Think of the kids, children's czar tells Welsh Assembly21/01/2009 News
The Children’s Commissioner for Wales is backing an Assembly Committee attempt to increase the number of traffic-free paths for walking and cycling.
The proposal to impose a duty on local authorities to develop and maintain a network of paths for walkers, cyclists and disabled people was made by an unprecedented coalition of organisations in Wales led by Sustrans.
BT, Royal Mail, the British Medical Association, Age Concern, Play Wales, the National Union of Teachers and a range of other organisations have supported the proposed change in law being considered by the Assembly’s Enterprise Committee.
Welsh Transport Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones is expected to tell the Assembly Committee on Thursday why he is blocking the legislative competence order (LCO).
But in a letter issued to members of the Enterprise and Learning Committee, Children’s Commissioner for Wales Keith Towler said:
“A legal duty on Highway Authorities to develop and maintain a network of traffic-free routes could make a positive difference to the lives of children and young people in Wales. It could benefit their general health and well-being, tackle childhood obesity, provide safer routes to schools and greater access to play areas.
“It is also refreshing to note that children and young people’s issues have been raised in what might traditionally be seen as an adult-dominated arena.”
Lee Waters, National Director of Sustrans Cymru, said:
“This is the first time a proposal has come forward from civil society under the Welsh Assembly’s new law making powers. It has the support of organisations representing businesses, children, older people, health experts and a range of environmental charities. And we are delighted that the Children’s Commissioner for children in Wales has now added his independent voice.
“To encourage people to walk and cycle more often we need a network of well-maintained traffic-free paths. Left to their own devices Highway Engineers will not put pedestrians and cyclists first. Our proposal will help address the problems that the Assembly Government is committed to address. Now is the time for ministers to follow through.”
He added: “If the Assembly Government block the first initiative to come from civil society it will send a very negative signal to the voluntary sector.”