Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith
Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee16/09/2021
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Delyth Jewell AS|
|Huw Irranca-Davies AS|
|Janet Finch-Saunders AS|
|Jenny Rathbone AS|
|Joyce Watson AS|
|Llyr Gruffydd AS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Chris Ashley||Pennaeth Polisi—Yr Amgylchedd a Rheoleiddio, Y Gymdeithas Cludiant Ffyrdd|
|Head of Policy—Environment and Regulation, Road Haulage Association|
|Chris Yarsley||Rheolwr Polisi—Cymru, Canolbarth a De-Orllewin Lloegr, Logistics UK|
|Policy Manager—Wales, Midlands and South-west England, Logistics UK|
|Christine Boston||Cyfarwyddwr, Sustrans Cymru|
|Director, Sustrans Cymru|
|Dr Neil Harris||Uwch-ddarlithydd, Yr Ysgol Daearyddiaeth a Chynllunio, Prifysgol Caerdydd|
|Senior Lecturer, School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University|
|Dr Roisin Willmott||Cyfarwyddwr, Sefydliad Cynllunio Trefol Brenhinol Cymru|
|Director, Royal Town Planning Institute Cymru|
|Ed Evans||Cyfarwyddwr, Cymdeithas Contractwyr Peirianneg Sifil Cymru|
|Director, Civil Engineering Contractors Association Wales|
|Ian Christie||Rheolwr Gyfarwyddwr Dŵr, Cynllunio Asedau a Chyflenwi Cyfalaf, Dŵr Cymru|
|Managing Director of Water, Asset Planning and Capital Delivery, Welsh Water|
|James Davies||Prif Weithredwr, Cymorth Cynllunio Cymru|
|Chief Executive, Planning Aid Wales|
|Josh Miles||Cyfarwyddwr, Cydffederasiwn Cludiant Teithwyr Cymru|
|Director, Confederation of Passenger Transport Cymru|
|Mark Simmonds||Cyfarwyddwr Polisi a Materion Allanol, Cymdeithas Porthladdoedd Prydain|
|Director of Policy and External Affairs, British Ports Association|
|Scott Pearson||Cadeirydd, Cymdeithas Bysiau a Choetsus Cymru|
|Chair, Coach and Bus Association Cymru|
|Victoria Robinson||Cadeirydd, Cymdeithas Swyddogion Cynllunio Cymru|
|Chair, Planning Officers Society Wales|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Andrea Storer||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Elizabeth Wilkinson||Ail Glerc|
|Marc Wyn Jones||Clerc|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:30.
The committee met by video-conference.
The meeting began at 09:30.
Bore da a chroeso i chi i gyd i gyfarfod Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith Senedd Cymru. Hwn wrth gwrs yw cyfarfod cyntaf tymor yr hydref, felly croeso i chi i gyd ac i bawb sydd yn ymuno â ni. Mae hwn yn gyfarfod dwyieithog, wrth gwrs, felly mae yna offer cyfieithu ar gael neu mae yna ffid Gymraeg yn cael ei chyfieithu o'r Saesneg i'r Gymraeg ac felly yn amlwg mae honno ar gael. Byddwch yn ymwybodol hefyd, weithiau mae yna ryw eiliad neu ddwy o oedi wrth fynd o un iaith i'r llall, felly inni beidio â neidio i mewn yn syth efallai a jest i oedi am ryw eiliad fach ar ddiwedd brawddeg os ydym ni'n mynd o un iaith i'r llall.
Does dim angen ichi fudo na dadfudo eich meicroffonau. Mae hynny'n cael ei wneud i ni gan y swyddogion technegol. A dim ond i hysbysebu pawb, os dwi'n disgyn oddi ar y llinell, mae Delyth Jewell, yn unol â phenderfyniad y pwyllgor yn flaenorol, yn mynd i gamu i'r adwy tan fy mod i'n gallu ailymuno.
Felly, ar ddechrau'r cyfarfod fan hyn, gaf i ofyn i Aelodau a oes gan unrhyw un unrhyw fuddiannau i'w datgan? Nac oes. Iawn, diolch yn fawr.
Good morning and welcome all to the meeting of the Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee at the Senedd. Of course this is the first meeting of the autumn term, so I welcome you all and everybody who's joining us. This is a bilingual meeting of course and there is simultaneous translation available or a Welsh feed being translated into English and therefore clearly that's available. Please be aware that sometimes there is a slight delay when switching from one language to another, so if we could just delay a little bit at the the end of a sentence when we switch from one language to another.
There's no need for you to mute or unmute your microphones. That is done for us by the technical officers. And just to inform you that if there are technical difficulties, Delyth Jewell, as previously decided by the committee, will take over as Chair until I can rejoin the meeting.
So, at the beginning of the meeting here, may I ask Members if there are any declarations of interest? No. Thank you very much.
Felly, ymlaen â ni at waith go iawn y pwyllgor sef, wrth gwrs, heddiw rŷm ni'n cymryd nifer o sesiynau tystiolaeth yn edrych ar flaenoriaethau'r pwyllgor ar gyfer y chweched Senedd ac yn ffocysu y bore yma ar drafnidiaeth, ac yn benodol yn y sesiwn gyntaf yma ar deithio llesol a thrafnidiaeth gyhoeddus.
Mae'n dda gen i groesawu ein tystion ni, sef Christine Boston sy'n gyfarwyddwr Sustrans Cymru ac hefyd yma yn cynrychioli Transform Cymru; Josh Miles, cyfarwyddwr Cydffederasiwn Cludiant Teithwyr Cymru; a Scott Pearson, Cadeirydd Cymdeithas Coetsus a Bysiau Cymru. Croeso i'r tri ohonoch chi.
Mi awn ni'n syth i gwestiynau. Fe wnaf i gychwyn efallai gyda chwestiwn weddol gyffredinol jest i osod y cyd-destun. Rŷm ni'n gwerthfawrogi ein bod ni wedi derbyn tipyn o dystiolaeth ysgrifenedig gan ystod o gyrff a mudiadau, felly does dim eisiau bod yn rhy hirwyntog efallai, ond jest i osod cyd-destun i'r drafodaeth yma, efallai y gwnaf i ofyn i chi yn eich tro fel panelwyr jest i sôn ychydig am yr heriau allweddol a'r cyfleoedd efallai sydd yna i deithio llesol a thrafnidiaeth gyhoeddus yn yr hinsawdd sydd ohoni, yn enwedig o gofio cyd-destun Brexit a COVID yn benodol hefyd. Dwi ddim yn gwybod pwy sydd eisiau cychwyn. Josh, ie? Ocê, Josh.
So, we move on to the proper work of the committee and today we're taking a number of evidence sessions looking at the committee's priorities for the sixth Senedd and focusing this morning on transport, and specifically in this first session on active travel and public transport.
I am pleased to welcome our witnesses, Christine Boston, director of Sustrans Cymru and also here representing Transform Cymru; Josh Miles, director of Confederation of Passenger Transport Cymru; and Scott Pearson, chair of the Coach and Bus Association Cymru. Welcome to you all.
We'll go straight to questions. I'll start with quite a general question just to set the context for us. I appreciate that we have received quite a lot of written evidence from a range of organisations and bodies, so there's no need to be too long-winded, but just to provide a context for this discussion, may I ask each of you in turn, as panelists, about the key challenges and the opportunities that are there for active travel and public transport in the current climate, particularly given the context of Brexit and COVID specifically? I don't know who wants to go first. Josh, yes? Okay, Josh.
Ie, diolch am y croeso, Cadeirydd.
Yes, thanks for the welcome, Chair.
Thanks for the welcome. So, in terms of headline priorities, I think you're going to hear a lot of this today from all the panelists you talk to throughout your sessions, but I think the top issue is going to be recovery from COVID-19. We're still very much in the midst of that, I think, and it's something that we need to work out exactly how we transition out of and back to a new normality, which is what I think we're heading towards.
As you mentioned at the top of the meeting, CPT is the body representing the bus and coach sector. I think if you look at buses in the first instance, the key issue is going to be the return of passengers to public transport. At the moment, the signs are that the return has been relatively weak. We know that there's some reluctance, in particular from older passengers—concessionary fare pass holders—and I think that's going to be a real big test for us as a sector as we approach the end of the Government support scheme in July next year. So, we need to put our thinking caps on collectively now and we need to start thinking about how we have a smooth transition so that all the good work that's been done over the last 18 months to protect the bus network continues and we don't end up with a shrinking network because of falling patronage levels after that.
Similarly from a coach perspective, there are similar concerns, I think, around getting people back onto passenger transport as a mode of travel. I think it's a bit paradoxical around things like coach tourism, because we've had a bit of a boom in that in the summer, but then that may well change and become a harsh winter again, given that the case rates will rise and those sorts of things. So, again, there's a major confidence piece to be dealt with there, I think.
And then looking towards the more medium and longer term, there's the bus strategy and legislation that Welsh Government is developing, which I think will be a key issue for the committee going forward. I think scrutiny from this committee into that process would be really beneficial, and I know that the debate that was had just before recess on bus services also helped in that regard, I think.
And then there are a few issues that I’m sure colleagues will want to touch on as well. Things like clean air legislation that, I think, in the longer run will have a big impact and we need to get ahead of the curve on that, and make sure we shape it in a way that ensures modal shift is a key priority through that process, I think.
Okay. Diolch, Josh. And some of those points we will be exploring further as we go along in this session. Scott, would you like to pick up on a few things?
Yes. I think that the biggest concern is passenger confidence and how we got into the COVID situation in the first place, and the communications that were said at the time. If you think back to April/May 2020, it was quite clear none of us knew how or where it affected most, in terms of catching COVID, and I think that the public transport industry—coach and bus—has been affected quite badly by those comms. It's understandable why we had to use those comms, but I think that the same reverse comms are now required from the senior politicians who told us all not to use public transport, to now use public transport and give us some confidence back into the public, because the public will follow those comms. It was quite obvious that, back then, they followed the comms quite well, so we need that similar support from senior politicians to say, 'No, we support public transport and we’re happy to go back to that', and I think recovery will be challenging until that happens.
And I think, for me and our members—. If I give you some quick, quick stats that I took this morning from my own company at Newport Transport: we’ve got around about 50 per cent of passenger recovery, but we’re operating at 85 per cent of pre-COVID levels. So, you can see the challenge we have now in September/October of 2021, and we can’t really see a massive change to that going into January/February next year. So, we have got a massive challenge, but I think partnership with Governments and the industry to change the comms would be massively helpful. Thank you.
Thank you, Scott, and if I could just pick up on a couple of points in relation to buses particularly, because I’m picking up issues around sufficiency of workforce as well. I saw a statement from Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council yesterday, I think, warning that schoolchildren might have to wait three quarters of an hour for their bus because of pressures in terms of drivers being available to meet the demand.
By chance, I bumped, last night, into a bus driver in Cardiff who’d been drafted with four of his colleagues down from London, at what he was saying was a cracking hourly rate, because they didn’t have sufficient drivers in Cardiff. And, actually, he had a phone call within a few hours saying that he could go for an extra £4 an hour to Hampshire if he was available to go there, and he was literally looking for accommodation. So, how bad is it? And is it as bad as it sounded when I spoke to that gentleman?
We’re heading towards a perfect storm, if I’m honest. We’ve seen so much about the HGV drivers across the UK. The exact same problem is happening in bus across the UK. We went into the pandemic with some driver shortage in various areas, but now we’re seeing it across the piece. Attracting people into the industry is challenging. If you take pre-COVID, we could train a non-licensed driver in about five to six weeks, including licence checks, et cetera. Now it’s taking up to two, three or four months just to get back from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency the testing requirements we have from them, and they’ve got their own challenges, quite clearly.
But, yes, you are correct in what you say: we are having to move drivers across the UK. Some areas are not affected yet, so you’ll see that movement of agency drivers who will be chasing the pound. Quite clearly, that’s not helpful, because you’re then driving salaries way beyond what is sustainable. I’m all for paying the right rate for the right job, and at Newport we’ve put our salary rates up as a result. But I think we’re heading for a perfect storm, just like HGV is. So, you’re quite correct in what you say.
Okay, thank you. I see that Huw wants to come in; I will come to you, Christine. Let's hear from Huw first and then we can go to Christine.
Yes, thank you, Chair. Purely to follow up on what you're saying, I think this is a Wales-wide phenomenon, and I'm seeing it in my own patch as well. But it is interesting that the Government's bus emergency scheme, where the money that's put behind it was designed to deal with issues around the pandemic and the drop-off in passenger numbers—and Josh and others have told me the numbers are down still to about, I think, 45 per cent of what they were pre pandemic, and this is causing problems—that, with the driver shortage added on top—. That bus emergency scheme was designed to be more responsive as well, in the building back, to local needs. But it's difficult to see how you can respond to local needs when you're actually withdrawing services because of the shortage of bus drivers. So, would I be right in saying that, at the moment, the bus emergency scheme, and the money that's behind it, is essentially not being more responsive to local needs? Really, you can't argue—. Sorry, it's not for you to argue. It can't do, because all we're doing is trying to keep the service going until we come out the other side of this bus driver shortage, and, in which case, is there anything you could've done to anticipate this in terms of pay and conditions?
Josh. Oh, sorry. Scott first, then, and then Josh, sorry. Yes.
I think the pay and conditions element, no. I think that we've adapted as we've gone along with pay rates across the UK in various other comparative industries. I think the perfect storm has been a combination of—. For instance, home shopping is a massive, now, drain on resource, because they're going driving a van for Amazon, for instance, or DPD, and they can drive seven days a week, 20 hours a day if they want to, whereas our industry is restricted insofar as how many hours they can work. So, I think there's a variety of points there, and I'm quite happy to pick up on those points and produce something for the panel, Chair, post this meeting.
That would be really useful. Thank you, Scott. That would be really, really really useful. Josh, and then we will come to Christine.
Yes, the other point I was just going to make is that the pandemic's thrown up loads of behavioural changes that I think would've been really hard to foresee beforehand. So, Scott has mentioned that people have left the sector to go and work in the supermarkets or with HGV because there's greater pay on offer for the time being, because of the shortage there. But the other aspect of this, which I think is something that has been around for a long time that we need to start thinking about for the longer term, is just the demographics of the sector across the board, to be honest with you.
