Author: Transport for New Homes

New Checklist to help root out car-dependent housing developments

In the rush to build new homes, too many estates are being built without public transport, local facilities or even pavements, leading to car dependence, congestion, pollution and unhealthy lifestyles. Now Transport for New Homes, a campaign group seeking to halt the spread of such car-based development, has produced a Checklist to enable local authorities, neighbourhood groups and others to easily identify housing plans that are likely to result in car-dependent lifestyles.

Conversely, the Checklist will help good housing plans to gain recognition for giving residents real, sustainable travel choices.

The lead author of the Checklist, Tim Pharoah of Transport for New Homes, said:

“Our country desperately needs more homes, but these must be located and designed to ensure that residents do not need cars to live a full life. Our visits to recent housing developments around the country revealed that too many had been built around car use. When housing is built on green fields, far from jobs, shops and services, with inadequate public transport and poor pedestrian and cycle links, residents are forced to drive for almost every journey.

“With traffic and air pollution blighting neighbourhoods, and transport being the UK’s main contributor to climate change, banishing the scourge of car-dependent housing is long overdue.”

Developed with input from bodies representing planning and transport professionals, as well as planners, academics and neighbourhood groups, the Checklist identifies, under ten broad headings, elements that make up a non-car-dependent housing development. These include:

  • A location within or closely connected to an existing settlement that has a clear centre
  • A welcoming environment, not dominated by car parking
  • Local facilities easily accessible without a car
  • Frequent public transport services in place from Day 1 of occupation

By considering each of these criteria, users of the Checklist can rate a housing plan as either Red, Amber or Green for how well it will avoid car-dependency.

Lynda Addison OBE FCIHT MTPS, Chair of the CIHT Sustainable Transport Panel, said:

“CIHT welcomes this important contribution to the radical changes needed in the way that homes and transport are designed to ensure that people can chose to live healthier and more active lives as part of their daily routine. This complements the forthcoming advice on ‘Better planning, better transport, better places’ that is about to be published by CIHT in partnership with TPS and the RTPI.”

Written without jargon, the Transport for New Homes Checklist is intended for use by local authorities, developers and neighbourhood groups alike to root out car-dependent housing plans. The Checklist will help to identify how such plans can be improved, or why they should be rejected altogether.

The Checklist can also be applied to developments that have already been built so that lessons can be learnt. Transport for New Homes has applied the Checklist to recent housing developments at Bath Riverside in the centre of Bath, and Castle Mead on the fringe of Trowbridge, Wiltshire.

Bath Riverside

Bath Riverside is a development of apartments and some town houses built on the site of a disused gasworks in the centre of Bath. It is well situated for walking to shops, entertainment, the railway station, bus station and bus stops. Car parking is limited and the public realm is shaped around walking. The development has contributed substantially to public transport improvements in the wider area and to new local pedestrian links.

Bath Riverside received high scores for its location, its walking routes and its public transport connections. It also scored well for its density, and for its attractive layout. When rated by different people its overall score ranged from 76% to 81%, giving it a GREEN rating.

Castle Mead

Castle Mead consists of some 600 homes built on green fields on the fringe of Trowbridge, Wiltshire. The new homes in part financed the construction of a bypass for Trowbridge and this road effectively cuts the estate in half. With few facilities on site, people wanting to walk out from the estate to shops or services either face a circuitous walk including an underpass, or must walk along the bypass with no pavements. Bus links to Castle Mead are infrequent and the station is a forty-minute walk away.

Castle Mead received low scores for its location, its walking and cycling routes and its public transport connections. Its density was low and its streets were dominated by car parking. When rated by different people its overall score ranged from 11% to 22%, giving it a RED rating.

How new housing developments can benefit from car clubs

Guest blog by Rebecca Townend, Co-wheels Car Club.

A car club based within a community can have a whole host of benefits for those who live there. An ideal way of introducing car club cars into a community is to mandate their inclusion in all new residential and mixed-use developments.

A car club is access to a personal vehicle without being tied to ownership, offering flexible use to book and drive. Cars are there to be used when you need them, for a long as you need them, but provide no burden the rest of the time. The upkeep of the vehicles, the insurance, fuel and logistics of a car club will all be taken care of by the provider.

Co-wheels is a car club operator based in Newcastle. It currently operates with over 600 cars UK-wide, including in new housing developments from Bournemouth to Aberdeen.

