Freiham is specifically designed as a green and pleasant place for walking and cycling and for using public transport.
Over the summer Transport for New Homes presented ‘Upside-down Geography‘ at events in London, Birmingham and Bristol. The geography of planning has become upside-down because of a failure of national strategy. Locations for new housing are not considered in terms of sustainable transport, access to services, employment or environmental impact. Instead, achieving local authority housing targets has led to a dispersed pattern of development that is very difficult to serve by public transport or other sustainable modes of travel.
In an ‘upside down geography’ world, we build new homes according to algorithms that place very high housing in rural places, where the car ends up the only way of getting about, and where employment, education and other services are in short supply. The ‘cowpat’ developments then results, built around new roads and car-based living, an english interpretation of US-style car-based sprawl. A different more modern approach is needed, much less orientated around the car.
On this theme, Transport for New Homes ran two workshops at the Transport Action Network conference in Birmingham. This was primarily a conference for campaigners against road schemes but we showed another aspect of major road construction, which is that it lays the foundation for greenfield development, opening up land for hundred of thousands of new homes in car-dependent estates. The problem is so widespread that the 2021 census now shows that our urban areas are losing population to rural and mainly rural areas, in the south west, south east, midlands and eastern part of the country.
A better model: transit-oriented development
It seems that we have missed out in England on choosing sites for new development integrated with mass transit systems, either existing or extended, and development of small and large brownfield sites. As part of a ‘zero carbon’ solution we seem to favour development off new roads instead, but a different model is possible.
A better way of building is along new or improved public transport corridors. One way of achieving this is with land value capture. We were delighted to have George Hazel speak at our Manchester event on the success of the Northumbria Line. This approach appears popular with land owners and developers. Land and property within 1km of the construction of a new metro, light rail or heavy rail station increases in value and developers are keen to build once they know that new infrastructure and services are coming soon. Six stations are proposed on the line, and Northumberland Park passengers will be able to change onto the Tyne and Wear Metro.
Twenty minute neighbourhoods
One much discussed topic recently is the idea of “20 minute neighbourhoods”, the idea that people will be able to access all the services and goods they need within a 15 or 20 minute journey on foot or bike. This is very laudable in principle, but as TfNH has been pointing out is far from the reality in many of the places it has visited. In some cases councils and developers are measuring the 20 minutes by straight lines (as the crow flies) rather than by real roads and footpaths, and there isn’t much of a check on the quality of those walking and cycling routes, or indeed access to public transport. TfNH adviser Stephen Joseph gave a presentation to Leeds City Council, in which he set out the origins of 15-20 minute neighbourhoods and some of the issues to consider.
Planning is (still) all up in the air
Our planning system has been in a state of uncertainty, reflecting the recent political turmoil nationally. Local Authority planners have been similarly unsure about how to proceed. We have heard of delays in local plan work over housing requirements and uncertainty of national policy. Some reports say that Local Plan making has ground to a halt. Some campaigners might have been happy to hear Boris Johnson speak out against greenfield development but this idea did not find itself translated to planning policy or legislation. There seems however to be little or no talk about the important contribution made by transport and the way that our continuing emphasis on road building to open up land is not helping matters.
Liz Truss campaigned on the notion of abolishing ‘stalinist top-down housing targets’ in the run up to the election of a new Prime Minister. The planning press then reported that Whitehall-led housing needs figures will be dropped under the new Truss administration. However the 300,000 homes per year national target appears to remain. In late November 2022 roughly 50 Conservative MPs rebelled against housing targets on the basis these are so high in many rural and semi rural places that they force large swathes of the countryside to be covered in car-dependent sprawl.
However at Transport for New Homes we have noted that there is little talk about building in a different way, for example around mass transit systems, sustainable modes and so on, although the concept at least, of building on brownfield sites is popular. The Department of Levelling Up Homes and Communities (DLUHC) needs we think, to integrate sustainable transport provision much more into the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) than is currently the case. Where and how we build is key.
