Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Future of public transport under the microscope

A two-day inquiry hearing into public transport provision in Buckinghamshire has heard evidence from more than 30 contributors representing a wide cross-section of the community.

The hearings (on Thursday and Friday, July 24, 25) are a key part of the County Council's cross-party Environment, Transport and Locality Service Select Committee's examination gauging aspirations for public transport towards 2020 and beyond.

Set against the background of continuing public sector austerity which is putting pressure on budgets, the inquiry aims to enable the County Council to match its future support for public transport more efficiently and effectively to the needs of communities.

Select Committee Chairman Warren Whyte explained how the hearings would help the inquiry examine what public transport needs to look like in the future.

'The evidence given over these two days will help us to understand what's there at the moment, how people's needs are being met, and how those needs are changing and likely to change over the next five years and longer,' said Mr Whyte.

'It's emerging from the evidence that Buckinghamshire has a complex mixture of public transport – much more than we appreciated,' he said.

'There's a huge amount of community-led activity, and we greatly appreciate volunteer effort across the county. However, we're beginning to see gaps that need to be filled, and these appear to be related to age – both young and old – and to mobility.

'And it's very clear the difference between town needs and rural needs rules out one-size-fits-all solutions,' he said.

The Select Committee will examine the two days of evidence during the coming weeks to decide where more information is needed, and which groups and individuals still need to contribute.

'Our aim is to be in a stronger position to target support much more effectively to ensure a sustainable and affordable public transport network in a time of increasing financial constraint,' said Mr Whyte.

'We need to answer the big question about our current public transport support: "If we were to start all over again, would it look like this?".'

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Grass cutting - how it's done in Stewkley

The County Council is holding discussions with parish and town councils across Buckinghamshire about the possibility of them taking on a number of village maintenance tasks, as a devolved service from the Council.

A number of individual towns and parishes have already taken on self-delivery of such services in their own community. Stewkley is a good example of the benefits that devolution of services can bring.

In 2013, Stewkley was used as a pilot for a new way of delivering some local services. The Stewkley Enterprise Agency was set up; a not-for-profit social enterprise, which enabled the parish to provide both local employment and an enhanced quality of service for the villagers. The service they provide includes, grass cutting and strimming, minor hedge cutting, weed spraying and road sign cleaning.

People, young and old from the community directly benefit from the experience they have gained, and are also paid employees through the scheme.

Each employee works approximately 80 to 100 hours a year, and their work ranges from carrying out the actual maintenance work through to administration, health and safety assessments, and dealing with customer feedback. The team enjoy their work and take in pride keeping their village in tip top condition.

Five parishes have just signed up to become a cluster with Stewkley, meaning that each village will now have services provided in the same way by the social enterprise. This means that each of these villages will now receive the same benefits. Swanbourne, Mursley, Drayton Parslow, Stewkley and Stoke Hammond will all now benefit from the new arrangement.

In the south of the county, a similar agreement has been made with Amersham Town Council for parishes in the area to arrange for services to be carried out on their behalf. Gerrards Cross, Chenies, Little Missenden and Stoke Mandeville Parish Councils benefit from grass cutting, vegetation clearance, tree maintenance and graffiti removal as part of this arrangement.

Ruth Vigor-Hedderly, Cabinet Member for Transportation said: “Devolving services to the local community is a great opportunity for parishes and clusters of local communities.

"The way that Stewkley has set up their arrangement, and the Amersham agreement as well, are such good examples to other parishes who are considering joining in with the scheme."

The County Council has delivered a series of conferences in order for all parishes to have the opportunity to ask questions about the proposals.

The next stage of the devolution project will see more clusters of Parishes join together for greater flexibility and the benefits of collaboratively working together that this will bring.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Family days out are a summer bus ride away

Hop on a bus with the family, have a great day out, and be one less car on the roads.

Ruth Vigor-Hedderly, County Council Cabinet Member for Transport, is encouraging families to 'get out there' during the school holidays and explore Buckinghamshire's beautiful countryside and town attractions by bus.

It's all part of Ruth's team's continuing campaign to promote greener travel and reduce congestion on the roads. Many bus operators offer good value group or family day tickets, and during the school holiday several attractions will be offering discounts to bus passengers producing a valid ticket when they visit or book.

