Members of the public who have requested the opportunity to ask question(s) on any item(s) on the agenda will have three minutes to put their question(s) to the relevant Councillor. Members of the public will be allowed to ask one short supplementary question.
A question was received from Andy Hunter-Rossall who attended the meeting virtually and asked the question of the Executive Leader, Councillor Alistair Bradley.
Question one “I am disappointed to read that “The proposed Cycling Task Group stalled due to lack of response from Members”. According to ONS data for 2019-20 about 14% of adults in Chorley cycle at least once per week, with many more cycling less frequently. I would hope that even if members are not cyclists themselves they would be keen to represent the interests of this significant portion of Chorley residents. Given the positive impact on our health, our environment, and on reducing traffic; and given that Active Travel England will soon be grading authorities on their performance on active travel, will the Council commit to attempting again to start a Cycling Task Group.”
Councillor Bradley responded and noted that members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee set their work program and there were a number of other competing priority areas requiring focus, including Select Move housing and school places which are also of interest to many residents and Councillors.
Despite the Overview and Scrutiny Committee deciding not to proceed with the current proposed Cycling Task Group, other avenues were being pursued within the Council to begin work with the support of Officers and Members to meet and achieve targets in place and set for 2030, to overcome an at times perceived negativity and prejudice towards cycling.
Lancashire County Council was ultimately responsible for transport infrastructure including cycling, however, within Chorley Council, conversations and plans were underway to improve, incentivise and promote cycling across the borough.
Further exploration into transport and cycling policy proposals were also underway. Cycling was interwoven into various policies, including but not limited to, the green agenda, air quality, health, infrastructure, planning and development.
The next monitoring report for the ‘Overview and Scrutiny Task Group: Sustainable Public Transport’ would be presented at the 17 March meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The Climate Change Working Group would be undertaking some work in this area and, following completion, a report on cycling would be presented to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
The Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Councillor John Walker, supported the comments made by the Leader and invited Mr Hunter-Rossall to attend the meeting on 17 March.
Question two “After the closure of the bingo hall in Chorley Town Centre, I was disappointed that the Council could see nothing better to do with the site than yet another car park. Simultaneously, we are losing significant areas of green space across the borough to new build homes, often in places that are far from amenities and poorly served by public transport. This strategy of homes that are distant and town centres full of car parks creates car dependency and induces traffic. Many forward-thinking towns and cities around the world are moving away from this model of “zoning” and towards models of 15-minute neighbourhoods, where housing is built within a short walk or cycle from key amenities like shops, schools, health services and railway stations, reducing dependence on cars. This brings benefits to health, air quality and reduces our environmental impact, as well as creating strong neighbourhoods. Will the Council consider whether town centre sites such as the former bingo hall could be used for housing, revitalising our town centre and saving our green spaces at the same time?”
Councillor Bradley explained that the car park in place opposite the town hall was a temporary measure to best utilise a brownfield site for town centre businesses. This was whilst the full redevelopment scheme was progressed through the governments Levelling Up Fund. Chorley was classified as a category 2 town and could not apply as yet.
A previous bid for Future High Street Funds to develop the site for mixed use was also unsuccessful. This was partly due to the presence of the bingo hall being a risk to progress and when the opportunity arose, through the impacts on that industry of Covid, the council took the decision to ready the site for the next round of funding available and thereby de-risk delivery.
No decision has yet been made on the definitive future of the site and Chorley residents would be consulted upon any future proposals. Those proposals were likely to include some public open space and some environmental improvements to the town centre
In recent years the demise of bus services had meant many rural residents have no choice but to use their cars to get to the town centre to support local businesses, independent traders and markets. Without the capacity to cater for these vehicles at times when people want to come in to town the lack of parking could lead to online shopping as an alternative and have a detrimental effect on the town centre’s vitality.
It could also be argued that is far more environmentally preferable for Chorley residents to travel by car at low speeds into the town centre on short journeys than to take long high speed journeys to Liverpool and Manchester.
The council experience congestion on existing town centre car parks and as a result, it is not uncommon for residents to cruise around looking for vacant short stay spaces. This damages the environment and resident’s health and the temporary car park would alleviate some of that behaviour.
The council has a proud record of increasing residential numbers in the town centre and the successful town centre policy was not only based upon this shift, but also supports the high-density housing that often results.