John and Jill have been house-hunting in some recently-built developments. They sent these postcards back to show what they found.
Since John and Jill don’t drive, they have been using trains and buses to get to the new housing areas, sometimes with adventures on the way. In the end they do find places to suit their needs and the variety of places they visit is an education in itself…
These postcards are of course fictitious and are generally composites of several new housing developments. However they serve to highlight some of the issues that Transport for New Homes sees as important to planning, namely walkability, living without a car, and good access to public transport and cycling networks.
All over the country, local authorities are preparing local plans for the future, many of these spanning 15 or 20 years up to and beyond 2035. The manifestation of past local plans has now appeared in the form of new areas of housing, but these are far from green transport-wise. We have visited many large ‘bubbles’ of car-based estates where tarmac and parking take up nearly as much space in residential streets as houses, and where retail, employment and services are often pinned on new road systems, bypasses and larger motorway junctions. Car-based housing is coupled with car-based destinations and lifestyles soon follow.
The government publication Decarbonising Transport – A Better and Greener Britain indicates that this model of development must surely be set to change. It explains:
‘The Government wants walking, cycling or public transport to be the natural first choice for journeys. Where developments are located, how they are designed and how well public transport services are integrated has a huge impact on whether people’s natural first choice for short journeys is on foot or by cycle, by public transport or by private car. The planning system has an important role to play in encouraging development that promotes a shift towards sustainable transport networks and the achievement of net zero transport systems.’
Unless quick action is taken, thousands and thousands of new homes will be built in the wrong places and in the wrong way for ‘the decarbonisation of transport’, and we need to intervene fast as new local plans for the future are firming up.
Changes need to happen at national policy level – our National Planning Policy Framework and associated Planning policy Guidance needs to place sustainable transport right at the heart of planning, which it does not at the moment do.
The first big change will need to be strong guidance on where we build the homes of the future. At the moment many of the locations for enormous housing estates in the countryside are completely wrong for sustainable modes. This is explained in our two reports on visits to new housing and our analysis of ‘garden communities’. At the moment the location of development is largely developer-led. How power will be given to planners to choose where and how best to build will be important.
The second big change in central planning policy must surely be the coordination of many developments with sustainable transport across a wider area. Only when this happens can you plan new-build with a new or improved railway line and a series of stations, or build along a tram route or top quality bus service. Also, the funding of new local stations and mass transit needs to be made much easier and faster. The current barriers for local authorities and developers alike to making progress on these matters cannot be understated.
Cycleways, like public transport, need to link right across an area to multiple destinations. Rather than each developer individually deciding where cycle routes might go on a piecemeal basis, these will need designing and funding early on to link and mesh together a whole area. In the case of being able to walk to and from the development, the importance of continuous streets with adjacent towns is essential. A number of smaller developments may be much better in this respect than giant housing estates that are severed by main roads or several fields away from the edge of the nearest town.
Then comes the obvious change to the planning system which needs to be coupled with the provision of sustainable modes. This shift away from car use means less parking and less need to build new road capacity, giant roundabouts and all the other road paraphernalia which comes with modern ‘mini-America’ type development.
We have seen many residential areas dominated by tarmac: islands of homes in a sea of parking and roads with very little in the way of gardens. National Planning Guidance needs to be quite clear about the reduced emphasis on the car. This saves money and it saves land. It means more homes (with gardens), room for urban trees, and places designed around streets at a more human scale for walkable and local provision.
The government says very clearly that the planning system has an important role to play in the achievement of net zero transport systems. Whether there will be planning reforms to achieve a genuine shift to public transport, walking and cycling when it comes to expanding our town and cities and building new homes in general, remains to be seen.
Join our Homes Without Jams campaign, to reform planning for a green transport future.
