Planning White Paper webinar
Introduction from Ruth Cadbury MP
Jenny Thomas – Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Jenny is Head of Built Environment at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. She leads the design team who have responsibility for promoting design quality across Government programmes and the sector as a whole.
- Able to talk about recent design announcements, and how they relate to cycling and walking.
- Published their response to the building better, building beautiful report, contained about 45 wide ranging propositions for better design to be delivered.
- Had a focus in there of air quality, and improving cycling and walking.
- Alongside their response, they published key measures for local councils.
- Proposed changes to national policy framework to make good design part of the expectation.
- Also included some proposed amendments that include an expectation that cycling and walking plans are well designed.
- Consideration of active travel is embedded in the National Design guide and not just within the section on movement.
- For example, it features within built form.
- Currently seeking views on a code which provides guidance for councils on design. It will help locally created codes to be developed.
- All design codes should include certain parameters, these include movement.
- Government has responded positively to recommendations on cycling and walking, including funding and the setting up of active travel England.
- Working with DfT on setting up Active Travel England.
- Going to be providing some support for Local Authorities – especially for those who may not have the expertise.
- Aiming to set up an office for place within the next year. Although have created an interim one for now, and a transition board.
- Will start with some piloting with 20 local authorities in the next year. In the process of selecting local authorities now. Will ensure that proposals for active travel are included.
James Cullimore – Conservative Environment Network
The Conservative Environment Network is the forum for conservatives who support conservation and decarbonisation.
- For those who are unfamiliar with CEN, they are the Conservatives in support of environmental measures. Have over 100 supporters in Parliament, and then a network of councillors and other supporters.
- Many members of the CEN are keen cyclists, and there is support for active travel.
- Widely understood that walking and cycling will play a key role in cutting emissions.
- MPs and Councillors are increasingly conscious of the cost of poor air quality, not just in missed work days, but to the NHS as well.
- If we do double cycling and walking, it could deliver considerable savings.
- CEN have done polling in June last year found that 67% of people think we should invest in cycling and walking to improve air quality, even if it means it may take longer for people to drive.
- Need to ensure that planning reform is able to deliver changes on walking and cycling also.
- There are 3 key changes in the planning white paper which will impact active travel.
- Location – minimising the distance between where people live, work and go to school etc. Should be in accordance with the 15 minute neighbourhoods principles.
- Requirement for local authorities to draw up local design codes with local communities which will be key to ensuring active travel is included. Very clear what the Government expects from developers. Councils will be required to consult the local community – securing public consent will be critical to avoid some of the problems we saw last summer with LTNs etc. Building in active travel from the start avoids the problems that retrofitting can bring.
- Abolitionment of section 106 and community infrastructure levy. Going to be replaced by a new consolidated infrastructure levy. Essential that the money raised from this new levy will go towards convenient active travel infrastructure. This could also go towards Schoolstreets for example.
- New planning system should have cycling and walking at their heart.
- If we can achieve this, we can make the Government’s target of making cycling and walking the first choice for people a reality.
Lynda Addison OBE – Transport Planning Society
Lynda is Chair of the Sustainable Transport Panel of CIHT, was until the 21st March 2019 the Chair of the Transport Planning Society as well as an Adviser to The Campaign for Better Transport.
- Going to focus on the things that James talked about, very much looking at the policy side.
- Need to have a national public transport network providing high levels of accessibility across the country in an integrated way.
- That we design around people rather than cars.
- Looking to ensure that walking and cycling become the norm for all short journeys.
- If you look at the vision and the objectives of the Planning White Paper then you would support it – regardless of political background.
- Ensuring home ownership – and making sure those homes can be accessed by sustainable means.
- Ensuring that we create a virtuous circle of prosperity in our towns and villages. However, there are some issues with the planning white paper.
- The strengths are: the recognition that there is a need for radical change in the planning system, it does provide a once in a generation opportunity to change planning for the better.
- As drafted, there is a consistent view across professional bodies that it will not deliver the vision and could make the situation worse.
- The critical relationship between planning and transport is not addressed.
- Transport only mentioned 5 times, not at its heart.
- Choice of location of development in its ability to be accessed sustainability not assessed in the zonal system.
- Development, accessibility and sustainable transport networks should be intertwined in the new planning system.
