Working with current planning policies to achieve better developments – promoting sustainable transport
Sustainable development in a transport context means creating places that maximise accessibility by walking, cycling, and public transport. This is not always practiced despite a range of consistently supportive policies in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Instead, policies are frequently being interpreted at the local level in a way that continues to foster car-dependent lifestyles.
Chapter 9 of the NPPF states that policies should minimise the number and length of trips and provide for high-quality walking and cycling networks along with supporting facilities however, vague and undefined terminology quantifying scales of development and range of sustainable transport options available does not act as a clear guideline for development to meet, leaving it to individual local authorities to define sustainable development based on local circumstances and their vision for the future. It is considered by the CIHT that the language used in these paragraphs is too open to interpretation and does not provide strong grounds for promoting sustainable transport.
Taking the right approach - sustainable planning for individual developments
Currently, for most local developments, trip generation databases (such as TRICS) are used to predict future travel demands by car. CIHT consider that, they are historically based, this simply perpetuates ever-increasing car use. Consideration should therefore be given to challenging the average figures derived from these tools so as to avoid the risk of applying ‘predict and provide’ methodologies, which will always favour highway-based improvements, often at the expense of sustainable modes. If a ‘vision and validate’ or ‘decide and provide’ approach is to be applied, as advocated in the guide, a completely different approach to forecasting uncertain futures will be required. This should start with a vision of what the development seeks to achieve, including mode share, and then establish the required design parameters and sustainable transport interventions.
A simple rule to apply at the early visioning stage is as follows: planning for people will result in places for people; planning for cars will result in places dominated by cars. Where the policy states that sustainable modes are prioritised, the networks on which people will walk, cycle, and use public transport should be considered before any highway layout is planned. Every effort should be made to ensure that the capacity, layout, and design of these networks meet the needs of local residents so that new communities have a genuine opportunity to embrace more sustainable travel habits from the outset.
Local highway authorities should not ‘double count’ the level of transport provision expected from development which is in our experience very often the case. It is not appropriate to seek high levels of highway-based mitigation based on worst-case transport model forecasts and also seek high levels of sustainable transport provision as, once the highway capacity is delivered, sustainable travel targets are unlikely to be met.
This guide is based on exploiting the existing NPPF and accompanying regulations to deliver sustainable development and transport. Through this advice, creating places that meet the requirements of the 21st century in terms of all the critical elements of environmental, economic, and social sustainability, and responding to climate change, while also effectively delivering the homes needed will be possible. The effective integration of planning and transport is fundamental to achieving this objective and purely focussing on mitigating vehicular traffic is not the most effective solution for future development.