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05/10/2020

Transport is integral but the white paper has almost nothing to say about it

Transport is integral to the paradigm shift towards cleaner healthier places - but it's barely mentioned in the government's blueprint for planning reform, say Stephen Bennett and Lynda Addison

Planning for the Future is a serious attempt to grapple with significant challenges, while acknowledging that there are practical issues to work through. But the Transport Planning Society’s initial observation is that the inter-relationship of planning and transport is not addressed. Transport is key to land-use planning, achieving the legally binding target of net-zero emissions by 2050 and supporting wellbeing. Yet the white paper mentions transport only five times.

Its three pillars (planning for ‘development’, ‘beautiful and sustainable places’ and ‘infrastructure and connected places’) should explicitly promote integration with transport to, for  example, support decarbonisation of transport and public health. This needs a statutory requirement for local plans with long-term visions that address such issues.

We also need to understand how the rules proposed can ensure the right locations for development, as well as provision of walking, cycling and public transport facilities. What arrangements will ensure collaboration with transport policymakers and providers from plan-making to delivery?

“The white paper mentions transport only five times (and traffic not at all)”

The proposals give the impression that delivering transport will simply be a case of collecting development charges then providing the necessary infrastructure. It is essential that transport planning  is a key part of plan-making. Will there be an infrastructure delivery plan? How will this relate to the funding mechanism due to replace CIL/section 106?

One suggestion is to allow local  authorities to determine development locations by sustainable accessibility standards and to specify mandatory sustainable transport infrastructure in developments.

How transport fits into the zoning system is also unclear. We need to properly relate development capacity in each zone to issues such as public transport availability. It is difficult to see how the proposed structure will achieve such a fine-grained approach.

Given the challenges of changing travel behaviour, it is vital to engage with communities during plan-making – not least because once plans are approved permission is effectively given in growth areas.

These proposals will require significant capacity and different skills in local authorities. How will the government ensure that they can deliver this new approach and that it reflects the paradigm shift to development that addresses climate change, decarbonisation and health?

Stephen Bennett is chair and Lynda Addison is planning and transport lead of the Transport Planning Society 

Image credit | iStock

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