Public asked to have their say on sustainable transport and the climate emergency as part of the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan review

Graphic supplied

The Covid-19 Pandemic has impacted Highland communities in unprecedented ways and continues to do so. Amongst the multiple adverse impacts of this global crisis are some important lessons for how we recover and look to the future.

The review of Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan is now underway and gives us the opportunity to reflect and identify the best ways of tackling issues of sustainable transport and climate emergency. You can read more and comment on the strategy here.

At a time when the immediate effects of the pandemic are being experienced in every home and workplace, there is a bigger crisis unfolding,  the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

There are real and tangible actions that we can all take now. Learning from our shared pandemic experience, there are key opportunities to change how we live and move around in our everyday lives. Transport is highlighted in the  Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan Main Issues Report as being one of the major contributors of greenhouse gas emissions in the region, yet most trips are so short they could be taken in more sustainable ways, such as by bus, bike or walking.

Neil Macrae, Partnership Manager at HITRANS considers that “the widespread restrictions on people’s ability to move around has limited the geographical size of our world but has simultaneously awoken our appreciation of local green and open spaces. It has also shown us how well, or not, these assets are linked by safe, convenient walking, wheeling and cycling routes. As well as this heightened awareness of the availability of local places and spaces to take daily exercise, major decreases in traffic volumes resulting from lockdowns have highlighted how much space is given over to roads, how much noise and air pollution is reduced when cars volumes are reduced and how much safer our streets are for getting around, for our children to play and for everyone to enjoy.”

Part of The Highland Council response to the pandemic is the Spaces for People project. This work aims at making streets safe and convenient for essential workers to get to their workplaces by walking, wheeling or cycling, and ensuring enough space is available for people to physically distance in high footfall places. Emerging evidence from this work supports the case for a transition to more sustainable transport. It highlights that there is a real opportunity to create a fairer, healthier transport network that supports a range of ways of moving around, beyond the motor vehicle.

Sjoerd Tel, Infrastructure Co-ordinator for Sustrans Scotland highlights “We are making 20 minute neighbourhoods basis for #lockdownrecovery. 20 minute neighbourhoods make it easy, quick and convenient to travel by active modes or public transport first and reach the shops, destinations and community facilities that you need to on a day-to-day basis. This helps to reduce dependence on cars, and helps to improve the quality of important places, like town and city centres, and therefore increase footfall, economic vibrancy and sustainability.

As we look to tackle the effects of the pandemic on our town and city centres, particularly in the retail sector, the evidence points towards a transformation centred on making ­these places attractive destinations for people. This means footfall can increase and these important cultural and economic centres can become ‘sticky places’. In Inverness, projects underway to deliver much-needed housing coupled with the Victorian Market and Inverness Castle redevelopments mean there will soon be more people living and moving around the city centre. How we plan and grow our transport network therefore needs to be carefully considered to ensure where we live, work and play is fit for purpose, fair, healthy and supports a sustainable pandemic recovery and effective response to the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

17 Feb 2021