Sustainability is becoming a greater concern in all aspects of our lives, but with the recently updated NPPF (July 2018) reiterating the need for developments to be in locations that are or can be made sustainable, the role of effective and innovative travel planning is becoming critical to success.
While Transport Statements or Transport Assessments look at a development’s impact on traffic in its surrounding area, a Travel Plan will look at reducing this impact by promoting sustainable modes of travel to and from the site. These modes may include walking, cycling, public transport, car sharing and more recently low emission/Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV). Travel Plans can also help demonstrate how a fully occupied development, will both enhance and integrate within the local community – another key ingredient to approval.
Here at Prime Transport Planning, we’re receiving increasing feedback from UK local highway/planning authorities that travel planning is now a vital ingredient in meeting the aspirations of the NPPF. In this article we look at some recent feedback from local highway/planning authorities in relation to the travel planning elements of residential outline applications.
Travel Plans are usually either Interim Travel Plans (also referred to as Framework Travel Plans) and provided when end users are unknown, or Full Travel Plans which are developed when there is sufficient data available to identify existing travel patterns around a site.
Up until recently an Interim Travel Plan was usually acceptable to support outline applications through the planning process. However, increasingly highway/planning authorities are requesting Full Travel Plans at the outline submission stage, requiring greater detail on the Travel Plan measures to be introduced, but more importantly asking the developer for detailed financial commitments (even down to welcome pack printing costs) to provide these measures and including those commitments within the s106 agreement.
All the local authorities listed above requested more information on the proposed Travel Plan measures to be introduced and the proposed monitoring strategy to be implemented, and also highlighted the need to consider the catchment areas of primary and secondary schools. They all highlighted the need for area-wide travel planning techniques to be adopted, or the integration of the Travel Plan with other Travel Plans in the area, wherever viable. Also, the need to show how to deliver the physical connections to local amenities, via improved Public Rights of Way, improved footway provision or enhanced bus stop facilities/bus frequencies were highlighted in each case.
Another prominent factor is the need to show a direct relationship between the generation of trips described in the Transport Assessment and the measures that the Travel Plan would put in place to reduce single occupancy vehicle use. A typical highway/planning authority response being:
‘The Travel Plan needs to demonstrate that the additional trips generated by the development as set out in the Transport Assessment will be offset by a reduction in SOV (Single Occupancy Vehicles) use and an increase in sustainable modes. The measures proposed in the Travel Plan must be robust enough to achieve this. Showing targets in absolute numbers as well as modal split will aid demonstration of this.’
The need to commit to actual targets at this early stage sits in contrast to the past whereby Interim Travel Plans would be submitted with targets finalised at a later stage (as part of the Full Travel Plan once an agreed level of occupation has been reached). What is clear however is that local highway/planning authorities want actual data to benchmark these targets against, even if the targets may seem a little arbitrary at that point.
Local highway/planning authorities are then asking for evidence that these targets will be delivered, monitored and measured throughout the process. A typical highway/planning authority request now being:
‘The Travel Plan must be primarily monitored by vehicular counts on all vehicular access points to the site over a minimum two-week period avoiding public and school holidays to provide comparable data to the predicted trips identified in the supporting Transport Assessment…’
In addition to this is the need to commit to the funding of Travel Plans, with amounts not only set aside for the registration and implementation requested by the local highway/planning authorities, but also for ‘safeguarding’ that the Travel Plan will be delivered. In fact Somerset County Council explicitly detailed this in their ‘Travel Planning Guidance’ www.somerset.gov.uk/policies-and-plans/plans/new-developments/planning-guidance/) and provide the actual sums to be secured within their commentary. Furthermore, developers are now required to provide details of the role and responsibilities of the Travel Plan Co-ordinator for the site, such is the need to demonstrate commitment in this new era.
To summarise, in relation to the development of Travel Plans to support development proposals through the planning process, local highway/planning authorities are now requesting a considerable level of detail to be submitted at outline planning stage and an explicit commitment to ‘safeguarding sums’ of money to deliver the identified measures through the s106 agreement. Although they might once have been considered a ‘box ticking’ exercise and a nod to sustainability, Travel Plans are becoming an increasingly important factor in planning decisions.
In view of this, the challenge for developing robust Travel Plans is not only understanding how the site interacts with sustainable travel networks, but what’s actually required to promote these travel options and effect real behavioural change. This represents a fundamental shift in the role of Travel Plans with Transport Planners now needing to think/behave as much as transport co-ordinators during the initial drafting of the Travel Plan document. Indeed, in some highway/planning authority areas, the Travel Plan now needs to include realistic, costed, deliverable measures and provide a commitment to the monitoring of targets, and identify people who are responsible for the delivery of such measures.
Prime Transport Planning’s extensive involvement in development proposals across the UK has given us valuable insight into the changing role of the Travel Plan. We understand the Plan’s key role in the development planning process, and the critical role of sustainability that is real, achievable, and measurable. Prime Transport Planning provide a fully integrated service supporting development proposals through all stages of the planning process. This includes the provision of advice from the initial concepts, refining the designs through consultation with other team members, local authority organisations and public consultation, preparation of the documents that are required to support the scheme through the planning process and subsequently supporting the scheme through Local Plan representations or at Public Inquiry.