Blog by Jenny Raggett, Transport for New Homes
There has in recent days been much talk about the Chesham and Amersham byelection, a constituency that has always been Conservative but has now been won by the Liberal Democrats. An important election issue was the Government’s proposed changes to the planning system, with fears that planning reform will reduce the voice of local people and that this distancing from what local people want will facilitate planning permission for yet more enormous housing estates on treasured countryside, including in Buckinghamshire.
The idea that new homes are needed is generally accepted. Rarely discussed in the popular press however, is the kind of development that we do want, the sort of homes to be built and for whom, and how to make sure that new housing is not car-dependent but walkable and furnished with modern public transport. Transport is not a detail. Building out-of-town, car-based estates presents a landscape of often small houses, deserts of parking lots and roads, these taking up valuable space where there might be gardens, trees and pavements and more spacious living accommodation. It also means that residents have to buy a car, or two or even three cars per household which may be unaffordable. Destinations also quickly become car-based in this new-built sprawl and drivers fill our roads with yet more traffic. Problems further arise as those living in the sprawling greenfield estates travel into cities in their cars, places where people are trying meanwhile to reclaim the streets for pedestrians.
Returning to the Chesham and Amersham byelection, the politicians are already on the case. Yesterday there was an opposition debate in the House of Commons, entitled ‘local involvement in planning decisions’, which debated the motion: ‘That this House believes planning works best when developers and the local community work together to shape local areas and deliver necessary new homes; and therefore calls on the government to protect the right of communities to object to individual planning applications.’
MPs were rightly concerned that local communities should be involved in planning their area and should not be ignored. However what was not tackled or debated is what happens when we build in the wrong location in terms of access to jobs and services, why we end up with monoculture ‘tarmac’ housing with land wasted on so much parking, and how we make it possible to travel in and out of the new area on foot or bike, or indeed by modern public transport.
The developments proposed around Chesham and Amersham are on countryside a long way from the station and, as campaigners point out, will compel any new residents to commute by car thereby further worsening local traffic congestion and the already bad air quality in the town. A local group advocating brownfield not greenfield has formed and has been very active in the Local Plan process; but it is the mention of the station that is interesting to us.
Chesham and Amersham are at the end of the Metropolitan Line, famous for its role in stimulating the development of new suburbs north west of London. Could a reformed planning system talk about the importance of new stations and new metros as the centrepiece of new development – an idea suggested also by the Connected Cities project who have done much work on this notion? Local services and employment would be then meshed in with homes and profit from the public transport accessibility, with stations a kind of centre for the development, just as they are in the various suburbs along the Metropolitan Line. With less need for parking and road access, altogether different places could be built. A pipe dream? Perhaps. But the Metropolitan Line did it and it was successful.
We have seen on our visits that many large towns and cities are growing substantially now with hundreds of thousands of new homes planned for areas with poor public transport. Forget housing around new bypasses, ring roads, motorway junctions and bigger roundabouts. The metro may well have an important role to play in the future. Why not?
What will the likely transport impact of a new development be? How many trips is it likely to generate? To work this out, transport planners use TRICS, which is a database of information about the trips generated by past developments.
In the past, TRICs has been used as part of a ‘Predict and Provide’ paradigm, which tends to mean ‘predict how many people will want to drive places, and provide road space for them’.
But this year the consortium behind TRICS released new guidance calling on transport planners to instead ‘Decide and Provide’: decide on the preferred future and provide the means to work towards that. In this guest blog, Lynn Basford of BasfordPowers Ltd, which helped to produce the guidance, explains its implications.
The way that we think about planning for the future is beginning to change and needs to change in light of the UK’s commitment to decarbonising its economy, the Covid-19 pandemic and the digital connectivity that we are now presented with.
As Professor Glenn Lyons recognises in his Foreword to the new guidance released by TRICS this year, “We live our lives within a “Triple Access System” comprised of different and interacting means of being able to access people, jobs, goods, services and opportunities” (the Triple Access System refers to the transport, land-use and telecommunications systems). This needs to be reflected in the way we approach planning for homes and services.