So, a lot of operators are telling me that their drivers are older, by and large, and they've gone into the pandemic thinking they want to keep working beyond retirement and those sorts of things, and come out of the pandemic in a completely different position, having seen the health scares that come with COVID and everything else. So, one of the issues we've seen is a lot of drivers just making a lifestyle choice to leave the sector, and I think that's something we could never have foreseen beforehand. I think the answer to that, and the thing that we need to do that's going to take a lot longer, is to address the pipeline of talent we've got coming into the sector. And, for me, that means getting younger people involved, it means getting more women involved, different groups. Christine will mention, I'm sure, part of the work that she's been looking to do around getting more female voices into public transport, for example. It's that sort of work, I think, we need to do, so we've got a better pool and we avoid these sorts of issues in the future. But, yes, it is the perfect storm at the moment and we need to find our way through it.
Thank you, Josh. Right, okay. Christine, there's a lot to pick up on there, but also, of course, mindful of the original question around key priorities and challenges.
Diolch, Chair. Yes. I support a lot of what my colleagues have said, but what I will say and challenge is that I don't think COVID is the biggest crisis that transport is facing right now; climate change is the biggest crisis, and COVID is not helping the transport response. We are probably seeing—we're not just at risk of a car-led recovery, we're probably seeing a car-led recovery, and Government messaging is not helping that. We've seen the demonisation of public transport. The Welsh Government has been more positive, but it isn't a completely positive message. I see Government guidance for employers on returning to work that suggests people should use private transport. That might be great for active travel, but it's not good for public transport, and we need a different message, because transport is such a major area to tackle in response to climate change. Transport is one of the top three highest emitting sectors, and we have to do something about that, but also energy is in the top three as well. So, I challenge anybody who thinks that a switch to electric cars is going to be the answer; I think we need to reduce car dependency. And a massive part of tackling the whole of the challenge is exactly what Josh was talking about, and it is transport inclusion. It's increasing diversity of the sector, making sure that those who are using and need to use public transport and active travel are represented. We have to increase numbers. We need a far more positive message from our leaders in Wales, and, ideally, we need to see them using it as well.
And the final thing I'd like to flag is the risk around transport poverty, and a widening gap in those who can access transport and those who cannot. Because, right now, the way things are heading, if you can afford an electric car you'll be fine. There's a risk that public transport services will reduce or be withdrawn, that fares will go up, and that creates the wider gap and increases social exclusion, and that is a huge thing that we should be worried about.
Yes, okay. Lots of challenges there. Thank you. We'll move on to Joyce next.
I'm going to talk about integration, and the integration of transport, and whether it's integrated effectively with all the other policy areas that some of you have just mentioned, for instance, for land use and planning, and how the scope of the new Welsh Government climate change department offers an opportunity to improve this.
Okay. Shall we start with Christine this time?
Diolch. Well, the straightforward answer to that is 'no'. It isn't joined up enough. Can the climate change department help to bring that together more? Yes, I think there is a lot of potential there. It's really positive to see climate change bringing together environment, regeneration, placemaking, transport—that's extremely important. Is it—? It's early days, of course. Is it filtering down at a local level? Absolutely not. Are we seeing local authorities delivering national strategy? No, we're not. We're seeing local authorities delivering contradictory projects themselves. And, again, in terms of both the COVID and climate challenges, we have to all pull together and be moving in the same direction to really deliver the change that we need to see, otherwise we'll see some very tokenistic projects and lots more undoing the good work. A really good example is the removal of pedestrianisation schemes in various places across Wales, and the removal of the temporary COVID cycle infrastructure as well. It's not the direction of travel that Welsh Government want to go in. We've got a transport hierarchy now; walking and cycling, that's at the top of that, and yet we're seeing things like electric charging points being put on to pavements and taking space away from pedestrians. It has to join up more effectively, and there's a lot of work to do.
Any of the others?
I think that Christine is absolutely correct. I think that no—. I liken—. Most of the policy issues in Wales just now are silos. There's a lot of good work going on across Wales, but very little of, that I can see, joined-up thinking of those silos. I think we need to look towards—. I'm a big advocate of regional working; I think that we need to split Wales down into regions. You'll never solve an industry problem across Wales in one fell swoop; you need to bring it down into comparable, smaller packages, for instance corporate joint committees or, as I'm used to working in Scotland with, regional transport partnerships. So, there are plenty of examples across the UK of good working, and that brings together, then, land planning, climate, the industry—all the people that are required to make the decisions need to be on those regional boards and panels to push things forward. I'm very much for delivery; I want to see something on the ground, and I'm not—. I'm frightened—it's the right word to use—that we continue speaking and don't deliver. We can continue to adapt and speak, but we have to, in parallel, do some work to start the process, especially on climate and especially on land planning, because, moving forward, the two go very much hand in hand.
If we take what we're doing in Newport with electric bus, it's not just about electric bus, it's about infrastructure, it's about space, it's about where can we put, for instance, a solar panel array, where can we put wind turbines to feed that, can we put park and ride. And I've challenged Government already on why don't we do in Newport a park and ride off the M4—tick—why don't we do a depot for bus operators—tick—solar array, wind turbines, and then look towards is it electric, is it hydrogen, electrolysers. There's a whole raft of things, but we need to start to develop these things in small packages and not look to try and solve the big picture in one fell swoop, and that'll bring together them all. So, the short answer is 'no', but I think there's enough good silo working going on to then, next stage, bring together the regional working. Thank you.
Yes, I think Christine and Scott have made the point really eloquently, so I won't labour it too much further, but the key thing for me is that local authority level. So, as Scott mentioned, Welsh Government's policy is often really good, it's often in the right place, we often agree with what everyone's saying, we get everyone around the table and do all the right things, but where it falls apart is when it gets to be implemented. Actually, when you look at the number of people that are there that are tasked and resourced to implement these sort of things, it's pretty low and it's very variable across Wales, depending on local authority size. So, I really think, if we are going to get transport right and we want to create that modal shift, a big part of the jigsaw is going to be getting that governance and delivery function right, below the policy level. It's not about getting the policy issues exactly right, because we're pretty much there already, it's about getting the resources and the delivery in the right place to make it happen.
Yes, okay. Thanks.
Can I just ask one quick follow-up? We're seeing our town centres changing—that's where most people head to—and you've already mentioned, Scott, about people buying online more, so the whole town centre is changing, and therefore out-of-town retail is also changing. So, are you seeing any movement at all to drive this change forward now in redeveloping? There's a lot of talk about redeveloping town centres, which will become the hub of people moving around, and integrating the changes that we all—you certainly are—looking for.
I think 'yes' is the answer to that question, especially in Newport. We're starting to see some positive action in Newport to reinvent the high street, and I think that, as we go forward, one aspect that is quite obvious is that, as a population, we are not thinking of—. There are age demographics to this, but there seems to be, since COVID, more of a 'Where's my time? What do I need to do to keep myself and my mental health right?' So, I think there's a massive change going to happen, in that, if we reinvent the high street, we can adapt as an industry, absolutely. We have done so far by serving retail areas as well, but I think that the—. We need to recognise what the public want, what they need, reinvent the high streets, and we will serve that. I am seeing some definite movement in Newport, I'm glad to say, but I think that we need to tag on to that. People want their own time back, and that's another big issue about bus driving that Huw mentioned, which is that drivers don't want to work six, seven days a week. They want to work four or five, or enough to get their bills paid, and they want time for themselves. We should be jumping on that bandwagon, and saying, 'Okay, you want time; here's what we can do to help you enjoy that time,' and use the high street to do that.
I'll allow Christine or Josh to make any succinct points if you wish to add anything, and then we'll need to move on.
Yes, just—. Sorry, Christine, you go first.
Okay. Thanks, Josh. Just to say that yes, the town centre is changing, but I think there are benefits in that for local communities. Villages and local centres have suffered as well, and perhaps this will help to transform that in a good way. But we think that town centres still need to be a nice place to be—easy to get to, easy to get around and a nice place to be. And if we achieve that, people will want to go there.
I was just going to add really briefly that the whole out-of-town retail model was built on car dependency, wasn't it? I think it's really, really obvious that, if we want to make modal shift and if we want to reduce that car dependency, we need to stop making those sorts of planning decisions. I think, again, the policy has started to move, the delivery perhaps hasn't quite got there yet in terms of the way local planning authorities do this. So, it's the same challenge as the one we mentioned previously, and we need to redouble our efforts on that to make sure we're not making decisions now that stick with us for the next 50 years.
Thank you. Yes, go on, then, Christine.
I just would like to make a point about delivery. A lot of authorities are struggling with resource. The skills are very heavily weighted to cars and highways, and there needs to be change around that. Of course, we're having a roads review now, so that's really positive, but ahead of that, we were still seeing 62 per cent of the capital transport budget being put into new roads. We need some change around that. We would suggest that, for active travel alone, we need a redirection of 10 per cent of that, in line with the way Scotland is moving. They have made that commitment to achieve that by 2025. We'd like to see the same thing in Wales.
I think the same needs to happen with public transport. Local authorities are struggling with expertise, struggling to bring in active travel skills in particular, and we need to address that if we are going to effectively change delivery. And, again, back to that diversity point, we need diversity in transport. We need a diverse mix of people looking at applications, approving new schemes, and we need to change the face of the workforce to represent the people who need to use it.
Okay. Thank you, all. Huw.
Thanks, Llyr. Difficult as it is, I want to put aside COVID recovery for a moment and focus on that modal shift that you've all been talking about. You've been talking about coherence in policy, delivery, governance arrangements, regional planning and so on and so forth. What I want to know from you all is whether the plans in place are sufficient, including the Wales transport strategy, to actually get that modal shift by 2040 that we're looking at. And if not, and this is the big question for you, what else do we need to do to get that modal shift that all of us consider to be so important? I wonder if—. Let's have a look. Christine, can I leave you until last on this? Scott or Josh.
If I just jump in quickly first, then. I think, without sounding like a broken record, the delivery bit is going to be key with this. The strategy is clear about how we get modal shift; what it doesn't do at the moment is tell you what policies are actually going to be brought in and funded when, what roads are going to change in which parts of Wales to make that happen. I think that's where we need to go next with it. I think one of the weaknesses we've got at the moment is around articulating the regional piece. We've discussed that already, so we won't go over that again, but I think that needs to be really addressed and brought front and centre so that we can start to get into that level of detail.
And then from a bus and coach perspective, the key issue, which I'm sure Scott will tell you more about now, is congestion. It's an easy way to make a difference. If you reduce congestion, you reduce costs on the sector, you make travel time shorter, you make it more appealing for people to take the bus, you increase passenger numbers and you end up with this virtuous circle where you get more passengers in, more things become viable and the circle continues. So, it's that level of detail we need to get to.
Christine mentioned the roads freeze as well. There's an opportunity there, isn't there, to recast what we think roads are for, and part of that is road space reallocation. It needs a budget, it needs a spending commitment, and it needs to use the partnership arrangements that we've developed, certainly from a bus perspective, to make that a reality. I think that's going to be what we focus on next.
Thanks, Josh. And prioritising roads for multipassenger modal use means deprioritising it for others. Just to be clear on this—it does.
I think that's a really, really tough thing to do politically, but absolutely it does. We've got some evidence that I can share with you that shows that a lot of the positive measures you could take to encourage bus use have a big impact, but the biggest impact you can make is deprioritising cars. So, it's a tough thing to do, but it's what we need to do if we want to achieve modal shift.
Thanks, Josh. Scott.
Politicians, I'm sorry to say, are the big issue here. Because locally, there is still a default to car. We're clearly heading for an environmental disaster; why are we still putting so much emphasis on car when bus has been there and rail has been there for so long to deliver it for us?
On congestion, I lived and breathed it in Newport pre COVID for the past 12 years, and it's going back to the same levels, so we've certainly missed the opportunities that we had through COVID to do this. We need to realign the road space. We need to make some very bold decisions. It's clearly demonstrated in Europe, where the benefits have been already, so we're not going to a space that's new or unchallenged; it's evidenced elsewhere. I think this whole reliance on car has to change for local journeys. On the cycling and walking issue, we see bus as part of that active travel. You walk to a bus stop, you walk from a bus, so we're all part and parcel of the same desires. But my biggest issue as an operator, and our colleagues in CaBAC, is that the congestion issue is building again. We can move them quite easily.
Quick numbers—I like to give evidence in numbers. Newport runs a service from Newport to Cardiff. Seven years ago, we had four vehicles on that service going back and forward at a 20-minute frequency. To do that same frequency now, I require eight vehicles. One vehicle costs me £140,000 per year to run before it takes a passenger. If we solve congestion or start to resolve congestion, we could take a whole lot of cost out of the industry, make it more efficient; that goes into other areas that have perhaps not got a bus service or into other areas where we want to make sure they get a better service. So, there's a lot we can do as an industry. We've been raising issues for many years now about congestion, but I think that the environmental issue is definitely one layer; whether it's a diesel Euro VI decker or an electric decker, we're still taking 70 or 80 people out on single or dual journeys, out of the car.
So, the road space needs to be aligned, local policy needs to be addressed, guidance from Government above needs to be addressed to give that. And one big thing for me is funding certainty; we need to stop this annual budget issue. I understand wholly about the Westminster issue and when you get your funding, but we should be able to look—. If you want to solve environmental problems and solve congestion, you have to put a plan in place to say that fund is ring-fenced for the next five or 10 years, end of. Because it has so many benefits beyond what we've got just now, especially on the climate issue.
Thanks very much. Just finally, Christine, you and I have talked about the fact that I could do surgeries just about in my constituency by using train and bike. I could not do it on bus, not a hope in hell. How do we do this modal change when, practically, a lot of people just don't see it as an easy option?
Absolutely, yes. Partly it's the investment. I think we've got a really good transport strategy, but we need an action plan to deliver it and it needs to be taken seriously at all levels. You know, 45 per cent modal shift is a big challenge, and we need to have some clear and bold and brave action on that. I think one of the things the committee could most usefully do is look into how we achieve a reduction in car dependency and bring together experts to make a plan for that. Because of course, we saw clean air zones and charges in the media recently—a big pushback from the public on that. But what are we going to do? We have to reduce car dependency. It's absolutely critical. We need to increase people using public transport and active travel. We've got to address the first and last mile. It is a huge challenge and we need to know how to take that forward. So, I think the committee can have a great impact if you want to look into that.
Thank you, all. We'll move on, then. Jenny next. Just to say we're over halfway through, and we're about a third of the way through the areas and the questions we hope to cover, so—
Thank you, I've got it. All right. I've got two questions. First of all, Christine, in your paper you make very important points about the fact that 45 per cent of particulate emissions come from tyre and brake wear, so even if we clean up vehicles to move away to cleaner technology to make them go round, clearly that isn't going to be sufficient to deliver on clean air.
You also quote information from the Tyndall Centre that, even if all new cars were ultra low emission standard, we'd need to have a nearly 60 per cent reduction in car mileage in the next 20 years to achieve that below 2 degrees pathway. The question is: how clear in your view is that in the minds of transport planners and local authorities? It is just way more challenging than simply changing our road use.
