Planning policies and decisions can make all the difference to how people choose to make their journeys - i.e. whether to drive or to travel more sustainably by cycle or on foot.
Planning policies can help reduce people’s dependency on their cars for work, shopping, leisure and other trips. They can do this both by focusing developments in places that can be easily reached by sustainable transport choices (e.g. in town centres rather than out-of-town locations), and by including good cycling provision in and around the development.
Good planning policies are vital to wider economic, environmental and health objectives. They should explicitly state that built and rural environments need to: promote and cater well for walking and cycling to help boost active, healthy travel and recreation; reduce car-dependency and motor traffic volume; and make places attractive to live in and visit.
One of the 12 core principles of England’s National Planning Framework (NPPF) states that planning should: “actively manage patterns of growth to make the fullest possible use of public transport, walking and cycling, and focus significant development in locations which are or can be made sustainable.” (NPPF Section 17)
Just 2% of trips in the UK are made by cycle, compared to 10% in Germany, 18% in Denmark and 27% in the Netherlands. In these three countries, planning policies covering the use of land and the layout of urban areas make an important contribution to such high levels of cycling.
NICE (The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) recommends that local authorities “Ensure planning applications for new developments always prioritise the need for people to be physically active as a routine part of their daily life.”
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy):
The role of the planning system
Planning policies locally and nationally make a significant impact on travel patterns and travel choice. They need to complement and support transport policy and programmes to promote cycling and other healthy and sustainable options. They should include policies on:
Locating development where it can be easily reached by walking, cycling and public transport;
Supporting pedestrian and cyclist-friendly urban transport strategies;
Providing good cycle access to and within new developments;
Ensuring the provision of cycle parking and other ‘trip end’ facilities (e.g. lockers and showers for employees etc.);
Adopting, implementing and monitoring travel plans as appropriate to the developments;
Securing appropriate developer contributions towards improved cycle provision in the surrounding area;
Requiring high standard design for the public realm to create an environment that is inviting for pedestrians and cyclists;
Considering the impact that planning decisions may have on recreational and utility cycling, particularly for long distance routes, local green spaces, the rights of way network, canals and riversides, disused railway lines and other transport corridors, national trails, national parks and forests, AONBs and other areas that provide valued opportunities for outdoor activity and recreation;
Ensuring that plans for the built environment contribute to improvements in public health.
National guidance should recognise that the historic association of economic growth with the growth of motor traffic is inherently unsustainable. It should therefore state unambiguously that planning decisions should reduce the need to travel by private car; and that sustainable, healthy modes offer economic and other benefits in their own right.
Making the planning system work locally
The Government should preserve and strengthen the ability of local communities to benefit fully from ‘planning gain’ (developer contributions), which is regularly used to provide for sustainable transport (e.g. high quality cycle routes to and in the vicinity of new developments).
Local authorities should set out policies in their development plans that resist development projects that would increase car dependent travel patterns and/or enable them to secure developer contributions for measures that benefit cycling.
Local authorities should always adopt a travel plan as part of a wider planning agreement for developments; and they should ensure that they are implemented and well monitored.
Monitoring and accountability
The Government should introduce ways to measure the specific carbon impacts of individual developments as part of the Transport Assessment process, and aggregate these so that the public can assess the overall impact of planning policies and decisions, both locally and nationally. It should be possible to dismiss plans on carbon grounds in the interests of achieving the legal limits set out in the Climate Change Act, and incentivise planners to ensure that low-carbon travel is properly accommodated.
Representatives of relevant NGOs and local communities should always enjoy meaningful input into planning decisions and the policies and strategies that inform them. Consultation on planning applications for all proposals, major and minor, should be supported by clear information, transparency, regulations and guidance. Communities should also be granted a limited third party right of appeal against planning permissions to which they object.