HC Deb 10 May 1999 vol 331 c9W
Mr. Jim Cunningham

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps the Government are taking to improve facilities in urban centres for(a) the less mobile and (b) those on low incomes. [83599]

Ms Glenda Jackson

My Department has issued guidance to local authorities on a range of measures to improve town centres for people with mobility difficulties. On the transport side, in January this year we published new guidelines on the use of tactile paving surfaces to provide warning and guidance to blind and partially-sighted pedestrians. We also intend to publish our strategy to encourage walking soon. This will set out the need for town centre improvements to take into account the needs of all groups, including disabled people and the 30 per cent. of households without access to a car.

More generally the planning policy guidance for town centres and retail developments (PPG6) we have issued to local authorities has made particular reference to improving access to and within town centres, improving the pedestrian environment and, in particular, addressing the needs of people with mobility difficulties. We would expect authorities to survey the access and mobility needs of disabled people and demonstrate a commitment to meeting their needs in drawing up their strategies for town centres, their development plans and in making decisions on new developments.

We also expect local authorities to demonstrate a similar commitment in their Local Transport Plans (LTPs). The guidance already issued to local authorities on preparing their LTPs has made particular reference to the needs of people with mobility difficulties. We expect LTPs to provide evidence to support their record in this area, and provide detail of their future plans.

Turning to buildings, Part M of the Building Regulations requires that reasonable provision should be made for access and facilities for disabled people in all new buildings. These requirements currently apply to buildings other than dwellings, but from 25 October this year they will be extended to all new dwellings.

In terms of low incomes, we have commissioned research into the links between public transport and social exclusion. The research will seek to establish the level of exclusion from public transport, identify the factors which discourage different groups from using it, examine the initiatives to encourage new passengers, and propose a range of initiatives to encourage ridership among excluded groups. The results of the research will be available in late 1999.