We as land use and transport planners need to embrace the requisite for change and ensure our Local Plans and site specific plans reflect these societal shifts.
The tools that we use in land use and transport planning, and how we use them, need to reflect changing consumer and travel behaviour.
A very well used tool in transport planning is TRICS. TRICS has an ever growing database (some 7,150 transport surveys) of observed trip rates associated with different types and scales of development. It has been a well-used if not default source for supporting the estimation of trip rates associated with new developments. Such measurements have guided the requirements for transport infrastructure and services.
The common use of the ‘Vehicle Only’ TRICS calculation which looks at vehicle and cycle trips can conspire against sustainable development if not used carefully and can lead to the over provision of highway capacity and the potential under provision of walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure and services. This common use (whilst heavily guarded against in the TRICS Best Practice Guidance 2021) equates to a Predict and Provide approach to planning new development.
TRICS does provide multi modal data (walking, cycling and public transport trips), and it is this information along with the analysis of historic trends data that needs to be used to shape developments and plan for sustainable developments.
So how do we stop being insane and planning the same over and over again?
In February 2021 TRICS launched its new Guidance on the Practical Implementation of the Decide and Provide approach. This approach starkly constrasts with the Predict and Provide approach. Its focus is upon deciding on the preferred future and providing the means to work towards that which can accommodate uncertainty. The Decide and Provide approach provides the opportunity to meaningfully prioritise a modal hierarchy giving greater upfront consideration of walking and cycling and asking the three key questions:
- What sort of place are we creating?
- What kind of activities do we need or desire to travel for?
- How will we provide for mobility?
Visioning is central to the Decide and Provide approach. It is essential that transport and land use planners jointly vision development proposals, whether in private sector planning or the public sector development management.
The TRICS new guidance provides us with a detailed methodology for applying the Decide and Provide Approach. For those out there who say that this approach can’t work, TRICS has helpfully provided a set of worked examples including for food retail, discount food retail, large residential, medium residential, residential brown field sites and small residential. Something for everyone!
One of the key take-aways from the guidance is that the TRICS data is showing that trip rates associated with developments are changing and we can change them further by the way we plan new developments.
I believe that we can avoid insanity by embracing this new approach in transport planning which supports the new paradigm of Decide and Provide and we can genuinely get sustainable, adaptive development planning that supports social, economic and travel behaviour change.”
Director and Founder of BasfordPowers Ltd
When infrastructure such as a new rail line is built, the value of the land around it goes up: suddenly this land is desirable for housebuilding because people want to live near the new rail route. Landowners hit the jackpot. The problem is that such infrastructure projects are often tricky to get funding for in the first place. It ought to be possible to take some of that potential uplift in land value, and invest it in the good infrastructure to get projects such as new rail lines off the ground.
This idea is called Land Value Capture (LVC). LVC has the potential to solve one of the big issues we face – that it’s easier and cheaper to build roads for new housing rather than public transport. LVC helps solve this problem, and also gives landowners and developers incentives to build higher density developments with less space for cars.
LVC is being put into practice by Dr George Hazel of E-Rail, who has written this guest blog for us.
“For the last ten years, E-Rail has been working on a way to plug the funding gap for new investment (primarily in rail) by developing a means of capitalising on the uplift in land value around infrastructure projects and using it as a funding source.
This is known as Land Value Capture (LVC) and it is a way for communities to recover and reinvest land value increases that result from public investment and government actions. The concept of LVC is not new. It was used for the Canadian Pacific Railway completed in 1881, providing 12,500 miles of new track, and the London Metropolitan Line, 41 miles of underground and 34 stations, which opened in 1863. More recently, the Ørestad metro, that opened in Denmark in 2002, was also funded using LVC.