- Need to get strategic issues right if people are going to choose to walk and cycle.
- Sustainability assessment of the plan must include transport.
- EiP should assess inter-relationship of development to transport networks as a single entity.
- Lots of documents which can be referred to by professional bodies available.
- Since the planning white paper there have been some new documents.
- Changing hearts and minds – we have a lot of work to do around people and changing hearts and minds. Helping people to deliver what they want in terms of climate change and health.
- Working on a process and a set of tools at the moment with the Royal College of Art on that.
- Support the vision of sustainable development which includes transport.
- Revise the NPPF so transport is consistently integrated into all aspects.
- Ensure TAs, transport plan, IDPs, EiPs etc. consistently reinforce sustainability of transport in local plan.
Chris Martin – Urban Movement
Chris is Co-Founder and Director of Urban Strategy at Urban Movement, and a fully qualified Urban Designer and Planner, with over 15 years’ experience leading complex urban projects – applying his expertise to public realm, streets and transport.
- Transport needs to be a servant to quality of life for all.
- Comparing mobility hierarchy to meal hierarchy.
- If we want to reprogramme our cities to benefit public life we need to change how we think about them.
- People based their transport choices on the path of least resistance – if driving is most enjoyable then they will do that, if walking is enjoyable then they will do that too.
- Have to give people something to walk and cycle to.
- We’ve had transport hierarchies in documents for years, but it rarely goes into reality.
- Need to make vehicles wait for pedestrians to cross.
- Imagine what lengths we would go to if we made life as easy for walking as we do for cars.
- We should think about car sparking and using those designs for cycle parking.
- Need to invest in quality of life, and fun.
- Metrics for success being set – where are we now?
- Worrying number of people find where they live to be mediocre.
- We have moved forward recently, and there are some positive steps in the White Paper. We have touched on some of them.
- There is a focus on doing good and not just doing the minimum.
- Positivity included in the national design code.
- Personally, streets are too important to be designed and governed by highways teams.
- What we need is a UK policy document which supersedes and withdraws previous documents which are at odds with current needs.
- Do we need a new body to enforce innovation and design quality?
Selaine Saxby MP
- Thanked all the speakers and attendees.
Q and A
How will the requirement for good walking and cycling in the planning guide work with the DfT’s guidance?
Jenny – The national code will be overarching, and LTN guidance included alongside and within that.
Jenny – of course part of the consideration. Time to include comments on consultation before the 27th of March.
LCC response to White Paper
Jenny – not able to comment on the specifics of the paper at the moment. Going through responses to the consultation currently.
How do we stop ‘Cow Pat’ development?
Lynda – Local Authority has to take responsibility for allocating the sites. At the moment they put out a call and land developers come in. Local authorities should identify where sites need to be if they are to be sustainable. Most sites which come in are not sustainable.
Could we have clarity on who will control the infrastructure levy?
James – currently there are restrictions on the community infrastructure levy. Proposed new levy, in the White paper the government is talking about sustainability.
How do you stop local authorities like Kensington and West Sussex doing what they do?
James – broader point around public consultation and local consent for LTNs and pop up cycle lanes. One of their councillors said that the response to LTNs was violent in his patch, and was one of the worst responses to a policy they had ever experienced.
Ruth – Ultimately it is an issue of local politics and not necessarily party politics. Even in the Netherlands when they transitioned to being a more pro cycling society it took time and did not happen overnight. The Government did a brilliant job in bringing in these emergency powers and allowing Local authorities to bring in schemes and then consult on the reality. Vast majority of schemes have gone in without any opposition.
We do need to see more.
Chris – It’s the key solution for active travel England or a body of its kind alongside a design quality unit.
Lynda – there are ways in which you can see what the community at large thinks about ideas. Ensuring you hear from everyone and not just the people who are the loudest.
Also comes back to the work they are doing with the Royal College of Art. Not just about consultation but also about working with people to deliver the community they want.
Every planning application seems to use the same copy and paste active travel inclusions, how do we stop that?
Chris – first step is removing some of the design guidance which leads to this. The idea of working with people – and through the development of codes there is a way of doing this.
Lynda – We still have a lot of professionals in the public and private sector using out of data guidance. It is a concern for Government departments.
Pleased that new guidance is picking that up. Not just about ensuring people have the right skills. We need people in the sector to be upskilled.
