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New housing developments could increase traffic congestion, warn campaigners

Words: Laura Edgar

Unless public transport is made more integral to development the government’s plans for house building will cause the road network to become gridlocked, warns the Campaign for Better Transport (CfBT).

Writing to communities minister Greg Clark, CfBT chief executive Stephen Joseph said that without stronger planning policies relating to public transport supporting development, new housing, retail and office development could congest roads.

This draws on a 2011 report commissioned by CfBT and authored by Metropolitan Transport Research Unit which, says CfBT, shows that building conventional office space alongside the trunk road network “significantly increased both the number of vehicles on the road and journey times”.

CfBT say land-use planning and transport policies that support public transport, walking and cycling should be used to promote development that doesn’t generate more traffic. The group’s new report - Getting there: How sustainable transport can support new development - gives examples of where this has been successful, including Shawfair, Scotland’s first new town in 50 years, and examples of where schemes are being implemented to reduce car dependency, such as Birmingham’s Mobility Action Plan.

Joseph said: “You can tackle housing shortages and support new development without resorting to more sprawling suburbs, acres of car parks and big new roads. Our research shows that across the country new housing and retail development planned around public transport is successfully creating better, more economically productive places.

"There is clear evidence that when people are offered high-quality public transport a lot of them use it. National government, local authorities and developers urgently need the vision, skills and support to make this kind of development the norm.”

The report also offers several recommendations to help make public transport more sustainable, including stronger national government guidance on the minimum standards for sustainable transport for new developments, and joined-up local planning decision-making.