Transport for new homes
Housing developments on former farmland are adding hundreds of thousands of extra car journeys to England’s roads, a report has found: https://www.transportfornewhomes.org.uk/
Its researchers conducted field visits to 20 new housing developments across England – three years after a previous survey around the country. They found that greenfield housing has become even more car-based than before. They say the trend for building with the car in mind extended beyond housing, with out-of-town retail, leisure, food outlets and employment orientated around new road systems.
They found that planners and construction firms are building in a style they refer to as ‘car-park to car-park’. They say that in practice, greenfield estates planned as ‘walkable vibrant communities’ were dominated by parking, driveways and roads with easy access to bypasses and major roads.
In contrast, 'brownfield' developments on previously built-up land in cities tended to be less car-based, allowing better access to local amenities by foot, cycle and public transport, the report said. It says typical new 'greenfield' homes are designed around the car - with often three parking spaces per home.
“Most are planned in the wrong locations, far from town centres and rail stations. They lack local facilities and their streets are designed around car use. Funding for walking, cycling and public transport is missing. Non-driving residents will have to walk up to seven miles to access the nearest town centre or a railway station. Unless this picture improves, Garden Communities will be completely at odds with the visions presented, worsening climate change and failing their residents“
“there is an enormous gap between the garden community visions presented by government, consultants and local councils, and the developments likely to be built in reality. The problem centres we think, on building in the wrong location and around the wrong kind of transport”
To get the new garden villages and garden towns off the ground, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government made funds available to local authorities and others on a competitive bidding basis. During 2017-2019 the ’locally-led new communities’ were to receive a share of £3.7 million to fast-track specialist survey and planning work necessary for each new town’s development. Funds awarded were in the region of £100,000 to £300,000 for a garden village and £400,000 to £700,000 for a garden town. In the latter case, a town is awarded garden status as a place that is to grow rapidly with a series of mostly greenfield estates around the edges, reaching out into the countryside.
KEY FINDINGS FOM THE REPORT:
· Our garden communities are likely to contribute to widespread traffic jams on country roads and junctions, and on our motorways and other main roads as residents head for cities for work, and drive to out of town destinations.
· We found that nearly every garden village came with largescale investment in strategic and local road capacity to ‘mitigate’ thousands of new car journeys onto the road network. This went counter to the notions of ‘self-sufficiency’ and ‘self-containment’.
· About half of garden communities were associated with enlarging or adding a motorway junction or building a new one for a quick getaway.
· A number of garden communities were in locations chosen in part to finance a new bypass or link road that had been wanted for years.
· We could find no garden community where the sustainable transport elements were costed and funded with delivery dates.
· Garden villages were on the whole too far away from towns to cycle or involved dangerous roads.
· Once you looked at the detail of Infrastructure Development Plans, Transport Assessments and planning applications, the problem became apparent. From what we could see it was obvious that the places being built would be car-based sprawl under a slightly different name. Indeed most of the efforts of transport assessments were about testing out which junctions would become bottlenecks as the garden communities were built, and why so many new link roads, bypasses and motorway junction improvements were considered ‘essential’ or even ‘critical’ infrastructure for garden communities.
· Once junctions and roads projected into the future are seen to be ‘at capacity’, the idea is then to seek funds to ‘unblock the network’ and ‘mitigate’ the effects of the development’. There is no idea that the future might not be about driving!
· Targets for housing numbers for each local authority are given by central government and these are often very high for rural and semi-rural local authorities, especially in the southern half of the country. The assumption is that these areas will continue to attract lots of incomers and so new homes need to be concentrated in such places to continue the cycle.
· At a time when local authorities have few resources, the developers offer ‘plug and play’ sites which mean that they provide the consultants to overcome obstacles such as flooding, biodiversity impacts, objections by the existing population, and ‘traffic impacts’.
· What we need is a series of developments along a new or existing public transport route with cycling and walking integrated too. Whether a metro, a tram system or a sequence of bus rapid transit stops, the new public transport corridor needs to serve a series of homes, offices, shops and other destinations to get the passenger numbers.
· We need a coordinated approach across local authority areas to find the right places with the right investment in public transport and active travel that will make the new homes a success.
· People will want to use cars if there is no alternative. We need to instead coordinate and assure funding for new metro routes, trams, light rail, bus rapid transit and so on to give people the alternative they want.
· Make real changes to our planning system – the National Planning Policy Framework and the Planning Practice Guidance. We can’t assume the future is more and more about car travel. Current planning policy is out of date in the context of the climate emergency, life styles and town centre regeneration.
· The planning system is too weak to get the right results, and the machinery seems ultimately in the favour of large-scale housebuilders, developers and promoters, for whom the price of land and the financial rewards of building are naturally the most important consideration
· We need housing but we need to build in the right place and in the right way. Housing numbers and targets are not everything. In view of this report we suggest that the government should commission an urgent re-assessment of every one of the garden villages and towns in terms of funded sustainable transport to underpin the visions portrayed, and the assured delivery of the visions that each has presented to the public. This is all the more important with the government’s legal duty to lead us to net zero carbon and to build around active and less isolated life-styles for the future.