  • Stoke Quay, Ipswich. This housing development on the waterfront in Ipswich has a shared Toyota Aygo which has become essential in a lot of residents’ day-to-day lives.
  • Barns road, Oxford. The demand in this development in the South East of Oxford is enough to hold two cars – a Toyota Aygo and an Auris Hybid.
  • Aberdeen. Co-wheels have car clubs at four different small local communities in Aberdeen. These support the 25+ vehicles already located in Aberdeen City Centre.

This blog post is going to look at some of the main benefits that car clubs bring and why they can be a great addition to new residential developments:

Enabling residents to access opportunities that would have been otherwise unavailable

Typically, around 1/3 of car club members join in order to gain additional personal freedom. Car clubs provide affordable access to a car without the often-large purchase cost which for some is unaffordable. The main uses for residential car clubs are leisure, shopping and visiting friends and family.

Increasing disposable income

Car club members without a car spend no money on buying or maintaining private vehicles. Additionally, those who use car clubs as a second car or back-up option still save money. The cost of signing up and paying for a car only when you need it is notably less that having a car sitting outside your home that is not regularly used. These members therefore have more disposable income, which is often spent within local communities.

Increasing the use of electric vehicles

Buying an electric vehicle can be very costly. This, alongside the necessary charging infrastructure and electricity use can make EVs difficult to incorporate into everyday life. By using a car club and letting the provider do the hard work for them, members can enjoy electric vehicles without the hassle of private ownership. The increased use of EVs will have a positive impact on the air quality within the local community.

Combating air pollution

There are strong links between the social, economic and environmental demographics of an area and the increased rate of pollution. Rather than residents buying old, environmentally harmful cars for a low price, they could have an option to become a car club member. This saves money and stops unnecessary pollution.

Benefits to the developer

The inclusion of car club cars within a new residential site also brings significant benefits to the developer and is a valuable sales tool. Space that may have been used for personal parking or garages is freed up, providing additional outside green space for the residents. The cost of installing electric car recharging posts is significantly lower than that of providing land for parking and a car club is an attractive additional feature for prospective residents, especially when the developer also offers free membership for its residents.

The relevant local authority will often work with the developer for car club provision through Section 106 Agreements. These agreements would usually ensure that the developer provides suitable space and recharging infrastructure, and some level of pump priming to support the costs of the vehicles as they are established. Developers often recognise the benefit of subsidising membership and driving time, or an associated marketing plan.

Guest blog by Rebecca Townend, Co-wheels Car Club.

It’s difficult to produce sustainable travel patterns if you don’t build in the right places

Guest blog by Gordon Stokes, Visiting Research Associate at Transport Studies Unit, University of Oxford

Finding the right places to locate large numbers of new homes and jobs in crowded areas of the South East will need great care if we’re trying to encourage modes other than the car. New mapping shows graphically how people travel to work using 2011 census data, which recorded people’s usual residence location, and where they normally worked, and also asked the main mode of transport that they used. It’s by far the best available data available for looking at how travel to work varies between areas, even though there are many caveats about its accuracy.

I’ve mapped the data in a number of ways, and have recently produced a ‘traffic light’ form of mapping that shows the areas where large amounts of car travel are generated, and where there is much less. The two maps below show the relative distance driven to work, for residents (left hand map) and for each job (right hand map).

Kilometres driven per resident (left) and per job (right) in Oxford to Milton Keynes area. Green circles show low mileage and red/mauve high.

Residents near the centre of Oxford are in the lowest quartile of distance driven (green) while those in Bicester are all in the highest quartile (red and violet). While Milton Keynes fares averagely for residents (yellow and amber), for jobs it creates mileage in the highest 10% (violet). And while central Oxford seems relatively sustainable the workplaces to the South and West produce high mileages.

The maps above are part of a series with commentary relating to the ‘Oxford-Cambridge Expressway’, a sort of outer M25 proposed which would come with 1 million extra homes built before 2050. You can interpret the maps in different ways, but to me they show that the problems of locating those homes and related jobs in a way that could be described as sustainable are immense. Oxford and Cambridge are unique in their makeup and ‘traditions’ of cycling, and it’s difficult to replicate that elsewhere. The maps can be viewed on my website. The pages take some time to load and are pretty useless on a phone, due to their complexity and scale – sorry about that if you’re a phone user!

You can remove the introduction and then view different layers of the map, and read about the patterns shown. More general national mapping can be found at the link at the bottom right, or here.