Yes, it doesn't seem to be very clear in their minds at all, does it? Because the focus has very much been switching to electric cars. I know that people think, 'If I switch to an electric car, I've done my bit', and it's not about that. What we need to do is—. We know people are largely making short journeys, and we need to encourage them to make those short journeys in a different way. I think we need a big new public education and awareness campaign so that people do understand that an electric car cannot be the whole of the answer. We've got a much bigger problem than that, and we all need to work together to figure out how we reduce the car journeys that people are making and help them switch to different modes. And there are loads of benefits of that—lots of health and well-being benefits across a wide range of different things. It's better for the individual and it's better for their communities. Of course, we've seen a very successful public health campaign, haven't we, about the impact of our behaviour on others during COVID, and we need a very similar thing for transport, because driving around in our cars is not doing anybody any good.
Okay—[Interruption.] Oh, you're still around, Jenny, are you?
Can I come in on that point, Chair?
Go on, yes.
Just quickly, I just wanted to say that we work really closely with ATCO, which is the Association of Transport Co-ordinating Officers. I feel like we've talked a lot about local authorities here, and I feel like it's just worth pointing out that there are some great officers and staff in local authorities that really get it. I think where it falls apart is there's not enough of them, and they don't have the resources to deliver the job. So, again, I have some sympathy for local authorities, because quite often we're having really positive conversations with them, but they're just not able to deliver it because they've not got the resource to do it.
And, Josh, I think it's the joined-up thing as well, because there are some fantastic officers in local authorities trying to do brilliant things, but then that is being counteracted by other parts of the department or the authority doing a completely contradictory thing, and it is about that joined-up approach.
I'll ask Scott to come in in a minute. We've lost Jenny. I think she's no longer a participant in the meeting, so hopefully she'll be able to rejoin us. I know Janet wanted to come in on decarbonisation as well, and maybe, Scott, you can respond to that and we'll pick up on any additional points then. Janet.
Sorry, Chairman, I'm coming in on active travel and public transport, which is this section.
Yes, okay. Did you want to say anything in particular, then, Scott, about decarbonisation before we come on to those questions from Janet?
Just a quick one on cars. My colleagues are right; the car won't solve the problem—moving to electric. You're actually having unintended consequences with this, because if you change all your cars to electric, buses to electric, lorries to electric, where's the power coming from?
You're right, that is a question that's very often left hanging, isn't it? Okay.
Janet is going to—. Go on then, Jenny; you're back. I'm just mindful that Janet was—
I do apologise—a technical crash. That's never happened to me before. I'm sorry I didn't hear your interesting answers, but the other question—I'll obviously read the transcript—was really what, Scott and Josh, you think about how we can address this problem of reducing the wear and tear generated by tyres and brakes. Is it the case that smaller vehicles like minibuses would help that, because they may be more appropriate for certain routes that aren't carrying loads of people but, nevertheless, are an important social function?
I think the key thing is having fewer vehicles on the road, to be honest, Jenny. I think that's the best way to address it, and one of the statistics we use is that if everybody took six more bus journeys across the year, it would take up the carbon emissions equivalent to electrifying an entire bus fleet. So, modal shift is the key to all of these things, I think. That's the one that drives the change in terms of particulate matter on the roads, and also in terms of carbon output.
Okay, thank you. We'll go on to Janet, then.
Thank you, Chairman. Right, this is on active travel and public transport. So, recently I had the pleasure to learn about the steps that Llew Jones International, based in Llanrwst, are taking to provide clean—my dog's barking now, sorry—sustainable and affordable travel. Now, they've outlined concerns about the lack of funding support to assist with the purchase of replacement capacitors and chargers for new hybrid vehicles. Now, the submission by CPT underlines this fact, so can you outline any proposals for a green bus fund, and what indicators you would like to see introduced to ensure this money is spent effectively?
A reference to you, Josh.
Yes, shall I take that first? Again, Scott I'm sure will have plenty to say on electronic vehicles. Look, the key thing is we've got various targets at the moment around decarbonising the bus fleet. It's a key concern for everyone. We need to just work on the detail of that plan, and make sure there's the right policy and funding support to make it happen. At the moment, Wales is the only part of the UK that doesn't have dedicated funding in that respect. Scott probably has more detail on this, but I believe the funding for the vehicles in Newport came from the UK Government. That funding isn't available in Wales any more, so we've got a gap there and we don't want to get left behind on it. So, we need to come up with a scheme that incentivises operators to buy new electric vehicles when they can, and to make sure that we're not missed out in that transition towards electric vehicles.
We've suggested a Welsh green bus fund. To their credit, I think Welsh Government are really listening to this; we're having a really positive discussion and conversation with them. They're working on their low-carbon delivery plan, and they're live to this issue, I think. So, again with the partnership working we've got and the relationships we've got, I'm sure we can begin to address these issues going forward.
Thank you. Now—
I think Scott might want to come in as well.
Yes. So far, to take Newport as an example, we're the first electric operator in Wales and the only currently, but our funding, we got £4 million from the Department for Transport under the ultra-low emissions bus scheme funding, and it's frustrating that we haven't got a scheme in Wales, or haven't had, and we're the only country in the UK that doesn't have one. And it's something we've been pushing for for many, many years. It comes back to we're trying to find one massive solution for one massive problem. We need to start to break it down and deliver things now in smaller packages, like we're doing in Newport. We're about to have 32 electric vehicles by the end of this year, and the funding came from DfT. We'd like to see some more funding from Welsh Government, as Scotland is doing as well, but controlled funding—what are the outcomes from that, what is the benefit from that funding, what is the long-term plan. We have to think about, again, the certainty of that funding over the next five, 10 years.
The industry can deliver this—we absolutely can deliver this—but we need such partnership and such help to do so. Josh is right; we've got very good comms on this through Governments. The Wales decarbonisation taskforce has been set up to help Government do so—it's an industry-led project—and we are getting good comms with Welsh Government. We just need to see where the cash is coming from, how can we use it, how best is it sustained, and then we can move it forward.
Thanks, Scott. Now, a Women's Institute survey found one in five rural respondents do not have access to a reliable service. The introduction of a flexible service has been a key solution. So, how does this shift in passenger model impact the economics of the services? And given the need to become net zero and the impact this will have on the type of vehicle used, what service model do you think is required to balance the needs of cost with the need for rural routes? Scott.
The Fflecsi bus—. As you're probably aware, Newport have now done an urban Fflecsi service of nine vehicles. The demand-responsive transport or Fflecsi services work exceptionally well in rural areas to feed into normal services. But again, it's funding, it's local authority funding. We've found over the years that the local transport fund has been cut and that's the fund that they use to produce those services. So, unfortunately, we're seeing a rural decline in bus services, but a big impact because of the lack of money in those areas to provide those services. They'll never be commercially viable, so your big operators won't run them, but local authorities could join the tender. I think as far as which model is best, neither is best, but in combination, the solution is there.
In Newport, we've got scheduled bus services now and Fflecsi services now of nine vehicles. The customers love these things, but they'll never be commercially viable, because you've got the same costs whether you drive a 16-seater vehicle or an 80-seater vehicle. The driver is still the same cost, it's still fuel. But you need to think about what the customer wants and how we move that modal shift. So, somebody somewhere will have to fund Fflecsi longer term, because it won't be commercially viable. But what does it give you? It gives you that help to do modal shift. Find out where demand is and if demand increases, I can then change that to a scheduled commercial bus service. So, it has so many benefits and we're trialling so many things in Newport, and I'm happy to come back—give myself more work—to the panel with an interim report over the next three to six, nine months on how Fflecsi's gone in comparison with that scheduled bus service.
Thank you. Christine, your submission found that two thirds of men and women think that safety needs to be improved. Do you support the recommendations of the report from the health protection division at Public Health Wales to see cycle lanes separated from traffic? And outside of the focus on metropolitan areas, what actions do you wish to see authorities enact to improve cycle safety in our rural communities?
Absolutely. The ideal situation is that cycle facilities are separated from traffic—that increases safety, and safety perceptions are a major barrier for people participating in active travel. We've got to increase diversity in active travel, and that will be a huge thing for achieving that.
And then, in terms of rural, the feedback from Transform Cymru members is that people do want to travel actively in rural areas and that a 40-mile limit on many rural roads would help that. And then, we need to value the national cycle network and everything that that provides, and ensure—. Ideally, we'd like to see 10 per cent of that capital transport budget going into active travel and that would not just be for urban centres, it would be for rural routes as well to just make sure that people can be connected to services and facilities as they need to.
Thank you. And my final—
Sorry, Janet. No, no, we've got 10 minutes left and Delyth hasn't had a chance to ask anything yet. Huw, we touched earlier on the bus emergency scheme. If you want to pick up on it, maybe we'll come back right at the end if there's time. So, we're moving on to both Jenny and Delyth now, I think, want to ask about the metro. So, Jenny, would you allow Delyth to go first?
Thank you, Chair. Thank you. We were talking earlier about how important it is for bus networks, for transport generally to be integrated better into communities and how important it is to try and encourage modal shift, but in order for that to happen, we need it to be easier for people to actually use public transport. So, what are your views on progress of the development of the metro network at the moment—the different schemes that are available and we hope to see more available in Wales? Christine, you just lit up on my screen, so I think that you are ready to go—do you want to go first?
Yes, thanks, Delyth. The important thing for us around the metro is that we need to keep in mind that people don't make journeys from station to station, they make journeys from door to door. And so, to make that possible and sustainable, we need to ensure that the first and last mile has been considered and that we make it easier for people to walk and cycle and connect in that way. So, you know, loads of bike parking possible, opportunities to hire cycles and when you get to your destination, take the cycles on that mode of transport where that's possible, good walking and cycling access to the station, and, yes, we need to make sure that that's taken into account.
Thank you. Scott or Josh—do either of you want to come in? I know Jenny will want to ask something on this as well. Josh. Sorry, Cadeirydd—I should be asking you to do this. [Laughter.]
Just quickly, on the metro, I think as a concept, it's great—everybody can see the direction of travel with it. I think, in execution, it's quite rail focused to date, to be honest with you, and that's a concern, in that, sometimes, some of the proposals have been considered just from a rail perspective, and not really thinking about the multimodal journeys that Christine mentioned just now. There are a few examples where, perhaps, it will compete with very popular bus corridors. And the question there is, are we actually creating modal shift in that proposal, or are we just taking passengers from one mode to another? So, I think what we need to do to improve the metro proposals is have a much more holistic look at the types of transport involved. For me, it links in with this regional piece again. If you look at the footprints, the metros, you've got south-west, south-east, and north-east, across the north Wales coast. That could fit quite nicely into the corporate joint committees conversation and the regional transport plans. So, I think the answer is there, we just need to resource it and get on with it really.
Thanks, Josh. And Scott. Sorry, Cadeirydd, I did it again—sorry. [Laughter.]
I'm just sitting back and watching—it's fine.
The south Wales metro, for instance, is very rail-centric. The stat I always try to use is that, pre COVID, 78 per cent of public transport use was bus and the rest was rail. So, why are we putting so much effort and time into rail but not involving bus very early on? We feel that we are going to be the after thought as far as the metro is concerned. Yes, we'll come along and do what we need to do when we need to do it; we'd like to be in that sort of space now, moving forward, to ensure that line planning, all that kind of stuff, policy, is fit for purpose for bus, to make sure that our customers, going forward—. Rail doesn't serve local communities; rail serves inter-urban journeys. So, we need to very much protect that local community aspect of bus over rail, but also the integration of the two. Why can't we work together? Of course we should.
The experience of places like Nottingham and Manchester is that having a tram network, to support the bus network, will bring people onto public transport who will be nervous about using buses because they don't know what time they're going to arrive. The benefit of the trams is that they are not held up by other traffic—in the main. So, if we're trying to get that modal shift, trams, eventually, are going to be a really important part of the package. But I completely agree that, for now, and most urgently, buses are the only game in town, because trams are going to take time to build. So, it's really how can you make your buses as attractive as trams, with things like Wi-Fi—the sorts of things that make people comfortable, sitting on the bus and getting on with their work while they're travelling. Scott.
Most operators now in Wales, and across the UK, have charging for mobile phones, have Wi-Fi, have all these nice-to-have items for customers. You made a very good point there about the tram, but let's make the bus as easy and reliable as the trams; by giving us priority and then road space allocation, we can do exactly the same. It's not the tram that changes modal shift; it's the frequency of the service being higher and the reliability of the service being better that produces modal shift. And add to that your electric vehicles or hydrogen vehicles, or whatever they may be, because you will see modal shift—. We are seeing modal shift in Newport in the areas of higher recovery because of the electric vehicles than we are diesel vehicles. We're seeing that now, in our recovery. So, we need to think about—tram is very expensive, it's very high maintenance and not so flexible. But I think if we take the benefits of tram, what are they, and move them into the bus environment, so looking at allocation, making them reliable, getting rid of congestion, and you will see that modal shift.
Josh, and then back to Delyth after Josh.
Yes, just really quickly to add to that point. As Scott says, if you start with what you want to achieve and work back from that and not think about the mode, then there are different ways to cut it. And I think the point you made there that was really good, Jenny, was around the reliability of the fact that they don't compete with cars on the road, which, as Scott says, is something we could do with bus priority measures.
The other point I wanted to make just really briefly is that Nottingham is a great example. We should definitely look at that rather than some of the other examples that get floated sometimes, because they haven't just done the pro public transport bit; they've done the car dependency challenge bit as well. So, they have a workplace parking levy there where they use the proceeds to fund public transport interventions. It's that sort of idea that I think will lead to a step change in modal shift that we can do in Wales.
Turning finally to governance, Scott firstly had mentioned the need for improved regional working. I think Josh mentioned it as well; well, it's come up in what all of you have been saying actually. The term of corporate joint committees, the CJCs, has come up as well. In terms of either CJCs or, as well, looking at the developments in how Transport for Wales is governed, do any of you see any opportunity for improved governance, for improved integration because of those new potential governance structures? Do you think that these opportunities will be opportunities for helping or hindering governance and how again, crucially, we are making it easier or otherwise for public transport options to be available for people in the reality of their lives? Who'd like to go first? I know this is something—
Josh first, then.
Sorry, Scott, just as you were to about to jump in then. Yes, look, I think there's a great opportunity here if we get it right. And the key thing is we need to get it right and resource it properly, otherwise we're just going to have another set of actors involved in policy that isn't leading to step change in delivery. Again, we mentioned Nottingham just now. If you look at the examples in Scotland, where they have the regional transport bodies there, these things developed over time, but they built the skills, the capacity, and crucially the partnership of everyone involved, in order to make the sort of step change we want on transport policy. That's what we're missing at the moment in Wales, I think—we're missing that capacity at a regional level to allow us to do it. So, we need to get that right.
