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