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So, what else could we build?

In our recent report, Garden Villages and Garden Towns: Visions and Reality, we explain that, although the visions for garden communities are often very good, we fear ‘business as usual’. Rather than enabling people to walk, cycle and use public transport to go about their daily lives, these developments will generate high levels of traffic by condemning their residents to car-dependent lifestyles. Local shops, cafes and other amenities will fail to materialise because people will just get in their cars and drive off!

This is because new homes are often built in the wrong locations, and without consideration of the very important role that transport plays in shaping a place.

In this blog we set out to demonstrate some of the things that our report talks about by using a sequence of annotated images from Google Maps, and to show different ways that settlements have been planned, both in the UK and beyond.

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These are just some examples – we are very interested in any others. We invite readers to contact us with any other examples of good and bad practice that could be added to our discussion.

By Jenny Raggett, Project Coordinator

Riverside development

Planning reform is on the way

Planning reform is on the way. But will it lead to better development in the right places, and stop car-based sprawl?

From the point of view of Transport for New Homes, and the many others who are appalled at the spread of car-dependent new housing dominated by roads and parking, planning reform should be about enabling positive planning. It should be aimed at bringing about new development in locations where it will be well served by, and will encourage the use of, sustainable transport – walking, cycling and public transport – and where people will not feel dependent on using cars to meet their everyday needs.

So far, however, the reform the Government has in mind is focused on getting more homes built, and involves the slackening of planning controls to make this happen. This might well boost the housing numbers, but will it address the problem of poor quality?

Transport for New Homes agrees that more housing is needed, much more. The shortage of homes, and especially affordable homes, is clear. But boosting the numbers is not enough by itself. We are pressing for quality as well as quantity, namely:

  • Building in the right places, with good public transport connections
  • Creating mixed communities with a good range of local facilities
  • Ensuring that people are not dependent on the car
  • Designing places that are attractive for all stages of people’s lives, not soulless estates dominated by roads and parking

Delivering this kind of diverse and high-quality growth does not have to involve more planning, but it does need the right kind of planning. The most important requirement is for development to be in the right place. That means having a plan which coordinates development with sustainable transport options, and prioritises sites within existing urban areas over greenfield sites. The drive for sustainability requires compact development, not suburban sprawl or remote estates. It also requires the building of communities, not just houses.

Making it easier for developers to convert offices and other buildings to residential use could have a positive impact, re-purposing space made redundant by increased home working since COVID-19. Such conversions are also likely to be in locations well served by public transport. But controls are needed to ensure that we don’t end up with sub-standard, cramped flats without adequate daylight or outdoor space or facilities. If anything, new homes will need to be bigger, to provide for greater homeworking.

At the moment, the planning system is largely reactive to private sector initiatives and lacks ways of coordinating development with sustainable transport measures. At a minimum, reform of the planning system needs to address this problem. Under the current system transport considerations are mostly confined to building road capacity to deal with extra traffic from new developments. This is completely at odds with avoiding car dependent housing, and decarbonising transport to meet climate change targets.

A way must be found to plan sustainable transport measures alongside new developments, on the same timescale, and with coordinated and fully committed funding. It is not rocket science, nor does it need to involve more bureaucracy and red tape. It does mean creating more certainty in what gets built where, and when. The benefits of this approach can be seen in other countries. Transport for New Homes have visited, for example, Copenhagen (Denmark), Freiburg (Germany), Montpelier and Nantes (France), and Almere and Ijberg (Netherlands). In these places new developments follow an integrated transport and land use plan, based on high quality public transport such as tram or urban railway. Even in some car-dependent north American cities we can see a move towards this approach.

Local authorities should certainly facilitate housing growth, but they should also be required to determine what gets built where. Instead of waiting for landowners and developers to bring forward development sites that suit their interests, local authorities should be given powers to assemble sites in accordance with their plans. Local Plans should be prepared and scrutinised alongside Local Transport Plans, and funding should be arranged to fit the timetable for transport and development schemes. The plans themselves should be based on the principles of “brownfield first”, and transit-oriented development (TOD). This means developing in locations that are or will be made accessible by public transport. In areas of high growth especially, there should be statutory plans covering wider areas, with a duty on local authorities to agree both the spatial distribution of future development and the transport facilities that will serve it.

