‘Car-free day’ backed by councillors in St Albans

Children in St Albans played in the street on World Car Free Day, and councillors are proposing a si

Children in St Albans played in the street on World Car Free Day, and councillors are proposing a similar scheme for the whole city. Picture: Playing Out St Albans District - Credit: Archant

A ‘car-free’ day has been backed for St Albans as part of a council bid to put the spotlight on climate change and the environment.

Other UK cities, such as London and Edinburgh, have already held car-free days, and Labour Cllr Malachy Pakenham has now presented the idea to a meeting of St Albans district council.

The event could not be held without the support of Hertfordshire County Council, in its role as highways authority. The district council will now approach the county, in a bid to develop plans for a St Albans District Car Free Day in 2020.

At the meeting Cllr Pakenham - who has never owned a car - said the Roman city was never designed for the volume of cars today. He pointed to the 'over-usage' of cars and to a recent study that suggests the average speed for motorists in St Albans is just 18mph.

He suggested that the council seeks to hold an annual car-free day to encourage residents to think about car usage, and stressed that the motion was not designed to dictate to people that they should not use cars, but to nudge them to think about their actions.

Backing the motion, Liberal Democract council leader Cllr Chris White said he would be interested to talk to councillors further to determine whether this should be district-wide.

Conservative Cllr Mary Maynard said this was an "excellent" motion on an issue "which should concern us all". She pointed to the high levels of car ownership in St Albans, meaning that in many instances cars are used for just one person rather than families.

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However she cautioned against making this mandatory, saying some residents would resist and that people who live a few miles out of the city would struggle to comply.

Lib Dem Cllr Liz Needham said: "There's no implication that people are going to be forced to give up their cars, there won't be any petrol stations or car parks closed. If people choose on the day to use their cars there will be nothing to stop them. It is just a token gesture."

Meanwhile Independent and Green Cllr Simon Grover said the nervousness from the proposal for one car-free day was an indication of the challenge the council has in meeting climate change targets.