Portsmouth group says walking strategy will help ease city congestion

PLANS have been unveiled to turn Portsmouth into a '˜walking city' in a bid to tackle gridlock on the roads.

Wednesday, 12th October 2016, 6:07 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 5:01 pm
Friends of the Earth is urging Portsmouth City Council to adopt a walking strategy

Friends of the Earth Portsmouth wants to follow Winchester’s footsteps and create a policy that will encourage more people to walk short journeys.

At a meeting this week, the group put forward its idea to its members and the public.

Now, it is calling on support from Portsmouth City Council to adopt a strategy and make the city more pedestrian friendly.

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The group wants:

n key walking routes identified and improved to accommodate pedestrians.

n continuous signs installed to guide walkers to attractions such as the seafront or Gunwharf Quays from areas like Portsmouth and Southsea train station.

n pavements made wider where possible.

n more greenery installed to make areas attractive.

n more benches put in for people who may need to rest.

Rachel Hudson, co-ordinator from Friends of the Earth, said: ‘Portsmouth is a city for people, not just for cars.

‘If you improve the roads then you will encourage people to drive so if you improve the pathways, then you will be encouraging more people to walk.

‘We started looking at the walking city plan initially to reduce carbon emissions and improve the air quality in the city.

‘But the more we thought about it, the more we realised just how beneficial walking can be.

‘Not only does it reduce carbon emissions, which as an environmental group is very important to us, but it is also better for your health, your wellbeing, air quality improves and people get to know their community and neighbours better.

‘It is a no-brainer to have this strategy and it is vital that something is done.’

Rachel added that getting support from the council was crucial.

‘We are hoping to get the council’s backing and if it is something they can take on, it would be good to see a walking strategy outlined and a group created,’ she said.

‘What we really need to see is it adopted as part of the Portsmouth Plan.’

The Portsmouth Plan is a document which outlines policies the council wants to adopt up to 2027 as well as allocating land for employment, housing, retail and community use.

If a policy or strategy is in the plan, it gives it more weight when it comes to implementation and assigning funds.

Rachel said: ‘We want the walking strategy to be right in the heart of the Portsmouth Plan.

‘It will show the council is serious about getting people out of their cars and walking.’

Friends of the Earth invited Winchester district councillor Liz Kessler to their meeting to give a talk on what Winchester has been doing since adopting its walking strategy in 2014. It is one of the first in the country.

Although it is at the early stage, Rachel said it gives them confidence in what can be achieved.

‘We know that Winchester and Portsmouth are very different,’ she said.

‘But using them as an example shows that it can be done if you have the right support.

‘It just needs people to see walking as a mode of transport so funds can be used to improve the walking experience in the city.’

During her talk, Councillor Kessler praised the Friends of the Earth group for bringing the plans forward and said it is up to them to suggest ideas for the strategy.

‘It is important for groups like this to bring that dialogue and consider ways to look at things differently,’ she said.

‘At the moment, highways engineers think about things from the view of the cars and that needs to change.’

Leader of Portsmouth City Council Councillor Donna Jones has welcomed the strategy.

She said the authority would be happy to consider suggested walking routes.

‘I am aware of the good work that Friends of the Earth Portsmouth has achieved in bringing the walking strategy to the forefront across the area, not just in the city of Portsmouth,’ she said.

‘As a council we actively encourage any participation in physical activity for our residents.

‘Walking routes are also a great way of attracting more visitors.

‘The council would be pleased to consider suggested routes and to consider incorporating ideas for walking routes in new housing areas.’

During the Friends of the Earth meeting, the group asked people attending it to give their thoughts on four questions. They were what their favourite walk is; why they walk; are they any barriers and what would encourage them to walk or improve the experience.

Answers ranged from cyclists on non-cycle pathways causing problems, people wanting greenery to brighten up areas and wider pavements.

The answers will be submitted to the council and the group are hoping to get feedback on if the strategy can move forward with the council’s support.