We are therefore calling for reform of the planning system that will rectify deficiencies in the current system. In particular:

  • End the reliance on centrally-determined housing targets that pay no regard to transport or other impacts;
  • Decide development locations based on actual or planned accessibility, rather than wherever land owners are willing to sell at huge profit, and private developers see a market;
  • Integrate planning processes that currently are carried out in separate silos, in particular the planning of sustainable transport and land use;
  • Fund active travel and public transport facilities in advance of development taking place, not just roads.

This programme of planning reform is urgently needed to bring development practice into line with environmental and community objectives. It does mean wider powers for local authorities, but it shouldn’t mean adding layers of bureaucracy. Instead the focus of planning effort should shift from the scrutiny of private sector proposals towards pro-active involvement in the location and shaping of new development.

Meanwhile, plans for hundreds of new car-dependent housing estates (including those dressed up as “garden villages”) remain on the table, and are in need of urgent review.

By Tim Pharoah, Transport and Urban Planning Consultant

The vision and reality of Garden Communities

Green promises broken: Garden Villages and Garden Towns will be dominated by the car

Press release: 16 June 2020

Far from being vibrant, green communities, Garden Villages and Garden Towns [1] are at high risk of becoming car-dependent commuter estates, research by Transport for New Homes [2] has found. The group examined plans for 20 Garden Communities [3] 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 [4].

Looking to the future, the need for modern bus, tram and train networks to avert climate crisis is expected to come to the fore [5]. 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 [6]. 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 studies

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.

Contact details

For more details please contact Jess Fitch, Communications Coordinator, Transport for New Homes: jess.fitch@transportfornewhomes.org.uk

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.

Royal Arsenal Riverside

Transport for New Homes Award: Royal Arsenal Riverside

Royal Arsenal Riverside was announced as winner of the Transport for New Homes Award 2019 in the metropolitan category. Judge Tim Pharoah, who visited the development, tells us why.

London needs many more homes, and high-density developments are required. At Woolwich Arsenal, the impact of tall blocks is lessened by the generous provision of open spaces and pedestrian only walkways. The riverfront location also provides a dramatic setting for the new residential buildings. A further advantage is the presence of many preserved 18th Century buildings from the days when the Arsenal was a major location for the manufacture and testing of guns and other military hardware. These old buildings give the area a special character, while the cannon that remain dotted around the site provide popular play equipment for children.

Despite the large scale – there are already more than 1,700 homes completed with many more on the way – there has not been a focus on catering for a significant increase in traffic. The expectation is that people mostly will use public transport, walking and cycling to get about.

So often, the marketing blurb for new housing schemes turns out to be optimistic or even downright misleading. But Berkeley Homes seem to have struck the right note when they say: “With extensive river frontage, a landscaped park and unrivalled travel connections, Waterfront III at Royal Arsenal Riverside puts you at the centre of everything that is great about living in London. Plus with an outstanding choice of amenities already on your doorstep, local life here could not be more convenient.” There is nothing to disagree with here.

The public transport available within an easy walk is truly staggering, with national rail, Docklands Light Rail and 11 bus routes passing the site. Bus frequency is more than one every minute in each direction! In addition, the development is facilitating the delivery of a new Crossrail station within the site, expected to open in late 2020 or early 2021. As if this weren’t enough, the site is also served by the Thames Clipper riverboat service to the City and West End, running at least half hourly through the day and late into the evening.

The Thames cycle path goes through the development, offering a traffic-free route east and west, and secure cycle parking is available for residents, although cycle parking for visitors is sparse.

Royal Arsenal Riverside

With all this transport, one might be tempted to leave Woolwich Arsenal, but it is also an attractive and convenient place to stay in. Whether relaxing by the water, playing with the kids in one of the safe green spaces, or catching up on some laptop work in one of the cafes, the development provides a lot of facilities and a very interesting environment.

I spoke to a couple with their two young children, who had been living there for a year. “We absolutely love it here, and the kids do too. We wouldn’t consider living anyway else now.” And do you have a car? “Yes, but we hardly ever use it. The cost of the parking garage is quite high, and we might try to sell it on when the kids are grown up.” (Parking spaces are £25,000 freehold)

Most of the parking is tucked away underground, leaving the ground level more or less traffic free, and making it safe and quiet to wander. There are car club vehicles and electric vehicle charging on site.