You mentioned Transport for Wales as well. I think Transport for Wales is a really important development. We need to continue to see that happen. I think we need to just be cautious around how Transport for Wales will link with regional bodies. So, on the one hand, you need democratic accountability into this, and that's what the CJCs will give you, I think. One the other hand, I think where Transport for Wales could add a lot of value is perhaps creating a bit of background expertise, helping to harmonise processes across Wales. So, for instance, at the moment, we have 22 different tendering processes for certain types of activity, and Transport for Wales could help with that, I think.
Okay. Jenny wants to come in, and then maybe Scott and Christine could pick up on both points.
Okay. I absolutely agree with you about the role of regional partnerships and that they've got to work together, but time isn't on our side, and I'm not seeing them actually getting their jackets off and getting on with it at this moment.
Okay. Let's allow Scott and Christine to respond to those points.
The governance issue mentioned by Delyth is key to this. We've got to get the governance right. So, what is that Welsh Government does? Policy. They decide on policy, pass that down to TfW to be the delivery agent—that's what it's set up to be. Is that right that under the technical agreements, I'm not quite sure, but it's there anyway. But, again, you'll not solve Wales's problems by TfW doing a regionalised thing. They can do it in rail, but it's a different animal; buses are very complex, coaches even more complex. They have to have regional working, but regional delivery agents, whether they be partnerships or CJCs—call them what you like—don't get where they want to be overnight. The Scotland model took years to develop, and here's where we come back to, 'Let's do something now on the regional aspect of it, let's deliver it and let's work it through, and the governance, and gauge what is required there', and you'll find that projects will be delivered quicker and more effectively regionally because they then know what the problems are regionally, in smaller packets.
But I think, on governance, you're going to have to have some kind of regional working, because TfW is just too big and too cumbersome to deal with a whole Wales-wide problem. And I'm not convinced it's got bus right.
Thank you, Scott, and the last word to Christine.
Diolch, Chair. Yes, we haven't been very engaged recently in the discussion around the regional transport bodies, so I don't have a lot to add to that, but just the point about the importance of making sure all modes are represented, and also that those committees think about different transport uses as well. So, they should be bringing in representatives of education transport, social services transport, and things like that.
Okay. Well, we have come to the end of our allotted time. I know that, probably, Members would have further questions and maybe we can pick up on those outside of the meeting, and I know that members of the panel have offered to forward some additional information as well. So, can I thank you for your evidence? Plenty of food for thought there. It's a good kick-off for our term of deliberations. And you will be sent a transcript, of course—a draft transcript—of the meeting as well, so that you can just check that for accuracy. So, with that, can I thank Josh, Christine and Scott for your participation?
We will now be taking a very short technical break just for the panel changeover. I urge Members not to wander too far away from their screens as we will be reconvening for our second public session at 10:35. So, we will just pause for a moment whilst we go into private session.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:31 a 10:35.
The meeting adjourned between 10:31 and 10:35.
Croeso nôl i gyfarfod pwyllgor y Senedd. Rŷm ni'n edrych ar flaenoriaethau'r pwyllgor, wrth gwrs, ar gyfer y chweched Senedd yma, a'r ffocws ar drafnidiaeth y bore yma. Mae'r ail banel yn ymuno â ni nawr i edrych yn benodol ac i ganolbwyntio ar borthladdoedd, cludo nwyddau a logisteg. Ar y panel, mae gennym ni Mark Simmonds, sy'n gyfarwyddwr polisi gyda Chymdeithas Porthladdoedd Prydain; Chris Yarsley, pennaeth polisi Cymru gyda Logistics UK; a Chris Ashley, pennaeth polisi, yr amgylchedd a rheoleiddio y Gymdeithas Cludo ar y Ffyrdd. Croeso i'r tri ohonoch chi.
Mi awn ni'n syth i gwestiynau a dwi jest eisiau gofyn rhyw gwestiwn bach cyffredinol ar y cychwyn jest i roi bach o gyd-destun i'r drafodaeth a gofyn i chi sôn ychydig am y prif heriau neu'r heriau allweddol, a'r cyfleoedd hefyd efallai, i'ch sectorau chi. Mae rhywun yn meddwl yn syth, wrth gwrs, am oblygiadau Brexit a COVID, ond rwy'n siŵr bod yna bethau eraill hefyd y byddwch chi'n awyddus i'w rhannu â ni. Felly, rhyw funud bach yr un jest i gychwyn i roi cyd-destun i'r peth. Felly, fe gychwynnwn ni gyda Mark, efallai.
Welcome back to this meeting of the Senedd committee. We're looking at the committee's priorities, of course, for the sixth Senedd, with a focus on transport this morning. The second panel joins us now to look specifically and focus on ports, freight and logistics. On the panel, we have Mark Simmonds, director of policy, British Ports Association; Chris Yarsley, head of policy for Wales, Logistics UK; and Chris Ashley, head of policy, environment and regulation, Road Haulage Association. Welcome to the three of you.
We'll go straight to questions and I just want to ask a general question at the start to provide us with context to the discussion and ask you to talk about the key challenges and opportunities, perhaps, for each sector. One thinks, of course, immediately about the implications of Brexit and COVID, but I'm sure that there are other issues that you'll be keen to share with us. So, about a minute each just to start to provide us with some context. So, we'll start with Mark, perhaps.
Good morning, everyone, and thank you. Yes, I'll be brief. So, the first thing I would say is that our sector is very diverse in the types, the size and the interests of the different ports that we represent. So, some of the key challenges and opportunities are quite broad, but recovery from COVID is, of course, one, as it is for many businesses. Ports were affected by that in very different ways. If they were dealing with large numbers of passengers before, then they will be very differently affected from those who handle certain types of cargoes, for example, but they all have an interest in a swift recovery, of course.
Brexit is, of course, a priority for, again, certain types of ports in particular, with new border checks coming into force next year now. That is a challenge for some ports, handling those, and I'm happy to talk about those in more detail a bit later. More broadly, we've got free ports being brought in around the UK and we're keen to see one or two established in Wales. Again, I'm happy to talk about that in more detail. And then, broadly, something that is a challenge and an opportunity for all ports across the sector is decarbonisation and sustainability and getting to net zero for both ports and our customers.
Thank you, Mark. We will be picking up on some of those, I know. We'll come to Chris Yarsley next and then to Chris Ashley.
Good morning, and thanks for the invitation. So, I think the biggest one, which has been a challenge but an opportunity as well, has been the COVID situation that we've been facing. I think the opportunities that have come from it are that we've now been recognised, I think, as essential workers and I think the public perception of logistics and freight has fundamentally changed as people have seen that this is a sector that's kept the country moving and fed and watered throughout the pandemic, when most other people were required to either shield or work at home. But then it's also thrown up or it's contributed to one of the biggest challenges that we're facing at the moment, which is the skills issue and the most public part of that will be the lorry driver shortage, but there are shortages throughout the entire supply chain workforce. But there again lies an opportunity to build a better and more resilient domestic workforce for the sector. So, I'm happy to go further into those details.
Other issues: we've got the announcement yesterday of the roads panel. One of the main areas that we submitted in our priorities document would be the creation of the roads panel, and now that's just been set. We did ask for industry representation on that. We can discuss that. And also, then, we're just keen to work with the Welsh Government as they produce their transport plans and they're going to have mini deals for logistics going forward. So, we're looking forward to seeing what happens as the officials start to produce those documents.
Thank you, Chris. And Chris Ashley.
Yes, thank you. Good morning, everybody. I find myself echoing much of what Chris from Logistics UK has just said. Clearly, we'd absolutely echo the issue that the opportunity that has come from COVID has been to raise the profile of the industry, and, actually, I think that is driving benefits now in terms of solving certain issues, immediate issues, that we are facing in terms of the driver shortage, and then, of course, Chris just alluded there to the skills side as well and investing in that area.
In a general sense, in relation to Brexit and to COViD, I think, from our perspective, we are working through the issues that arise from that, going forward, and we work very closely with Governments around the UK and key stakeholders on that.
But just looking ahead, also, to perhaps the net zero agenda and decarbonisation, we do feel that there is an opportunity here to get this right—we have this window to get this right—and we're deep in discussion now with all sorts of stakeholders. For us, it's really about getting the policy framework right, so that we're able to drive the agenda forward, keep options open, but drive the agenda forward so that we achieve the decarbonisation outcomes that we all want to see.
So, briefly, that's where we sit on these various issues.
Okay, thank you. Obviously, the HGV drivers issue is one that's been trailed and aired publicly more maybe than some of the other stuff. I don't know, maybe Chris Ashley to start with, if you could just tell us a little bit about what action needs to be taken to address this, because you're right, people have realised now how valuable the sector is, and, obviously, there are pressures and you could maybe tell us what's causing some of those pressures. But, certainly, we want to hear what some of the answers might be to addressing some of these pressures.
Sure. So, first of all, I think it's worth while saying that the driver shortage has been a long-standing issue stretching over decades actually. And the causes behind the driver shortage are many and complex, and I think we need to be upfront and be aware of that. And because there are so many issues, what the RHA did was to come up with a 12-point plan with Government and officials, which we're working through in order to address the various issues.
So, just to draw on your point about causes, yes, clearly, Brexit will be an issue, but also there is a long-standing structural issue that the age and profile of the drivers is at the upper end and, therefore, drivers are looking to retire—what can come through to replace them? And so, against that context, we've come up with the 12-point plan. There are some immediate asks that we've put forward to the UK Government—for example, about putting drivers on the shortage occupation list. The Government has taken the view that it doesn't want to go down that route. So, other options that we're now looking at and working with is about freeing up capacity, particularly with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, in terms of freeing up testing capacity so that we can get more drivers on to the roads as quickly as possible, and also some amendments to the regulations. We're currently working through a proposal to speed up the ability to get an HGV licence, and that is now going through with UK Government as well.
Those are the two main things that we're taking forward at this stage. I'm happy to take any other questions, and my colleague Chris might want to come in here as well.
Yes, I'm going to ask Chris to come in on that, and maybe as well, Chris Yarsley, you can come back to the point you made about the further post-Brexit border checks, of course, that are looming and the impact they might have, and then we'll come to Mark on that as well, but maybe on the HGV shortage first—the driver shortage.
Yes, Chris Ashley is absolutely correct. It's a long-term problem. We are, as everyone's been saying, in a perfect storm of various reasons that have created the shortages that are now being turned into a bit of a crisis, and we are working quite closely with UK Government on, for example, trying to attract—. There's a whole workforce out there that have vocational licences, but, for various reasons, don't actually work in the sector—they just happen to have that vocational licence. So, we're trying to, sort of, appeal to them to come back into the sector. They may have left for various reasons—pay may have been one of them, and I think it's quite clear, from press reports, that the pay rates across the industry have been going up quite considerably in some areas. So, it might just be that they're quite interested to come back; they may need to pick up their professional driver certificate of professional competence, which is, every five years, 35 hours of training. Again, Government is looking to ways of trying to ease those people back into the industry.
And just yesterday, we were having discussions with—this is UK Government—the Department for Education to try and put into place a vocational traineeship, which is the funding stream for 19 to 24-year-olds, to try and create those kinds of positions where they're not the driving roles, but maybe the driver's mate role. And it's that kind of exposure to the industry and the sector that has some sort of funding element from central Government. So, we're trying to build that, because that is not there, and so that's like a missing piece of the jigsaw here.
And also, on the apprenticeships as well—so, this will be, again, from central Government—they've now created the CPC apprenticeship, and also fast-tracked the C, so that's the class 2 vehicles; they've fast-tracked that apprenticeship. So, again, that offers much greater scope to try and attract, because what we're aiming to do is widen the labour pool. We're all fishing in that very diminishing pond, and companies are using incentives to try and poach drivers from various different places. All we simply need to do is increase the number of drivers coming in.
And COVID shut down, as Chris alluded to, the DVSA testing. So, virtually all of last year, we lost all the tests. So, people were leaving the industry through various reasons—retirement, but also through COVID—but the new entrants simply couldn't come in because the testing regime was closed down. So, we're now having to play catch-up on that just to get through the backlog and to then bring in new people as well. So, we're trying to talk to every department of central Government and all the devolved administrations who have competency in various devolved areas, to try and just keep everything—just push every door to try and do that.
Okay. Thank you. Huw, did you want to come in on this specifically?
Yes. It's only a short point, Chair, as a follow-up. The UK Minister has been at pains to express reassurance to people that none of the proposals will do anything to jeopardise road haulage, logistics, safety, driver safety, and standards, and so on. But I just wonder if you can touch on those areas, such as the changes to the testing regime, the licence fast-tracking, and so on, putting aside things like the DVLA, DVSA backlogs, and so on, for the moment, just to give us that same reassurance that the quality on the roads will be as good as it's ever been?
Briefly then, Chris Ashley first, and then we'll come to Chris Yarsley, and then we'll move on to the post-Brexit checks. Chris Ashley.
Absolutely, and safety must always be the priority here. Certainly, the devil's in the detail in terms of working this through with the UK Government. For example, a detail has been, as part of the freeing up of capability, to rationalise what's known as the B+E test, which is about towing a caravan or a trailer on a car, which the Government proposed to dispense with. And we have opposed this on safety grounds, because actually it's part and parcel, I think, of the same training requirement that is needed. So, yes, your point is absolutely well made—safety must come first, and that's these details that we're working through with the Government.
Thank you. Anything to add on that, Chris Yarsley?
Yes. So, another part of the changes for the DVSA has been on the manoeuvring element of the test, which has been taken away from the DVSA, and a lot of people have said, 'Well, hang on a moment, why is this being taken away?' It's not; it's just being simply moved into the private sector. So, the equivalent would be your car MOT tests—they are done by private companies, but under the framework set by Government. And so, it will be down to the trainers and dedicated examiners to do that, so it will free up DVSA staff to do other things, i.e. vocational testing.
Thank you, Chris. I'm conscious that Mark has been very patient. Mark, do you want to pick up on the point around the post-Brexit border checks that are looming and tell us, maybe, what the implications of those might be?
Yes, I'm happy to do that, and just to say that we support everything that both Chrises have said and BPA has always supported the Road Haulage Association on this issue and has been vocal on that recently.
