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President update: 30th April

30 April 2021

As lockdown restrictions are eased, we are beginning to see the impacts reflected through our places. We have had reports of traffic increases of 10 % in the last week and there are varied reports from our high streets, with some market towns reporting benefits from people not having to commute. It’s going to be interesting to see whether some of the environmental benefits of less traffic on our roads and people shopping locally can remain after lockdown ends.

Last week, we held a corporate partners’ seminar titled, ‘How transport affects health’, with David Finch, Senior Fellow at the Health Foundation. David talked through the Foundation’s recent research on why a good transport system is essential for a healthy society. The discussion also focused on how government investment in high quality transport services and infrastructure can help to address widening health inequalities. Covid-19 has made this discussion ever more pertinent both in the national context and for place directors focused on their areas and the discussion ranged from active travel, 15-minute neighbourhoods and the need to work across sectors to our societal value systems and how nudge theory can help effect lasting behaviour change. The seminar slides are available here.

Furthering this important conversation on the relationship between place and public health, Paula Hewitt, Mark Kemp and myself, met with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) who are interested in broadening their research to include place dynamics. Echoing the seminar, the comprehensive discussion covered active travel, 15-minute neighbourhoods, permitted development rights (PDR), green space, accessibility and inequalities, climate change and resilient communities, social value and the impact on health and wellbeing, importance of place in terms of an ageing population, child poverty and better life chances. As a result of this meeting, we are going to look at how we can support NIHR proposed research into the links between public health and PDR.

We are all waiting for the publication of the Government’s review into local enterprise partnerships expected in the summer. ADEPT has been working on a policy challenge paper that sets out our thinking in preparation for the expected series of regional roundtables to support the review. Our initial conclusions are focused on the importance of place and geographical boundaries, and the collaboration that is needed to inform and enact successful regional growth policies.

Transport and Connectivity Board Chair, Mark Kemp, gave evidence to the Transport Select Committee on the Government’s new Bus Back Better - National Bus Strategy for England. Mark can be seen here giving evidence with Graham Vidler, Confederation of Passenger Transport; John Carr, Association of Transport Coordinating Officers; Baroness Vere of Norbiton, Minister for Roads, Department for Transport and Stephen Fidler, Director for Local Transport, Department for Transport.

The Future Highways Research Group held its annual conference online last week, run by Proving Services. Highways Magazine’s Dom Browne provided a round-up of the biggest news stories. Subjects covered in the first session included work commissioned by Eurovia and Atkins on Standards Development for Greenhouse Gas Emissions Scope 1 & 2, Highways England’s Concrete Roads Legacy Programme, and Mark Cooke discussing Partnering using Co-operative Frameworks. The second session focused on Surrey County Council’s use of AI in Realtime Road Defect Identification and Atkins’ Digital Intelligent Brokerage. You can find out more in the conference blog and slide deck.

The recent ADEPT/CIPFA webinar on sustainable procurement for places asked the question: how can we harness the power of public procurement to meet the climate change challenge? With speakers including our own Neil Gibson and Carolyn McKenzie, CIPFA’s Mohamed Hans and Amey’s David Ogden. You can find the slide deck here and the recording here. It’s also the subject of our latest Climate Change blog.

This month saw the launch of the UK’s first kinetic walkway which harvests energy from footsteps at Leighton Buzzard train station. Find out more about this exciting trial from the Central Beds’ Live Labs and the team from Pavegen here.

Don’t forget to book your place on our Spring Seminar,  Reimagining places: a focus on town centres & high streets. Both the Spring Seminar and the ADEPT President’s Awards are virtual this year and full of surprises. Make sure you’re booked for the 27th May.

As always, keep watching our COVID-19 updates page for the latest news. Stay well everyone.