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RTPI research highlights need for joined-up planning system

Words: Laura Edgar
Watford Station

RTPI research into commuting patterns has emphasised the need for housing and transport planning to be considered in “equal measure”, industry professionals have told The Planner.

Research published last week “underlines the need for a joined-up planning system that considers housing and transport in equal measure, and greater investment in our railways would assist in providing a viable alternative to driving," according to David Graham, senior associate partner at Daniel Watney LLP.

The “severe housing shortage” in London and the constraints of building in the city itself, mean that “some of the homes will undoubtedly need to be in the green belt.”

Building around existing transport hubs, Graham said, makes sense because much of the necessary infrastructure is in place.

The institute’s Building in the green belt? A report into commuting patterns in the Metropolitan green belt, includes analysis by the RTPI of commuting data from the 2011 census. The report finds that an additional one million homes near railway stations in the Metropolitan London green belt could increase car journeys each week by 3.9-7.5 million.

Commuting data for Hemel Hempstead, High Wycombe, Watford, Maidenhead and Bracknell - all centred around railway stations - shows that 7.4 per cent of commuters travel to London by train on a regular basis. 72 per cent travel by car, mostly to jobs “within their hometown and to other places not in London”.

Ben Harrison, director of partnerships at Centre for Cities, told The Planner that the report “rightly points out investment in new housing, and subsequent rises in local populations, can put additional strain on a whole host of infrastructure – from roads to schools, hospitals to utilities.”

This, though, “tends to to be the case wherever substantial new development is delivered – in or outside of the greenbelt”.

“Let’s be clear – there are no easy solutions to the acute housing crisis facing our least affordable cities. Building on ‘brownfield’ sites alone will not be enough, and the investment and planning challenges associated with building new garden cities are substantial. Local and national leaders must have all options on the table – including the ability to build on select sites within the greenbelt,” said Harrison.

Continuing with the status quo, Harrison said, “risks fundamentally undermining the UK’s strongest city economies”.

“Our research shows that building on just two per cent of London’s green belt could provide more than 430,000 homes at suburban density in close reach of train stations over the coming years. Doing so will not mitigate the need to build homes elsewhere, or provide investment in other supporting infrastructure for these new communities.”

The RTPI believes that while not all will be suitable, brownfield sites should be looked at as a priority. Yesterday, the institute tweeted: “We don't reject in principle green belt reviews, for long a part of plan making and review practice.”

Image courtesy of Matt Brown