In terms of post-Brexit checks, you will have seen that some of those have been delayed again into next year. Those are mainly the sanitary and phytosanitary checks. Customs easements are still going to end later this year, so those are still coming in at the beginning of January 2022. In terms of what the implications are, well, assuming that the Government's inland infrastructure is ready, as we've been saying for years, any new barriers to trade, essentially, have a potential to make the movement of goods take longer and more costly. We're fairly confident that Welsh ports will be able to handle it and that there's not going to be too much disruption, although, whenever anything new comes in, like this, there's always some uncertainty around that and it's certainly not a challenge that we were asking for, but I think Welsh ports are ready for that. We've been working extremely closely, believe me, with Government agencies for a number of years, so we're ready, the port infrastructure will be ready and we're confident about that. My understanding is that we weren't asking for a further delay to these checks. My understanding is that that pressure has come from elsewhere in the supply chain, but we support it and think it's sensible to make sure that traders are ready and that the checks come in at the appropriate time.
Thank you, Mark. Has some of that pressure come from Logistics UK, Chris Yarsley?
No. There's an element of frustration that these checks have now been moved twice. So, we called on the Government to prioritise their work to make sure that this is the absolute final deadline. Some companies are possibly not ready and certainly they're probably EU partners, but also there are some companies that have put a lot of effort in to try and get the systems right and in place, and now they're seeing all that work being pushed back into the distance. So, it's a slightly unfair situation on the companies that actually did a lot of work to get ready for all the declarations. And there is an element of worry that—. This is about inbound checks and, so, our partners outside of the country, if they constantly see the playing field being moved around and the rules being changed, would they be more willing to interact with us in the future, knowing that to send products into the country, if the constant rules on the declarations are being moved around—? I think they would want clarity as well in that situation as much as we do here in the UK.
Sure. And Chris Ashley.
Yes, from our perspective, I think I would just agree with what Chris has just said there. It's about clarity, going forward, and yes, okay, the Government has made this announcement to postpone again. In some respects, that does help businesses to prepare more. Coming from where we stand on this, we are ultimately guided by the Government in terms of the regulation that is coming downstream, and so our position really is that we seek that clarity and, where clarity is provided, we then obviously want to interpret that for our members so that they can prepare accordingly.
Okay. Thank you all. Huw, am I coming to you next? Or maybe not.
No, Llyr, it's not me next.
Okay, fine, apologies. We'll come to Jenny, then.
Thank you very much. I just want to understand, from your perspective, what you think the opportunities and the challenges are of bringing together land-use planning, climate change and environmental policy into the one climate change department.
Chris Ashley's nodding. Maybe you're keen to respond.
Thank you, Chair. They're all linked, and to have that holistic overview, I think, would be very welcome. I think I alluded in my opening remarks that this is a very complex challenge that we’re seeking to solve here. There are issues, for example, in terms of land use. The planning system, for example, often comes up as a barrier to the effective implementation of net-zero going forwards. So, at the broadest level, we would welcome the fact that it’s come together under one umbrella, because you then have that holistic oversight of, I think, the challenges that come across, and can unblock them accordingly.
Is it an opportunity to—? I'll come to the others as well. Is it an opportunity to review how we're getting goods from farm to fork, or from producer to end user?
Yes. If the subtext to your question is about modal shift and looking at other ways of transporting the goods, then, absolutely, that falls within that remit. Obviously, we have our views and opinions on that, but, in a sense, certainly the RHA’s perspective is we can work with these issues. Alternative modal shift options are all part and parcel of the solution, but we need to work through those issues in partnership going forward, because there will be some solutions that are right for certain circumstances. There will be other solutions that will be right in other circumstances. But I wouldn’t want to lose sight of the fact that the movement of goods by road by the haulage industry, I think, will remain. But whether we have to adjust slightly or work together through these issues—we’re very open to that debate.
Thank you, Chris. Mark.
Thank you. I agree with everything Chris has said on the opportunities, and certainly those three things are our priorities, essentially, in terms of policy. Our slight concern about that is that sometimes shipping and ports are hidden away and not given as much attention as we would like, even just within a transport department in other parts of the UK. So, it's a slight concern that putting all those people into one building doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all going to work together in a better way, and it may mean that the focus that we’ve enjoyed on ports and shipping may be diminished somewhat, or it may not get the resources if we’re competing with other things that are higher up the food chain in terms of the political priorities. So, we’re always slightly concerned when transport is thrown in with those other things. But, absolutely, there are opportunities, and we just hope that they are taken.
Okay. Do you think this is an opportunity to, for example, get more of the goods arriving into the ports being put onto rail before they actually get to their final destination by four-wheel vehicle?
Yes, possibly. As Chris said, there are opportunities around modal shift—or even being put onto another ship, as shipping is the most carbon-efficient way to move freight, even more so than rail. So, yes, we’re keen to look at the benefits of modal shift, and having planning and climate change all in the same building. Like I say, there is an opportunity there as well as a risk. It depends how it’s implemented. But, yes, in short.
Thank you. Chris Yarsley, the Deputy Minister has talked about having a hub-and-spoke way of delivering goods to market. In an ultra-urban community like mine, we have very large vehicles clogging up quite small roads delivering to shops. I just wonder what your view is about having more of a hub and spoke—so, you have places where large, heavy goods vehicles deliver, and then they’re broken down into much smaller parcels for delivery to shops or individuals, possibly by electric vehicle.
There are two parts to that. If I can go back to the original part of the question, which was the bringing together of all the different policy areas, as the other two have alluded to mode shift. We are a mode-neutral organisation. We have members in road and rail, maritime and aviation, so we can give their views as well in a holistic way. But what I wanted to concentrate on on that point, though, is when you mention land use planning, and that is, actually, really quite key if that's being brought within the transport body.
Because what we see in the freight and logistics and the haulage sector is that we're the kind of cinderellas; we're pushed out and we're the victims of Nimbyism. So, when developments are put in place—housing developments and new areas of housing and light industry—the provision for the commercial vehicles is always left alone, forgotten about. We would like to have the planning department integrated. We welcome that in the Welsh Government transport plan—having freight and logistics integrated into wider transport and land use policy planning. That's really good and really valuable, and we would like that to continue, because that's the best way to make sure that all developments are suitable for vehicles that need to service those developments and the people who live in them.
Moving to your question on microconsolidation, it is very location dependent. You mention a big vehicle, but that's one vehicle in place of tens of vans and hundreds of cargo bikes. So, they all have their place and their role to play; we just don't necessarily believe that smaller is always better, because you then have the payoff with congestion because of all the vans on the road, where they could all be placed into one HGV. So, that part of the question is very local specific in terms of geography.
Thank you. Delyth Jewell.
Sorry to the sound technicians for unmuting myself. Diolch, Cadeirydd. In terms of the risk that Mark identified about the potential of some areas of policy being either hidden or lost within this new mammoth department, there will be Government advisers or officials who will be either watching this session or watching it back. Is there something specific that you would suggest to them that they could do to assuage your concerns, Mark, and either of the Chrises—Ashley or Yarsley? If you agree with the risk that Mark has identified and if you've got any thoughts on that. Cadeirydd, shall we go to Mark first? It was his risk.
In short, we've already relayed this message and, hopefully, we'll get to meet the Minister soon. We'll be writing to him soon and telling him this as well. But, essentially, it's resourcing, making sure the ports and freight units are properly resourced to at least the level they have been in the past. That's a big concern of ours; it has been for a while. And any of those related units as well that are dealing with consenting and other things that affect ports. So, making sure that there's at least the same number of bodies, but, ideally, more looking at this area. That's an obvious and measurable one.
Chris Ashley or Chris Yarsley, anything to add to that? No.
No. I pretty much agree with Mark there. Yes, absolutely. We'll keep an eye on things in terms of interactions with the department.
Great. Thank you. Back to Delyth, then.
And my other question—diolch, Cadeirydd—is about the new transport strategy and the plans, the structures that are associated with it. What are your views on that? Again, do you see opportunities and do you see risks? Whoever wants to—.
Mark again, then. Mark to kick off.
We were quite pleased with the transport strategy. I'm sure I said in my last answer that we have a very good relationship with the Welsh Government—very close. That's why we're keen to see that resource maintained. They do a really good job. We were really pleased to see a commitment to work with the Welsh Ports Group, which we facilitate—that's us—on a ports strategy. That work hasn't started yet, for understandable reasons; we've all had our hands full recently. But we look forward to getting going on that. I'd say this about any strategy, really: a strategy is a document. If it's implemented in the right way, it could be useful. And the key thing is always resourcing, it's what is actually going to be put into it. Because you can have the best strategy in the world, but if there's no funding or resource behind it, then it's not going to do anything. But, yes, it looks great. We're very supportive, and we look forward to getting going on implementing it and feeding into the ports strategy part of it.
Thank you, Mark. Chris Ashley.
Thank you. Again, broadly, we are supportive of the transport strategy, but in my submission to the committee, I did actually raise the issue of productivity, and that I think that should be a key measure that is part of this strategy. Because, whilst, absolutely, we're happy to work with issues to do with active travel and look at that, equally, the other side of the coin is to ensure the efficient flow of goods throughout the Welsh economy. For us, that's encapsulated in the measure of productivity. I think I would just make the point that whilst, obviously, we note the announcement yesterday by the deputy Minister on the roads review, we are concerned that there has been this freeze on roads investment, partly because of the knock-on impact this has on productivity. We don't see the two as mutually exclusive, particularly if you then take into account what our sector is doing anyway to decarbonise. We are investing now; there are new technologies coming on the market now daily to start replacing the existing fleet. So, I think if that can be built into the assessment and the analysis going forward, that would be enormously welcome.
Jenny, did you want to pick up on this? And then maybe Chris Yarsley could respond to both you and Delyth, then.
Thank you. I just wanted to pick up on what Mark said in an earlier answer, which is around the role of transporting goods by sea or by water. I just wondered if you thought that transporting goods by barge along canals, as well as hopping from one port to another from north or south Wales, is given sufficient focus as a new way of delivering goods to their end market.
Okay. That's quite a specific point, but, Chris Yarsley, do you want to respond to Delyth and maybe touch on Jenny's suggestion as well?
Again, for fear of saying, 'I agree with', Mark said it quite well: it's a very well-written strategy, actually; we were quite pleased to see it. The recognitions that were in it on freight and logistics—you don't see those in a lot of other strategies that you read from other public bodies. So, we felt that we were already halfway down the path, because we didn't have to come in and do that explanatory bit of, 'This is why you need to involve freight'; it was already contained within the strategy document. We do have a good working relationship with the officials in the Welsh Government. So, yes, as Mark said, we look forward to getting in and discussing the details and seeing how they develop in the next couple of years.
Okay. Anything specifically on barges from anyone? Mark.
Absolutely, we're always keen to explore moving more freight by water. You say it's a new way, but it's also a very old way; we used to do that a lot more. So, we're very keen to do that. And to touch on your point earlier, Jenny, about hubs and spokes, I don't want to sound too parochial here, but ports are a natural hub for moving those sorts of goods. I think we'll come on to free ports a bit later—and it's not just about free ports—but ports, naturally—. We're seeing more and more of a shift towards port-centric logistics where more stuff arrives by sea, which is more carbon efficient, and then because most of the population in the UK and Wales live quite close to the coast, it's like they're actually natural points for distribution of those sorts of goods. So, yes, we're very keen to talk about that. Whether there's been enough focus on inland waterways and stuff, perhaps not, but I can't criticise that too much as we've not been pushing it that hard. But we'd love to see more of that.
Okay. Thank you, Mark. We'll come on to Joyce next. I think we've touched quite a bit on the transport strategy. Joyce, with anything you wish to raise.
Well, I think just about everything has been answered. I think the only thing that I would ask is whether maritime and ports feel that they've been involved enough in that strategy. The road haulage have already said that they were.
Sorry, I just muted myself. Yes, I think we have, actually. I think the Welsh Government have generally been pretty good at engaging the ports and shipping sector. That's why my fear is that that—. We want that to continue, because the team is very good at that, and so we hope that continues. Again, as I said earlier, it's about translating that good engagement into action and making sure it's properly resourced. But, yes, we're fairly happy so far.
With your agreement, I want to ask one question that wasn't asked about HGV drivers—[Interruption.] It's a very quick one. It's a very quick one: how long does it take to train a HGV driver, and also am I right in thinking that they cannot acquire a licence under the age of 21?
That's one for you, I think, Chris Ashley.
Gosh, age limits—sorry, I don't have that immediately to hand. But in terms of the average length of time to—. Oh, sorry—. I'm not muted. The average length of time—typically, it's about six months is what our members would say in order to get them fully trained to ensure that all the operational and safety requirements are met, in a nutshell.
Age—is it 21?
Huw wanted to come in as well, I think. On this specifically, Huw?
No, it's not specifically on this, Llyr, so I'm happy to wait.
Chris Yarsley, do you have anything to add on that in terms of age?
No, no. It's a common mention of a barrier, and people talk about the role of the insurance sector in this and whether people are able to get insurance for these drivers. It's a common, common complaint.
Okay, thank you. Huw, then.
Thanks, Chair. In our previous evidence session this morning, we heard from those in the bus operator sector, passenger transport sector and so on. One of the points that they made very strongly, very coherently, was that we need to deprioritise individual passenger transport along a lot of our road network in order to free up the roads for multipassenger use. Would you make—? Are you bold enough to make the same argument from the road haulage and the ports sector and the freight sector and the logistics sector to say that we actually need to reprioritise the road network, by and large, particularly the major road infrastructure, but maybe even those going into larger conurbations as well, to actually free it up for things like passenger transport, haulage, freight, and that means deprioritising it for individual vehicle use?
Who wants to begin? Chris Ashley, yes.
I'm happy to go first on that. Our stance, basically, is that the road space must work for all, and so, therefore, from that statement, I think you can infer that, basically, we come at this—. The road space is a finite resource, it has multiple uses, and that has to be catered for. So, in terms of deprioritisation, I think we would look at it in a slightly different way—it's looking at different ways of making the most effective use of a finite resource, which is the road space. So, for example, it could mean investment in infrastructure, in more infrastructure, where that's appropriate for a particular area. Equally, it could mean looking at operational measures to free up the traffic flow. So, I don't think a simple one-size-fits-all solution we would stand by, because, as I say, we do recognise it's a finite resource, it has to cater for multiple uses, and it's how that resource therefore is managed in the most effective way, going forward.
Okay. Anybody want to be less diplomatic than that? Mark. [Laughter.]
No, I was going to say I'm going to be a coward and I'm not going to say 'deprioritise it.' Again, we agree with the RHA on that, but we have been talking—in fact just yesterday—to Ministers in England, having discussions about strategic freight corridors and the importance of that. So, it's not about deprioritising anyone else; that's not a fight I want to get into. But we are talking about the importance of laying out strategic road and rail connections, not just on the trunk roads, but the connections from there to, in our case, ports are very important as well. So, we are keen to talk about that and have that discussion about how, as Chris put it, those resources are shared.