Ruth said: 'We've lots of routes in Buckinghamshire and many of them serve great places to visit: like Burnham Beeches, Hughenden Manor, Waddesdon Manor, not to mention walks in the Chilterns. The bus is a wonderful way to explore the county.'

Attractions offering summer holiday discounts to bus passengers from July 23 to September 3 include:
Swan Pool, Buckingham: Fitness membership sign up, with no contract or joining fee.
Aqua Vale, Aylesbury: Free upgrade from a small to a large slush iced drink in the cafe. Fitness membership sign up, with no contract or joining fee.
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre: £5 off tickets for What the Ladybird Heard.
Hughenden Manor: £1 off entry fee.
Roald Dahl Children's Gallery, Aylesbury: 2 for 1 on entry, one free child with every full paying adult.
Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, Great Missenden: 2 for 1 on entry.

For full offer details and inspiration about summer visits by bus please see the 'Great days out by bus' page
which contains information about bus routes. Or visit to plan a journey.

Buckinghamshire County Council continues to work in partnership with bus companies to help increase passenger numbers, promoting a greener form of travel and reducing congestion.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

'Give us your feedback' call on new parking guidance

New guidance has been drawn up for developers on how much parking space new factories, offices and housing estates should have.
And today (Monday July 14), Buckinghamshire County Council Cabinet agreed to carry out a wide consultation on the proposals, which cover cars, bikes, motorcycles and blue badge holders. Cabinet Members will review the proposals again in the light of consultation feedback.
Buckinghamshire currently doesn't have county-wide parking standards, and relies on those developed by the four districts. These vary and were written under old, more restrictive national planning policies, and in some cases led to insufficient provision of parking space.
The new 2012 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) gives councils more flexibility in developing parking standards. County Council officers have been working closely with district councils to make sure the new guidance:
• Accounts for variations across the county between urban and rural communities,
• Is realistic about demands for parking and ensures the right number of parking spaces are provided,
• Recognises that every development is unique and 'one size doesn't fit all',
• Encourages 'sustainable' travel by including provision for bikes and motorcycles.
Ruth Vigor-Hedderly, Cabinet Member for Transport, said in the past decade or so the way people travel had changed, car ownership in Buckinghamshire had risen by 7% between 2001 and 2011.
'We need to reflect what's happening in the real world,' said Ruth. 'There are now more than 300,000 private cars and vans in the county and we've the highest percentage of three-plus car households in the South-East. We need to help our residents and visitors to park well.'
Ruth said the new standards would help councils to make better decisions about parking provision: a valuable contribution to help Buckinghamshire's economy to continue to grow, while keeping the county special.
She invited people to take part in the consultation to gather views from residents, community groups, parishes, businesses, blue badge users and those with an interest in cycling and motorcycling. The consultation will run through the late summer and into the autumn.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Work to start on Beaconsfield's new cycle network

Work on Beaconsfield new town's new cycle network is due to start on Monday July 14. It will take around six weeks.

Part-funded by the Government, the scheme involves new cycle lanes, signs, traffic calming, raised pedestrian crossings, and a mini roundabout.

The improvements come as a result of work Buckinghamshire County Council has done with the Beaconsfield Cycle Paths Action Group, and with Sustrans - the sustainable transport charity - and Chiltern Railways, to improve cycling links around the town. For these improvements, the county council has secured around £500,000 in funding.

As part of the scheme, in April local county councillor Adrian Busby unveiled new under-cover cycle parking at Beaconsfield railway station, doubling the number of spaces to 180.

The forthcoming improvements - around Station Road, Grove Road,
Burkes Road, Maxwell Road and Ellwood Road - aim to make it easier to cycle to the station, control traffic speed, and make the new town safer for walkers, cyclists and motorists.

Ruth Vigor-Hedderly, Cabinet Member for Transport, said: 'With all the recent work we have been involved in, such as increasing parking provision for cyclists at railway stations, it's great that we're now able to help improve safety for cyclists on the road in Beaconsfield. This type of scheme has seen success in other parts of Buckinghamshire and I hope Beaconsfield sees similar results.'

The improvements in detail:
• Most of the work will take place in Station Road, including a new mini roundabout at the Grove Road junction.
• Traffic calming will be installed in Burkes Road, Maxwell Road and Ellwood Road.
• The path over the railway line between Maxwell Road and Caledon Road/One Tree Lane (apart from the footbridge) will widened to create a shared pedestrian and cycle route.
More about the scheme can be found on this page.