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Review: Transport for New Homes – What Needs to Change?

Words by Harrie Larrington-Spencer.

“Our country desperately needs more homes. But how can we ensure that new housing is built around sustainable transport, not around car use?”

Transport for New Homes, a two-year funded research project on sustainable transport and the location of new developments, tries to answer the above question by investigating large housing estates, many of which are these days branded as ‘garden villages’, across England. They do this by using a transport checklist for new housing developments, which amongst other things measures and assesses local facilities easily accessible without a car and frequent public transport services in place from Day One of occupation.

Underpinning this research is the strong interest to highlight both the best practice and the bad practice in the sustainable mobility strategies adopted in domestic and international case studies. It was also refreshing to hear that their approach was not ‘anti-motorist’, as they strongly argued in their 2018 report that more sustainable mobility options will also ease congestion on both local and strategic roads – a welcome development that should be applauded by all motorists and non-motorists alike.

Also present at the event was Simon Warburton of Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), who presented their 2040 Strategy, which underlines the importance of mobility as a service and network planning as its golden threads, as well as the importance of hyper-localised interventions at busy centres to promote active travel options.

Another very interesting presentation was given by Claire Linton, whose recent study at Urban Transport Group looked at the impact of transit-oriented development on growth in city regions. It was especially useful to see the recent evidence (and international examples) on how easily transport strategies can steer housing development towards more sustainable futures.

The discussion that followed the presentations with questions from the audience was equally stimulating. Both bad and good practice in accessible design was questioned, together with the need for more quantifiable evidence of car dependency in terms of mileage, frequency, and financial loss.

The event was held the day before Manchester City Council announced they are expanding Hyde Road to enable further car traffic, and it could be disheartening to see that the majority of new large housing developments in England did little – or in some cases the opposite – to contribute to sustainable mobility options for their would-be residents. However, the speakers also showed that some good practices – such as Poundbury in Dorset – and events like this can remind communities not to despair at the status quo, and provide a more positive vision for the future.

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