‘A barren public realm dominated by parked cars’

New homes dominated by car park spaces
The landscape around these new homes is dominated by car park spaces

The development of new housing without sufficient transport infrastructure in place has contributed to greater car dependency, leaving non-drivers of all ages isolated, less active and facing more traffic, pollution and congestion, as well as longer commutes.

Transport for New Homes (TNH), which is funded by the Foundation for Integrated Transport and the RAC Foundation, is calling for “healthy, liveable communities where residents can walk, cycle and use public transport to go about their daily lives”.

TNH’s new report challenges car-dependency, calling for greater integration of transport and planning, aimed at improving home owners’ daily lives when living in new housing.

Building away from larger conurbations leaves people needing to travel further to access work and amenities, while many areas lack basic public transport. New housing built in rural locations, at the edge of towns and sometimes skipping the greenbelt can leave those without access to car transport isolated.

The initiative has called for infrastructure that means housing is built where people can walk, cycle or use public transport to access local employment, community facilities, schools and shops.

The project visited a variety of new and older large scale housing developments around England, comparing these urban schemes, brownfield sites and large scale greenfield housing developments with models in Sweden and the Netherlands.

TNH’s report centred around a number of aspects.

Car-based living

Local authority targets don’t take into account the need for public transport or proximity to employment or services, resulting in rural or semi-rural property built in isolated locations, often away from transport links or destinations. Ironically, extra road capacity is often funded by the sale of houses that are built before any additional infrastructure is created, thereby exacerbating the problem of car dependency.

The requirement for car parking spaces meant new housing often had little green space, with resultant dreary and impersonal streets and few people seen to be on foot.

Homes not properly connected for pedestrians, cyclists or buses

The report criticised new homes being built on greenfield sites outside towns, which meant they were not properly integrated with existing towns and infrastructure. To access facilities, residents were sometimes forced to walk along fast roads without pavements or lighting.

The report called for local planners to select sites within or adjacent to current urban areas that could be linked to available services and employment. Pavements should not be isolated but looked over by homes and businesses, so that people felt safe when walking.

Public transport opportunities missed

Designing new build estates around the car led to fewer people using public transport. However, where homes had been built close to park and ride stops, rail or tram links were popular with those living there.

The importance of mixed land use and integrated transport

The predominance of supermarkets and large chain outlets near housing estates has led to empty local shops and café units, where residents had lost their sense of community. However, mixed use developments appeared to work, enabling access to work, shops and community amenities alongside residential areas.

The advantages of the new urban quarter

An emphasis on walking routes, cycle ways and public transport access alongside a range of existing shops and services is of benefit to residents, with less dependency on cars. This was particularly the case when evening entertainment was available without the need to drive. Urban quarters, using small and large brownfield sites, should be prioritised, as opposed to current planning guidance. In some areas, brownfield sites were being overlooked because greenfield sites are easier to develop and release funding for new roads.

You can join the initiative’s Supporters’ Network here.

Back to November 2018 Newsletter 

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