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Planners need to be creative about station regeneration, conference is told

Words: Laura Edgar
York station

Planners need to be at the heart of the station regeneration process, and they must be flexible and creative in their approach, an RTPI-TPS conference audience has heard.

The conference, which focused on development around transport hubs, also considered the benefits of transit-oriented development.

In April 2016, The Planner reported on the government’s launch of the Station Regeneration Programme, a project to develop railway stations and surrounding land and deliver up to 10,000 homes around them.

The agreement is between Network Rail and the Homes and Communities Agency and they will work with councils on development opportunities. York, Taunton and Swindon are all part of the initiative. The plans draw on work undertaken on Birmingham New Street, Manchester Victoria and London’s King’s Cross.

David Crook, assistant director of station regeneration at the Cities and Local Growth Unit, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said the government is setting up working groups and trying to engage with people to find out what the problems are, and look for further opportunities.

He spoke to the audience about what planning can do for the Station Regeneration Programme.

There is, Crook said, “very strong” National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and government policy support for delivering around commuter hubs and stations generally, and there is often very good local plan principal support for it too. He encouraged planners to support this, and to “really try to use it”.

“What is really important about that is planners need to be at the heart of the process, but they need to be flexible and creative as part of that process, not too regulatory,” said Crook.

“I’m not saying that you just let everything go, that anyone can build anything as long as it is near a station. But you need to have that creativity and you need to look at the bigger picture.”

He said an advantage of being a planner, or a transport planner, is that they get a bit more of the bigger picture than local authorities; they can look at all the opportunities and start to bring them.

“This is really what makes a station regeneration project more than the sum of its parts.”

He told planners to really understand their partners, to “really focus on outcomes, not process,” which is what he said makes station regeneration more that the sum of its parts.

There are challenges around stations, such as contaminated land, and there are problems with fragmented land ownership as well, but these could be overcome, said Crook.

“The really difficult thing, I think, is that it is making something more than just building houses, it is actually creating gateways to our towns and cities – and that it is where planners can really lead this.”

What are the benefits of TOD?


Tim Pharoah, transport and urban planning consultant, discussed transit-oriented development (TOD), which is compact development linked by transit. It is compact, he said, to ensure that there is a sufficient volume of people within walking distance of transit stops.

Sufficient is defined as being enough to ensure quality and viability of the transit service. Pharoah said that although TOD is mainly railway-based, street transit, such as buses, is just as important, if not more so.

For Pharoah, the benefits of TOD include that existing infrastructure can be used. “There may be new bits that you need to build into the development, but it is very rare that a new development will rely on a whole new transit facility.”

It also reduced land take because the development is compact; it intensifies transit demand (better, viable services with lower fares); it enables people to live with fewer cars (they may choose to use them, but they don’t have to); it reduces congestion and brings basic facilities within walking distance.

Additionally, it increases the potential for attractive streets and public spaces and reduces levels of noise, pollution and danger, said Pharoah.

More information about the RTPI-TPS Transport Planning Network can be found here.

Image credit | Shutterstock