Given the low volume of vehicle movement, it is strange that some of the detailed street design is not geared to the pedestrian. For example at side streets, the dropped kerb crossing point is offset, requiring pedestrians to divert. Of course no-one does, and so people walk in the road. So often it is the highway engineering details that let a scheme down.

In high-density developments especially, open space has to be carefully designed and managed. The quality of landscaping at Woolwich Arsenal has already been recognised by picking up the inaugural award for landscape at the Sunday Times British Homes Awards.

Overall, Woolwich Arsenal Riverside development is a bold and imaginative regeneration project, providing a wide range of housing with excellent sustainable transport facilities. For many if not most of the residents, the car would seem to be redundant!

Responsible for Royal Arsenal Riverside:
Developer: Berkeley Homes (East Thames)
Architects: Allies and Morrison
Planning consultants: Barton Willmore
Transport planning consultants: URS
Council: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Bath Riverside

Transport for New Homes Award: Bath Riverside

Bath Riverside was announced as winner of the Transport for New Homes Award 2019 in the non-metropolitan category. Judge Tim Pharoah, who visited the development, tells us why.

All too often new housing is built around car use, but Bath Riverside bucks the trend in a positive way by providing really good walking, cycling and public transport options. One resident remarked: “My car is parked in the underground car park, but mostly I just walk or cycle”.

All new developments should be located so that people living them are not required, or even tempted, to use cars for getting around. Generally the best way of achieving this is to locate new homes within the existing urban envelope of the town or city. Bath Riverside is an excellent example of this.

The development of apartments – and some town houses – occupies the site of a disused gasworks about 1 km west of the centre of Bath. 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 mostly out of sight, while the public realm is shaped around walking.

Attractive and direct pedestrian routes through the development link up with two traffic free walking routes into the centre of Bath. One of these is a shared walking and cycling path (the well-known Bristol-Bath traffic-free route). The annual monitoring report for the scheme shows that the great majority of residents walk or cycle to get about the city.

The development is also highly accessible by public transport, with local bus stops a few minutes’ walk away on main roads either side of the development, served by no fewer than 14 bus routes, some of them operating at high frequency. A bus into the centre arrives every 5-10 minutes, and the key bus stops have real-time information screens. 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.

Bath Riverside, built by Crest Nicholson, exploits its position on the south bank of the River Avon with two attractive public spaces and views across the river from many of the apartments.

When checked against the Transport for New Homes Checklist, Bath Riverside received high scores for its location, its walking routes and its public transport connections. It also scored well for its density, which maximises the benefits of the location, and for its attractive layout. There are many facilities nearby, including an excellent playground for children of all ages within Victoria Park. Bath Riverside has already won several other housing awards, including the WhatHouse? award in 2017.

Unfortunately the quality of the walking and cycling environment outside the development itself is quite poor. The local highway authority should be giving much greater priority to the environment for active travel modes. The bus stops also could be better located, and with better pedestrian access across the main roads. Come on, City of Bath, you can do more to support the new riverside developments!

Responsible for Bath Riverside:
Developer: Crest Nicholson
Architect: The masterplanning architect was Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios. Five other firms of architects were used for the design individual phases.
Planning Consultant: Savills.
Transport Planning Consultant: WSP.
Local Authority: Bath and North East Somerset Council.

Poundbury

Transport for New Homes Award: Poundbury

Poundbury 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. Poundbury was highly commended in the Transport for New Homes Awards 2019. Judge Jenny Raggett, who visited the development, tells us why.

One of the few properly walkable places we found, with a full diversity of community provision integrated with new homes, was Poundbury in Dorset.

Although the architectural feel of Poundbury might not be to everybody’s liking, as a greenfield urban extension it is highly unusual in its achievement of a new walkable community, much along the lines of the visions we have seen for the new ‘garden settlements’ that the government hope we will build. Poundbury is green with urban trees and parks. There is a mix of all kinds of homes including rented and affordable accommodation, with offices, cafes, pubs, small shops, a garden centre, supermarket, community facilities and school all within the actual fabric of the town. There are over 2,000 people working in Poundbury and this daytime influx of people, in addition to the 3,500 residents themselves, creates a good footfall during the day for the many eating establishments and shops close by.

