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Report: New developments don’t encourage sustainable travel choices

Words: Laura Edgar
Parked Cars / iStock: 871756822

Londoners are being ‘locked into 20th century patterns of car ownership’ because new developments do not enable residents to make sustainable travel choices.

Centre for London has said walking, cycling and public transport should be “at the heart” of planning new neighbourhoods.

As the Mayor of London is aiming for 80 per cent of trips in London to be carried out on foot, by bike or by using public transport by 2041, Building for a New Urban Mobility states that new developments provide a unique opportunity to meet this target.

However, the rate of progress for the past five years suggests that the capital would meet the mayor’s target by 2070.

New-builds are “generally well connected” but, on average, new affordable housing developments have lower levels of public transport compared with market-rate housing. The report found that in 2017/18, 36 per cent of market rate housing was in the best-connected areas of the capital, while only 8 per cent of affordable housing developments were.

Building for a New Urban Mobility cites a Transport for London (TfL) survey that found that residents living in new developments were more likely to have off-street parking than residents in existing homes. Also, Greater London, 47 per cent of people in new homes owned a car compared with 40 per cent of the general population.

Out-of-date predictions can be used to predict the travel choices of future new-build residents, which Centre for London states is compounded by that fact that local authority planning and development departments are under-resourced.

Furthermore, some developers and local authorities don't have the expertise to build new homes that are sustainable and adaptable to future transport developments, explained the think tank.

Nicolas Bosetti, research manager at Centre for London and co-author of the report, said: “For decades, the way Londoners travel around the city has barely changed, but we now find ourselves on the brink of a ‘new age’ of urban mobility.  

“Greater vehicle connectivity, automation and electrification and other transport innovations have the potential to be as transformative as the invention of the private motorcar.  

“But rather than preparing for these transport innovations, developers and planners are at risk of locking citizens into 20th-century patterns of car ownership and use by allocating space and investment to private car parking spaces.

“Developers and planners should design for new urban mobility – favouring flexibility, supporting walking, cycling and public transport use, minimising car parking and enabling its adaptation over time.”

The report suggests that if there aren’t many alternatives to the car and therefore car parking spaces need to be provided, a plan must be set out to enable a transition to a car-free future.

In addition, spaces should be offered on a short-term renewable basis or as a charging scheme, not as ownership of the space and spaces should be located and designed in a way that allows them to be converted for a different use when private car use declines, such as bike storage or workspace.

Mobility hubs could be created for new developments. The report considers these to be public spaces that have covered waiting areas and green spaces. They would facilitate public and shared modes of transport such as the car, bike and taxi waiting areas, and rail and bus interchanges. The government and the mayor should match-fund development receipts to help local authorities and developers to deliver them.

Richard Blyth, head of policy at the RTPI, told The Planner that the institute agrees "wholeheartedly" that more work must be done to integrate public and active transport into the planning process "with the aim of improving overall accessibility to new housing schemes by sustainable modes of travel, and to reduce car-dependency".

“A more joined-up approach to transport and land use planning is vital if we are to reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality and deliver sustainable patterns of growth.

“Last year, we joined up with the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation and the Transport Planning Society to provide advice on ways to embed sustainable transport through plan-making and development management, and we will continue to work towards making sustainable modes of transport more accessible to all.”

Building for a New Urban Mobility can be found on the Centre for London website.

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