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11/11/2020

Planning white paper risks more car dependent sprawl

Planning for the Future - the government's proposal for reform to the planning system - say little about the transport systems that will be needed to support new housing, and the consequences could be dire, say Steve Chambers and Jenny Raggett

Our country needs more homes. What we don't need is more sprawling, car-dependent estates far from town centres and public transport links. The proposed planning reforms will cause the same problems as the current system when it comes to transport and new housing.

At Transport for New Homes we looked at the proposed reforms and considered what would be different on the ground if they were implemented. We considered the places we examined for our 2018 and 2020 research reports. We concluded that planning reform must take transport seriously or it will result in more traffic jams and air pollution, carbon emissions and unhealthy, isolated living.

We had several concerns with the reforms as proposed. The first, and for us most concerning, is that the proposals barely mention transport at all. We need to address how we will provide and fund public transport to the new places we plan to build.

We thought the division of all England into three categories: ‘growth’, ‘renewal’ and ‘protected’: is just too simplistic. The classification of most of the countryside as ‘growth areas’ would lock in a future of car-based sprawl around major road construction.

 

"The infrastructure levy proposals do nothing to fix this problem and will almost certainly make things worse as transport has to fight with affordable housing"

 

 

The proposals around local plans concerned us. Combined with the proposal to eliminate the outline planning permission stage from ‘growth area’ developments, these put undue burden on the local plan stage and will not provide good outcomes. Removing cross-boundary planning responsibilities makes it even harder to properly plan transport at a relevant scale.

We thought the proposals around digital planning were interesting, but would do little to improve the quality of planning if the reforms were implemented as proposed.

When asked what one thing we’d like to see changed in order to stop the unsustainable tarmac estates we usually point to funding. We need funding for sustainable transport - walking and cycling infrastructure, bus services and new railway stations and lines. The infrastructure levy proposals do nothing to fix this problem and will almost certainly make things worse as transport has to fight with affordable housing and other development mitigation.

Are we defending the current system? No. Do we think these proposals would be better? Also, no.

Steve Chambers is an urban planning and sustainable transport consultant, lecturer and sustainable transport campaigner with Transport for New Homes; Jenny Raggett is project coordinator with Transport for New Homes

Photo | iStock

Transport for New Homes has published two reports considering how the planning system can deliver better sustainable transport:

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