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national update

Back in July 1998, the government published its Transport White Paper, which, for the first time, indicated a desire to develop Home Zones in the UK:

"Home Zones have been developed in a number of European countries and involve even lower traffic speeds [than 20mph], more pedestrianised areas and design features that emphasise the change in priority to pedestrians and cyclists. They could prove to be a valuable tool in improving the places where people live and children play.

With good design many of the objectives of home zones could be achieved within existing legislation. We will welcome proposals by, and work with, local authorities who wish to pilot the idea."

In February 1999, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) invited all local authorities in England and Wales to submit proposals for particular neighbourhoods as part of a national Home Zone pilot programme.

Not to say that the government was going to throw lots of cash at the development of the new Zones, just that the nine pilots that were chosen would be independently evaluated and the DETR would co-ordinate a certain amount of networking between the local authorities involved. The actual money needed for physical changes needed to be identified by each local authority from within their own budgets as part of their Local Transport Plans or from other pots of money like the Single Regeneration Budget, etc.

The pilot programme was to run for three years to include the consultation process with local residents, planning, implementation and evaluation. Only then would the government look at the possibility of introducing primary legislation around the issue of pedestrian priority. Sensible thinking or clever ploy... we'll leave that one for you to decide!

Of course, as the idea for Home Zones took hold, local authorities that put forward bids that weren't accepted as part of the pilot programme, decided to go ahead anyway in some cases - with no networking support or monitoring, let alone appropriate legislation. Each Authority can essentially decide for themselves what a Home Zone was or wasn't. It will be interesting to see what develops in the next few years.

Home Zones are not all about local authorities of course but a real partnership with neighbourhoods. This was reflected by residents of those neighbourhoods wanting to get together and network themselves. In January 2000 there was the "first national meeting for people living in neighbourhoods where Home Zones are being planned...". Residents from neighbourhoods all over England, Wales and Scotland attended the meeting hosted by the City of York Council.

Members of one of the Home Zone groups - the Five Roads Forum in Ealing - set up a web site which contains information about all the pilot neighbourhoods. It is also the place to go to join the Home Zones listserve - an email list that lets you discuss issues with the people in this country who are in the forefront of creating the first tranche of Home Zones.