The historical schemes were done in an age of different planning and procurement rules and regulations, and the Ørestad project used land wholly owned by the Danish State and the City of Copenhagen. It is not so easy to do it here and now, given the necessary constraints of independence and discretion required by current procurement and planning rules and regulations, especially when seeking to secure contributions from multiple private sector landowners and developers interested in maximising their return.
E-Rail spent many years researching and developing a method of capturing and sharing this uplift created by a new transport facility between the provider of the service and the landowners and developers who benefit. The process was not easy, but we have now developed, tested and delivered a method that is unique in the UK. We’ve been doing this as we care about improving our infrastructure and developing sustainable communities.
In the north east we have proved it can be done, working with Northumberland County Council (NCC) to secure between 25% and 30% of the capital funding required for a new passenger rail line from Land Value Capture (LVC). This project will have a massive benefit to communities, improving connectivity without increasing the number of cars on the road.
The line – which Beeching closed for passengers in the 1960s – was allocated £34m to commence early works by the Department for Transport (DfT) on 23 January 2021 and will see 18 miles of track upgraded and six new stations. This will be the first time our methodology has been used globally. [See a map of the Northumberland Line].
Our method can be applied to any fixed infrastructure transport scheme – heavy and light rail, metro, BRT, roads, bridges, ferries and potentially flood prevention schemes. It can apply to single stations or to large multi-station schemes where land value uplift will occur.
As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the economy recovers, support from LVC could play an important role in funding future transport infrastructure.
We know that there are more opportunities for this to work elsewhere. In fact, there are a significant number of rail projects, both heavy and light, around the UK that local transport authorities want to deliver for social and economic reasons. Funding for many of these projects has historically been constrained, and this will be further exacerbated by the unplanned government spending on the COVID-19 pandemic. We have already seen a reduction in central government infrastructure funding for Network Rail and Transport for the North and the current economic outlook suggests that this is just the start. We believe LVC could be a critical building block to economic recovery.”
About George Hazel
Dr George Hazel is a Director of E-Rail, E-Rail International and the George Hazel Consultancy. E-Rail was set up in 2010 to help secure and deliver private sector money raised from land value capture to help contribute significant capital cost towards the building of new public transport infrastructure. The company has worked around the world introducing its methodology which is being explored throughout the UK, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.
Guest blog by Richard Tamplin
”When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
Of course, we all know what sustainability means – don’t we? It’s now almost 40 years since the United Nations, concerned by the rapidly deteriorating natural environment, established the World Commission on Environment and Development to devise a plan for achieving “sustainable development”. The Brundtland Report, named after its Chairman, defined the term as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
The United Kingdom signed up to the principles of the Brundtland Report by endorsing the Rio Declaration of 1993. And, when the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published in 2012, it announced, “The purpose of the planning system is to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development.” (para 6)
That being so, how it is possible to describe as sustainable development one of the latest proposed ‘garden villages’, to be built at the end of the A326 described locally as ‘the longest cul-de-sac in Europe’, over 18km from the closest train station and served by one bus per hour taking about an hour to reach any significant centre of employment? But that is how the two Local Plan Inspectors described the proposed allocation of land comprising the former Fawley Power Station for up to 1380 dwellings plus business uses when approving the New Forest District Local Plan in 2019.
Perhaps they were thinking of the proposed re-opening of the passenger service on the Fawley branch, which ceased in 1965; a good idea in principle. But today the line ends in the Exxon Refinery, an HSE Major Hazard, so on safety and security grounds impossible for a public passenger service. And if the line ends short at the former Hythe station, would occupiers of the “garden village” use the service? Fawley Waterside is to have a yacht basin and boat stack able to take up to 60m long superyachts, with neo-Georgian town houses or bijou cottages along green ‘droveways’ where ponies will wander freely, not to mention almost 4,000 parking spaces. (Artists’ images of the proposed development – complete with ponies – can be seen on the Fawley Waterside website.)
