Pedestrianised Falkirk could thrive, says charity

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Falkirk Council should be investing in the “local walking environment” in its efforts to revive the town centre - according to a new report from the charity Living Streets.

It says its study, The Pedestrian Pound, shows that Christmas shoppers who walk to high streets could be spending more than those who drive there - and hopes its new report inspires local authorities to take a more pedestrian-orientated approach to town centre planning.

Stuart Hay, Director, Living Streets Scotland said: “Walking has long been undervalued as a minor mode of transport but is in fact the lifeblood of the high street.

“There is a significant body of academic evidence and examples showing that environmental improvements can boost footfall and local economies”.

He added: “For too long the debate has focused solely on parking, instead of getting people out of their cars to support local businesses.

“For town centres to succeed we need high streets which are safe and attractive for walking, with 20mph zones and cleaner air. “With less traffic, people will be encouraged to visit and enjoy their local high street more often.”

The charity says data shows footfall increasing by a fifth to a third on streets where “the pedestrian experience” has been improved - adding that this bucks the trend of a decline in footfall of around a fifth across the UK over the last decade.

Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson, who is secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity said: “This is an important report from Living Streets which underlines the value of walking and footfall to our towns and cities.

“We know that walking benefits individual health and our shared environment, but the benefits do not stop there.

“While the nature of shopping has undoubtedly changed in the last decade, it’s clear that footfall on our streets remains an important driving force in our economy.

“By doubling active travel budget to £80m pounds, we are working with our active travel delivery partners and local authorities to improve infrastructure and encourage walking as a sustainable form of travel.”

Dr Rachel Lee, Policy and Research Coordinator, Living Streets said: “High streets need to offer people more than what they can get online.

“It needs to be about the experience, a place where people like to get together, socialise and feel part of a community.

“Making places better for walking complements the shift in emphasis towards the quality of the consumer experience.

“When people enjoy a place, they stay longer and spend more.

“Not only does this boost trade and help revive our high streets but by encouraging people to walk more we also bolster our national economy by improving public health and reducing congestion and pollution.”