Chair, before we go to Chris Yarsley, I thank Chris and Mark who have just responded to that. They're more of a politician than I am, I have to say. [Laughter.] Two very good answers. Very diplomatic indeed. But, Chris Yarsley, you—
We will stand by the results of the South East Wales Transport Commission, which said freight is a victim of congestion rather than the cause of congestion. So, that's our guiding principle. We'll stick with that. We are very happy with those conclusions. We are also quite happy to see resource put into building up a resilient passenger network on the Bristol to Cardiff corridor to try and push people off the roads and onto public transport, if there is a sufficient alternative available to them and an attractive alternative available to them, to free up—. As Chris rightly said, it's a finite resource, the road sector, so if we can try and encourage as many private motorists off the road, that leaves a space for the vehicles that can't really move that well off the roads, and that's the commercial vehicles.
Okay. Thank you, all. Right, we've got about 20 minutes left, and I know Jenny, Janet and Joyce have asked for an opportunity to come in on a few things. So, we'll go to Jenny next and then we'll come to Janet.
I wanted to ask about what you're doing to decarbonise your transport mechanisms. It seems to me there are two ways of doing it. One is electrification of vehicles, as long as the electricity they're using is from renewable energy, and we obviously have a great deal more work to do there. But I appreciate that, for some very heavy goods vehicles, electrification is not a practical answer, and so hydrogen from renewables is the other way we could approach this. And I just wondered what your thinking is on this, particularly as we've got excellent examples—Riversimple, for example, which is using hydrogen already.
Okay. Who wants to go first? Chris Ashley.
Yes, I'm very happy to go first here, because your question is in many respects a very straightforward one. The ramifications of it, though, are actually very complex. You may be aware that the UK Government has just completed a consultation, actually, in terms of how we decarbonise and trying to put some milestones in in terms of when we might start phasing out the sale of diesel HGVs. Our response, basically, to the UK Government on this has been that, actually, there still needs to be some further scoping work, because, to answer your question directly—'Is it electric or is it hydrogen or is it indeed some other form of alternative fuel?'—it very much depends on the use case, the use case of the application. And they are many and complex, because—. This is delving into the weeds slightly, but the emissions performance of a vehicle very much depends on its weight, its size, its load factor, the environment it's working in and, indeed, its duty cycle, whether it's on a short run or, indeed, a long run. And our sense is that that sense of complexity is not yet fully understood, and we're very keen to work with the UK Government and, indeed, the devolved administrations to work through that detail so that we have that clarity, and then I think from there we can then start working to put in place measures to incentivise the move away from diesel to these alternative fuels.
Thank you, Chris.
However, it is 'get on with it' time, given that we've got to reduce our carbon emissions by two thirds by 2030, which is the day after tomorrow in planning terms. So, Chris Yarsley and Mark Simmons, what is your strategy for helping us achieve that?
Okay. So, as Chris just mentioned, the UK Government just had a consultation that closed on the phase-out sale of new non-zero emission heavy vehicles. It's not my policy area, but right in front of me I have a sort of executive summary of our consultation reply. So, we do support a staggered approach to phase-out, based on vehicle weight, but it must be accompanied by a policy framework and a delivery plan, and a recharging and refuelling infrastructure strategy, specifically for heavy goods vehicles. And also, we touch upon the role of low carbon alternative fuels, so ones that actually still do produce, but at a much lower rate than diesel. They definitely do have a role to play in decarbonisation, even though they don't take us down to zero, but they will help us get to that part when the technologies for absolute zero emission vehicles are available, and we wouldn't want to see anything that brings about their early phase-out whilst the other alternatives are still not there. So, above 26 tonnes, we support the 2040 date for diesel HGVs, which is in line with the European association of manufacturers, ACEA. We wouldn't want to hamper the UK market by putting in place anything that would take us out of step with the actual manufacturers of the vehicles that we use.
But, for smaller ones, we support the 2035 date, but, again, they need to be available on the market, and they are coming onto the market, but the market needs to be much more developed and these vehicles much more readily available, so procurement cycles can be put into place that will be able to obtain these vehicles at a rate that the commercial activity will still be able to continue.
But I'm more than happy to—. I looked at our response; it's 14 pages. I'm very happy to send it over to the committee there so you can have a full read of our reply to this subject.
That would be useful, thanks. We'll come to Mark and then Chris briefly, and then we'll move on to Janet.
Thank you, Chair. I'll try and be brief and can answer any bits in more detail. But, for ports, there are three main areas and each one is an increasing challenge. So, there's decarbonising port operations themselves, which are typically a minuscule amount of the overall emissions in a port, so less than 2 per cent, less than 1 per cent in some cases—cranes, bridges, ramps, that sort of thing, forklifts, usually running on diesel. A big challenge for ports is that there is as well as—. That's probably going to be electrification, especially as the tax rebate for diesel, red diesel, in non-road diesel machinery is withdrawn next year, so big cost challenges for ports there. But it's fairly—. We can see it's probably going to be electrification, maybe some retrofit in some of that gear, but that remains a big challenge—big costs associated with that. Most ports don't have big margins, so they are going to have to find that money from somewhere.
The next one is ships in ports. We don't for the most part operate ships; they're our customers, they're our users, so we have a limited amount of control over them, especially those that are internationally trading ships that are regulated by the UN, essentially. So, dealing with or decarbonising ships at berth when they're alongside is a big challenge; lots of ports are looking at shore power, plugging those ships in, although the costs are in most cases eye-watering. It depends on the segment very much, so it's a very different challenge for a ferry than it is for an oil tanker. It depends on the size of the ship. We've done loads of work on that—I'm happy to talk more or send some more information— but no port in the world has installed shore power for big ships without public support, and we've looked at hundreds of projects. It's just not feasible in most cases. For small ships, it's a bit easier.
And then, the third part of it is ports' role in supporting the decarbonisation of ships whilst they're on voyage, so decarbonising ships' propulsion, and that is a big challenge, because we don't know what fuels are going to be used. It's probably going to be a mix of fuels. Ships, big ships in particular, are incredibly difficult to decarbonise. So, there's a lot of uncertainty around will it be hydrogen or methanol or ammonia or batteries, and so there's clearly a role for infrastructure in supporting that, it's just trying to get an idea of which ship segments are going where, and how are ports going to support that? But again, there's going to be significant cost somewhere there, so in terms of what we're doing, as an association we're supporting the industry. There are loads of interesting projects going on. I can share some of those with the committee afterwards—mostly small-scale things at the moment, demonstrations and other bits and pieces like that. But again, we're working closely with Government to try and make sure that the costs of that—. Decarbonisation is going to be a huge cost, and we want to make sure that those costs are equitably shared so that they don't land all on ports, and they don't land all on ships, or indeed the taxpayer. So, there's a lot of thinking going on about that at the moment, and then, very briefly, we've also got a broader role in supporting offshore renewables, which helps the wider decarbonisation of the whole electricity supply chain, and that will have some added benefits in that, for the first time, ports are going to be much closer to the generation of electricity, rather than being at the end of a long wire, so that presents us some opportunities. But—it's a bit of a cliché—the big challenge is getting enough electricity into ports to either directly power equipment and ships in some cases, and charging them, or in many cases, generating hydrogen or whatever the fuel may be, which may well take large amounts of electricity. Sorry, I tried to cover quite a lot of ground there.
That was very useful, there was a lot there. Thanks, Mark. Chris, you just wanted to respond to something, I think, and then we will come to Janet.
Indeed. Just two quick follow-up points to just respond on some of the decarbonisation issues. First of all, just to state that, in terms of putting marks in the sand in order to move this agenda forward, just to put on record that we had recommended to the UK Government that the phase out start at 18 tonnes and below from 2035, and that's simply to allow the market at that level to develop and mature for the zero-carbon solutions to come on board. That's my first point. My second point also is that I think Wales actually has a real opportunity here as well to address the really hard-to-decarbonise sectors, and I'm particularly thinking of rural and remote areas, and how they are serviced. Because when we look at the UK Government plan, which is to phase out at 26 tonnes, well, we're thinking of the two-axel rigids, for example, which predominantly service the urban market, but not exclusively. You will get two-axel rigids that will service remote areas on long distances, so therefore it's how do we cater for that need in terms of the infrastructure provision needed, and indeed the technology needed to address that. It just feels that Wales is ideally placed to address and work through those issues.
Thank you, Chris, thank you very much. Right, Janet. Thanks for your patience.
Yes, just on ports, in 2018 Holyhead port handled 5.3 million tonnes of freight traffic, making it the third-largest port by tonnage in Wales after Milford Haven and Port Talbot. I also note that it saw a 10 per cent increase in growth during the pandemic. Mark, what impact do you think a conversion to free port would have on economic growth and job creation in Holyhead?
Because Huw was accusing me of being a politician earlier, I'm going to give a politician's answer and say it will have a really positive impact on any port, including Holyhead. I'm keen to clarify that free ports are—. There's a lot of misinformation around what they actually are. They're actually quite a useful, targeted piece of industrial policy, so there's a lot of planning reform in there, there's some tax and enterprise support and innovation support. The stuff I was talking about earlier is ports being hubs for logistics, for energy generation and distribution and supply of new types of fuels, all of that stuff can be supported by free-port designation. We're keen to see more than one. To be honest, in the package that we put together, we had it that every port that wanted it should be able to do it, because it's going to be creating prosperity, going to be creating jobs, it's just going to be turbocharging all the stuff that ports already do, and we're keen to see it in Holyhead; we're keen to see it all over Wales in as many ports as possible.
On free ports, I think, Joyce, did you want to come in on free ports, and then we can come back to Janet?
Yes, I do. I like your enthusiasm, Mark, for free ports, but—and there is a big but here—I obviously have three ports just here in Pembrokeshire, and I cover the whole area, mostly of the sea in Wales. So, we've got Milford Haven, we've got Fishguard and we've got Pembroke Dock just here on my doorstep, literally. So, if the designation of a free port goes and we see the proposal is for four in Wales, not more, not with your enthusiasm, surely it's going to have a negative effect on the others, simply because you've just said that there are huge tax incentives and other enterprising support that will wrap around those that won't be afforded to the others, should they find themselves outside of that. So, therein lies my concern. And going forward, a greater concern about pitching one port against another port, and all that has the potential to happen there. So, I'd like the views on that.
Sure. I completely understand those concerns, and I should say that the tax incentives are not huge; they're fairly modest, actually. In fact, a lot of the support is relatively modest. So, whilst we think these are good things and will help ports, I don't think it's going to be—. We've had members that are concerned about the impact on competition, which is why we've always been making the case for as many of the benefits as possible to be made available to all ports.
And I would say specifically about your situation, if you look at London, if you look at other parts of England where free ports have been established, it doesn't have to be one port within the free port. You can have a Pembrokeshire free port, for example, that covers the ferries and the energy activity in Milford Haven. That could be one. If those ports got together and chose to bid on that basis, there's no reason it has to cover one or pitch one against the other. We don't want to see that. Frankly, that would be intervening in what is quite a competitive market in perhaps an unhelpful way.
The other point I'd make is that many of the benefits of the free ports package that's being put in place in England and soon in Scotland, we hope, many of those measures are actually reserved, and so it's within the gift of the Welsh Government to distribute some of those further if they want, especially around planning, enterprise and innovation. So, it doesn't have to have that negative impact on competition; it doesn't have to pit two neighbouring ports against each other. I understand where your concern is coming from, but I think it's within the gift of Welsh Government to put in place a free ports programme that doesn't give an unfair advantage to one place over another.
Just to pursue the unfair advantage aspect, isn't there already an unfair advantage in the amount of money available to establish a free port in England, as you've just mentioned, against the amount of revenue that is going to be given as a Barnett consequential to Wales, because it will only be, as I understand it, the Barnett consequential, which doesn't amount to the same—
And therein lies the political debate, I think. Did you want to add anything very briefly, Mark?
I wouldn't say—. It depends what—. Are those ports competing against the London ports? I'm not so sure. But yes, again, it's within Welsh Government's gift to put more money in from elsewhere. Our view is for a free ports programme that doesn't cost money; it actually generates money by generating more prosperity, growth and jobs and so on. So, we don't see it as something that should be of huge cost to the taxpayer anyway. But I understand your point about the original investment going in, and that will be shared by Welsh ports.
Thank you, Mark. Okay, back to Janet, then, for the last question.
Thanks, Llyr. One of the arguments, of course, in favour of free ports is the supply chain benefits. Now, we know that the dynamism of British ports has helped generate jobs, including a cluster in the north-east of businesses supporting long-term, green collar jobs in the fields of biotechnology, bioresources, biofuels, renewable energy and low-carbon materials. So, what must the Welsh Government prioritise in any conversations with the UK Government over free ports if we are to see the creation of such green business clusters here in Wales?
Planning, I think, is the real prize from free ports, so I think that's what we're really keen to see a good package on. A lot of the other measures within the free ports package that is in place in England—so, a lot of the customs elements—you can already achieve that through existing means. Some of the other bits and pieces like the enterprise and innovation stuff is great but it's time limited, it's relatively modest. But they're essentially big enterprise zones. So, planning is the novel bit. That's what we've been after for a long time. As a national association, we've been after it for all ports, but we'll take it for a limited number. This is the point I'm making, that you have your free port designations, but there's no reason why other ports shouldn't be recognised as hubs, places where economic activity is anchored and can grow from, and some of those benefits can be put in place there as well.
Iawn. Wel, gaf i ddiolch i'r tri ohonoch chi, i Chris Ashley, i Mark Simmonds, ac i Chris Yarsley, am fod gyda ni? Rŷm ni wedi cael llawer iawn o dystiolaeth gennych chi. Dwi'n gwybod bydd e'n fuddiol iawn i ni wrth i ni bwyso a mesur ein blaenraglen waith fel pwyllgor. So, diolch o galon i chi am fod gyda ni.
Okay. Well, may I thank the three of you, Chris Ashley, Mark Simmonds and Chris Yarsley, for being with us? We've had a lot of evidence from you. I know it will be very useful to us when we consider the committee's forward work programme. So, thank you for being with us.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) ac (ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi) and (ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Mi fydd y pwyllgor nawr, gobeithio, yn symud i sesiwn breifat. Felly, dwi'n cynnig yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) fod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu cwrdd yn breifat ar gyfer eitemau 5, 6 a 10 yn y cyfarfod heddiw. Ydy Aelodau yn fodlon gyda hynny? Ie, pawb yn hapus. Dyna ni. Ocê.
Mi fydd y pwyllgor yn ailgychwyn sesiwn gyhoeddus am 1 o'r gloch y prynhawn yma, ond mi wnawn ni felly symud i sesiwn breifat nawr, ac mi fyddwn ni'n gwneud hynny cyn gynted ag y bydd y swyddogion technegol wedi ein hysbysu ni bod y darlledu wedi dod i ben. Diolch.