There are also a lot of issues with politicians. Need to work with them who don’t understand this agenda and the long-term implications of it.
Need better policy at both a national and local level.
What are the key changes that ensures the great guidance out there is implemented in practice?
Chris – all about the status that it has, ‘guidance’. Plain and simple in that good guidance needs to have the same backing as the guidance which we are fighting against.
Do we need more local stakeholders involved at a local level?
James – Emergency measures often fell to councillors who did not have the tools to get across the narrative. Need to support them better and ensure they have support from local stakeholders.
Lynda – Should be a collaborative process to decide a local body, and then a delivery body which includes everyone.
Last year has highlighted the importance of communication in active travel, but it is not clear where the authority lies?
Chris – Important to work with people from the beginning, finding out what they want and then setting the transport around that.
What can we be done to support a shift from parking minimums to parking maximums?
Chris – has to be a matter of policy. Having maximums rather than minimums just has to be done. The impact that parking can have on developments is significant.
Rural Britain does present challenges – but that doesn’t mean we can’t be careful about how we design the car parking.
Lynda – a need to make people think that they can travel without the car – and that it is good to do so.
How can we ensure public transport is fully accessible for people who use different sized bicycles?
Chris – great work has been done by Wheels for Wellbeing on this. Need to make sure that we design it in and configure our active travel networks with that in mind. Comes back to the idea of thinking about minimums rather than maximums.
What we do for roads is design around the largest vehicle and we should do that for bike lanes.
Lynda – We don’t plan for people in mobility scooters and that’s an increasing issue. There is a need to look at both cycling and walking.
Do you agree that some of the policy focuses centre on urban locations rather than rural?
James – absolutely right, that is why local plans and local design codes are so important. To ensure that things are being done in a suitable way for that area.
How can we bring people with us? Rather than creating a backlash?
Chris – inevitably working with people is a huge part of it. If you look at Copenhagen, we know why rates of cycling are so large. The reason people say they cycle overwhelmingly is because it’s easier.
Not trying to fight with people. Just trying to make cycling easy and make it enjoyable.
Should most streets be low traffic with 20mph limits?
Chris – it’s about finding streets in which you wouldn’t be comfortable with a child using or walking and then see if the people who live there want to have an LTN.
Manchester have done a great job, creating these through quiet networks allows you to link them up.
The benefits of that spiral out as you have more people choosing to walk and cycle. Virtuous cycle. The principle of LTNs is there and it’s sometimes a branding issue. As soon as people hear those words they are worried.
James – on narrative, it’s really important that these changes are not dressed up as an attack on motorists. They should be depicted as about extending choice. Giving people the option to walk or cycle safely.
It’s about making those choices seem attractive.
Can Jenny and Chris talk about how we can facilitate walking to school in the White Paper?
Jenny – in terms of schools and location, have set out that the codes should mean they are put in suitable locations. Design codes are an integral part of what they are proposing.
Chris – what we can do as professionals is work with local people and find out why they are not walking or cycling to school. School Streets are vital in terms of protecting air quality outside the school gates.
What evidence could be used to rate design locations from an active travel perspective in terms of proximity to amenities?
Lynda – there has to be some new methodology that has to be developed in order to assist local authorities to identify what are sustainable locations.
At the moment there really isn’t a comprehensive system not only for what exists now but what we should aim for in the future.
Lots of work being done by bus operators looking at how you can design places which are convenient for bus travel.
How can we ensure disabled people are on board from conception through to the build?
Chris – it’s essential to making good places. They have to work for everyone.
In Holland mobility scooters have access to cycle lanes – they don’t here?
Lynda – they should be taken into account.
Chris – pavement parking should be illegal, it’s unacceptable.
Lynda – agree, it’s very important.
What can we do now?
Jenny – good opportunity to influence, has been taking notes and will feedback into the Department.
James – awareness raising – separate conversations about planning and active travel but we need to explain how they work together.
Chris – we don’t see the design of city streets as a science but what we’re trying to do is save lives and save the environment. If we see cities as a science then we will be more effective.
Lynda – Local authorities could set up much more effective collaborative local bodies.
Selaine – thanked everyone for joining and closed the meeting.
Next meeting will focus on School streets and take place on the 12th March.