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Roads to Nowhere

Can sustainable transport support new development?

Andrew Allen's picture
cyclist at media city, salford

What do the following developments have in common: A new town being constructed with a railway station at its centre, a major business development with parking spaces for only half the people who work there, and a multi-million pound city centre rejuvenation planned around public spaces and new bus and train facilities.

You could be forgiven for imagining these were examples of best practice from some forward-thinking part of the continent - but they are not. These developments are in Edinburgh, Tyneside and Hull, and they are part of a growing number of major new developments based around sustainable transport.

These and a wide range of other projects are gathered in a new Campaign for Better Transport research report, Getting There.

In one way, that such developments are taking hold should be no surprise. Land use planning policy has long extolled the virtues of sustainable development based around better public transport, walking and cycling. The benefits that such approaches bring to the local economy, public health and quality of life are well documented.

But for a long time, it has appeared rather too difficult to actually do. Many local planning documents talk a good fight, but in practice we have been stuck with sprawling suburbs of detached boxes with space for two cars, identikit edge of town retail and business estates with car parks the size of football pitches, and massive rivers of tarmac linking them to the trunk road network.

Now mainstream developments are showing that it doesn't need to be like this. Getting There features housing, retail and business developments which are not prohibitively expensive, do not require a recasting of lifestyles and are already working effectively in everyday settings in towns and cities across Britain.

So how do we make more of it happen? The research shows that reforms are needed at national regional and local levels. To support sustainable transport, the National Planning Policy Framework (NFFP) needs reform so its principles are not compromised by the elevation of economic growth above all other objectives. Transport modeling needs to catch up with changing travel patterns and take more account of factors like health and environment. Local authorities must overcome outdated views about the effectiveness of public transport and plan new development which actively discourages over-reliance on cars and supports walking, cycling and public transport. Local Enterprise Partnerships should more accountable for their transport decisions including consulting on their spending plans and offering clear evidence to support their decision making.

Getting There is part of our work to kick start these changes. We need to embolden national politicians, local Government and developers to think beyond the standard issue model of development and do something better.

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