Car use central to planning decisions
A report by the campaign group Transport for New Homes has found that planning incentives are encouraging housing developers to build new homes, roads and infrastructure that focus on car users and not pedestrians, cyclists or public transport users.
The report states that poor regulations currently in place are allowing developers to buy up rural land that is far from public transport, major employment hubs and other services, thus reducing the ability for residents to use sustainable transport solutions - leading to a reliance on cars. This is despite councils being expected to make transport assessments as part of their deliverability criteria.
The researchers visited 20 housing developments across the UK, as well as some in the Netherlands. They assessed public transport, cycling and walking routes and spoke to local residents and businesses about congestion. They found that residential areas were often devoid of greenery with up to 40% of area given over to roads, parking, driveways and garages. Accessible homes areas were particularly badly hit.
The report noted that new housing developments were marketed on the basis of access to major road networks and motorways, indicating that home buyers would be commuting and pointed out how these additional road users would affect local roads and cause congestion. The design of the new homes was also small, with little front or rear gardens.
The report suggested that the UK is in danger of loving towards the car-focused infrastructure of American cities where there were estates that were not linked by public transport or walkways and this meant a lack of integration - even for attached developments.
It was felt that in the places where the planning was useful was where low-level apartment blocks were used to allow more open space and greenery. This often occurs in areas such as floodplains that cannot be fully built on. The researchers accepted that councils were often hampered in the decisions they could make and that the current system ends up targeting rural areas due to the need for larger sites to meet government targets.