29 NOVEMBER 1963, Page 4


LVI: \ the most dimly perceptive pedestrian r:nisi by nos' have noticed a feeling among motorists that Mr. Marples is not their friend. P. is a mistaken and unjust feeling, to be sure. born of frustration that our present system ■)I urban roads ,:annot go on taking more and more traffic %vithinit slowing vehicles to a standstill. But it is largely due to Mr. Marples's ingenuity in traffic management that they have been able to absorb the amount they do. Only recently have the main. roads in Central London begun to re- turn to the paralysing chaos of a few years ago. Between the autumns of 1960 and 1961, in fact, the average speed of traffic on these roads rose by nine per cent due to clever management.

It would be entirely misleading, therefore. if the impression were to get around that the Buchanan Report, Traffic in Towns,* is anti- motorist. What it is is the first honest assessment of how the volume of traffic in the whole country is likely to rise in the next fifty years and the:first realistic attempt to show how we should deal with the problems it raises democratically and in the broadest interests of the largest number of citizens. Its basic principles are that the volume will continue to rise for many years to come, that the rise will be at its steepest in the next ten years and that it would be entirely wrong to ignore the will of the majority of people to have and use their own vehicle. To plan our towns and buildings without allowances for traffic, it argues, would he as absurd as to plan them without allowing for people.

The Buchanan Report is of immense and en- couraging practical value. Its pilot studies of such widely different areas as Leeds, Newbury. Norwich and a. segment of Central London show that the problem is by no means insoluble. The solution needs only money, proper research and the proper machinery to put decisions into prac- tice. This machinery does not exist at the moment. Under the present unwieldy and. per- missive system whereby the Ministry of Housing and Local Government inspects and passes the plans of over 200 local authorities, it is small wonder that what planning there is is on too small a scale and often based on do principle other than intuition and short-term expediency.

The Report's central theme is simply and rightly this: that traffic and buildings can no longer be treated as separate problems. They are the same problem, and it is clear that delay in accepting this principle will only make its ulti- mate implementation more and more unlikely. The Buchanan Report means that not only must we embark on new plans at once, but we must be prepared to abandon many that have already been passed. The LCC could make a good start by giving up its scheme to widen the Finchley Road as a main artery in and out of Central Lon- don at the same time as developing it as a shopping and commercial centre. Such facing- both-ways planning in the end can only create more problems and dangers than it solves.

• Published by HMSO at 50s.