These occupiers will shop, dine and be entertained in the mega-centre of Southampton’s West Quay or in gastro pubs and restaurants in and around the New Forest. None of these is easy or convenient by public transport as users of Southampton station know. Worse, the existing but financially fragile Hythe to Southampton ferry is likely to close as Hampshire County Council would probably move its subsidy from the ferry to the branch passenger service. Already Hampshire have miraculously found money to ‘improve’ the A326, after denying for years there is any possibility of such funding.
Yet why do this when anyone familiar with this part of the New Forest knows that the everyday situation cries out for fewer cars, not more, when all roads are single carriageway, often single lane, and used, not only by walkers and cyclists, but also as of right by cattle, sheep, pigs and the well-known New Forest ponies, none of the latter having learned the Highway Code. Consequently, satnav predictions of 23-minute journeys between Fawley and Brockenhurst Station via Beaulieu are hopelessly over-optimistic, especially during summer holidays and in bad weather, when the journey may take an hour or more. On the A326 frequent road works and accidents cause similar long delays for commuter journeys to and from Southampton.
The answer to why this is now ‘sustainable development’ is to be found in the updated NPPF of April 2012 which introduced “The presumption in favour of sustainable development … which should be seen as a golden thread.” (para 14) On its face, this phrase appears to be a move closer to Brundtland and the Rio Declaration, but things are not how they appear in the looking glass world of Government. For plan-making this means that, “strategic policies should meet objectively assessed needs”, while for decision-taking it means, “approving development proposals that accord with the development plan without delay.”
This guidance was tightened in the NPPF 2018 to require “objectively assessed need” to be met as a minimum (my emphasis). Henceforward, sustainable development meant local plans must provide enough land for housing, irrespective of local circumstances. Yet the provision of land is a supply side issue, whereas need expresses the demand for homes and in a market economy must relate that demand to price. And to discover what “objectively assessed needs” means we must turn to Planning Practice Guidance, the on-line document of several hundred pages which can and does change frequently, with little or no notice, and without leaving a record of its earlier versions. This says the first step of the procedure for calculating the minimum local housing need is to identify the baseline using the household projection growth of 2014.
Why 2014? Because since then, despite biennial updates by the Office for National Statistics, the 2014 figures showed higher household growth than in any subsequent year, but Government has refused to recognise this changing situation. Therefore, projected housing needs for many local authorities to 2030 are now over-inflated by significant amounts and nowhere near that amount of housing land is required. This is particularly true in the South-East where ever-rising housing costs have choked off new household formation.
In the New Forest this absurd situation has led the District Council to seize any chance of land for housing, despite most of it in or adjoining the National Park, nature conservation sites of international importance, extensive safety protection zones or liable to serious flood risk due to climate change. The former Fawley Power Station site has all of these characteristics. However, as ‘brownfield’ land, it is a gift horse not to be turned away. But sustainable development it is not.
Guest blog by Richard Tamplin
Richard was inspired to go into planning when still at school after encountering Eric Lyons’ Span Developments in the early 1960s. Following a planning degree at Newcastle he worked for local authorities and for himself, taught planning, established an eco museum, and represented community groups. He became a Planning Inspector in 1986 and since retiring has sought to promote good planning as a public benefit.
Press release: 16 June 2020
Far from being vibrant, green communities, Garden Villages and Garden Towns  are at high risk of becoming car-dependent commuter estates, research by Transport for New Homes  has found. The group examined plans for 20 Garden Communities  and found that they will create up to 200,000 car-dependent households, generating high levels of traffic on surrounding roads including motorways.
Jenny Raggett, Project Coordinator at Transport for New Homes, said:
“Put forward by the government as an alternative to characterless estates, Garden Villages may well end up with more tarmac than garden, limited public transport, and few ‘village’ amenities to walk or cycle to.”
The coronavirus outbreak has placed new emphasis on walking and cycling, with wider pavements and new cycle lanes springing up in cities. The benefits of living more locally have come to prominence. By contrast, Transport for New Homes found that Garden Villages will be largely unsuitable for walking and cycling due to their remote location, their layout and their lack of safe routes in and out of the estate. Local facilities may well never materialise in these car-based developments: non-driving residents will be forced to walk up to seven miles to the nearest town centre .
Looking to the future, the need for modern bus, tram and train networks to avert climate crisis is expected to come to the fore . But rather than new or improved public transport, the group found that plans for Garden Villages and Garden Towns promise major increases in road capacity to cater for a massive expected rise in car use. Garden Communities are not being planned with new metro stations at their hearts, nor are high-quality bus or tram routes assured to serve them in the future.
Many Garden Communities are backed by Government funding, the criteria for which are laid out in the MHCLG’s Garden Communities Prospectus . Communities should “be largely self-sustaining and genuinely mixed-use” with “public transport, walking and cycling” enabling “simple and sustainable access to jobs, education and services”. Instead, Transport for New Homes found strong evidence that:
- All 20 of the Garden Communities examined in detail will encourage car dependent lifestyles with the car the primary mode of transport at every single one.
- These 20 settlements will create up to 200,000 car dependent households.
- Only one settlement (Aylesham – although itself not funded by Homes England) offers amenities and a railway station within 1 mile of every home, though the train service is infrequent and there are no safe cycle routes to access it.
- All other settlements failed to provide access to amenities and a railway station within 1 mile of all new homes with safe walking and cycling routes.
- None of the 20 settlements will provide bus services to all households all day, all week.
- Cycle routes from Garden Villages into nearby towns will often be long and dangerous.
- Residents will have to walk up to 7 miles to access a railway station or go to the nearest town centre.
Jenny Raggett, Project Coordinator at Transport for New Homes, continued:
“It looks like Garden Communities are to become car-based commuter estates just like any other – exactly what the government wanted to avoid. Rather than seeing the emphasis on public transport that the Garden Communities Prospectus promised, with new stations funded at the heart of the development, or firm investment in modern bus rapid transit, light rail or trams, nearly every Garden Community comes with a long list of road improvements such as bypasses, link roads and new motorway junctions. Although the theme of the ‘local’ and ‘self-sufficient’ is the official line, the language adopted in the promotion of Garden Villages makes great play of their strategic location for long-distance commuting. It is doubtful, given this emphasis, that local shops and services will flourish.”
Steve Chambers, Sustainable Transport Campaigner at Transport for New Homes, said:
“Our visits to sites of Garden Towns and Garden Villages highlighted the chasm between the proposed visions and the built reality. We found that because of remote locations, public transport was rarely already provided and funding had not been secured to make it available when residents move in. Walking and cycling were clearly afterthoughts and even in the better examples did not provide safe and convenient routes to basic amenities beyond the development boundary. Garden Villages were typically too small to support any amenities and are not being built on a sustainable scale. Larger Garden Towns typically located new housing beyond a ring road, on the edge of an established town and poorly connected with it. Car dependency is being built into the Garden Towns and Garden Villages by design.”
Steve Gooding, Director of the RAC Foundation and a Chair of the Steering Group for Transport for New Homes, said:
“The vision for garden developments is laudable but is at grave risk of being missed – far from being delivered in a way that would encourage us to leave our cars at home the reality looks set to ingrain car dependence.
“Living completely ‘car-free’ is probably a pipe-dream outside the centres of our towns and cities – the reality is that many of us will still wish to own and use our cars but not want to be forced to get behind the wheel for every trip we make.
“Good road connections matter: they’re vital for buses, bicycles and, as we’ve learnt in recent weeks, delivery vans too, not just for the private motorist. But they have to be designed with a sensible layout, including wide footways so that walking to the local shops or to school is a safe, practical and appealing proposition.”
The recommendations in Transport for New Homes’ report include:
- Commission an urgent reassessment of the sustainability in transport terms of all planned Garden Communities and do not give outline planning permission until it is clear that sustainable transport elements in each vision are fully funded and specified.
- Build close to existing town centres or create strings of developments along public transport routes, rather than scattering developments around the countryside.
- Direct Government funding to public realm, place-making, and sustainable transport including Dutch-style cycling networks, local rail, rapid transit, buses and trams.
- Make sure that sustainable transport infrastructure is funded to extend beyond the site boundary.
- Put kickstart funding and other financial incentives in place to establish shops, cafes, pubs, shared workspaces and other local facilities with the development, creating a walkable community.
Case Study 1: Long Marston Garden Village
Long Marston is a proposed 3,500 home Garden Village within the Stratford-upon-Avon District of Warwickshire. It is typical of Garden Villages in that it is far from major population and employment centres. Located on a former airfield, this Garden Village will be particularly remote and without a sustainable scale will not support amenities, jobs or public transport. It is seven miles from the nearest railway station. Residents will have no option other than the car to see friends, get to work or to the nearest town centre. Visions of ‘express bus connections’ are without funding. There are also unfunded aspirations for new safe walking and cycling routes from the development, but even if they were provided there is little other than open space nearby. This is a good example of a new development in the wrong place.
Case Study 2: Aylesbury Garden Town
Aylesbury is the long established county town of Buckinghamshire. The acquisition of Garden Town status is attached to a transformative vision to create 16,000 new homes. Aylesbury is typical of Garden Towns, with the new housing developments located on the outskirts and without attractive, safe walking and cycling routes to amenities. This Garden Town is like many of the others in that plans are heavily reliant on road building, in this case the completion of a coveted ring road. Bus services are better here than in many places, but all day, all week services to every home lack committed funding. We think Aylesbury could realise its potential by scrapping the community-severing ring road plans, prioritising walking and cycling over car journeys in the way roads are designed, and by funding a rapid transit system for the whole town.
For more details please contact email@example.com
Notes to editors
Photographs from Garden Communities can be downloaded from Flickr.
1. Drawing from Ebenezer Howard’s vision of the Garden City more than a century ago, Garden Communities today are central to the Government’s plans to increase housing supply. Building in rural and semi-rural areas – where housing targets are high – is unpopular. To avoid objections to more estates on the edge of market towns and at the same time exploiting cheaper land to build on, the Government proposes instead building vibrant, healthy and green ‘Garden Villages’: self-contained communities with everything to hand and minimal need to travel. ‘Garden Town’ status similarly puts the emphasis on a lot of new housing, but this time near an existing urban area. The idea is that sustainable travel and green lifestyles then become central to the whole area as the housing is built.The concept is supported by a Garden Communities Prospectus (MHCLG, 2018) and £3.7 million in funding specifically for Garden Communities, as well as a share of the £2.3 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund.
2. Transport for New Homes believes that everyone should have access to attractive housing, located and designed to ensure that people do not need to use or own cars to live a full life. Transport for New Homes is a project funded by the Foundation for Integrated Transport, a registered charity (115 63 63).
3. The report, Garden Villages and Garden Towns: Visions and Reality, can be read online. Datasheets from the 20 developments examined in detail are also online. Transport for New Homes examined master-plans, visions, infrastructure delivery plans, transport assessments and other documentation for a varied range of 20 Garden Communities around England, as well as visiting existing towns with Garden status and sites proposed for Garden Villages. Close examination was made of the funding and policy landscape underlying Garden Communities, including how the Housing Infrastructure Fund is being spent.
4. See Case Study 1, Long Marston, above.
5. In the Department for Transport’s March 2020 report, Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps writes: “Public transport and active travel will be the natural first choice for our daily activities. We will use our cars less and be able to rely on a convenient, cost-effective and coherent public transport network.”
6. The MHCLG’s Garden Communities Prospectus can be read online.
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.