The committee will now, hopefully, move to a private session. So, I propose in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix) that the committee resolves to meet in private for items 5, 6 and 10 of today's meeting. Are Members content with that? Yes, all content.
The committee will restart in a public session at 1 o'clock this afternoon, but we will now move to private session, and we will do so as soon as our technical officials inform us that the broadcasting has come to an end. Thank you.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:37.
The public part of the meeting ended at 11:37.
Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 13:00.
The committee reconvened in public at 13:00.
Croeso nôl i bawb i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith. Rŷm ni'n symud at y seithfed eitem ar ein hagenda ni ar gyfer y cyfarfod heddiw, sef i barhau i dderbyn tystiolaeth ar ein blaenoriaethau gwaith a blaenraglen y pwyllgor, gan ffocysu'n benodol ar gynllunio yn yr awr nesaf yma. Ar y panel mae ein tystion ni ar gyfer y sesiwn yma, sef James Davies, sy'n brif weithredwr gyda Chymorth Cynllunio Cymru; Neil Harris, yn uwch-ddarlithydd yr ysgol ddaearyddiaeth a chynllunio gyda Phrifysgol Caerdydd; Victoria Robinson, cadeirydd Cymdeithas Swyddogion Cynllunio Cymru; a Dr Roisin Willmott, sy'n gyfarwyddwr Cymru a Gogledd Iwerddon a Planning Aid England, yma, wrth gwrs, o Sefydliad Cynllunio Trefol Brenhinol Cymru. Croeso i'r pedwar ohonoch chi.
Mi symudwn ni'n syth at gwestiynau, gan fod slot penodol gennym ni o awr, felly mi symudwn ni at Janet Finch-Saunders i gychwyn gyda'i chwestiynau hi.
Welcome back, everyone, to the meeting of the Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee. We move on now to the seventh item on the agenda for today's meeting, namely to continue to take evidence to inform our priorities for the sixth Senedd, focusing mainly on planning in the next hour. On the panel, we have our witnesses for this meeting, namely James Davies, chief executive, Planning Aid Wales; Neil Harris, senior lecturer, school of geography and planning at Cardiff University; Victoria Robinson, chair, Planning Officers Society Wales; and Dr Roisin Willmott, director of Wales and Northern Ireland and Planning Aid England, here from the Royal Town Planning Institute Wales. I welcome the four of you.
We'll move straight on to questions, because we have a specific slot for an hour and we'll move on immediately to Janet Finch-Saunders with her questions.
Thank you. I have two on question 1 and then question 3. In RTPI Cymru's submission to the committee, one significant issue that's been highlighted facing the land planning sector in the sixth Senedd is the fact that total expenditure on services has fallen by 50 per cent since 2008-09. What impact have you found this to have on local planning authorities' ability to formulate plans and deliver housing targets?
Okay. Who wants to take that first? Roisin, yes, you were nodding and quite animated.
Yes. Thank you. I think it was a quote from our own submission. This has been a really big issue. It's a big issue across the sector across Wales, it's not specific. For local planning authorities, the cuts in resources available to them has been significant. So, that then impacts on the level of expertise they have in-house and that will vary depending on the authority and who they have. But just in terms of keeping up with the day job, it's very, very difficult. And that would lead on to problems of there being positive engagement within communities for them to make sure that they bring the communities along with them and engage in a meaningful way. They're doing their best, but the resources just aren't there for them to do that effectively and appropriately.
Yes, I would wholeheartedly second that. I think, representing a charity that supports community engagement in the process, the will is there but the way is definitely not there in terms of resources and ability to deliver meaningful engagement in the process.
Thank you. Now, there have been calls for funding support also to increase the number of public sector planners employed and to support specialist knowledge. I'm aware here in my own local authority that they have to buy planning services out from other local authorities in England, which I just think is bonkers. I mean, I know why they have to do it. Are you able to give us an understanding of the shortfall of public sector planners in Wales? Similarly, how would you wish to see this funding delivered, as I imagine the employment picture does change according to each local planning authority?
Okay. Shall we go to Vicky on that? You're in the front line.
Yes, by all means. It is a pattern. I'd echo what Roisin and James have said. We are certainly stretched in terms of our resources, both in development management and the policy side of planning in local planning authorities and it's echoed across Wales. In particular, we're seeing a bit of a revolving door in local planning authorities at the moment, with resources being swapped from pillar to post as we're all competing for the same available employees. So, it's an issue that we're trying to look at and tackle. In my own authority, we use the university to have year-out placements, which helps to bring new staff in through the door. But we need to get new planners in from school as well, interested in the career and sort of build those skills and resources right from the bottom up, really.
I think specialist roles in particular have taken a hit over the last five to 10 years. So, tree officers, heritage officers, ecologists, landscape architects, we struggle to recruit all of those kinds of specialist fields. So, where we tend to have gone in the last five to 10 years is more collaborative working across local planning authorities. We, for example, use Carmarthenshire for our minerals expertise. They've developed a bit of a niche team to help with that and most of the south Wales authorities use them, and I think we'll be looking at similar models for other specialist roles as well, because, sometimes, there's not enough work necessarily for one specialist officer per authority, so it would make sense to collaborate. So, through the Planning Officers Society, we do tend to look at those things and already tease out those issues to try and respond to them when we can.
Neil wants to come in as well, I think. Our universities have a role to play, I'm sure. Janet, sorry, do you want to respond to that first?
No, that's fine. But I'm on question 3, I think you may have someone else on question 2.
Okay. We'll come back to that. Neil, do you want to pick up on Vicky's comments?
Yes. This is a real risk. What we have is an ambitious planning agenda laid out. In Wales, we've introduced two new tiers of development plan making. So, good policy-making and plan-making skills are probably thin on the ground, from Welsh Government right down to the local planning authority, and we'll come back later to think about strategic development plans and the resource to help fill that important gap in this planning jigsaw.
Plus, there's other research out there recently, research that looked at three towns in Wales and the ability to kind of promote town centre regeneration. And certainly, the local planning authority in which I live, its conclusion on that particular authority was that while the planning department was doing good things, it didn't have the level of resources, skills and capacity to be able to hit the agenda that was in front of it. So, yes, I think we've got a good-quality framework in place, but there's a real demand on good policy-making resources, specialist resources, et cetera.
Okay, thank you, Neil. Jenny wants to come in on this as well, and then, maybe we can lead into your questioning as well, once we've had to response to the point you wish to make.
Okay. Vicky, I just wanted to pick up on the auditor general's report, and the Public Accounts Committee recommendation that planning authorities are simply not charging enough. I appreciate you're doing collaborative working on specialist areas, but you're simply not charging enough for your bread-and-butter applications, and therefore, you aren't properly resourced to be scrutinising in the way you need to. And I wonder if you could just say whether planning authorities have taken that on board and are changing now.
Yes, fees are not set by planning authorities; they're set by Welsh Government. So, we had a 20 per cent fee increase last year, which was welcomed by us, obviously, and has enabled some of us to increase the size of our teams, where we can get people to fill those gaps really. And we're hopeful that we will see another fee increase based on more detailed appraisal of cost recovery work that Welsh Government have been leading on. So, we are hopeful that, in due course, that will happen and the fees will be changed to reflect the true costs of dealing with planning matters in local authorities.
Roisin, you wanted to come in.
Thank you. It's just to add in that, with those increases, there's also a need for local planning authorities to have that funding ring-fenced, so that you may charge more, but, actually, is that money going in to support the actual planning service, or is it being fed off into other corporate local authority services, such as education, social services, et cetera? So, it needs to be retained within the planning service to support their work.
A very quick point that what we're talking about here is the fee-earning elements of the planning services that local authorities provide. And I think one of the big challenges, as I've just indicated in the previous answer, was policy-making functions. So, what we find sometimes is you get local authorities starting to be drawn into development management, planning applications, et cetera, to the neglect of taking forward the policy-making role that will really be the bit that makes the difference to the placemaking agenda, I think.
Okay. That neatly moves us onto my next question, which is how planning can contribute to decarbonisation. Roisin, in your paper, you say that the planning system can prevent locking in inefficient high-carbon infrastructure, but clearly, the evidence is all around us that that's not happening at the moment. So, what needs to change?
I think the national policy in 'Planning Policy Wales', as you know, was updated or reformed a couple of years ago. So, that is very strong, actually, and then the local development plans that are coming through now, through their reviews and revisions, need to embed that. But I think that we also need to be bolder in how we apply that policy, so, in the development management teams, and projects coming forward from the private sector as well really need to embrace this and look at it cross-sectoral. So, there's a behavioural change, both in terms of society—what consumers are demanding—but also how the private sector are approaching it, and then how local planning authorities are able to implement policies into that. And it does come back to resourcing as well. So, have they got the skills and the time to be able to push this agenda forward? Because it does need a step change in how people approach it.
And the Planning (Wales) Act 2015 embedded the idea that we deal with most of the problems before they ever got anywhere near any planning committee, by consulting communities and by negotiations with developers. But how far along that, in terms of the change of culture required by planning authorities, are we to have that step change?
I think, actually, the planning Act addressed the applicants rather than the planning authorities, and it was about trying to bring up-front consultation involvement with communities. Whether that's been done across the board, there are some really good examples of it, but it's more of a tick-box exercise. That's the problem when you bring these things in through legislation—not to say you shouldn't bring them in through legislation, but actually you need that behavioural change as well for people to understand that. But whether that will bring necessarily the climate action that we need as well—are communities fully engaged with that agenda and fully buying into that? Because you need to look at that over a larger scale as well.
Okay. Well, I think that we can all agree that the community at large has yet to really understand just how critical the climate emergency is. So, how are we going to turn the corner, and how crucial is implementing 'Future Wales' to making that change in gear?
I think the resources—I'm going to sound like a broken record. Resources are part of it; I just want to reiterate that. And I think the next phase, I suppose, is the implementation of 'Planning Policy Wales' in local development plans. We really have to have strong local development plans. There are many that are going through review at the moment, so they really need to take that on. And if you look at authorities like Swansea, their LDP is really getting to grips with turning that, making that change, about what they're looking to see. For example, I heard them speaking recently of not 'roads' but 'streets', with their active frontages, et cetera, and all of that. And they're really looking at the design detail within their LDPs. So, that's the next stage, really.
I think James indicated that you wanted to come in on this as well.
Yes, thank you. I think it was touched on by Jenny there about the consultation side of things, but for us, it should be more about meaningful engagement of communities in the process. And the climate change, environment and infrastructure policy issues are complex, but they're not solvable by Government alone. Therefore, communities need to be actively involved in helping to shape future plans in these areas. For us, place plans are a way to do that.
Okay. But you appreciate that it's a work in progress for developers to understand the importance of good-quality planning of environment, with a decent green space for children to play in, and all those issues, and we are a very long way from where we need to be at the moment. How do we accelerate the process, given the climate emergency is so imminent?
Vicky wanted to come in, probably previous to that point, but I don't know if you want to pick up on that as well, Vicky.
Yes, that's fine. In terms of thinking about what the challenges of implementing 'Future Wales' are, and it comes to the whole point that I think Jenny is raising, is land availability being in the right places and being there to enable and provide the things that we want to provide in order to make good places. And so, that's got to be the starting point. To me, it's very challenging, the community engagement element of this, as James has alluded to. I think all local planning authorities would totally support the idea of getting communities fully engaged from the get-go and having complete ownership of the plans and developments and how things are going to be shaped in their areas for the years to come. The challenge there is that inherently the majority of people who do fully engage in the process are often coming at it a little bit down the line when the impact of a development on their settlement, their village, their home is known to them, and quite often coming from an anti-development perspective.
Quite often the climate change decarbonisation agenda is being used as a means to say no to development, full stop—not no to sustainable development or the type of placemaking development we might want to see, but genuinely, 'No, we would like our fields left alone, thank you'. And I totally understand people's perspective on that, but we have to try and find a way through that process of identifying the right amount of growth, the right amount of meeting our needs for jobs and housing and everything else, whilst trying to sustain our existing communities and support them, trying to face the climate change emergency and the nature emergency that we have. Those are really difficult challenges to try and grapple with. It's about doing it early on, about having the right evidence to identify what the growth should be and where that growth should be.
For me, one of the biggest challenges, if you look at how the planning system has delivered things like housing growth in the last 10 to 20 years, is that it's led by large house builders. You tend to get large allocations of housing land, single-use swathes of housing estate, where, obviously, we're all trying to work against that now in terms of mixed use environments—walking, being able to walk from your home to the pub, to the restaurant, to a place to work, to school et cetera, trying to deliver those types of communities, getting new developments of a scale where you can do that and it not just being driven and led by housing. Because that's not going to deliver the type of environments and places that we want to make.
Okay. I could go on for half an hour—
Yes. I'm aware that Janet wants to come in on the national development framework as well, I think, don't you, Janet?
Talking more now at a regional level, in the previous Senedd, the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee was concerned about the lack of progress at this level, with the Welsh Government responding by using the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021 to mandate preparation of SDPs. What are your thoughts on the establishment of these corporate joint committees and do you think this will be enough to help progress the implementation of 'Future Wales'?
Okay. So, where are we with the SDPs, then? That's the question, really. Or what does our crystal ball suggest? When are we going to see these land? Anyone want to hazard a guess? Vicky, yes; you could probably speak from experience as to where you are.
Yes, by all means. I work with the south-east region, where we're probably slightly ahead of the other regions in terms of delivering or looking to deliver an SDP. There was quite a lot of political buy-in from the region to progress with the SDP before the CJC regulations landed. I think that impetus is still there, although the time that we've lost now does mean that the majority of local planning authorities in the region are now heavily into local development plan 2 reviews, including my own.
Again, it comes back to the resourcing issue. When we looked at it in our region, we very much advocated for the need for a team to deliver the SDP. We don't think it would work, relying on local planning authority officers to lead it, because, frankly, they've got enough to do in their own patch doing their own LDPs. It needs a focused team that's relying on delivering the SDP. With the best will in the world, that team's not going to be in place until next year. The regulations are due to be laid next year. I think the ambition is that work would commence properly before the end of next year, and with a four-year programme, that's where you're looking at getting the SDPs in place. But meanwhile, like I said, the majority of people in my region, and the same goes across Wales—we're all on round two of the LDPs and focusing on those.
There is work under way in terms of collaboration, methodologies and regional evidence base work, which is being done anyway and makes sense so that all our LDPs align with each other. But work has not started significantly in terms of the SDP.