The Oxford-Cambridge maps show the difficulties for the proposed road and building, but other areas of the country show different issues. London’s well developed public transport network, large scale and centralised jobs (in conjunction with the impossibility of high numbers reaching the centre by car) shows that low driver mileage can be achieved there. Other major conurbations don’t fare so well, with strong centres and strong economy being a key issue. Residents in most large cities use cars less, but jobs in centres such as Leeds and Manchester with strong economies produce much more car travel than Liverpool, Hull, Blackpool and others. But it tends to be those with weaker economies and least developed public transport and least centrality that have the highest rate of travel by modes other than driving, active modes and public transport (which mainly means high levels of travel as a car passenger).

My next stage of this work will be to measure how factors such as distance from motorway, and relative concentration of jobs affects driver mileage, which may help provide better explanations for some of the ‘surprises’ in the maps. At the moment, from this mapping, it’s difficult to say how new development and sustainable travel can be synergetic – it just helps show where not to locate. Hopefully more analysis will provide some pointers as to where it should be.

Guest blog by Gordon Stokes, Visiting Research Associate at the Transport Studies Unit, University of Oxford

Under development: the Transport for New Homes Checklist

Sorry, the deadline for feeding into our Checklist has now passed.

When it comes to avoiding car-dependency, what are the various elements that make up a good housing development?

Some are obvious: the development should have easy access to direct and frequent bus routes, for instance. Others are often forgotten: cycle routes should not end at the site boundary but should join up with a wider network. Homes should have secure, easy-to-access bike storage.

Transport for New Homes is developing a Checklist (currently in draft form) that can be used to assess new housing for how well it avoids car-dependency. We hope our Checklist will be used by a wide variety of people, and at the Local Plan stage of planning, not just when applications are made. It can also be used to score existing housing developments.

As we develop our Checklist we’re appealing to our network of planners, politicians and professionals, academics, campaigners and local residents to help us make it as useful as possible. What do YOU think the checklist should include?

Please read our draft Checklist and then use the form below to tell us if we’ve missed anything.

Feed into the Transport for New Homes Checklist

Sorry, the deadline for feeding into our Checklist has now passed.

Simon Norton

In Memoriam Simon Norton

We were deeply sad to learn that Simon Norton, a supporter of Transport for New Homes since its inception, passed away in February 2019.

A passionate and thoughtful campaigner for sustainable transport, Simon Norton helped to set up Transport for New Homes and funded the project through the Foundation for Integrated Transport, a grant-making charity that he founded and chaired. Simon was a member of our steering group, and he helped to research our Transport for New Homes report, visiting a number of new housing developments and assessing their public transport provision.

Jenny Raggett, lead author of the report, accompanied Simon on some of these visits. Jenny remembers Simon’s unique approach, his humour and the extraordinary depth of his knowledge:

 I could describe the unique experience of going to Priors Hall’s Park housing estate with Simon as part of the Transport for New Homes visits. This could include the detailed knowledge that Simon had of the naming of bus stops and the exact departure times of buses at Corby station on the way, the fruitless pursuit of somewhere for tea in the enormous development without any facilities, how we got a tour in the developer’s 4×4 because he had rarely seen any pedestrians and wondered what we were doing, and how Simon designed a bus service in his head on the spot and told the developer all about it in detail. Then there was a cross country walk afterwards organised by Simon to see a nice village followed by a race across a field with a very tall crop to get the bus back, Simon waving an OS map saying that the footpath was definitely this way and that if we missed the bus there wasn’t another one that day. We did catch it…”

Simon’s work was guided by a deep concern about climate change and a core belief that good public transport is a human right. Just days after his death, the Committee on Climate Change adopted the key findings and recommendations of the Transport for New Homes report – a great tribute to Simon’s vision.

The Committee on Climate Change says:

 New developments should enable sustainable travel, which should be a primary consideration from the beginning of the planning process. This includes planning neighbourhoods around infrastructure to encourage walking, cycling, the use of public transport and electric vehicles. Walking and cycling routes should be well lit, feel safe and be segregated from busy traffic. Integrating consideration of sustainable transport into plans for new houses should ensure developments are easy to serve by public transport. Local authorities must consider where best to locate new homes to minimise the need to travel to work and amenities such as shops and schools.”

This is just one way in which Simon’s legacy will live on.

The Transport for New Homes Charter is dedicated to Simon.