While the steps you should take very much depend on which part of the planning process you are getting involved in, if you work through the ideas below, you will have a much better understanding of what you need to do.
Top tips to get you started
- Ensure that local land use and transport planning are effectively integrated. This means examining the pattern of development proposed in your local plan. Major development should be focused where there is good public transport access and densities should be high enough to support local shops and other facilities within walking distance. Making rural communities more self-contained or by increasing density around a railway station so as to increase the justification for a more frequent service can also help. This approach reduces the need to travel, particularly by car, and is sometimes known as ‘smart growth’ – see these principles for more information.
- Compare your local pland with you Local Transport Plan (LTP) which sets out transport policies and proposals. Be aware that in areas where there are two tier authorities, the upper tier authority will be responsible for transport and the lower tier authority for planning. Check the LTP timetable to find out about opportunities to influence it.
- Set your ambitions for modal shift. English planning guidance calls for ‘fullest possible use’ of public transport and physically active travel. These ways of getting about, particularly bus use and cycling, make up a smaller proportion of journeys in the UK compared to other northern European countries - see the ‘modal shift’ sub-section below. So think about how this might be able to be changed during the period covered by the local plan, differentiating if needed between settlements and open country, or indeed particular developments. What bus services or cycle routes would be needed to make a big difference?
- Consider the list of transport proposals, such as for new stations and any road-building. These are likely to have major impacts both on transport demand and land use patterns, so consider whether there are better alternatives, including smaller scale schemes. These may be set out in an LTP, local plan or Infrastructure Development Plans.
- Identify road hierarchies so that you have some criteria to judge the impacts of any additional traffic from new developments. This is key to ensure that development does not exceed environmental limits, such as the capacity of minor roads to carry motor traffic, the need to reduce air pollution in Air Quality Management Areas or protect areas of tranquillity from traffic noise. See the shaping routes and networks section for more information.
- Don't forget travel planning! Travel plans can be the catalyst for big changes. Often smaller developments are excluded from travel plans, however. See if you can get a policy to ensure smaller developments take part in community level travel planning. See the travel plans for places section for more information.
The UK is the most car dependent country in Europe after Lithuania, Iceland and Norway and the position is as bad in relation to freight depending on road transport. Only 6% of journeys are made by bus and coach – this is known as a ‘modal share’ – and, excluding London, the share is lower still. In terms of passenger travel, the UK has a relatively high modal share for rail – though again less good once the special case of London is included. As a result of the major investment being made in the rail network, capacity should double by the early 2030s.
With just 2% of UK journeys being made by cycle, compared to 12% in Germany (in rural areas 8%), 18% in Denmark and 27% in the Netherlands, there is also a huge potential to increase cycling. Munich has for example increased cycling’s share from 6 % in 1996 to 17% of journeys in 2011, while Germany is aiming to increase rural cycling to 13% of journeys by 2020. German planning for ‘towns of short trips’ – in other words promoting dense, mixed use development to reduce the average length of journeys so that they are easier to cycle or walk – is key to this.
It is important therefore to plan for the ‘fullest possible use’ of walking, cycling and public transport in both plan-making and decision taking. So you should look carefully at transport assessments for new developments. Simply relying on extrapolating previous trends into the future is unsuited to this: the possibilities of new technologies such as electric bikes, car sharing and public transport smart cards are potential game changers.
Policies and development proposal should consider ‘relative accessibility’ by different means of transport so as to build in comparative advantages for sustainable modes over driving. This concept is included in Planning Policy Wales but not the briefer NPPF. What this means is that rather than simply checking to ensure a new development could be reached by bus or cycle, or engaging in promoting the use of public transport, the relative attractiveness of more sustainable travel choices should be improved. This may mean something simple like ensuring cycle parking and bus stops are closer to entrances than car parking or more complicated traffic management schemes.
For example, in the Dutch city of Groningen, where 60% of trips are cycled (the highest cycling modal share in Europe), through careful planning, such as the use of the principle of 'filtered permeability', the average crow flies distance that can be reached in 10 minutes is 2.4 km by bicycle compared with 1.6km by car. New residential development should be planned in this way to make walking and cycling the norm for shorter journeys, such as by maximising route choice for these modes while not allowing people to drive through.
New transport infrastructure is likely to be a very significant influence on the location of new development as well as on modal shares. Besides checking your local plan and Local Transport Plan, see if there is an Infrastructure Development Plan, which sets out priorities for use of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding. Local Transport Boards are due to draw up their initial list of priorities for investment by July 2013. These may well draw upon other sources of funding such as CIL and New Homes Bonus. Make sure these different plans, which are drawn up by separately from local development plans and LTPs, are joined up.
Where a settlement or business park is increased in size, car trip rates should not simply be extrapolated to justify road-building. The increase may mean that new bus services or cycle route infrastructure will become viable. Some authorities take a ‘trip credit’ approach, where developers offset new trips from their development by providing better walking, cycling and public transport facilities for existing journeys, so as to aim for no net change in motor traffic levels. New and wider roads tend to generate increased motor traffic, so should be the last resort. If they can be justified on this basis, ensure that there are demand management measures to lock the benefits of the additional capacity, such as bus or cycle lanes and traffic calming, for example of streets that have been bypassed.
The NPPF highlights the need to protect options that could be critical to widen transport choice, such as reopening railway lines and wharves, as well as providing new routes for walking and cycling (41). Make sure that local plans protect such opportunities.
Some local plans refer to functional road hierarchies, which, where they exist, are usually set out in LTPs. Traditionally the relevance of these in planning has been to restrict frontage access on higher tier roads. This is because of the safety risk of drivers turning off or onto busy roads with fast-moving traffic. There is also a need to protect the character of lower tier roads, such as residential streets and country lanes, from increasing flows of motor traffic. Lower tier roads are crucial for walking, cycling and, in rural areas, activities such as horse riding.
In some cases, higher tier roads may be a ‘mixed priority route’, for example where a main road passes through a town or village centre so that there are place functions (shopping, social activities) as well as a movement function. While guard rails may have been used in the past, best practice now seeks a better balance of these functions, such as by 20 mph speed limits and de-cluttering.
You may wish to encourage the designation of certain roads as particularly sensitive, so as to make it harder for new developments to lead to negative traffic impacts on them. This could be through policies relating to minor roads that are in designated landscapes or which are useful routes for walking and cycling.
Even if there is no road hierarchy in a local (transport) plan, you could seek to include these in neighbourhood plans. Similarly neighbourhood plans could include neighbourhood development orders to make it easier to install cycle lockers and design codes to increase walking and cycling, while reducing clutter.
Where neighbourhood plans are in place, communities will receive 25% of CIL, some of which could be used for transport measures. For example, developments below a certain size do not require travel plans – packages of measures to promote sustainable travel. But the cumulative impact of smaller developments can be significant. One way round this could be to encourage smaller developments to contribute to neighbourhood level travel planning.
Masterplanning Checklist for Sustainable Transport in New Developments. Transport for Quality of Life - a great guide to ensuring bigger developments make sustainable travel the norm
Thriving Cities: Integrated land use and transport planning. Transport for Quality of Life - good advice on how to join up transport and land use planning
Planning for sustainable travel, Chartered Institute of Highways & Transport - a site dedicated to better planning
Manual for Streets, Department for Transport & CLG - sets out new principles for better design of streets