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TOD can prevent car-based urban sprawl

Words: Laura Edgar
New developments should be near public transport / iStock-488120139

City-region authorities can deliver more transit-oriented developments (TOD) if there is a national planning framework that supports such developments over ‘car-based, low-density sprawl’.

To avoid this and traffic congestion, housing must be built close to good public transport links.

The place to be: How transit-oriented development can support good growth in the city regions cites RTPI research (Location of Development) that considers the location of permissions for the 12 fastest-growing city regions in England. It found that between 2015 and 2017, 51 per cent of new housing permitted is at least 2km from railway stations.

The report, by the Urban Transport Group, says that TOD offers the potential to meet housing need without undermining the green belt or creating more traffic congestion and sprawl. Schemes can be located next to, or be part of existing stations or transport hubs, on brownfield sites situated on rail corridors, or at suburban locations with good access to rail stations.

Such development would also result in reduced traffic congestion and carbon emissions, and improved air quality.

Tobyn Hughes, managing director of Nexus, the Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive, which administers funds on behalf of the North East Combined Authority, and chair of the Urban Transport Group, said: “If we are to embark on a new era of transit-oriented developments, and realise the benefits they can bring, we must overcome a series of obstacles and barriers around the planning and funding of these developments.”

The place to be… makes a number of recommendations to achieve TOD in addition to a supportive national planning framework:

  • A national funding framework with options for ensuring that value uplift from new developments can be used to improve transport connectivity. A joint programme of work is required between city region and national government to examine the issues and develop options on land value capture mechanisms.
  • More influence over land held by national government agencies which would be prime sites for TOD schemes. In particular city region authorities in England need the same veto powers over Network Rail land sales that the Scottish Government enjoys.
  • More devolution of powers over stations where a city region transport authority has the ambition and capacity to take on those responsibilities.
  • Measures to improve the planning capacity of local authorities in order to respond effectively, rapidly and imaginatively to opportunities for high-quality TOD.

James Harris, RTPI policy and networks manager, told The Planner: “Achieving sustainable development means building in a way that maximises accessibility by public and active transport. However, our Location of Development study shows that new housing is often located far from public transport, which increases resilience on private cars. This timely report from the Urban Transport Group identifies several barriers that need to be overcome to deliver ‘transit-oriented development’, including strong governance models for city-regions, stable long-term transport funding and more resources for planning authorities. Following these recommendations will help us to increase housing supply in a way that boosts productivity, improves public health and encourages the transition to a low-carbon society. “

The place to be: How transit-oriented development can support good growth in the city regions can be found here on the Urban Transport Group website (pdf).

Read more:

Only half of housing built near train stations, finds report

RTPI: Location of Development

Image credit | iStock