We have seen so many greenfield sites that are essentially housing estates with little else apart from a primary school and perhaps a convenience store by the ring road. There is normally a very large supermarket by a roundabout out of town, with a large car park, and the business park off another large junction also comes with a large car park. The nature of destinations as much as the housing itself tell the story. Out of town retail, employment and leisure on separate parcels of land mean driving everywhere.

Poundbury is completely different in this respect. The garden centre with its cafe and the supermarket are right in town, and so is everything else. You can collect the children from the school and walk to the supermarket or other shops; you can go to one of the parks or have tea. If you work in one of the offices or factories you can enjoy a meal out at lunch or pop into the shops without jumping into the car. Walkability is a lot to do with having things to actually walk to – and in the case of Poundbury there are many.

Poundbury

Perhaps it helps also that walking around Poundbury is interesting compared to the other urban extensions we have seen. Different views greet the pedestrian and the varicose nature of the streets beckons you on to see what is around the corner. The number and variety of urban trees very much add to the public realm.

Many urban extensions are cut off from their parent towns so that you can’t reach them on foot or cycle along overlooked streets. In the case of Poundbury, great care has been taken to integrate the new area with its parent town Dorchester so that streets join up – an entirely different model from the roundabout and link road concept so often seen in the ‘classic’ urban extension. What this means is that the new area and its shops and its many community facilities are accessible to a wider population, not just to Poundbury residents.

What about public transport? If you come from a small town in the rural south west as I do, the bus services in and out of Poundbury seem remarkable. The number 10 bus which goes between Weymouth, Dorchester and Poundbury (at Mansell Square) runs 7 days a week at turn-up-and-go frequencies, and continues into late evening, albeit at reduced frequency. Other buses go through Poundbury itself, providing services to Dorchester (half hourly) and to Bridport and Axminster (2 hourly), though not in the evenings or on Sundays. There are two railway stations in Dorchester and if you don’t want to take the bus, there is always the option of cycling to them from Poundbury (10 minutes) or you might enjoy the half hour walk with pavements all the way.

For a greenfield urban extension, Poundbury is eminently liveable; for this it earned the high commendation of our judges.

Poundbury bus

Responsible for Poundbury:
Estate Director: Ben Murphy
Masterplanner: Léon Krier
Architects: Ben Pentreath of Ben Pentreath Ltd and George Saumarez Smith of Adam Architecture
Highways Consultant: Andrew Cameron of Andrew Cameron & Associates
Council: Dorset Council (from April 2019, previously West Dorset District Council)

Bath Riverside and Royal Arsenal Riverside

Transport for New Homes Award 2019: winners announced

The winners of the Transport for New Homes Award 2019 are:

  • Royal Arsenal Riverside, south east London (metropolitan winner)
  • Bath Riverside, Bath (non-metropolitan winner)

The first ever Transport for New Homes Awards, run in partnership with the Transport Planning Society as part of its Transport Planning Day, set out to celebrate recent large developments which have been located and designed so that residents do not need cars to live a full life.

“The housing we build today will determine our travel patterns for decades to come, impacting on climate change, air pollution, public health and social cohesion. All too often we see new housing built around car use, but in Bath Riverside and Royal Arsenal Riverside real attention has been paid to walking, cycling and public transport, giving residents real travel choices and a good quality of life. All new developments should be located so that people have a choice as to how they travel, and provide good walking, cycling and public transport access to daily activities.”
– Lynda Addison OBE, award judge

Metropolitan winner: Royal Arsenal Riverside

Royal Arsenal Riverside is a large regeneration project in Woolwich, south east London, being undertaken by Berkeley Homes (East Thames). It has excellent public transport links and a cycle route into central London along the riverfront. The central parts of the site are pedestrianised and walking is encouraged by the peaceful public realm. Car parking is hidden away in basements; 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, all of which reduce the need to travel.

Non-metropolitan winner: Bath Riverside

Bath Riverside was built by Crest Nicholson on the site of a disused gasworks in the centre of Bath. Located on the banks of the River Avon, it’s 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 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.

Judges also highly commended Poundbury, an urban extension to the Dorset county town of Dorchester, for creating a walkable and pleasant greenfield urban extension with a range of small and large shops, many community facilities and employment for over 2,000 people.

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.

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