of these projects include improvements to the environment for pedestrians and cyclists, include better signage and crossings.
We have also made it easier for local authorities to make the choices that suit them and their communities. For example, it is now easier for authorities to introduce 20 miles per hour speed limits and zones. We have also issued guidance to local authorities on removing unnecessary street clutter, which can not only be an eyesore, but a barrier to getting around on the pavement too.
These are examples of opportunities for you, as members of your local communities and campaigners, to work with local authorities to encourage them to make the changes that improve your areas.
As an organisation, Living Streets has had many successes working with local authorities that you can point to. You can use these successes to show local partners the real benefits of helping more people choose to walk to work, to school and elsewhere.
The Local Sustainable Transport Fund walk to school projects involving Living Streets across the country are demonstrating what can be achieved.
I visited Martins Wood Primary School in Hertfordshire last year, and saw the enthusiasm of everyone involved, especially the young people themselves, for making small changes that can make a big difference. This school is a good example where a local issue – the positioning of the entrances to the school – was identified and solved by the school, the local authority and Living Streets working together.
I hope more local authorities consider projects like this in the future to make it easier for children and parents to choose how they want to get to school. Campaigners and advocates like you have an important role to play in making this happen in your local areas.
Of course, it is not just at a local level that Living Streets has an important role, but at the national level too. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on another successful national walking month. Walk to School and Walk to Work weeks help to encourage thousands of people to get to know their streets again. I enjoy walking and cycling around Westminster and I was pleased to join Tony Armstrong for a walk to my office again this year.
These campaigns and events also raise awareness in Parliament. I enjoyed meeting children from successful schools at the Parliamentary launch of “walk to school” week as did a number of my fellow MPs.
As Transport Minister, I have championed the need to improve everyone’s journeys, from door to door. The government’s new door to door strategy, which Living Streets actively supported, sets out our commitment to make this happen. Walking is a part of so many journeys, so your work is an integral part of this ambition.
I hope you have a productive day, and I wish you luck in your endeavours.