Best foot forward for county’s walking strategy

Ease of driving has been cited as one of the main barriers to get people walking, according to the findings of a new consultation.

A number of issues were raised by the public ahead of the adoption of Essex County Council’s Walking Strategy 2021. Issues raised included footway maintenance and the importance of linking new developments to cycle and walking routes.

Key conclusions from the consultation was that over half of respondents stated that ‘leisure’ was their main purpose for walking, including to enjoy green spaces.

On average, 77 per cent of respondents – who are Essex residents – walk for more than 15 minutes a day. For 10 to 15-minute distances, 728 out of 884 residents would walk rather than use other modes of transport such as driving.

But the top three barriers identified as preventing people from walking were it is easier to drive; the roads are too dangerous and if it is too difficult to get to a destination on foot. Almost 53 per cent called for better maintained footways, while 30.5 per cent said more green infrastructure would encourage more walking.

Findings of the consultation follows a comprehensive document that provides a policy framework and actions for walking.

Since the last Essex Walking Strategy was produced in 2001 the National Planning Policy Framework and Government policies such as Cycling & Walking Investment Strategy have changed considerably.

Councillor Lee Scott, cabinet member for highways maintenance and sustainable transport, said: “This is going to be a long process and of course, resources are being put into it.

“Quoting the Netherlands which frankly in a number of areas – such as cycling and walking – are ahead of the UK. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have to start this process.

“It is not going to happen overnight but we are starting it and we need business.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter