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Homes Without Jams

Planning white paper risks more car dependent sprawl

Our country needs more homes. What we don’t need is more sprawling, car-dependent estates far from town centres and public transport links. The proposed planning reforms will cause the same problems as the current system when it comes to transport and new housing.

At Transport for New Homes we looked at the proposed reforms and considered what would be different on the ground if they were implemented. We considered the places we examined for our 2018 and 2020 research reports. We concluded that planning reform must take transport seriously or it will result in more traffic jams and air pollution, carbon emissions and unhealthy, isolated living.

We had several concerns with the reforms as proposed. The first, and for us most concerning, is that the proposals barely mention transport at all. We need to address how we will provide and fund public transport to the new places we plan to build.

We thought the division of all England into three categories: ‘growth’, ‘renewal’ and ‘protected’: is just too simplistic. The classification of most of the countryside as ‘growth areas’ would lock in a future of car-based sprawl around major road construction.

The proposals around local plans concerned us. Combined with the proposal to eliminate the outline planning permission stage from ‘growth area’ developments puts undue burden on the local plan stage and will not provide good outcomes. Removing cross-boundary planning responsibilities makes it even harder to properly plan transport at a relevant scale.

We thought the proposals around digital planning were interesting, but would do little to improve the quality of planning if the reforms were implemented as proposed.

When asked what one thing we’d like to see changed in order to stop the unsustainable tarmac estates, we usually point to funding. We need funding for sustainable transport. Walking and cycling infrastructure, bus services and new railway stations and lines. The infrastructure levy proposals do nothing to fix this problem and will almost certainly make things worse as transport has to fight with affordable housing and other development mitigation.

Are we defending the current system? No. Do we think these proposals would be better? Also, no.

Other organisations share our concerns

We were pleased to see our research was cited in the consultation response of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), Railfuture, Cycling UK and the Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT). The RTPI echoed our concern that car dependent sprawl would continue unabated by the proposed reforms. CIHT highlighted our findings about choice of remote sites for new housing development and how this has caused places with no pavements or public transport. The proposed new system doesn’t offer anything to help with that and could make things worse.

Join our campaign for Homes Without Jams

Planning needs to be reformed. But not like this. Our Homes Without Jams campaign will pursue the Government’s proposals through Parliament, making the case for a better way.

Join our Homes Without Jams campaign

This article was first published (in a slightly different form) in The Planner.

Royal Arsenal Riverside

Transport for New Homes Award: shortlist announced

Over the summer, we asked members of the public, professionals and developers to nominate recent UK developments of more than 500 homes for the Transport for New Homes Award 2019, run in partnership with the Transport Planning Society as part of its Transport Planning Day. We wanted to celebrate places that buck the trend of car-dependency: recent, large developments which have been located and designed so that residents do not need cars to live a full life.

The way we combine new homes with transport will determine how we travel and therefore the way we live for decades to come. Cutting back on car use and instead being able to walk, cycle or use public transport on a daily basis is all part of the lower carbon and healthier lifestyle that many people aspire to. Today we’re pleased to shortlist five developments that buck the trend for out-of-town car-dominated estates, places where real attention has been paid to sustainable transport and quality of life.”
Jenny Raggett, one of the award judges

Today at a Parliamentary Reception hosted by Lilian Greenwood MP, Chair of the Transport Select Committee, we were delighted to announce the shortlist:

Bath Riverside

Bath Riverside

Bath Riverside [above] is a development of apartments and some town houses built by Crest Nicholson on the site of a disused gasworks in the centre of Bath. Planned to comprise 2000+ homes, its density is sufficient to support local facilities and public transport. In fact the development has contributed substantially to public transport improvements in the wider area and to new local pedestrian links. Located on the banks of the River Avon, 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; good quality and direct pedestrian routes are located across the development. The development is also highly accessible via public transport, with local bus stops a few minutes’ walk away. A free one month bus pass is on offer to every Bath Riverside household, as well as free car club membership and a £100 cycle voucher.

Kidbrooke Village

Kidbrooke Village

Developed by the Berkeley Group, Kidbrooke Village [above] in the London Borough of Greenwich will have 4,800 homes when complete; it currently comprises 1,300. The housing density, at 165 dph, is much higher than in urban extensions or new towns. Residents here are not automatically expected to use a car as their main form of transport, and not all of the flats come with parking spaces. There is good public transport access, including a rail station within the site, which is receiving a new station building; regular buses pass through the site. Direct walking and cycling routes have been put in place, and old pedestrian subways replaced with surface-level crossings. There is also a good amount of green space in the parks bordering the new flats. The developers are working together with London Wildlife Trust to improve these spaces for wildlife and local residents. There is even a temporary village centre, to provide shops and services for residents while waiting for the permanent facilities to be built.

Kilnwood Vale

Kilnwood Vale Phase 1 and 2

Kilnwood Vale [above] is a major urban extension to Crawley, which will contain up to 2,500 dwellings. The first phases are now largely occupied and include about 900 dwellings. Typically on such developments residents in the early stages are very poorly served by bus, and sometimes not at all. Crest Nicholson has worked with the local bus operator to allow an existing bus service passing the site to serve the initial phases of the development. The bus route offered to phase 1 provides regular links not just to Crawley but also Horsham, and early and late journeys also serve rail commuters. Crest agreed to a temporary bus turning arrangement and established a high-quality shelter with Real-time Passenger Information at the site entrance, thus signalling to prospective purchasers that a high quality public transport choice is available.

Poundbury

Poundbury

Poundbury [above] is an urban extension to the Dorset county town of Dorchester, built according to the principles of Charles, Prince of Wales, on land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall. It is currently home to approximately 3,800 people. The compartmentalisation of retail and business into out-of-town areas has been avoided: Poundbury has residential and commercial buildings, offices, shops, pubs, cafes, communal areas and even a cereal producing factory right in the town centre. The community provides employment for over 2,300 people, and over a quarter of commuters here walk to work. The walking environment is varied and green, with urban trees and planted areas planned very early on, all part of an overall design and layout designed specifically for walkability. Parking is kept off the streets in parking courts to the rear of houses. Public transport to Poundbury was considered before development. Two railway stations are within a 20 minute walk. A new electric bus service connects Poundbury with the centre of Dorchester and Dorchester South railway station. The number 10 bus from Dorchester to Weymouth starts and finishes at Poundbury, and the X51 from Dorchester to Bridport and Axminster also passes through the development.

Royal Arsenal Riverside

Royal Arsenal Riverside

Royal Arsenal Riverside [above] is a large regeneration project in Woolwich, south east London, being undertaken by Berkeley Homes (East Thames). It currently comprises 3,200 homes; once completed it will have over 5,000. The new Crossrail Woolwich station is being delivered on site. Woolwich Arsenal station is also nearby, as well as more than 10 different bus routes, and there is a Thames Clipper Pier at the centre of the site for a boat service into central London. There is a cycle route into central London along the riverfront and all homes have secure cycle parking. The central parts of the site are pedestrianised and all roads open to vehicles have safe pedestrian paths. Walking is encouraged by the peaceful public realm, which includes benches and green spaces. Car parking is hidden away in the basements of the buildings; there is no on-street parking with the exception of some disabled bays and car club spaces. There are a number of electric car charging points publicly available on site. The site includes many amenities such as cafes, pubs, food shops and sports and leisure facilities, and there are light industrial units to the east of the site which accommodate larger employers and local start-ups, all of which reduce the need to travel.

We are now visiting the shortlisted developments and assessing them against the Transport for New Homes Checklist. The winner will be announced on Transport Planning Day (20 November).

Whichever development is chosen, it will have much to teach us about how new housing can address climate change and sustainable travel as well as providing good, healthy living environments.