Just to probe that a bit further, then, the team that you’re talking of on a regional basis—would that be a consequence of the corporate joint committee, or would that—? It would. It wouldn’t be running parallel, or one lead authority and, ‘Let’s sort the CJCs out later and get this in place’?
There is no plan at the moment for a lead authority to get on with getting that team in place. I think the expectation is that the CJC gets established first, and then the team will follow.
Okay. So, then we’re into the realms of resourcing the CJCs and the creation of those et cetera.
Yes, which is easier in certain regions than others. The south-east already is more established with the city deal board. Other regions don’t have that framework to start with.
Yes, of course. Does anybody else want to come in on this? Neil.
This is the important missing part of that jigsaw in the planning system in Wales, I think, now. We have the NDF, ‘Future Wales’. If we look at how its policies are expressed, a lot of them are things, especially in the regional components of the NDF—there’s an agenda set out there for the SDPs to pick up on. We’ve just heard from Vicky some of practical issues—it’ll be five years until we get an SDP in place, likely—and linking that up with the point that Roisin was saying about lock-in on decarbonisation. And then there's some of the concerns that, as you get closer to the SDP becoming a reality—the knock-on effects that might have on LDP production as people are trying to work out what the SDP says. So, this is something I would want to make sure—. I express to the committee that it’s really something to think about—how it can pressure to expedite, to the extent it’s possible, that process of getting the SDPs in place.
Okay. Thank you. Another element of the new post-planning Act environment, of course, is developments of national significance and the new regime around that. How do you say or characterise how that is bedding in? Any particular views on that? DNSs? No? Go on, then, Roisin.
I'm not sure whether silence is good or bad, actually, in this instance. We'll soon find out.
I believe it’s going okay. I’m not hearing anything overly negative coming out. I think the consultation engagement is a big issue, perhaps, for communities to get involved. I don’t think we’re talking about huge numbers of applications. I think that’s part of the factor. So, as far as we know, yes, everything’s going okay.
I think James—did you indicate, sorry? Yes, go on, and then we'll come to Vicky after James.
I think that point of not hearing anything is particularly the point, really. Certainly, from our end of work, we’re not seeing much community uproar about particular issues. But is that an indicator of something in itself, that we’re not hearing much? That’s the only question I’d have.
Thanks, Llyr. Similarly, we haven’t had many at my local-level experience. I know other local planning authorities have a slight issue with the fact that there’s an awful lot of work involved in a DNS and we’ve now lost the fees for that work, so that doesn’t help with resourcing at a local planning authority level. So, that's just a bit of a moan on that point. But also, I think there is a bit of a perception, certainly with the one case I can think of that I’ve had involvement with, that there is a bit of frustration from local councillors that the decision is being taken out of their hands, and that loss of democracy, and I imagine James would see more of that as more of these projects go through.
Yes. Okay. And, actually, there's a parallel point around the SDPs as well, isn't there, in that respect? I know it was a concern that decisions are being taken further away, at the same time as suggesting that greater community engagement was required. James.
I think on both of those points, yes, it is moving further away from communities, and whilst I have no knowledge or a crystal ball about when SDPs will be implemented, if that pressure that Neil refers to starts coming in, what I can guarantee falls by the wayside is meaningful community engagement. That will be a difficulty that communities will encounter, let’s say in the next 10 years, to say, ‘Well, this decision has already been made, either at the SDP level, or at the DNS process. We didn’t hear anything about it’. That's typically the problem we encounter now. I think that's going to accelerate.
Okay. Thank you. Neil.
Just to underline James's point on SDPs, as preparation for today, I was thinking, 'Where are these SDPs at?', and if you search, there is practically nothing that crops up for public consumption about the very idea that these SDPs—that there might be some background work going on and when to potentially expect some emergence of something that regional stakeholders can engage with.
Okay. That's interesting. We touched on the DNS a moment ago and, of course, the Government consulted a couple of years ago, didn't they, on changing the way major infrastructure projects are consented in Wales. I'm not sure where that's at, but I don't know whether you have a view on the need for a new bespoke infrastructure consenting process, and any idea when, potentially, a Bill of that sort would come forward. Roisin.
Yes, there is a new—. This is beyond the developments of national significance as well; these are for the very large projects that have been now devolved from the UK Government. But, unfortunately, at the moment, the Welsh system is having to use the DNS process rather than the former nationally significant infrastructure projects process, which is UK Government legislation. It wasn't permitted to be able to use that in Wales under the devolution settlement. I don't know the legal arguments for that, so I couldn't defend that, but that's the situation. So, we really do need that infrastructure consenting Bill to come forward. It's certainly not in the initial list of Bills, as I understand it, but it is one that we feel is quite important to come forward.
So, your message is for the Government to get on with it on that front, yes? Okay. Thank you. Joyce, you wanted to pick up on one or two things here, I think.
Yes. Good afternoon, everybody. It's almost déjà vu, isn't it? Roisin, I've seen you so many times, and always it's a pleasure to do that. What I'm particularly wanting to ask is about how the pre-application procedure for major developments is bedding in, if it is at all, and whether developers have embraced it as a meaningful exercise for those communities.
Back in September 2019, before lockdown, we did, as POSW, a bit of work on this to see what local planning authorities' perceptions were, and I think we've got some gripes with it, to be honest, which we have fed back to Welsh Government officials.
Firstly, the pre-application process doesn't involve local planning authorities, so that's quite a big hurdle. Developers are going out to public consultation on things and the public are coming to us and saying, 'What's this all about?' We might not even be aware of it at all if they haven't come to us. But we don't have a meaningful process for people to engage via us; they have to engage directly with the developers. It depends on the developer as to how good a process it is in the first place and whether or not they do it meaningfully, whether they do it early enough, whether they respond appropriately to the findings. And to that extent, it can be just a tick-box exercise for some, unfortunately, and it can be done immediately before submitting a planning application. The quality of the report that they prepare to support an application and thereafter, we have no say in that. So, they can either falsely present the information, the consultation exercise, or they can do a poor job of representing what people have said, or not respond to it at all, and we don't have the means to make an application invalid or refuse to deal with something because the quality of the pre-app has been poor.
We have made some recommendations on how the system could be improved, and again, resourcing is an issue. So, sometimes developers will send it to us as a means to get a free pre-app from us, because normally we would charge for pre-application services, and that sort of thing. So, I think more needs to be done to resource not just planning authorities but other statutory consultees in terms of being able to respond meaningfully at a pre-application stage. And, yes, at the moment, unfortunately, I don't think it's doing what it was intended to do in terms of front-loading the system and properly engaging with communities to really make a difference to planning applications, to make them more palatable for communities. I don't think it's doing that, which is a shame—that it's not maximising the benefits that it could potentially do. But I'm sure James has got slightly more than that to say on that matter than me.
So, just to echo that, communities are getting frustrated by the fact that they are being consulted on things, and when they speak to the local authority, the local authority haven't got a clue what it's about. I think what Vicky highlighted there is just one of these issues within the planning process that can be easily resolved. Generally, the best practice we're seeing in pre-application consultations like this are from developers who would deliver such good practice independently of the system anyway, whereas generally, the experience is—so, this is talking on behalf of communities, 'We were consulted. We gave our response, it didn't make any difference, it's just an extra step to go through.' Realistically, 28 days before the submission of a planning application, is community feedback going to have any influence over the design of a scheme? There are very few instances where, I suspect, we would see that.
Just to add, I agree with everything that's been said, and to add on from James I think there's a misconception about consultation, which is almost telling people what's going to happen and tell us if you want to, and we will file that away, to the engagement and involvement in the project, so what is the feedback, and in some ways, the community can be a useful design tool, as well. 'Actually, that won't help here, because it floods a lot', or the kind of understanding within the community of how things work as well. So, that isn't utilised enough, I don't think, within some developers.
It sounds like a depressing story. So, there are a couple of questions, really, one for Vicky: you said you'd made a representation to the Welsh Government, if I heard you right, so, have you heard anything back? And the other question is: I would have understood pre-application consultation as a means to take a community with you if you were trying to develop something, and also to save you money at that stage. So, just comments around those two issues.
Vicky, first of all, then. Vicky needs to be unmuted.
Thanks. Yes, we did. We fed that back to Welsh Government officials. We meet regularly with planning division colleagues and feed back on all manner of things, including this. To be fair to them, it was just before the COVID pandemic hit, and I think they've had enough other things to be dealing with in the interim, so I suspect it's something they need to pick up. So, we haven't had any substantive response or changes proposed yet. I'm sure it's on their long list of to-dos.
I think it's really a shame that the development industry have not embraced the process in a way that would have been more meaningful, and, like you say, could potentially overcome any number of hurdles, which may well save people certainly time if not money in the long run. So, it is disappointing that it's not being used to maximum benefit, and certainly in our own pre-application services, which are a different process, there is more meaningful engagement there, but it's a shame it's not a public-facing exercise, that is between the local planning authority and the developer, and we will flag up to them issues that we think are a problem and so on and so forth, but it's not a public process. So, the two systems are not really aligning neatly unfortunately.
There's a lot of nodding coming from James there. Yes, James.
Just to pick up on that point and to be more positive, we at Planning Aid Wales really welcomed the principle of this system. Pre-application consultation is the right idea, it's just not quite there in terms of the point at which communities are engaged in the development cycle. By the time, as I say, this 28-day window—it means that mostly design is already done. I don't see that being quite the right part of the system.
But yes, this will save money if it's implemented better. We've also done some research on the value of engagement in the process and presented recommendations to the Welsh Government, calling for a review of the pre-application consultation process, not a removal, by the way, a review.
Thank you, Joyce. Jenny wants to come in as well.
Thank you very much. I just want to test whether the problem is that developers are so arrogant because they know they still have most of the tools they need to insist that whatever they want to do to maximise profits will happen. Because if communities are saying, 'We don't like this. We think that this needs to be changed to improve the quality of this development', and they are just arrogantly saying, 'Well, we're going to go ahead, we're going to push this to a decision', in the knowledge that local authorities are always nervous about turning down applications because they have to meet the cost of the appeal that almost always follows. And I just wondered what Government can do to change the balance of power that doesn't seem to have yet been corrected sufficiently.
I don't think it's true that local planning authorities are frightened of refusing unacceptable developments. We do it all the time. What we won't advocate doing is refusing developments just because communities don't like them. So, very often, communities do not like developments that are completely compliant with planning policy, and local planning authorities are not going to refuse a planning application that's totally acceptable in planning policy terms just because a community doesn't like it. And that's the problem with the process and the system in the middle. The whole point of pre-app, I think, and getting communities engaged at a very early stage, is to try to tease out those issues and an understanding that some development has to happen and it's about trying to make sure that that development happens in a way that is as community friendly as it can be and trying to meet the needs of the community in as good a way as possible. It is always going to be a bit of a compromise—well, not always; sometimes communities welcome development with open arms. But I think in most of our experiences, it's not that, and James may have a bit more to say on that side of things, really.
I accept that we shouldn't be turning down applications just because Nimbys don't like it, but where you get applications approved for building on the small amount of green space in a community, you do wonder really whether the planning process is strong enough to prevent bad things happening.
Okay. Let's ask James and Neil to respond, then, and then we'll move on to Delyth for the next question.
Just a couple of points from me underpinning perceptions here, the way that things are perceived. Firstly, if a community is perceived to be against something, generally—Vicky picked up on it much earlier—to say, 'Well, how many people of the community are we talking about here?' Are we talking about the Nimbys, the usual suspects, who take an active voice in it, whereas as an individual who lives in a community I'm supportive of most development if it happens in an appropriate way? The problem is what the local authorities end up seeing is the small—tiny—part of the percentage of the population that is against it. That isn't fully representative of the community voice, in my view.
Okay. Thank you, James. Neil.
Just to come back to this issue of resourcing the policy-making function in local planning authorities because we're talking about pre-application consultation on major development and major development can be a whole range of different things. The best examples of preparing LDPs are where there is positive site allocation and, at that stage, you can identify what your community's expectations will be to be delivered from this development. So, I think not to lose sight of this really important investing in the policy making, making design briefs et cetera, master planning activity as well, because I think James's point underlines it. Once you get to 28 days before a planning application is submitted, the room for flex on a scheme is really narrowed down quite considerably.
Okay. Thank you, all. Right, we'll move on then to Delyth for the next question.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. I wanted to ask you about how effective you think the current system is in respect of taking account of the Welsh language in the planning process. Because there's a fundamental link, isn't there, that's been established between the vitality of the Welsh language and the sustainability of communities in an economic sense, in a social sense. Neil, if I could ask you first, I believe you gave evidence to a predecessor committee in the last Senedd, where you said that the Welsh Government's overall approach to planning—sorry to embarrass you with your words, but you said that the overall approach to planning is based on urban-focused growth and stability elsewhere, which I think is kind of a marvellous phrase. I mean, that kind of manifests itself I suppose in lots of different things, arguably the national plan, the growth areas in the national plan, the regional working plans, structures like the CJCs, possibly. But can I ask you first, and then I'd be very interested to hear other members of the panel and what your ideas are on this: do you think that this approach works, and is there something to be said in terms of that approach in terms of the viability of the Welsh language, and communities not just in the areas of y fro Gymraeg that we tend to think of, but actually communities across Wales?
Yes, and it's horrible to have that Cofnod, isn't it? The comments and everything you said. The comment was specifically in relation to the growth areas in the NDF, and I suppose it was a critique of how do we think about in a national level policy document the creation of living communities that grow in an appropriate way. They might not have been identified as strategic growth areas, but they grow in an appropriate way.
Coming back to the language, we'll probably get onto the issue of second homes and everything—I see that's on the agenda as well. But in relation to what planning can do, I think some of these issues are very localised, so the report on second homes, by Simon Brooks, which was inspired partly by Welsh language concerns, shows some of these to be really, really quite localised issues. As for what the planning system can do, I think coming back to even decarbonisation and Welsh language, I mean, we've got things that are really profiled as very significant issues at a Welsh Government level and a Wales level, but when we get to a planning system, it's balance and compromise and I think if we're heading towards a critical point where some things such as decarbonisation and ensuring the vitality of the Welsh language, whether there are some things where—. Again, with the Welsh language, it's an issue that gets thrown into the mix in the planning sense, amongst many, many other issues. And I suppose there are categories of issues, I think, and the Welsh language may well be in there of where you have to take a much stronger position on what the planning system can do and how planners can do that; methodologies are important, language impact assessments, how they're done and where language sits within a range of competing policy priorities. I suppose that's what the underlying point is: when planners are faced with many different priorities, amongst which there has to be some balance between issues, sometimes what are important issues kind of fall into that mix, really.
Thank you. Would anyone else on the panel have any thoughts on this? Vicky.
Yes. Can you hear me?